For the first time in history, the heads of California's four public education systems are Black or Latino men. Kicking things off in January, Joseph Castro, a Mexican-American from California, became the chancellor of the California State University system. Seven months later, Dr. Michael Drake, joined Castro and became the head of the nine-campus California University system. Rounding out the group of four, Tony Thurmond serves as the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and Eloy Ortiz Oakley works as the chancellor of the state's community college system.
Black and Latino men in the world of education are often hard to find. In 2017, American Public Media reported that just 2% of public school teachers were Black men. Similarly, Education Week found that only 2% of public school teachers were men of Latin descent. To combat the lack of Latino and Black men in American classrooms, some of the nation's largest public school systems in Dallas and Philadelphia have instituted programs to attract potential Latino and Black male teachers. Institutions like Clemson University and Grambling State University have also instituted similar programs.
In spite of the obstacles Latino and Black men face when pursuing careers in education, some have found a way to prevail. This year, Eric Hale became the first Black man to be named teacher of the year in the state of Texas. His success goes a long in creating success for both his students and those interested in following his career path.
“Diversification of leadership is quite important and significant to meeting the goals of racial equity,” Adrianna Kezar of the University of Southern California said.
“Certainly others are capable of such leadership, but the ability to speak from your heart and authentically about this issue and to have a vision for a direction forward is much more likely to happen with leaders of color.”
Beyond the state of California, Castro, Drake, Oakley and Thurmond are making history. This is the first time in any U.S. state that the heads of all public education systems are Latino and Black men.
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