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VOLUME 29, NUMBERS 1 & 2, 2016

Educational Leadership for Community Development

Miguel A. Guajardo, PhD
Associate Professor
Texas State University

Samuel Garcia, Jr., MEd

Doctoral Research Assistant
Texas State University

In a Central Texas community, fifteen (eight Latinas/os and seven Anglo-American
teachers) teachers began a transformational journey towards achieving their educational
leadership degree during the summer of 2014. The teachers were recruited to participate
in a pilot program created by a partnership between Texas State Universitys Education
and Community Leadership Program and San Marcos Consolidated ISD. This initiative is
a deliberate effort to develop future district leadership and afford teachers the opportunity
to grow as school and community leaders. Through a robust, relevant and engaging
curriculum informed by community development theory and implemented by
Community Learning Exchange Pedagogies, emerging leaders have been immersed in a
dynamic developmental process. After 18 hours, mid-program assessment, participants
reported their educational experience as transformational in the way they teach, learn, and
live. This article chronicles the etymology of this program, experiences of the teachers,
and highlights the theoretical, curricular, and impact of emerging leaders in a Central
Texas community with a majority Latina/o student population. This article identifies and
elaborates on key aspects that have assisted in reframing the impact of an educational
leadership model grounded in a community development framework that effectively
responds to schools and community context. In response to this special edition on
Latina/o leadership preparation, this article focuses on a segmented data set within this
initiative that captures the cultural responsiveness of the work. Though it tells only part of
the story, it still captures the spirit of its totality in responding to Latina/o communities.
Keywords: Latinas/os, higher education, educational leadership, community
development, cultural change, ecologies of knowing

Community Context Invitation to the Work

A 20-year veteran teacher had never been invited to pursue a graduate degree. A
new Latina assistant principal on campus noticed her talent and encouraged her to
look into a new partnership between the San Marcos CISD and Texas State


University for emerging school leaders. She enrolled in the program and reports
that her life has been transformed, her sleeping pattern has been disrupted, and her
growth has been phenomenal. She is a different type of teacher and a committed
advocate for change. (Cohort Member, 2014)
We, the authors, came to Texas State University in San Marcos the fall semester
of 2004 and 2012 respectively. Within little time, we found a positive and dynamic
energy in the local community, and shortly thereafter, an invitation to working with(in)
this community. A group of Mexican American students extended this invitation in the
fall of 2004. This work is in alignment in research, teaching and service with our values
as scholars and community advocates. We see this partnership and engagement as a
reciprocal process. A historical void in university-community engagement with Mexican
American faculty has been a huge and obvious to the local community. Simple
explanation for this situation can be that Dr. Guajardo was the first Mexican American
tenure track faculty hired into the Educational Leadership Program. 1 This initial
partnership turned into a community-building project; while we engaged in plticas
(Guajardo & Guajardo, 2013) with Mexican American elders, we recorded and collected
oral (her and) histories. The stories ranged from leadership training, to community
activism, education and development. Issues of identity formation and education were
always at the center of the conversation. This work began to place the education of
Mexican Americans in San Marcos within the socio-historical context through the lens of
invested citizens. It became clear to us this work is about education and community
leadership. We quickly learned that there is a tremendous amount of passion, love and
caring for the children in this community. Local citizen groups, Mexican American,
African American and Anglo-America, have given their lives to making this community a
safe place to raise their children; though there is evidence of this narrative, historically,
the thoughts and actions are at tension as it relates to decisions about public education
and development. This article proposes to re-write the narrative of investment and
practice of a diverse and culturally responsive educational leadership program in the
Central Texas Community of San Marcos.
This initiative is broad-based and crosses multiple borders including ethnic,
geographic, ideological and institutional; though segmented to align with the journals
call for papers on Latina/o leadership, our conceptual frameworks are intended to respond
to diverse communities committed to the education of Latina/o children in this country.
We believe the focus on Latina/o leadership is at a critical time in our educational history,
but we also acknowledge the importance of a comprehensive programming approach that
is more multilayered and nuanced than traditional stand-alone programs with packaged
curricula. This document will take the reader to specific nuanced spaces as we reimagine
strategies expanding the traditional leadership development work; a snapshot will be
provided of the diverse narratives in this learning community of action. This work is to
raise awareness of how this initiative was created, how opportunity gaps have persisted
and leadership needed to re-culturalize schools that effectively respond to local student
populations, their families and the school staff in a culturally sustainable manner.
1 In 2004 the name of the program was Educational Administration and Supervisory
Services, more on this later.


A Critical Moment as Context

A fourth grade teacher attends the program orientation and leaves excited about
the program, but upon departure decides the program is out of her reach because her
family has two college tuitions for the coming fall semester and she would be the third.
At this point a recruiter invites a young teacher who had experienced the program to meet
and visit with her. The young teacher who had experienced a personal and academic
transformation during her participation convinced the candidate of the benefit and she
eventually enrolled. At mid-point assessment the cohort member acknowledges that this
has been a worthwhile investment and one of the best decisions she made personally and
In the fall of 2011, a new superintendent came to the San Marcos Consolidated
ISD (SMCISD). A SMCISD staffer and former PhD student at Texas State University
invited the superintendent to the opening of a National Community Learning Exchange
(CLE) (Guajardo, Guajardo, Janson & Militello, 2016) we hosted in the local community.
As local dignitaries welcomed our national team of participants, the superintendent
walked to the microphone and shared his own story of service and commitment to
community building. This welcome became a passionate soliloquy. As he finished his
welcome, he looked around the room, made eye contact with Dr. Guajardo, pointed at
him with a certain fervor and said, In a year from now, I want you to hold me
accountable for my work in community! There was a collective sigh in the room and
someone yelled out, Its on! Someone else from the corner of the room was heard
saying, Does he know what he just got himself into? This declaration was an invitation,
but it also informs a genesis of this partnership and the work.
The energy in the room came from the fact most of the people in the room were
aware of the local, regional, and national change work Dr. Guajardo has cultivated and
nurtured. The invitation was clear, and the willingness was present. The issue we needed
to explore was the readiness for both institutions and its stakeholders. Navigating the
partnership to this point of readiness required an alignment of university goals with the
conditions in the local community and the organizational cultures of schools and district.
Getting to readiness required patience, learning and relationship building. This readiness
required putting people in the positions to nurture the emerging vision and bridge
builders to translate the school and community needs and dreams into a language and
structure the university understands. During the next two years, we developed a sustained
conversation on education, leadership and development. An eventual interest convergence
emerged and allowed the school district and universitys Education and Community
Leadership program to act on the partnership. The plan of action became the development
of an articulation between institutions, development of an assessment process,
recruitment of candidates, and implementation of a school and community leadership
A Story of Change and Resistance



First, on a point about change, Mary Beth Rogers (1990) quotes a community
organizer in her book, Cold Anger, about organizing change in Texas schools and
communities, the first revolution is internal. We individually, organizationally and in
communities must be willing to change if we expect our partners to do the same. In short,
we must be willing to model the change we want from others. During the first year of Dr.
Guajardos tenure at Texas States Educational Leadership Program, the faculty engaged
in a conversation to clearly articulate the work of the program as it prepared principals,
superintendents and PhD students. The faculty agreed the existing name, Educational
Administration and Supervisory Services was appropriate for the past, but our interest in
helping develop strong communities within and beyond schools was not represented in
this name. After much deliberation, the faculty proposed a name change to Education and
Community Leadership Program. The bureaucratic process, academic requirements and
necessary justification were prepared, presented and accepted at all level within the
Yet, the resistance of traditional institutions proved to be immovable, when the
name change came back from the States Higher Education Coordinating Board offices
our new name was Educational Leadership Program. At this point, the effort and political
fight was not worth pushing back and we kept the assigned name; but clearly, the faculty
involved in this research and quest to name this new emerging vision continued to
operate with the Education and Community Leadership Program DNA, its values and
actions. This commitment and awareness has provided the opportunities to notice the
invitations when they present themselves. The mental model of moving from a university
based program delivery model to a community based instructional partnership requires a
different schema, a negotiation of collaborative space and an acknowledgment that place,
culture and ecology matters. We introduce a space and opportunity for innovation when
the context and community climate is ready for change, or when the invitation presents
School District Context & Conditions
The roots for what eventually became San Marcos C.I.S.D. were first established
in 1877. This long, often tumultuous educational and community history has been
characterized by many unfavorable moments and events that were informed by the
dominant Anglo-American ideologies of the day (San Miguel, 1987; Valencia, 1997).
This history has also been marked with the talents, contributions, and achievements of
many community members. Since that time, the school district and local community has
witnessed significant institutional, demographic, and political changes.
At present, the school district is comprised of seven primary campuses, two
middle schools, and one high school. According to Census data, the city of San Marcos
has an estimated population of 58, 892 (United States Census Bureau, 2014). The
population of San Marcos is comprised of 53.7% White, 37.8% Hispanic, and 5.5%
African-American. These statistics are significant when compared and contrasted with
school district information as represented in Tables 1-4.
Table 1



San Marcos CISD Student Demographics
Note. From Texas Education Agency website, 2010-11
Table 2
San Marcos CISD Teacher Demographics
Note. TEA, 2014
Table 3
San Marcos Cohort Teacher Demographics
46 %
53 %
Note. Cohort, 2014
Table 4
San Marcos CISD School Leadership Demographics
Note. From San Marcos CISD Website
Method as Practice
Research Question Emerges
What does your districts leadership development and emerging leaders strategy
look like during the next ten years? This question surfaces during one of our
conversations. This question immediately brought a different clarity to the leadership
conditions within the district.



This clearer picture of these district conditions catapulted the leadership to a place
of organizational and leadership concern. One of the estimated scenarios presented was
that eight of the existing ten school leaders would be eligible to retire within the next
two-to- three years. This realization pushed the idea of school and community leadership
to the forefront. Based on the work of the authors, a second practical question emerged:
What are the necessary curricula, engagement processes, and self-reflective experiences
for developing culturally responsive school leaders as community builders?
In pursuit of this inquiry we employ a hybrid approach that includes plticas,
exploration of historical documents, a dive into the community development literature,
review of effective leadership practices, and a snapshot of individual and community
stories; this was augmented with archival work from the local library and private family
archives. These sources have explored the nuanced spaces of leadership with specific
intentions of using a community development framework as the theoretical guide for this
work. We offer these observables in a dynamic relationship that pushes the traditional
educational literature and practice to a space of action. The ecologies of knowing (Fig. 1)
are also used to guide the inquiry as we employ a method responsive and congruent with
the community assets, needs and hopes. It is this historical, emerging and collective
consciousness that informs the diversity of this cohort, its planning and it actions.
Recruitment of a Diverse Applicant Pool
A Latino male who self identifies as being at the latter part of his career was
moved by the opportunity to learn and grow; he participated in the recruitment process
and assessment center. He was convinced that this was the right program to pursue by the
reception he received when he came to the assessment center. He reports the professor
walked up to me, shook my hand and welcomed me personally. This was a radical
departure from the traditional meetings and assessment centers he has participated in the
past. After 18 hours of course work he reported that this opportunity has helped him
better understand his instruction, reimagine the last five to ten years of his teaching career
and has radically impacted his role as a public citizen in the local community.
We know that traditional outreach strategies will yield the same results. The
power of invitation has become a very effective tool in recruiting a diverse and interested
pool of applicants. This cohort includes teachers who have been in the profession
between 3-5 years and ranges to a teacher whose tenure reaches 20 years. Similarly, the
recruitment was appealing because the invitation was personal, the resources provided
made sense and the place-based curriculum was very attractive. This proactive
recruitment effort increased the Latina/o participation beyond the traditional numbers,
53% of participants are Latina/o. The application pool-yielded five more Latina/o
candidates accepted to the program but did not start the program for a variety of personal
Rules for Engagement: Curriculum, Pedagogy and Inquiry
A Community Learning Exchange vigorously engages citizenry in community
issues, change while emphasizing the importance of learning, understanding and
enhancing democratic principles that lead to a just community. The following is an


example of a Community Learning Exchange.
One of the sessions focused on kids and after school hours. Among the invited
stakeholders were district administrators, an athletic director, two students, and
two recent graduates. In facilitating the conversation, I came to an understanding
that taking part of something so organic is exhilarating. Listening to different
perspectives, viewing the issues from a different lens, gaining peoples expertise
and commitment makes sense. Through the facilitation of CLEs, my community
has improved and sustains my vision for school and community change. (Cohort
member, 2015)
Organizing the instruction into a coherent and dynamic process has been critical
to the cohort learning. The curriculum is consistent with the ecologies of knowing where
we scaffold the rhythm of the learning process in the following order: self, organization
and community. This is not simply about when we offer the course, but it is a conceptual
way of delivering and organizing the learning process. Every professor meets before the
semester to receive an introduction to the student, the work they have done and their
development. This does not direct the faculty to deliver the instruction in any particular
way, but it does provide an insight into the place-based nuances inherent with the
organization of a cohort and their development.

Figure 1. Ecologies of knowing.

(Guajardo, Guajardo, Oliver, Valadez, Henderson, & Keawee, 2012)
In addition to the ecologies of knowing, we have infused the development with
three elements unique to this place-based instruction: a strong instructional leadership,
dynamic cultural competence and radical community engagement. The pedagogy
employed during the first summer session was steep in the dialogical process (plticas),
intense self-exploration and a deliberate effort for the cohort members to meet their
school community, students, families and the places they live in. The CLE pedagogies
were critical to this engagement. Table 5 depicts a snapshot of the organizing of the
relationships, curriculum, learning, and impact during the first 18 hours of course work.
Table 5


Ecologies of Knowing

Note: Ecologies of Knowing and Community Development Matrix

Stories of Change for Sustainability
Professionally and personally, I want to prepare myself to help other educators
explore and find their personal legend, for in doing so, I will find mine. (Cohort
Member, 2014)
The community assets mapping activity was a powerful experience for me; I had
no idea where our kids lived, how they lived and the activities families are doing
to make ends meet economically. The families in the neighborhood are working to
support each other on issues of economics, issues of democracy and taxes to name
a few. I never heard these families complain, they give me so much great home.
(Cohort 2014)
As I work harder, I remind myself that I need to focus on me too, I need to take
care of myself so I can be effective in my school. (Cohort, 2014)
This article is a conceptual articulation of a praxis based instructional partnership
between Texas State University and San Marcos C.I.S.D. The community is an asset and
its resources are abundant. The engagement and relationship building is at the core of the
sustainability process as indicated by the framework presented above. It serves as an
opportunity for capturing stories of change, hope, and impact as they relate to future
district leadership development and community building process in this Central Texas


Community. The best is yet to come.
Theory In Action
Culture, Educational Leadership, and Community Development
Intersections of Change
At the heart of teaching, learning, leading, and inquiry lies the community. All
schools are situated in a unique community context and informed by local values
(Guajardo & Guajardo, 2004). The community has a profound effect on the way children
are raised, individuals view themselves, and the opportunities residents have for
economic and social well-being (McKnight & Block, 2010). The overall health and
conditions of the local community context directly impacts the schooling environment,
students learning, and the overall success of schools (Guajardo, Guajardo, &
Casaperalta, 2008; Kretzman & McKnight, 1993). As such, district and school leadership
and personnel must be conscious of the local community context and its implications for
student learning. The utilization of ecological frameworks to guide and inform
educational policy, practices, and decision-making infuses the different domains that
encompass a school community and serve as mediating forces to address contextual
issues impacting the social, cultural, and educational development of children
(Bronfenbrenner, 1977; Guajardo et al., 2008; Guajardo et al., 2012). Thus, we begin to
craft a framework that that considers and responds to the wellbeing of the entire
community. In sum, the cultural development and sustainability of schools and
community leadership become symbiotic.
The preparation and development of effective leadership is essential in
formulating, achieving, and sustaining educational goals (Wallace Foundation, 2012). To
become effective school agents, school leaders need opportunities for engagement in
meaningful, quality learning experiences that promote collective learning, on-going
professional development, and reflection (Darling-Hammond, LaPointe, Meyerson, &
Orr, 2010; Guajardo at al., 2011). A key component in the recruitment, development, and
education of diverse leaders is recognizing and building on the inherent skills and talents
communities and individuals possess. In regards to Latina/o leadership, community
cultural wealth (Yosso, 2005) provides a strong theoretical foundation for the
development and education of emerging Latina/o leaders, schools, and their communities.
Community cultural wealth departs from the traditional deficit-based models used to
inform pedagogical, curricular, and instructional methods by centering the cultural
knowledge and experiences of school and community leaders.
The commitment to community does not miraculously take shape and form with
the adoption of a set of standards. It is a radical shift in consciousness that begins when
we engage in deep reflection, collective dialogue, and critically examines existing
institutional structures, policies, and practices (Freire, 2000). It begins by framing a
different set of questions that facilitate new conversations that value possibility and
community (Block, 2008). We aim to shift the conventional top-down approach to
leadership (Horton, 2003) and infuse the basic principles of place, community, respect,
and dignity, while reimaging the role of school leader as an agent for school and
community change (Guajardo et al., 2012). At its core, school leadership is an act of


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Miguel A. Guajardo, PhD is an Associate Professor in the Education and Community
Leadership Program and a member of the doctoral faculty in School Improvement at
Texas State University.
Samuel Garca, Jr. is a proud native of the Rio Grande Valley and Doctoral Research
Assistant in the School Improvement Program at Texas State University.