As a school year of unprecedented uncertainty gets underway, I have been deeply moved by the courage and commitment we are seeing from education leaders across the country. The most skilled leaders are not only managing the technical aspects of getting students back to school, whether in person or remotely. They are also tackling the adaptive challenges that come with opening school during multiple pandemics – Covid-19, the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, and our country’s reckoning with deeply-rooted racial injustice.
It takes devotion to make sure members of your team spend 15 or 20 minutes every day on the phone with every student to say I miss you and I love you, to help children feel cared for and connected. Thank you, Phoenix Union High School District, for giving that to your young people.
It takes leadership willing to recognize and confront institutional bias to engage families and community members in conversations about race and how schools can better serve Black, Indigenous, and students of color, to create space for students, families and community members to have shared voice and influence through a series of virtual town halls. Thank you, Des Moines Public Schools, for giving that to your young people.
It takes culturally competent and responsive leadership to design a new social studies curriculum that asks students, Who should our city build monuments for? What makes our community what it is? How did we get here and where are we going? Thank you, Baltimore City Schools, for giving that to your young people.
It takes purposeful leadership committed to building your team’s capacity to design and guide emotionally productive conversations among the adults in order to create the space for youth to do the same. Thank you, Alum Rock School District in San Jose, CA, for attending to the social-emotional learning needs of the adults in order to maintain an emotionally healthy system for all.
Thank you all for your leadership.
This school year, education leaders are being tested as never before. As a community of educators, we can support each other to do better for our students, staff, and families. At the NYC Leadership Academy, we are ready to support you as you manage your community’s trauma while also intentionally designing learning environments and experiences for the students in front of you, for the experiences they are living. I urge you to take care of yourself, to recognize that you are leading through trauma — the National Child Traumatic Stress Network offers tremendous guidance educators navigating Covid-19.
At the same time, to bring students back safely, it’s critical to lead with an awareness of systemic bias and intentionally designing your schools and classrooms to meet the needs of every student. Our free guide, created by our organization’s experts on leading for equity, walks you through how to do this work in the time of Covid-19.
Thank you for your courage, your innovation, your leadership. We are in this together.
Nancy B. Gutiérrez, Ed.L.D.
Lead Executive Officer & President
Dr. Nancy B. Gutiérrez is President & Lead Executive Officer (LEO) of The Leadership Academy, a nationally recognized nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting and developing culturally responsive school and school system leaders to create the conditions necessary for all students to thrive. Since 2003, The Leadership Academy has done work in more than 375 school districts, state education departments, and education organizations across the country, reaching over 12,000 educators in 39 states.
Nancy began her career as a teacher and principal in her home community of East San Jose, CA, where she was the founding principal of Renaissance Academy, the highest performing middle school in the district and a California Distinguished School. Nancy also led the successful effort to turn around the district’s lowest performing middle school. She was named the UC Davis Rising Star and Association of California School Administrators’ Region 8 Middle School Principal of the Year in 2010. In 2014, Nancy joined The Leadership Academy and served in various roles before being named President & CEO in October 2018. Prior to her tenure with the Leadership Academy, Nancy launched a program for executive leadership advancement for the New York City Department of Education that led to superintendent certification.
Nancy is a Fall 2019 Pahara-Aspen Education Fellow and was named one of the top 100 most influential leaders in education in New York in 2020. In 2023, Nancy was named San Jose State University’s Distinguished Alumna.
Nancy is a graduate of the inaugural cohort of the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Doctor of Education Leadership (Ed.L.D.) program and is a graduate of the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (ALAS) Aspiring Superintendents Academy. She has served as an adjunct professor for NYU, Teachers College and American University as well as an expert guest at various Harvard Principals’ Center Institutes. Nancy is a frequent keynote speaker and has authored numerous pieces on education leadership for publications including Education Week, Kappan, The74, Learning Forward’s Learning Professional, District Administrator, and Hechinger Report. She is also the co-author of Stay and Prevail: Students of Color Don’t Need to Leave Their Communities to Succeed, a revolutionary guide to disrupting harmful mindsets and practices in our schools to ensure that students can thrive in their home communities.
Nancy is a member of the Board of Directors at the Hunt Institute, brightbeam, and Education Leaders of Color (EdLoC), and serves on the Latinos for Education teaching team.