Malden High’s student body is one of the most diverse in the state, but this diversity is not reflected onto the staff members. Superintendent of Malden Public Schools, John Oteri, stated that Massachusetts has about “38-40% students of color” compared to the “6% of teaching staff.” Influence 100 is just one of the educational initiatives Malden has partnered with to change this statistic.
Influence 100 was launched by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in Massachusetts just this year with the purpose of “increas[ing] the racial and ethnic diversity of superintendents,” and “creat[ing] more culturally responsive districts and leaders,” across the state, as stated from the Department of Education’s website.
Oteri explained that the representation of different races and cultures “decreases the higher up in administration you go,” which is why he believes that Influence 100 is such “a great opportunity for Malden.”
The program focuses on current educators who are looking to move into the position of either assistant superintendent or superintendent itself within the next few years and offers them to join a two-year fellowship program.
The Influence 100 program consists of a monthly meeting with all the “fellows,” (which is what they call their trainees) that feature guest speakers and mentoring. Basically, it is a program that will help familiarize the fellows with the role and expectations of being a superintendent in a racially and culturally diverse environment. Additionally, there will be some practical work where the fellows will be expected to work in the Central Office where they will get an overview of the various roles and responsibilities working at the assistant superintendent or superintendent level.
The city is pleased to be a part of something so special, especially since you could originally only have one fellow, but when the district endorsed both Rafael “Ray” Garcia and Abdel Sepulveda, the program allowed for both administrators to participate. Not to mention, the program seemed like a perfect match since it ties in with a lot of the districts’ current work with initiatives on diversity and increasing it, as well as making the school a more inclusive and equitable place for both students and staff. One of Oteri’s major goals since he started working as superintendent is to “have an educational staff that resemble[s] more of [the] student body to the best that [they] can.”
Sepulveda, the current principal of the Ferryway School first heard about Influence 100 in the spring. He described that he was “immediately interested in the program,” because of its mission to increase the number of diversity among leadership positions and because of its goal to help the school district become more equitable. While the district is already involved in a number of other initiatives in the state including the Teacher Diversification grant and the state Diversity Network, Sepulveda said that there is no such thing as “too many equity partners in [the] amazing profession.”
Influence 100 officially launched on October 11th with a kickoff event that superintendent Oteri, assistant superintendent Kelly Chase, principal Garcia, and Sepulveda attended. The first meeting with all the fellows took place on October 28th. Sepulveda recounted that the program had “a wealth of resources,” as there was a variety of facilitators. Among them, Dr. Stacy Scott from Boston University and members from the NYC Leadership Academy as well. The Ferryway principal reported that “the opportunities for networking and growth” at the meeting were “incredible.”
After participating in the two-year program, Sepulveda hopes to “bring what [he has] learned to the Ferryway School,” as well as the rest of the district. He wants to continue being an “unapologetic equity leader” for all students, educators, and families and to “grow as a person and professional with the help of the other fellows in the program.” Sepulveda wishes to “celebrate the progress that [they] are making as a school district,” as Malden continues down the path that moves them “from diversity to belonging, from belonging to inclusion, and from inclusion to equity.”
Since this is the first year this initiative is taking place, Oteri is “pretty proud,” that Malden is among one of the first groups to participate in it. While many people might not understand how potentially impactful this program could be, it is a big deal to administration. Oteri added that this program is not one of those things where you see it “paying an immediate dividend,” but it is, rather, “an investment.”
Oteri truly believes that Malden is “a great place for people to begin and grow their educational career,” due to all the opportunities and potential for growth. There is not only diversity among the student body, but diversity in ways which the city can impact its students in a positive manner also, and Influence 100 is just one of the many.