James A. Figueroa

Los Angeles Unified School District - 1963-2000

Division of Adult and Career Education - 1969-2000

Assistant Superintendent
Director, Adult Education
Assistant Principal
Instructional Consultant, Adult Basic Education Office

Rural vocational programs in the 1960s.

Excerpt from an interview with:
James A.Figueria by Cuba Miller
May 17, 2001
Rancho Mirage, California

CM: Jim, I have visited at least a dozen of your adult schools, possibly more. And I've always been impressed by the diversity of your staff and how they reflect the community in which the schools are located, and I know those things don't just happen. They take planning. So I'd like for you to talk about this diversity in both your staff and your student body and the things that you did to promote it.

JF: That's a long hard road, because I think as the community changes, the workforce of L.A.'s changing, and you see it in the police department, you see it in the general teaching population of the district, and it's becoming more and more in adult ed. I think adult ed, we had a little bit of an advantage because we have a base of community folks who do represent the ethnic groups who are able to be credentialed and have been encouraged to come into the system. So that's one way, is identifying community folks who can teach and become part of it. Another way, we've tried to encourage our teacher assistants to go on and get…

CM: Credentials.

JF: Yeah, since most of the teacher assistants came from the community, many of them even former students. Helping them get credentialed, then that brings a group that better reflects the total diversity of L.A. One little technique we used was, we had a recognition of teachers in adult education who were former students. We identified, I think, about forty-five people, and we took them in front of the Board of Education on television and said, "This student at Evans Adult School started in ESL I and now he's teaching over here at this location," and that kind of public marketing technique really helps people get interested in that.

But I think the principals in L.A. are very sensitive to diversity and getting people who do reflect the community. It's still a problem. There's no question. I mean, there just aren't enough people with the degrees among the various minority communities available to teach. And it's becoming tougher because as salaries go up and opportunities — and K to 12, the competition for full-time people is a lot tougher. So that's a problem that I think is going on now.

But nevertheless, there's been a great growth, I think, in the statistics. And as well as the administrators. And it's a natural thing. It's kind of interesting. I tracked the statistics for a while, the number of women and minority administrators, and over my tenure it's grown dramatically. But I don't take all of the credit for that necessarily. I think it's just a natural changing of the workforce in that area. When I took over as superintendent, I think there were only four women principals, and when I left, almost — I had a goal of 50 percent, and I got pretty close. I think there are about 46 percent women principals in L.A. Unified now, adult ed principals.