On this special episode, Marco Davis sits with three CHCI alumni who serve as Chiefs of Staff for Members of Congress: Sandra Alcala, for Congressman Filemon Vela (TX-34), Berta ‘Bee’ Alisia Guerrero, for Jimmy Gonzalez (CA-34), and Gerardo Bonilla Chavez, for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14). Sandra, Bee and Gerardo share stories about their personal and professional journeys, their experiences as Latinos working for Members of Congress, and how participating in leadership programs like CHCI’s has enriched their lives. Sandra, Bee and Gerardo also share powerful stories about how they experienced the attacks on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, 2021.
Host: Marco A. Davis, CHCI President and CEO
Guest: Dr. Miguel Cardona, Secretary of Education
Dr. Miguel A. Cardona was sworn in as the 12th Secretary of Education on March 2nd, 2021.
Secretary Cardona previously served as the Commissioner of Education in Connecticut, a position he held after being appointed by Governor Ned Lamont in August 2019. In this position, he faced the unprecedented challenge of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and led the safe school reopening efforts in Connecticut. To do so, Secretary Cardona and his Department provided school districts with the balance of guidance, local autonomy, and oversight needed to ensure equitable and meaningful educational opportunities for students while also prioritizing public health mitigation measures. Secretary Cardona and the State of Connecticut focused on equity by arranging for student access to technology to support remote learning, helping the state become the first in the nation to provide learning devices to fulfill the identified need for all students. Recognizing the increased importance of providing resources for the social-emotional health of students and staff, Secretary Cardona and his team collaborated with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and other stakeholders to provide free social and emotional learning courses.
Secretary Cardona’s approach to leadership in Connecticut focused on partnerships: within his Education Department; between State agencies; and with local boards, educator unions, school administrator associations, child advocates, and most importantly, students and families. He attributes his success in Connecticut in part to the strong backing of those partners, as well as support from the members of the Connecticut State Board of Education and his staff at the Connecticut State Department of Education.
Under Secretary Cardona’s oversight — despite the pandemic — Connecticut launched a statewide FAFSA Data Dashboard; procured a comprehensive statewide Special Education Data System (CT-SEDS); announced the State’s highest ever extended graduation rates for students with disabilities and English Learners; reached a new stipulated agreement in the landmark school integration case Sheff v. O’Neill, established the first national requirement for high schools provide courses on black and Latino studies; and initiated systemic improvement protocols that can reach every corner of the state. His focus on equity and excellence for all learners has driven his work at all levels.
Secretary Cardona has two decades of experience as a public school educator from the City of Meriden. He began his career as an elementary teacher. He then served as a school principal in Meriden in 2003 where he led a school with outstanding programming for three to five-year-olds, students that were bilingual, and students with sensory exceptionalities. He proudly served in this role for ten years. In 2012, Miguel won the 2012 National Distinguished Principal Award for the State of CT and the Outstanding Administrator Award from UCONN’s NEAG School of Education. Secretary Cardona then transitioned to lead the work of Performance and Evaluation in the district. He then assumed the role of Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, overseeing teaching, learning, and leadership alignment.
A lifelong Meriden resident, Dr. Cardona attended Meriden Connecticut Public Schools and graduated from Wilcox Technical High School. He attended CCSU for his Bachelor’s degree and UCONN where he completed a Master’s in Bilingual/Bicultural Education, Administrator Preparation Program, Doctorate in Education, and Executive Leadership Program (Superintendent) Certificate. Secretary Cardona is very active in his community, serving on several non-profit charitable organization boards of directors. He has had several articles published in AASPA Perspective, National School Boards Association, District Administration, and the Scholars Strategy Network.
His greatest source of pride, however, is his family. Secretary Cardona and his beautiful wife Marissa are the proud parents of two children.