Women’s History Month 2012: Norma Rodriguez

This is a blog post I wrote back in November 2010 that was featured on the City Year San José blog.

In today’s data-driven education climate, it is often easy to lose the human aspect of what City Year Corps Members, teachers and school administrators signed up to do this year; to help reduce the achievement gap. At first glance, this goal seems unattainable. But Mrs. Norma Rodriguez, Principal of Anthony J. Dorsa Elementary School, does everything in her power to achieve this goal everyday.

The Alum Rock Unified School District, in which AJ Dorsa is located, ranks #548 in California. Further examination of this data tells us that this is not the entire story. What you do not see in Alum Rock’s ranking is that during Rodriguez’s tenure, AJ Dorsa has jumped a whopping 120 points in the Academic Performance Index. Thanks to Mrs. Rodriguez, approximately 630 underprivileged students in San Jose, CA grow socially and academically every year.

Norma is fiercely dedicated to the intangible relationships students form everyday, from being greeted in the morning with lively music and a community rally to the mentorship they receive from the adults around them. It is in this spirit that she has welcomed the City Year program with open arms to the Dorsa community.

When you step into her office, you’re instantly reminded that Norma has a mission to improve student achievement every year. The charts showing growth and performance throughout the school illustrate her commitment to academic excellence.

It reminds her that although the school has come a long way under her leadership, there is still a lot to be accomplished before her team achieves the ultimate goal of becoming a California Distinguished School. She knows she cannot accomplish this task alone and that she must incorporate the needs of every parent, teacher, City Year Corps Member and student in order to be successful.

When the City Year team at Dorsa talks about Mrs. Rodriguez, it is with an air of reverence, trust and respect. The amount of appreciation that each Corps Member feels toward the work that she puts in everyday is astounding. They are constantly thinking about ways to “make Mrs. Rodriguez” proud.

Today I had the pleasure of listening to a conversation she was having with the fourth and fifth graders enrolled in our After-School Program about respect for each other and changing the traditional story of low-performing minority students. She said,

“Change begins with each of you. When you make bad choices you’re not just effecting yourself, you’re helping to rewrite the story that we have set out to change together. We must work as a team and hold each other accountable. I love you all and will do anything to support you but first, you must support each other.”

Thanks to Mrs. Rodriguez, students are learning that no matter their background, the story of the 21stCentury American education system can indeed be changed.

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