The State Education Resource Center (SERC) recognized Dr. Patricia Garcia, Superintendent of Windham Public Schools, as one of two recipients of the George A. Coleman Equity in Education Award, presented at the 2019 conference on Friday, April 26 at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. The conference theme was “Dismantling Systemic Racism: 2019 Conference on Race, Education & Success.”
The award is named for George A. Coleman, a former acting state education commissioner and longtime SERC partner and advocate for its vision of equity and excellence in education. SERC created this award “to honor and highlight the demonstration of extraordinary acts of commitment and courage to ensure all students, especially students of color and culturally and linguistically diverse students, are valued and respected in their school experience.”
The award recognizes actions in advocating for children and families of color, taking risks in conversation and action regarding issues of equity for racially, linguistically and culturally diverse groups, and engaging the diverse needs of members of an education community and reconciling them toward a shared vision.
Dr. Garcia was introduced at the luncheon portion of the conference by Assistant Superintendent of Windham Public Schools Tracy Youngberg who nominated her with support from Leah Ralls, President of the NAACP Windham/Willimantic chapter. Also receiving the Coleman Award was Diane Clare-Kearney, Director of Manchester Adult and Continuing Education.
As outlined in the nomination, Dr. Garcia’s commitment to equity in education is exemplified by the development of Windham’s Parent and Community University (PCU) and her Community and Parental Advisory Groups. PCU, facilitated by the district’s bilingual Family Liaisons, offers participants free, engaging learning sessions that address educational topics to foster engagement with schools, family wellness and personal growth. The district also recently launched an elementary level One-Way Dual Program, an enhancement to the district’s bilingual education programming that also includes Windham’s renowned Compañeros K-8 Dual Language Program. Under Dr. Garcia’s leadership, Windham also initiated a Teacher Leadership for Equity cohort designed to jumpstart a grassroots culture of equity within the middle and high schools. She is deeply interested in fostering bilingualism, bi-literacy and sociocultural competence along with instilling in students a deep sense of pride in their diverse identities. Windham’s Early College Opportunity (ECO) Program, which she started in 2014, is the essence of her vision for community based partnerships in support of equitable opportunities and outcomes for our students of color.