Debra Duardo, M.S.W., Ed.D.
Dr. Debra Duardo was appointed Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools by the County Board of Supervisors in 2016, designating her as the top education leader of the nation's most populous and diverse county. As County Superintendent, Dr. Duardo oversees 80 K-12 school districts that serve 1.4 million students, providing leadership and support to superintendents and administrators countywide. She holds a master's degree in social work from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and a doctorate from UCLA's Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.
She currently serves as President of the California County Superintendents. This role places her in a unique position to elevate Los Angeles County students' needs to our state and federal departments and legislators. In addition, it has allowed her to strengthen and expand on L.A. County's partnership with the other 57 County Superintendents, the State Superintendent of Instruction, and the State Board of Education President.
Dr. Duardo's passion for achieving educational equity is rooted in her life experience as a teen mom and high school dropout. She knows first-hand the obstacles students face and dedicates her life's work to breaking down those barriers.
Growing up in the Pico-Union neighborhood near downtown Los Angeles, the daughter of Mexican immigrants was an engaged and active student in middle school. But, like many new 9th graders, Dr. Duardo felt adrift and quickly lost interest when she entered high school. Following the path of her elder siblings, she dropped out of high school to get a full-time job so she could afford the things her family could not provide.
At 16, she had her son Bruce, born with a severe disability. Knowing she would need an education to support her child's unique needs, Dr. Duardo started on the long road to finishing high school and earning bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees.
Her 30-year career in education has focused on serving at-promise students and their families, working to ensure that all receive an education in a safe, caring environment for success in college and careers.
To that end, Dr. Duardo has spearheaded an unprecedented partnership with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, other agencies, and school districts to promote the Community Schools model across the region. The approach is recognized as a strategy for tackling persistent educational inequities. Currently being piloted in 15 districts, the effort aims to transform campuses into hubs for a range of vital social and other services for students and families.
She centers her support to school districts on developing strong and lasting partnerships with all stakeholders that provide services and resources to families in L.A. County communities. She has effectively rallied County departments, such as the Departments of Public Health, Mental Health, Social Services, Parks and Recreation, Libraries, Children and Families Services, and Probation, to collaborate and coordinate efforts to serve students and families better.
Previously as Executive Director of Student Health and Human Services for the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation's second-largest, Dr. Duardo oversaw programs designed to address barriers to student success. Her efforts in LAUSD led to an increase in attendance and graduation rates and a decrease in dropout rates across the district. These initiatives included: implementing effective dropout prevention strategies; forming critical partnerships with the City of Los Angeles to create youth and family resource centers; groundbreaking collaboration with the Los Angeles Police Department and School Police Department to ensure truant students did not receive citations and instead re-engaged in school, and developing data-sharing processes and agreements with the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Families Services to better support students in foster care.
Follow Dr. Duardo on social media: