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 and a doctorate from UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.
Dr. Duardo’s passion for achieving educational equity is rooted in her own life experience as a teen mom and high school dropout. She knows first-hand the obstacles that students face and has dedicated 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. When she entered high school, like many new 9th graders, Dr. Duardo felt adrift and quickly lost interest. 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 the age of 16, her son Bruce was born with a serious disability. Knowing she would need an education to support her child's special needs, Dr. Duardo started on the long road to finishing high school and earning bachelors, masters 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 and are prepared 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.
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 were 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.
Dr. Duardo and husband Art have seven children and 13 grandchildren.
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