State VPLA discusses importance of ACSA advocacy

As ACSA’s state vice president for legislative action, Lisa Gonzales truly understands the importance of leadership advocacy on education policy.

“The work of ACSA, for students and on behalf of school administrators, cannot be duplicated in any other organization in our state,” Gonzales said. “We have the ability to both advocate for public school students and propose legislation that best meets the unique, diverse needs of those students.”

Her legislative work with ACSA began when another member invited Gonzales to meet with an Assembly member as a first-year principal. She left behind her business card and cell phone number, having shared with him the challenges of mid-year budget cuts on her elementary school.

When the lawmaker called days later with questions about another bill that would have a negative impact on students in her district, Gonzales was able to share her concerns, and he worked to defeat the bill.

“That is what legislative work is about; it’s about telling our stories and aggressively and proactively working with decision-makers so they design legislation and policy that works for students,” she said.

That kind of opportunity is one all members can be involved in during the April 16 ACSA Legislative Action Day in Sacramento. ACSA regional vice presidents for legislative action are currently recruiting participation in LAD. Visit www.acsa.org/advocacy for more information.

Gonzales, who serves as coordinator of curriculum and instruction for Santa Clara County, got her start in ACSA advocacy as Region 8 vice president for legislative action. She had already established relationships with elected officials from working as a community volunteer, inviting them to attend school events where they could present awards and join in walk-a-thons. Such requests enable lawmakers to be visible in the community.

“When they attend those events, they hear about the work we do in public education and the challenges in our schools,” Gonzales said. “Having them serve on advisories brings them – and their staff members – closer to the work we do every day, and when we need assistance, they have background knowledge of the issues and our needs as school leaders.”

Gonzales also acknowledges social media has expanded school leaders’ ability to communicate their messages. Taking the time to “friend” or “like” legislators is one more way to remind them of ACSA’s priority areas.

In addition, ACSA has ramped up its use of “Action Alert” emails to get members to send electronic correspondence, U.S. mail or to telephone legislators in Sacramento about bills such as pension reform, funding, school standards and legal representation.

“The more we can get members to act on the alerts, the louder our voice and the stronger our messages,” Gonzales said.

A top priority for VPLAs, Gonzales said, is to help members advocate around certain key issues, such as the importance of school leadership, funding, ESEA reauthorization, and the achievement gap.

“Policy and political leadership are the heart and soul of the work we do,” she said.

Gonzales said she is honored to have been elected by her colleagues statewide to serve as “captain of a true all-star team” of regional vice presidents for legislative action.

“The VPLAs are a hardworking, committed group of leaders who should be commended for their work in the field,” she said.

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