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'I believe in doing the right thing, doing the hard thing and always doing what's best for kids.'

PMG FILE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Lora de la Cruz speaking at the 2019 LO Schools Foundation luncheon in January.Lora de la Cruz will take over as the superintendent of the Lake Oswego School District on July 1.

She will replace Interim Superintendent Michael Musick and bring 26 years of educational leadership experience to the district. In her most recent role she supervised a group of 10 principals and instructional coaches, coordinators and support personnel for Aurora Public Schools, a highly diverse district outside Denver, Colorado that serves 40,000 students and 5,000 staff members.

De la Cruz says she is eager to take on her new position because the LOSD's values and mission are consistent with her personal and professional history.

"When I was considering Lake Oswego, what I looked into was the kind of work being done in the district, and it aligned really well with what I value as an educator," de la Cruz says. "My core values are connection and integrity. Connection meaning that I'm very grounded in relationships, community, co-creating and collaboration."

De la Cruz says she links integrity to courage. "I believe in doing the right thing, doing the hard thing and always doing what's best for kids," she says. "Even if it's harder or less popular, if it's the path that's right for kids, then we can't go wrong."

She says that the LOSD's mission — "to be an inclusive and safe learning community with challenging opportunities that develop lifelong learners and contributing world citizens" — was one reason she was attracted to the district.

"The mission statement starting with inclusivity spoke to me. I'm an advocate for all students, to make sure they have their learning needs meet, as well as their social-emotional learning and well being," she says.

In Aurora, de la Cruz coordinated the Gifted and Talented program, the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support program (similar to the LOSD's Response to Intervention, which provides individual attention to keep struggling students on track to graduate), social-emotional support initiatives, Special Education services and programs that work with culturally and linguistically diverse learners.

De la Cruz's personal history has influenced her understanding of the importance of educational opportunities for all. Her parents met at the border of Texas and Mexico, and her mother raised five children in America after the death of her father. Her mother spoke limited English and had only a high school diploma from Mexico, but dreamed of more.

"It was always my mother's dream to go to college. Because of people's kindness, generosity and support, she was able to obtain a bachelor's degree and a master's degree," de La Cruz says. "Education truly has the power to change lives. I want to ensure the children in my care have the opportunities and access to shape their talents and skills, and achieve their goals, just like I did."

De la Cruz says that she is who she is today because of the doors that education opened for her. "All children, regardless of their circumstances, should be receiving high quality, standards-aligned educational experiences, " she says. "I'm not in the position of having all the solutions — I think that when we collaborate to make sure their needs are met, we're opening those doors for every student."

During her tenure in Aurora Public Schools, de la Cruz has been a leader in the comprehensive redesign and implementation of a districtwide, data-driven instructional program focused on literacy and learning. Because of those efforts, the district has seen significant growth in both reading and math scores — enough to move some schools off the state performance watch list.

She now hopes to continue to advance the LOSD's quality of education, and plans spend time listening to what that means to the community. "In the first six months I want to do a lot more listening than talking. I'm excited to get into the schools, be in classrooms and have opportunities to engage with our teachers, school leaders and parents," de la Cruz says. "I want to build on what we're doing really well and what we need to work on. I've been really impressed with the expertise and the passion of district leadership."

De la Cruz was hired by the LOSD in December 2018, which she says has given her plenty of time to get to know the community prior to taking on her new role.

De la Cruz and her husband will soon move to Lake Oswego, and she says is looking forward to settling into the community. "I'm stunned by the beauty of Lake Oswego. Just going for a walk through the neighborhood was breathtaking," de la Cruz says. "We're looking forward to immersing ourselves in the community. It feels like a community with so many people that really care about and invest in all of the children in the district."

De la Cruz will take over as Superintendent on July 1, from which point she plans to host a variety of gatherings for parents, students and other community members, as well as communicating through social media and district newsletters.

"I'm planning to be involved with our community partnerships and community leadership. Also I want to use not only my entry plan but also our strategic plan to benchmark our progress, and report out on how we are doing toward progressing towards our goals," she says. "Being transparent is a high value of mine."

To read de la Cruz's entry plan, visit http://tinyurl.com/y4rkhrms/.

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