OUR PEOPLE: Hartford Public Schools’ Latino Leaders in Education

OUR PEOPLE: Hartford Public Schools’ Latino Leaders in Education

Published on Mar 3, 2016


Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Leadership, and Karla Cruz, our Family Engagement Manager were both selected by the Connecticut Institute for Community Development Puerto Rican Parade, Inc. to receive the Maria C. Sanchez Award in Education.  The awards were presented at the 22nd Annual Maria C. Sanchez Scholarship and Awards Banquet on Saturday, February 27th. 

Karla Cruz (l) and Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez enjoy the event.

The accomplishments of the award recipients honor the legacy of Maria C. Sanchez. Affectionately known as la madrina (the godmother) of the Hartford Puerto Rican community, Maria Clemencia Colón Sanchez served the city as advocate, listener and mentor and earned tremendous respect citywide. She advocated for bilingual education in public schools and served on the Hartford Board of Education. In 1988, she became the first Hispanic woman elected to the Connecticut General Assembly.  The CICD holds it Maria C. Sanchez Banquet annually, where it has provided thousands of dollars in scholarships in honor of our beloved Maria Sanchez, a pillar of strength in community building, and who was instrumental in starting the Puerto Rican parade. The Connecticut Institute for Community Development-Puerto Rican Parade Committee (CICD) founded in 1958 dedicated to social engagement, community building, cultural enrichment, and most renowned for its annual Puerto Rican Day Parade. 

Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez says of the award, “I am immensely grateful to the CICD Board. I admire their mission to preserve Puerto Rican and Hispanic culture, and to uphold Maria C. Sanchez’s legacy.  The Maria C. Sanchez Educator Award validates my deeply rooted personal and professional values: learning, leadership development, and service to others.  As a child who migrated to Hartford from Puerto Rico at the age of 9, who by several definitions lived in poverty as a child, who learned English as second language, who at times experienced low academic expectations, this award confirms and further ignites my passion. The more I reflect on this award the more humbled I become. I am a product of this community, of Hartford Public schools, so my work in and for education in Hartford is personal, at a very intimate level.  It is an honor to be acknowledged for fulfilling my purpose, which manifests in a sense of urgency for access to high quality teaching and learning in service of improving outcomes for each and every one of our students.”

Karla Cruz reflected on her work in light of the award, “As I reflect on my beginnings in the city of Hartford, I remember arriving to the city at the age of 9, the oldest of 4 children raised by a single mother, needing to adjust to a new environment, and beginning to learn English as a second language.  All of this brought challenges and frustrations that I believe, wholeheartedly, could have been channeled more appropriately with the support of a mentor.  To this day, I still witness youth yearning for mentors who could step up and help guide our young people, encourage them to give back to their communities, and motivate young people to reach for the highest goal.  As a result, a team of young leaders and I got together and created an initiative called YX Movement, a bi-monthly youth event that brings youth from around the Greater Hartford area to share talents and encouraging words as creative opportunities for youth leadership development.  And so, when asked about what it means to have received the Maria C. Sanchez Youth Service Award, first, I’m extremely honored by the recognition, I’m humbled by the award, and most importantly, I am motivated to continue the work.  And although at times it seems hard, impossible, and even too great a goal to reach, we must never give up on our children. It’s our duty to build a future by planting seeds of hope in our youth.” 

Kelvin Roldan, HPS Chief Officer of Communications and Public Policy shared his knowledge and experiences at Soledad O'Brien’s ‘I am Latino in America’ session on February 18th, part of the USHLI (United States Hispanic Leadership Institute) Conference. The conference has become the premier Hispanic leadership conference in the nation, attracting a complete cross section of the leadership community and involving all ancestry groups. Over 6,500 present and future leaders representing 40 states attended various events throughout the four days. Most conference participants are or will become the most influential Hispanic leaders of their generation and will help govern our cities, schools, states and, indeed, a nation that will become 25% Hispanic during their lifetime.  In addition to hosting their national conference, USHLI has registered over 2.3 million new voters, published 425 studies on Latino demographics including our flagship biennial online publication of the Almanac of Latino Politics, and over 800,000 present and future leaders have participated in local and national leadership programs.  USHLI is chaired by long-time Hartford resident and community leader, Mr. Luis Cabán.

Kelvin Roldan, (r) with Annie Fisher Montessori School student, Yasmin Browdy-Beckford

The United States Consulate General of the Dominican Republic announced that Eduardo Genao, Hartford Public Schools Executive Director for Compliance, received the Order of Merit Medal Citizen Consul General of the architect Eduardo Selman, an honor that highlights the growth of the Dominican community and its contributions to the economy, education, art, medicine, media, the judiciary and the business community in the United States.  Other honorees included renowned artist Darío Oleaga; Angela Fernandez, president of the Dominican Parade in New York; and Lucienne Echavarria, tour promoter of the Dominican Republic; Education, and Ana Garcia Reyes, dean of Hostos Community College.

Hartford Public Schools Executive Director for Compliance, Eduardo Genao

Ralph Minaya, Instructional Intervention Specialist for the Office of School Improvement, was selected from a talented pool of applicants to be Hartford Public Schools and University of Hartford's 1st STEM ITR Doctoral Fellow. 

Ralph Minaya

In 2010, Hartford Public Schools and the University of Hartford signed an anchor partnership. As one of our first collaborations in 2011 we launched the CT STEM Conference with other Hartford region partners under the guidance of the University’s Institute for Translational Research (ITR). Held annually at the CT Science Center each October, and in planning for its fifth year, we note that Ralph Minaya was one of our early committee organizers. Now, as the first STEM ITR Doctoral Fellow, Mr. Minaya will further his STEM educational leadership while working at Hartford Public Schools, and studying at the University of Hartford for his doctoral degree in Educational Leadership, in the pursuit of translational research that seeks to advance both practice and theory.

The ITR Fellow program is individualized to focus on both the interests of the candidate and the needs of the partners.  Mr. Minaya was selected from a talented pool of applicants via a rigorous 4-step process: (1) through a competitive application process (application and interview) at HPS; (2) Mr. Minaya was invited to apply to the University of Hartford’s Educational Leadership Program in the College of Education, Nursing, and Health Professions. (3) Ralph completed formal interviews with UHart’s faculty in Educational Leadership, and then; (4) once accepted into the doctoral program in Educational Leadership, Mr. Minaya was approved by the ITR as the first STEM ITR Doctoral Fellow.   Dr. Kenny Nienhusser, Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Hartford, who served as the liaison for this process said, “We are excited to welcome Ralph as our inaugural ITR Fellow and into our doctoral program. The doctoral program offers an exciting learning community for working professionals who are immersed in and are devoted to addressing important issues facing our education systems. Ralph certainly emulates those ideals.” 

Mr. Minaya was born in the Dominican Republic.  He attended high school in San Francisco of Asis Catholic School, in Santo Domingo, D.R.  He completed his Bachelor’s in Science degree in Industrial Engineering at Santo Domingo Institute of Technology (INTEC) in Santo Domingo.  Mr. Minaya’s educational accomplishments in the Unites States are: Master of Science, Industrial Engineering, Polytechnic Institute of New York University; Graduate Certificate, Systems Modeling and Analysis, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Rensselaer at Hartford; Sixth-Year in Mathematics Education, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Neag School of Education, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT.; 092 Administrative Certification Program, Isabelle Farrington School of Education, Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, CT.

He has been serving Hartford Public Schools since September 2005.  His first role in the district was as a Mathematics teacher at Bulkeley High School.  Then he was transferred to Academy of Engineering and Green Technology where he started teaching lower and upper high school mathematics courses including Algebra 2, Geometry, and Pre-calculus.  Shortly after that he became a Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Engineering Instructor.  As the Principles of Engineering and Digital Electronics Instructor he provided students with an array of advantages from career readiness and hands-on experiences to college preparatory–level engineering classes, labs, and creative exercises. 

Mr. Minaya’s strong commitment to impact Hartford students’ professional future led him to become one of the first HPS STEM Teachers-in-Resident (TiR).  One of the most important roles of Mr. Minaya as a STEM TiR was to provide instructional support to schools through Mathematics curriculum development; Professional Development; and implementation of STEM initiatives.  Upon the conclusion of his term as a TiR he was recruited as an Intervention Specialist, which is his current role in the district.  Part of his responsibilities as an Intervention Specialist is to collaborate with the Associate Superintendent for Instructional Leadership with collection and analysis of a range of student achievement data, and reports compilation to inform curriculum and instructional practices.

Congratulations to all of our exemplary colleagues and friends.

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