District Leader

District Leader: Transforming Education is a podcast about moving and inspiring educators and non-educators alike to believe in the power of education, its leaders, and its transformation. Each week, host Luis Valentino interviews district leaders who share their stories.
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Now displaying: August, 2016
Aug 31, 2016

  Dr. Xavier de la Torre is the Superintendent of the Ysleta Independent School District (YISD) in El Paso, Texas.  Prior to joining YISD in 2014, Xavier served as the Superintendent of Schools in the neighboring Socorro Independent School District (SISD), and as the County Superintendent of Schools with the Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE).

     During his three-year tenure at SISD, Xavier emerged as a dynamic instructional leader and nationally recognized superintendent who was credited with securing two consecutive Broad Prize award nominations (2009 and 2010) and three consecutive Texas Education Agency (TEA) Recognized District distinctions (2009, 2010, and 2011). In 2010, 37 of the 39 eligible Socorro schools were rated “Recognized” or “Exemplary” on the state of Texas Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS). 

     As County Superintendent of Schools at the Santa Clara County Office of Education, Xavier led a regional service agency that provided leadership, instructional services, student services, and business services to 32 school districts and more than 270,000 students. His advocacy for universal pre-kindergarten programs led to the building of the first Educare facility in California.

     Xavier began his career in education as a teacher, coach and principal in various school districts in California before serving as Associate Superintendent of Human Resources in the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District, where he managed all aspects of personnel and labor relations. He then served as Associate Superintendent of Human Resources and Chief Labor Negotiator in the Elk Grove Unified School District in Sacramento, Calif.

     Xavier has a baccalaureate from California State University, Chico, a master’s degree from the University of San Francisco, and a doctorate degree from University of California, Davis. Born and raised in northern California, Xavier is married, and has five beautiful  children.

Aug 24, 2016
Derk Garcia is Superintendent of Schools of the Roseville City School District, in Roseville, California.  He began his career in education as a teacher at La Entrada Continuation High School in the San Juan Unified School District.  He transitioned to the Elk Grove Unified School District where he served for eleven years as a teacher, vice principal, and principal.  Derk returned to the San Juan Unified School District as a Director, Assistant Superintendent, and Interim Chief Academic Officer prior to making the move to Superintendent within the Roseville City School District.  He believes that education has the power to elevate individuals and families for generations.  To that end, he focuses the energy and efforts of the Roseville City School District on three main drivers:  improving instruction, building capacity,  and strengthening collaboration. 
Derk was born and raised in Sacramento where he attended public schools within the Sacramento Unified School District. He earned a bachelor’s degree in History from the University of California, Davis, and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from California State University, Sacramento.
He and his family live in El Dorado Hills, CA. He and his wife Jen have two boys, ages 9 and 7. Derk believes strongly in the potential of all children and therefore, dedicates a significant amount of time volunteering in his personal and professional communities. Within the personal community, he coaches youth soccer and baseball and volunteers monthly at his children’s church. On the professional side, Derk serves as board member for the Roseville City School District Foundation, Tommy Apostolos Fund and KidsFirst.
Aug 17, 2016
Dr. Polyak holds a doctorate in Educational Leadership and Supervision from Loyola University Chicago where he received the Phi Delta Kappa Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award. He holds a Master of Arts Degree and Chief School Business Officer (CSBO) license from Governors State University.  He received  Bachelor of Arts Degree in Mathematics and Secondary Education, from Augusta College.
Nick began his educational career in Lincoln-Way High School District 210 as a high school Math Teacher and Tennis/Soccer Coach. He has served as Dean of Students, Assistant Principal, and Director of Instruction and Staff Development. He then began his superintendency in the Peoria, for Illinois Valley Central School District #321.
Dr. Polyak is proud to lead an award winning school district. Over the past few years at Leyden, the district has received many honors. They were named the 2014 National Advanced Placement District of the Year by the College Board. In addition, the district has welcomed over two thousand visitors to learn about teaching and learning in a 1:1 environment. Leyden’s School Board’s support and vision for digital transformation was recognized with a Magna Award from the National School Board Association (NSBA) and a Digital Content and Curriculum Award. Both Leyden High Schools were recently named Illinois Democracy Schools. Leyden has also been named to the 2014 and 2015 Top 100 Workplaces by the Chicago Tribune.
Dr. Polyak believes strongly in community involvement. He is the Past-President of two different Chambers of Commerce, served four years as a School Board Member in Manhattan School District 114, coached youth sports, and has been involved in a variety of other community groups and charitable efforts. Nick completed the Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA) School for Advanced Leadership in 2014 and the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) National Superintendent Certification Program in 2016.
Aug 10, 2016
Dr. Hightower has worked for over 20 years in education in various roles as a: teacher, mentor/coach asst. principal, principal, district level director, asst. superintendent and superintendent. Lupine holds a Bachelor’s Degree with a Bilingual Endorsement from the University of Arizona, a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration and Supervision and a Doctorate in Leadership and Innovation from Arizona State University.
Dr. Hightower was the Winner of the Jane Romatzke Out-of-School Time Leader Award in 2014 and received the National Education Leadership Award from Jobs for Arizona Graduates (JAG) in 2015. She is especially proud of her two daughters and the support of her husband. 
Aug 3, 2016

Steve Holmes, Superintendent of the Sunnyside Unified School District, in Tucson, Arizona.  Steve serves as the top administrator in Southern Arizona’s second largest school district.  Steve is a champion for equity, and has built a reputation for his strong advocacy of equitable services for English Language Learners. He has had multiple opportunities to provide clarity and insight to national education audiences. Steve was a facilitator on an educational panel for the National Congressional Hispanic Caucus Conference, where he spoke on policy implications for English Language Learners in relation to the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.