Courageous Equity: Leadership and Unintended Consequences

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As equity leaders, our job is to ensure that the adults who serve students are inspired and supported so they may deliver the best education available. But with so many competing priorities, how can we ensure we’re doing the best we can for our students as we navigate the road back from school closures?

Listen to our panel of experts on our Courageous Equity: Leadership and Unintended Consequences webinar, moderated by Dr. Valerie Truesdale, Assistant Executive Director at AASA. During this insightful discussion, the panel discussed challenges in applying strategies leaders have used in the past, steps equity leaders can take to make the greatest impact on students, and the unintended consequences of leadership. Watch now to hear from:

  • Dr. Robin Avelar La Salle: CEO and Founder, Orenda Education
  • Dr. Susan Enfield: Superintendent, Highline Public Schools
  • Sarah Mott Gonzales: Director of College Readiness, Orenda Education
  • Hedreich Nichols, M.Ed.: Author, Educator, Equity Advocate, and Host of SmallBites
  • Dr. Adrian Palazuelos: Superintendent, Fillmore Unified School District
  • Dr. Valerie Truesdale: Assistant Executive Director, AASA





Meet the Presenters

Dr. Robin Avelar La Salle

Dr. Robin Avelar La Salle

Dr. Robin Avelar La Salle is the CEO and Co-founder of Orenda Education (formerly Principal's Exchange), a state-approved technical assistance organization that has served schools and districts for +22 years. She has been a teacher, administrator and university professor. She earned her Ph.D. in education from Stanford University. Her research interests revolve around issues of educational equity, including the academic achievement of historically underperforming students, the use of data to close the achievement gap, and the relationship between language, literacy and culture. Her career as an “equity warrior” is captured in her book, “Data Strategies to Uncover and Eliminate Hidden Inequities: The Wallpaper Effect” and "Shattering Inequities: Real-World Wisdom For School And District Leaders" (co-authored with Dr. Ruth Johnson).



Dr. Adrian Palazuelos

Dr. Adrian Palazuelos

Dr. Adrian E. Palazuelos is in his seventh year as the Superintendent of the Fillmore Unified School District. Fillmore Unified is located in the County of Ventura in Southern California and serves over 3,700 students in grades Preschool through 12th grade.

Dr. Palazuelos is a product of California public schools and is a first generation college graduate. He began his career in education as a bilingual classroom teacher and sought out school leadership opportunities following the completion of the UCLA Principal’s Leadership Institute. Over the course of his career, he has held leadership roles as a Middle School Assistant Principal, Elementary Principal, Middle School Principal, and High School Principal. Prior to joining the Fillmore Unified he served with distinction as the Associate Superintendent of School Leadership and Support in the Natomas Unified School District located in Sacramento, California.

He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Irvine, a master’s degree from the University of California at Los Angeles, and master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Dr. Palazuelos is a staunch advocate of increasing equity and access for students to pursue college and career goals. Under his leadership, Fillmore USD has expanded its college and career offerings to support students through investment in a new career technical education facility, increased access to Advanced Placement courses and exams, and further enhancing the partnership with the local community college to increase student access to their programs and courses. He further advocates for schools and students as an active council member on the College Board Western Regional Council.

Sarah Mott Gonzales

Sarah Mott Gonzales

Sarah has +18 years of experience in education. Sarah was a secondary English teacher, International Baccalaureate Program Coordinator and high school administrator prior to joining Orenda Education. Sarah’s expertise is in the areas of literacy development, English Learners, teaching and learning, professional development, teacher/administrative coaching, and college/career readiness. Sarah’s most recent position as administrator was in Lynwood Unified School district, which afforded her the opportunity to learn the Orenda system first-hand as the district drastically improved its A-G (college readiness) rate. She now shares this experience with other districts as part of the Orenda team. Sarah holds a Master’s degree from Yale University and is a graduate of Carleton College.


Hedreich Nichols, M.Ed.

Hedreich Nichols, M.Ed.

Hedreich Nichols is a curriculum designer and Middle Years Program district edtech lead from North Texas. She is also an author and equity consultant helping teachers and schools amplify the voices of all students. With her Cherry Lake equity series books, What is Antiracism and What is the Black Lives Matter Movement, as well as her upcoming Solution Tree title for teachers, Hedreich uses her knowledge and experiences to ensure that teachers have the skills and knowledge they need to create more equitable classrooms.

Hedreich also hosts a YouTube series and podcast, SmallBites, with the same focus. Between SmallBites and her work as a speaker and writer for teacher prep programs; educational publications and podcasts like Edutopia and Cult of Pedagogy; and in conferences like VASCD, MassCUE and AEILOC; Hedreich uses her voice to educate and create change around issues of access and equity in education.

Prior to becoming and edtech teacher, she was a music educator and Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter. Hedreich received her Master of Education at Texas A&M University.

Dr. Susan Enfield

Dr. Susan EnfieldKnowing every student by name, strength and need is the promise of Highline Public Schools. Under the leadership of Superintendent Susan Enfield, the district is implementing the second phase of its strategic plan committed to the academic and social-emotional growth of all students so they graduate prepared for the future they choose.

A high school English, journalism and ELL teacher, Susan served as Chief Academic Officer and then as Interim Superintendent for Seattle Public Schools before coming to Highline in 2012. She previously held leadership positions in Evergreen Public Schools (Vancouver, WA), Portland Public Schools and the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Susan is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and earned master’s degrees from Stanford University and Harvard University. She also holds a doctoral degree in Administration, Planning and Social Policy from Harvard’s Urban Superintendents Program.

Dr. Valerie Truesdale


Dr. Valerie Truesdale joined AASA early in 2019 as the assistant executive director responsible for guiding leadership development services and programs. With years of experience in the superintendency and roles in instructional technology, she knows that AASA’s Leadership Network can be a substantial resource for school leaders trying to keep pace with the rapidly changing delivery of K-12 education.

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