While a student in LMU’s Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership for Social Justice, Xavier Piña would drive three hours every Monday from the school he led as principal in the San Joaquin Valley to LMU to attend classes in the evening. He would then drive the three hours back home, often getting in around 1 a.m., before having to wake up and report to his school in the Armona Union Elementary School District.
For Piña, who earned his Ed.D. degree in 2013, this unconventional routine was another step on an eight-year journey in which he committed himself to educational leadership within AUESD. That journey recently culminated in Piña’s appointment as superintendent of the district. In this new role, he plans to leverage his experience at LMU and as a school administrator to shape a promising vision for Armona’s elementary, middle and charter schools. “I have been called to this position of superintendent to serve as the moral compass for stakeholders that must work together to ensure our students are learning,” says Piña.
Piña, who grew up in nearby Hanford, is well acquainted with the demographics of his district, which serves more than 1,100 students in an unincorporated rural community 45 minutes south of Fresno where 27% of the population lives below the poverty line. According to Piña, 30% of the students in AUESD identify as English Language learners and 90% qualify for the federal free or reduced price lunch program.
As Piña embarks on this new leadership role, he is optimistic about using the relationships he has forged over nearly a decade of working in the district to improve education and opportunity for all students. “I am excited about serving our diverse student population through a collaborative approach with all stakeholders,” he says. Having gained from LMU an understanding of the way leadership for social justice can challenge the status quo, he plans to apply these principles to drive change for his students and their families. “I have developed my concept and approach to leadership as a partnership to provide students with what they need to be successful,” he says. “I think that as Armona and the surrounding communities sense that passion and intention, the formation of community is strengthened for the better.”