At the beginning of the school year, Dr. Lora de la Cruz started her role as superintendent of Lake Oswego School District. She brings with her 25 years of educational leadership experience, having worked in several different roles in the education system including as a teacher, a literacy specialist, a district administrator, a principal and an area superintendent.
Her passion for education started at a young age. “My mother grew up in Mexico and she met my dad on the border between Mexico and the U.S. They married and had five children. My dad was in the military. When he passed away, my Mom was a widow with five kids with a thick Spanish accent and a high school diploma from Mexico. And her dream was to go to college. So she went to college and got her bachelor[’s degree] and her masters, and I would go to her college classes with her during the summers, because she didn’t have money for child care.”
Dr. de la Cruz recalls her own experience in school fondly, describing herself as “the nerdy student who liked writing term papers.” She explained further, describing how, “I love learning, and I always have, so I think all of my teachers would say I was a good student in high school… I was involved in the newspaper, I was interviewing teachers and other staff… I was also really involved in gymnastics from sixth grade to twelfth grade, and that was a lot of my life… I had a small group of friends I was really close with.”
Similar to those teachers that encouraged her, one story gave her the passion to personally shape young minds through education. While working as a director of health and wellness at an inner-city YMCA in San Francisco, she ran summer camps and after-school programs for the local youth. One day, “this young man who was probably 9 years old, and he was growing up in the housing projects, so he was growing up in poverty, stood up on this park bench and started reciting a Langston Hughes poem with just this incredible affect and passion. And that moment sparked in me something. And so I asked him, ‘How do you know that poem?’ and he talked about teachers and his parents who were encouraging him to know the poetry of his heritage… and that moment made me realize: ‘Oh my gosh, this young man has so much potential and it’s being shaped by people who care about him, educators and his parents, and I want to be in a field where I’m shaping that kind of potential in young people. So I went back to school and got my teaching license, and that’s why I became an educator.”
De la Cruz is now working to create a district where “all 7000 students in our district to feel that this is a place where they belong… So what I’ve been doing these first few months is really getting to know our systems, our curriculum, as best as I can… We need to be meeting you where you are, and so the system needs to adapt to the students who are coming to us, and I think that’s the way we can shape the potential of our students… we’ll be successful if we are offering students opportunities to really be the architects of their own future and not be bound by a small box of offerings.