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Leyda Garcia Joins UCLA Center for Community Schooling

By John McDonald

Former principal of UCLA Community School and PLI alumna to serve as the Center's associate director for professional learning.

The UCLA School of Education and Information Studies is pleased to introduce and welcome Leyda W. Garcia, former principal of the UCLA Community School, as the Associate Director for Professional Learning for UCLA’s Center for Community Schooling (CCS).

As school principal, Garcia led the UCLA Community School in Koreatown since 2012. Her efforts helped to establish the Community School as a nationally recognized model for student and community-centered practices drawing on and building upon the assets of the community to enhance its dual language programs, develop seminars for secondary students and strengthen community partnerships. During her tenure, Garcia brought the voices of students and families to the center of the school and fiercely supported teacher leadership.  

In her new position, Garcia will play an important role in supporting California’s historic $4.1 billion investment in community schools through the California Community Schools Partnership Program (CCSPP). In partnership with the Alameda County Office of Education, the National Education Association and Californians for Justice, CCS serves as the State’s Lead Technical Assistance Center.  Joining with the UCLA Center for Community Schooling’s growing team, Garcia will work with Center director Karen Hunter Quartz, and Marisa Saunders, the Center’s associate director for research to inspire, guide and support the planning, implementation, improvement, and evaluation of participating CCSPP schools and districts across the state. The CCS team will also work closely with Center X’s Annamarie Francois, SE&IS professors John Rogers and José Felipe Martinez, as well as other experts at UCLA to support the statewide initiative and its implementation. 

“Leyda has put her heart and soul into the development of the community school approach,” said Quartz. “We are thrilled to have this talented and dedicated educator join us in this groundbreaking effort to transform school communities across California.”

Garcia began her career as a teacher in Northern California before returning to Los Angeles where she served as a teacher and principal in the Los Angeles and Montebello Unified School Districts before taking on the role of principal at the UCLA Community School. Garcia earned a BA in Psychology and an MA in Education from Stanford University. She graduated from UCLA’s Principal Leadership Institute in 2007, and earned her EdD from Loyola Marymount University in Social Justice Leadership in 2021.

“Leyda has a unique and specialized skill set built on her experience leading and studying community schools,” Quartz said. “There are few educational leaders as well versed in the research that ground community schools and the practical effort it takes to use data to improve and develop them.” 

CCS will continue to share the stories of community schools and the individuals within these schools that make the work possible, through its multimedia online journal, Community Schooling. The Center hopes to inform and inspire the growing movement by elevating the voices of students, practitioners, and partners who can help grantees envision and enact the transformative potential of community schools. Through the Lead Technical Assistance Center’s Community Fellows program, CCS will disseminate stories from the ground, curated by those doing the work in community schools. 

As the community schools movement experiences a new and unprecedented era of support and expansion in California and across the country, CCS continues to ensure the work is guided by a vision that embraces a multiracial democracy and enhances learning opportunities and supports so that all students, families and communities thrive.

Photo by Allison Shelley for EDUimages