2017 National Dropout Prevention Network Conference


Keynote and Featured Speakers

Dr. Francisco Rodriguez
Chancellor, Los Angeles Community College District, Los Angeles, CA

Dr. Francisco Rodriguez began his tenure as chancellor of the Los Angeles Community College District on June 1, 2014. Prior to his appointment as head of the nation’s largest community college district, Dr. Rodriguez served as superintendent/president at MiraCosta Community College District (Oceanside, CA) for five years and president at Cosumnes River College (Sacramento, CA) for six years.

Dr. Rodriguez is recognized as a collaborator who instinctively knows how to bring people together, whether from business, civic or education communities, with the purpose of opening channels of communication and furthering the interests of students. With 30 years of experience as an educator, faculty member and https://dropoutprevention.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/C.W.-Gardenhire-pic.jpgistrator within California public higher education, Dr. Rodriguez is a noted scholar and speaker on topics ranging from higher education, student access and success, governance and governing boards, to workforce development, fundraising and philanthropy. Dr. Rodriguez has dedicated his career to diversity, equity and inclusion issues and to outreach to underserved communities, particularly the development of young Latino and African American males.

Dr. Rodriguez earned a bachelor of arts in Chicano Studies with an emphasis in education and a master of science in Community Development, both from the University of California-Davis. He also earned a Doctor of Philosophy in Education from Oregon State University.

Debra Duardo, M.S.W., Ed.D.
Superintendent, Los Angeles County Office of Education

Debra Duardo was appointed Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in May of 2016, designating her as the top education leader of the nation’s most populous and diverse county.

Previously executive director of Student Health and Human Services for the Los Angeles Unified School District, Dr. Duardo now serves as the chief executive officer for the Los Angeles County Office of Education, and as secretary of the County Board of Education. In this post, Dr. Duardo provides leadership and support to the superintendents and other top https://dropoutprevention.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/C.W.-Gardenhire-pic.jpgistrators of the county’s 80 K-12 school districts.

She has more than 20 years of professional experience working with at-risk students and their families. Her unique life experience as a high school dropout able to overcome obstacles and rise to the position of executive director drives her passion to ensure that all students receive an education in a safe, caring environment and that every student is college-prepared and career ready.

As LAUSD’s executive director of Student Health and Human Services, she was responsible for the https://dropoutprevention.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/C.W.-Gardenhire-pic.jpgistrative oversight of support services and district programs including Student Medical Services, School Nursing, School Mental Health, Pupil Services, Dropout Prevention and Recovery, Health Education, Community Partners, and Medi-Cal programs.

She holds a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and a doctorate from UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. Appointed by former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, she also serves as a City Commissioner on the Commission for Community and Family Services.

Mr. Tom Torlakson
California State Superintendent of Public Instruction

As chief of California’s public school system and leader of the California Department of Education, Superintendent Torlakson applies his experience as a science teacher, high school coach, and state policymaker to fight for our students and improve our state’s public education system.

During Torlakson’s first term, he set out on a mission to provide a world-class education for all students from early childhood to adulthood. He directed the change to rigorous new California state standards in English, mathematics, and science. He advocated increasing investments in education, helping to pass Proposition 30 in 2012 and leading the effort to give local school districts more flexibility to make spending decisions. He promoted the idea of meeting the needs of the whole child by expanding pre-kindergarten and after-school and summer programs, increasing access to health care and mental health services, and promoting nutritious food and regular exercise. Under his leadership, the state’s high school graduation rate rose to an all-time high of 80 percent, with a graduation rate hitting nearly 95 percent for those students in career-preparation programs.

Torlakson’s journey has led him from the classrooms of Contra Costa County’s Mount Diablo Unified School District (where he remains a teacher-on-leave), to the Antioch City Council, Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, and the California State Senate and State Assembly.

During his tenure in the California State Legislature, Torlakson acted to protect education funding, improve student nutrition and physical education, and ensure school safety. He also championed legislation to increase funding for textbooks, computers, and other instructional materials, and promoted efforts to close the digital divide, eliminate the achievement gap, and reduce the dropout rate.

Born in San Francisco, Torlakson served as a fireman in the United States Merchant Marine, earning the Vietnam Service Medal. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in History, a Life Secondary Teaching Credential, and a Master of Arts in Education from the University of California, Berkeley. Tom lives in Pittsburg with his wife, Mae Cendaña Torlakson, a member of the Ambrose Recreation and Park District Board of Directors.

Mr. Christian Moore
Author, Speaker, Licensed Clinical Social Worker
WhyTry, Provo, UT

Christian Moore is an internationally renowned author, speaker, licensed clinical social worker, and advocate for at-risk youth. Coming from a blended family of 12 children, Christian spent most of his childhood years on the streets. In a neighborhood just outside of Washington, D.C., he was exposed to a wide array of social problems, which opened his eyes to the many injustices that exist in our world today.

It was during this time, in the face of intense challenges at home, that Christian was mentored and nurtured by his “second mother,” an African American woman he endearingly called “Mama Jackson.”

By the time Christian had reached second grade, he had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder, conduct disorder, and severe learning disabilities. Because of these setbacks, he often felt socially isolated in school. He spent time both as bully and victim; and often acted out to avoid answering the questions of teachers.

Due to his poor grades and learning disabilities, high school counselors informed Christian that college was not a viable option. But after graduation, an experience volunteering in the inner city gave him a drive to help others and a reason to try.

Christian found his passion in social work. In college, he developed what he called his “No F” game plan. By attending all his classes, sitting in the front row, building relationships with professors, completing all his assignments, and utilizing every resource available, Christian rose from a “troubled” special education student to a well-respected recipient of a master’s degree in social work.

As a social worker in education, youth corrections, and a homeless program, Christian began to see the need for a new approach in reaching out to today’s youth. Drawing from his personal challenges, his degree, his career, and his understanding of people from all walks of life, Christian created WhyTry.

Thousands of school districts across the U.S. have had Christian consult on how to lower dropout, improve school climate, prevent bullying, lower the achievement gap, and improve academics through teaching social and emotional education to all students. Christian speaks at over 100 education events a year, using his unique resiliency formula in educational arenas that range from https://dropoutprevention.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/C.W.-Gardenhire-pic.jpgistration to special education.

Christian’s personal mission is to ensure that youth are given an opportunity to succeed, regardless of social or economic status, race, background, or other personal obstacles.

Mr. Mark Slavkin
Director of Education, Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Beverly Hills, CA

In his role as Director of Education for the Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts, Mark Slavkin orchestrates and drives The Wallis’ arts education outreach programs which are designed to educate and benefit local schools and the greater Los Angeles region by sharing the performing arts with students of all ages — young children, teens, young adults and adults.
Under Slavkin’s leadership, annual offerings of public workshops and master classes have increased, as well as the number of young audiences and schools in the region that have been reached by The Wallis’ existing outreach programs. Future programs will include the development of Theater School that will feature daytime, after-school, weekend and summer classes and workshops for all ages.
Prior to The Wallis, Slavkin served as vice president for education at The Music Center for 13 years. While at The Music Center, he led a team of 50 staff and teaching artists overseeing arts education initiatives, from scholarship programs for student artists to festivals and student matinees, throughout all of Los Angeles County.

Slavkin also served as director of public engagement, advocacy and communications for the Los Angeles Annenberg Metropolitan Project, and as Los Angeles program officer of the Getty Education Institute for the Arts. He also sat on the Los Angeles City Board of Education for eight years, serving as its president from 1994-1996.

Mr. Robert Sainz
Assistant General Manager, Economic and Workforce Development Department, Los Angeles, CA

During his time with the City of Los Angeles, Robert Sainz has been instrumental in reinventing the Workforce Development System, establishing the FamilySource System, and founding the L.A. Youth Opportunity Movement.

Robert Sainz serves as the Assistant General Manager in charge of Operations. Through his work, he manages over $100 million in public agency grant funds. More importantly, he has impacted the lives of thousands of young people and adults, creating opportunities for them to return to school, enter employment, and start careers. Robert has over 20 years of public service experience, specifically in local government. Throughout his public service career, he has addressed many difficult social problems facing our community’s low-income residents, including the challenges of juvenile delinquency; youth and adult unemployment; and poverty. He has personally been engaged in policy development, program development and program implementation of a number of youth and community intervention programs.

He was previously the Executive Director of the Los Angeles Youth Opportunity Movement for the City of Los Angeles. The Youth Opportunity Movement provides educational, vocational, and career opportunities for over 3,500 young people ages 14-21 in three of the most economically disadvantage areas of Los Angeles.

He has also worked as the Assistant Executive Director of the City of Los Angeles Commission for Children, Youth and Their Families. In this capacity, he worked tirelessly on a variety of issues impacting the lives of children and families. Robert began his public service career in the Los Angeles County Probation Department in 1992, and as Probation Director managed the Department’s Community Relations and Communications Office.

Robert is the past Chairperson of the Violence Prevention Coalition of Los Angeles and past Chairperson of Helpline Youth Counseling, a community-based organization. He is a Board Trustee and past president of US Conference of Mayor’s Workforce Development Council. He has received numerous awards and recognition for his work including the Durfee Foundation’s Stanton Fellowship.

He received his BA degree from UC Santa Cruz, MPA from Columbia University, and post-graduate work from the University of Southern California.

Conference Strands

Career Technical Education/Workforce Development
This strand will focus on effective strategies and program models for career technical education. Presentations are sought that demonstrate effectiveness in preparing students for service and career. Efforts that include workforce development partnerships with government or private entities will receive priority for this strand.

Chronic Absenteeism
This strand will highlight learning opportunities that take place outside the typical learning structures of school. After and out-of-school opportunities, inter-year, and break programs that have demonstrated innovate and effective programming will receive priority for selection.

Expanded Learning Opportunities
This strand will highlight learning opportunities that take place outside the typical learning structures of school. After and out-of-school opportunities, inter-year, and break programs that have demonstrated innovate and effective programming will receive priority for selection.

Parent and Family Engagement
This strand focuses on why and how to engage parents and family members in student engagement strategies. Presentations will share research, practices, policies and partnerships in support of high-quality parent and family engagement in support of student development as well as impacts on the family.

Social Emotional Learning/Trauma-Informed Care
This strand will highlight programs and strategies that address the emotional equipping needs of students, staff, and families. Priority of selection will be given to presentations that provide insight into the inclusion of these efforts into systemic structures and overall curriculum instruction.

Arts/Media/Entertainment Studies
This strand will showcase programs that emphasize the arts, media, entertainment, and career opportunities in those fields as a tool of engagement for students. Presentations should highlight student involvement and achievement as it correlates to overall academic engagement and achievement.

Credit and Recovery Opportunities
This strand will focus on effective strategies that facilitate student and credit recovery or advancement. Programs highlighting the involvement of Community Colleges, Dual Enrollment, or Credit Recovery will be featured in this strand. Priority of selection will be given to programs that have systemically made use of such strategies.

Civic/Community Engagement
This strand will provide information and strategies on how to include, educate, and recruit civic and community partners to be involved in the dropout issue. Presentations will also inform civic and community leaders about the impact of the dropout issue and how they can affect it.

Alternative Educational Contexts
This strand will address the growing number of alternative models for education. Presentations should feature models that have demonstrated sustainable effectiveness and student achievement. Presentations receiving priority for selection will include innovative design and response to student/demographic need.

Strategies for Specific Populations
This strand will focus on strategies that have proven effective with specific populations. Of special interest are strategies that address the needs of migrant, immigrant, homeless, and ‘out-of-culture’ students and families.

Leadership and Administration Issues
This strand features information that directly relates to the role of leadership and information and strategies for education thought leaders. Presentations may address specific state or federal legislative issues and provide insight into compliance ramifications. Presentations will also address big picture concepts education leaders anticipate and address.

Conference Program

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