A Former High School Dropout Was Chosen To Be The Top Los Angeles County Education Official

By Christian Dann Quiroz, Parent Herald March 29, 11:53 pm

A former high school dropout was chosen to become the Los Angeles County's top education official. She will be heading an agency that is designed to provide education to thousands of disabled students and teenage inmates.

The county's Board of Supervisors which is composed of five members agreed to pick Debra Duardo among the three finalists after a closed-session interview last week. She is scheduled to take over the position on Tuesday, replacing Arturo Delgado who will be retiring in June, Los Angeles Times reported.

Duardo, 53, is a veteran administrator from L.A. Unified School District. She worked there for 20 years and headed the human services and student health division.

"Because of her role at L.A. Unified, Debra is uniquely qualified to run the Los Angeles County Office of Education," said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. "I'm thrilled."

Duardo dropped out from Hollywood High to work for a fast food. She eloped to Las Vegas and had her first son at 15, according to Fox News.

Her son, who has spina bifida (a birth defect where there is incomplete closing of the backbone and membranes around the spinal cord), inspired her to begin an educational transformation.

Duardo focused on troubled and at-risk students. In 2006, she launched the Diploma Project during the time when the district was battling with high dropout rates.

Government agencies, families and the community should be involved in order to help the students, Duardo said.

"We fought really hard to make sure that students in foster care are getting support," Duardo said. "We worked hard for data sharing with county children's services so that we know when a child is in foster care. They tell us which students are taken out of a home, when a case is opened, and we give them the child's enrollment history, grades, attendance."

"We're all serving the same children and families, and we can all do a lot better if we work together," she added.

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