Alumna recognized for service to underserved youth
IRVINE, Calif. (Dec. 18, 2020) - Diann Kitamura, superintendent of Santa Rosa City Schools and a Brandman University alumna, recently won a major award in recognition of her efforts to propel young people from underserved communities to promising futures. The Association of California School Administrators honored her with its Ferd. Kiesel Memorial Distinguished Service Award during an online ceremony in November.
“As a result of Diann’s leadership, students who have been previously disenfranchised, from systemic and historic barriers, now possess skills and abilities to advocate for their own social, emotional, and academic needs,” association president-elect Charlie Hoffman said during the ceremony.
The association regards the award, which recognizes “a significant contribution to public education,” as the greatest honor it can bestow upon a single person. Regarding Kitamura’s achievements, Hoffman praised her service to Latino pupils and students learning English. He also credited her with founding a nonprofit to assist high school students of Cambodian, Hmong and Vietnamese descent.
Kitamura ascended to Santa Rosa City Schools’ top leadership post in February 2016. A press release from Santa Rosa schools pointed out that her tenure has spanned a time of multiple wildfires, as well as the coronavirus pandemic.
“Despite the incredible and unprecedented challenges of the past several years, Diann has proactively led this district into cutting edge work regarding equity, cultural resources, and social and emotional learning,” said Laurie Fong, president of the Santa Rosa City Schools board said in the school district release. “Her compassion for each student, family and staff member fuels this work.”
Kitamura earned a Doctorate of Education in Organizational Leadership from Brandman in 2019.
“The Brandman Ed.D. program supports courageous decisions and risk-taking in order to follow your convictions and be a transformational leader,” Kitamura said. “Our students and staff deserve nothing less than our unrelenting pursuit for the organizational environment to be restorative, culturally conscious, and inclusive.”
Kitamura spoke during her class’ hooding ceremony. Then, Kitamura said her motivations to help students receive respect while receiving their educations stems from the fact that her mother and other relatives endured anti-Japanese racism – including internment – during their lives.
“The stories from my mom about what happened to her in public school by the adults ignited a goal for me to be a public educator, from teacher to superintendent, to ensure equality, equity, empathy, and social justice is the lens through which we treat all children in school,” Kitamura said during the 2019 hooding ceremony, according to a transcript.
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