2018 Principal, Charter Elementary School
Founding Charter Elementary School Principal Norma Silva returns to Para Los Niños after serving for eight years as principal of UCLA Lab School. Her profession’s journey has brought her full circle to both schools twice and Norma is excited about the many possibilities there are for this new chapter at Para Los Niños.
Norma began her teaching career at the Los Angeles Unified School District as a bilingual teacher and a Categorical Programs Advisor. After earning her M.Ed. in Administrative Studies at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education, she began her administrative years as Director of Student and Family Affairs at UCLA Lab School (formerly Corinne A. Seeds University Elementary School). She engaged in research about school culture with a committee of teachers working with Dr. Jaana Juvonen and collaborated to develop the Safe School system which promotes a positive school culture, builds character and social skills for students in the context of a democratic learning community. Norma led the school in contemporizing the inquiry approach and worked to align to the Common Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and the Social Studies/C3 Frameworks.
During her tenure at UCLA Lab School, teachers worked to provide professional development in Cognitively Guided Instruction in Mathematics and developed an Inquiry and STEAM approach which is now being shared through partnerships in Los Angeles and beyond.
Over the past eight years, Norma worked with second language acquisition expert UCLA Professor, Dr. Alison Bailey, and Dr. Rashmita Mistry to develop a successful 90/10 dual immersion model in Spanish and English. Norma looks forward to using her gained knowledge and experience with the children we serve at Para Los Niños.
For Norma Silva, growing up in an underserved neighborhood in Los Angeles ignited a passion for education and its power to broaden possibilities for children. Putting her passion into action, Silva has spent more than 25 years as a teacher and principal bringing high-quality education to students from diverse backgrounds. She combines interests in bilingual education, inquiry based learning and using art as a language for understanding in all subject areas to create effective programs.
Norma Silva became principal of UCLA Lab School in 2010. She leads teachers in creating a learning environment that rewards curiosity and nurtures creative thinking while staying true to high academic standards. Her work with teachers promotes inquiry, work circles and close collaboration with researchers. Under her leadership, UCLA Lab School outreach programs have extended this work to educators from throughout the southern California area and internationally.
Previously, Silva was the founding principal of Para Los Niños Charter Elementary School, serving families living and working in the skid row area of Los Angeles. In that role she developed programs that both challenged and nurtured children through high quality instruction and supporting social and emotional needs.
From 1996-2003, Silva served as UCLA Lab School’s Director of Student and Family Affairs and Summer School Principal. She worked with colleagues to build the school’s diversity, and she helped develop a comprehensive safe school system for conflict resolution and problem solving that has been implemented in many schools in Southern California.
Bilingual in English and Spanish, Silva’s early career included working in the Los Angeles Unified School district as both a classroom teacher and an advisor for bilingual and Title I programs.
Silva holds a bachelor’s degree from California State University Los Angeles, and an M.Ed. in Administrative Studies from the UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies.
Daily Bruin: January 7, 2018 - Some parents of students at the UCLA Lab School said they are frustrated over the UCLA administration’s decision to put the school’s principal on indefinite leave without prior notice.
The UCLA Lab School, operated by the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, enrolls students pre-K through sixth grade. GSEIS Dean Marcelo Suárez-Orozco told parents in a Dec. 17 email that principal Norma Silva was on leave,two days after she was seen escorted from the school by GSEIS personnel. In the email, Suárez-Orozco added he was unable to provide further details in order to protect Silva’s privacy.
Suárez-Orozco held a meeting on Dec. 18 to address parent’s questions regarding the personnel decision.
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Scott Waugh announced during a follow-up meeting with parents on Wednesday that Silva was leaving her nearly eight-year position at the school to pursue other educational opportunities. However, he added that Silva will return until the school year’s end to share administrative duties with assistant principal Renata Gusmão-García Williams.
Waugh declined to expand on reasoning behind the decision. He added he thinks it is important for the school to instead plan for the future.
“I don’t want to explain what’s happened. … I don’t want to reconstruct the past,” Waugh said.
Silva, who attended the meeting, received a standing ovation after giving a brief statement saying she remains committed to the school’s children and community.
“Every time I entered my office, I appreciated walking into that room so much,” she said.
Some parents complained that UCLA administration failed to consult with them or the school’s board of advisors before changing Silva’s status.
“UCLA needs to understand that … we are stakeholders (in UCLA Lab School decisions). UCLA needs to accept that and stand together,” one parent said.
Mia Alpert, a UCLA Lab School parent, said she helped organize a parent-led forum on Hilgard Avenue for parents to share perspectives on the situation. She added that more than 200 parents signed a letter addressed to Chancellor Gene Block in December requesting an explanation regarding Silva’s situation.
One parent at Wednesday’s meeting said she thinks vague messages from the administration led to wild speculation and hearsay from parents and staff. At his first meeting with parents, Suárez-Orozco responded with “Maybe” when asked if criminal activity played a role in the administration’s decision, the parent said. Waugh wrote in an email to parents on Dec. 21 that there was never any question about students’ safety.
“I think this situation has been egregiously conducted,” the parent said. “I am extremely saddened. … Parents, as well as (Silva), are owed an apology from the dean.”
UCLA spokesperson Tod Tamberg said Suárez-Orozco followed university policies when placing Silva on leave and added his actions were vetted by the UCLA administration.
Some parents said they plan to create petitions to reinstate Silva as principal. At Wednesday’s meeting, listeners applauded one attendee who said she wanted Silva to stay in her position.
“(Silva), were you planning on leaving? If you want to stay, I will fight for you,” the woman said.
Parents at the meeting also said they were concerned that some of the programs Silva started or promoted, including iSTEAM labs and dual language classes, will not continue in her absence.
The administration wants to see those programs continue into the future, Waugh said.
Waugh said at the meeting he will establish a committee made up of UCLA Lab School faculty, parents and administrators to search for a new principal. He added he plans to improve the administration’s relationship with parents by holding more town halls, visiting the school in person and informing stakeholders of the future principal’s job expectations.Daily Bruin January 16, 2018:
“My goal is to make sure the quality education you’ve come to expect (continues). I’m sorry it took this long to make this statement,” Waugh said. “I want to restore trust.”
UCLA rang in the new year by keeping up with an old tradition: angering parents who entrust the university to take care of their children.
Last month, the university administration placed Norma Silva, the principal of the UCLA Lab School, which enrolls pre-K through sixth grade students and is operated by the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, on leave with little explanation to the school’s community. Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, the dean of the GSEIS, told parents in a Dec. 17 email that Silva was placed on leave but refused to provide any details.
Following outcry from parents, Scott Waugh, executive vice chancellor and provost, held a town hall and told parents that Silva would remain at the lab school until June to handle certain administrative duties. Waugh, however, declined to provide any details for why UCLA changed its decision.
UCLA’s handling of Silva’s employment runs similar to its mismanagement of its Early Care and Education centers, a child care program for children of faculty and graduate students. Back then, parents complained about the university’s snail-paced response to abrupt classroom changes and staff negligence at ECE centers, as well as its lack of transparency in addressing classroom issues. Fast-forward a year, and the university is still holding town halls and not being direct with parents about its administrative decisions.
The administration’s lack of explanation has in many ways tarnished the reputation of the lab school and of Silva, who, by many parents’ accounts, was a popular principal. For example, after seeing GSEIS personnel escorting Silva from the school on the last day of class before winter break, some parents speculated she was put on leave for being involved in criminal activity.
UCLA spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez rejected claims that the administration’s decisions regarding Silva’s employment had to do with criminal activity. The university’s silence on why Silva was initially put on leave, however, has only fueled the fire for these kinds of rumors.
In addition, the administration neglected to consult parents or other lab school stakeholders before making its decisions regarding Silva’s employment. Some parents argued the university failed to adequately communicate with the lab school’s board of advisors, which consists of parents, community members, lab school faculty, the GSEIS dean and the lab school principal – an action that shows a surprising lack of foresight, considering a meeting with advisors could have quelled several of the community’s misunderstandings.
The lab school debacle not only makes UCLA look negligent, but also has the potential to affect the well-being of the students at the school. Parents are right to be concerned that innovative programs Silva introduced, including dual-language classes and a lab program that trains students in multiple disciplines such as science and activism, could be lost in the upcoming transition period. While Waugh did say in the town hall that the administration would like those programs to continue in the future, a haphazard transition could jeopardize them.
To its credit, UCLA administration has promised to establish a committee made up of UCLA Lab School faculty, parents and administrators to search for a new principal, and Waugh has said he plans to hold more town halls with parents. But UCLA’s response is similar to the one it made in the ECE situation. The problem isn’t a lack of town halls but the administration’s unwillingness to be transparent.
And until UCLA stops making sudden, tone-deaf moves and scrambling backward, it will only continue to erode parents’ trust in the long run.2013 Ms Silva from Kent on Vimeo.
JOIN US FOR A CELEBRATION HONORING PRINCIPAL SILVA
We invite you to celebrate and honor Norma Silva as she ends her tenure as Principal of UCLA Lab School. As Director of Student and Family Affairs from 1996 –2003 and Principal from 2010 – 2018, Norma has touched the lives of countless children, families, faculty, and staff. Through her deep commitment to creating a democratic community of learners, she has built a legacy of leadership and dedication to helping all children reach their full potential and become active, engaged participants in our world. Please join us for a community celebration to express our gratitude, admiration, and love for Norma.
Thursday, June 7, 2018