diversity in leadership institute

About Us

In November 2019, Charting the Course to Equity: Leaders of Color and Student Success was published, a research study on the benefits of having leaders of color in public schools (district and charter) in the state of California. The data show significant increases in for both African American and Latinx students in A-G completion rates, college and career readiness and test scores, and decreases in suspensions when the school leader was a person of color. Notably, not only did minority students benefit, but all students in these schools, regardless of race or ethnicity, saw improvements in these areas.

At the Diversity in Leadership Institute (DLI), we believe that representation matters! We are dedicated to increasing racial diversity, equity, inclusion, and cultural competence among charter school and district administrators as a lever to increase academic and social outcomes for TK-12 students in California.

Our Mission

We identify, develop, support and activate racially diverse TK-12 leaders and allies to serve as change agents to close the opportunity gap, through movement building, growing talent pipelines for excellence in school leadership and advocacy.

Our Vision

The Diversity in Leadership Institute will dramatically accelerate the number of racially diverse and culturally competent educational leaders in California, creating more equitable TK-12 school systems, contributing to the improved academic, social and emotional well being of youth, particularly Black and Latinx students.


Dr. Laura McGowan-Robinson, a lifelong educator and social justice advocate, has dedicated her life to creating more equitable opportunities for students of color and low-income communities. The granddaughter of Mississippi sharecroppers and daughter of a first-generation college student, the fire for education was ignited for McGowan-Robinson, before she was born. The work of DLI, is a continuation of her personal mission to close the opportunity gap for marginalized communities. Borne out of the work she began as the Chief Operating Officer at the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA), DLI was created to address this issue of representation, equity and inclusion among TK-12 administrators in California.

In 2010, McGowan-Robinson founded and served as Executive Director of Crown Preparatory Academy, a middle school in South Los Angeles which is now part of the STEM Prep Schools network. She previously was a high school English teacher and literacy coach at the Los Angeles Unified School District. She started her teaching career as a Chicago Public School teacher. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in English/ Rhetoric from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a Master’s Degree in Instructional Leadership in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and her doctorate in Educational Leadership for Social Justice from Loyola Marymount University.

Our Board

Doc Ervin

Doc Ervin brings over two decades of experience in education to the DLI Board.

Kathy Dominguez

Kathy Dominguez has dedicated the past fifteen years to improving educational outcomes

Matthew Smith

Matthew Smith brings his deep passion and commitment for the success of boys and men

Jay Artis-Wright

Jay Artis-Wright brings over 15 years of diverse professional experiences to DLI in the private

David Valentine

David Valentine brings 30 years of leadership in strategy, finance, and operations to DLI.

What We Do

We take a multi-pronged approach to build an effective administrator pipeline that is more reflective of the public school communities we serve across California. This approach includes:

A Bold Coalition

The Charting the Course to Equity Coalition is a powerful network of organizations that see school administrators’ racial diversity and cultural competence as critical levers in creating successful school environments that yield positive student outcomes.

We believe that through combined, coordinated and aligned efforts, the Coalition will effect systems change. Ten organizations joined as lead partners of the Charting the Course to Equity Coalition:

  • Loyola Marymount University, School of Education, soe.lmu.edu
  • Association of California School Administrators, acsa.org
  • United Negro College Fund, uncf.org
  • California Charter Schools Association, ccsa.org
  • Education Leaders of Color (EdLoC), edloc.org
  • Energy Convertors, energyconvertors.org
  • Teach for America: Los Angeles, teachforamerica.org/where-we-work/los-angeles
  • Education Board Partners, edboards.org
  • Innovate Public Schools, innovateschools.org
  • National Charter Collaborative, chartercollab.org

The Coalition established the following Call to Action, which is comprised of four major objectives:

  1. Conduct research on culturally responsive school leadership approaches by leaders of color to surface specific contributing factors that lead to successful academic and school climate outcomes. Research should also highlight the barriers that need to be removed to encourage people of color to enter and remain in the field.
  2. Move from theory to action by seeking partnerships across the state to enhance existing educational leadership programs in preparing, supporting, and retaining K-12 school leaders of color.
  3. Identify and amplify exemplary schools that embody the findings of this study as evidenced by successful recruitment, retention, and promotion of leaders of color, while increasing educational and school climate outcomes for all students.
  4. Collectively leverage stakeholder voices (i.e., parents, teachers, administrators, community members, students) to highlight the academic and school climate impact of African American and Latinx educational leaders, identify ways to increase racial diversity in K-12 schools and support existing initiatives to further this goal.

Consultancy and Partnership

Both representative and non-representative administrators can benefit from discussions about why there is a lack of racial diversity and how it can be addressed. Acknowledgement of the roles that structural and systemic racism, conscious and unconscious bias, and class all play in recruitment, retention, professional advancement opportunities, day-to-day interactions with staff, students and families, is the first step in addressing these issues. DLI will work collaboratively with districts and charter schools/networks to:

  • Evaluate current RDEI philosophies and practices
  • Propose solutions
  • Provide Assessment/Reflection
  • Provide Follow-on Support

Community of Practice (CoP)

In order to facilitate support between administrators and organizations, DLI will build a CoP that convenes twice a year to share best practices, celebrate successes, challenge each other, network, provide opportunities for promotion, and advocate for systems that are responsive to the needs of the most marginalized students. Our CoP will be built via Coalition members, our charter and district engagements, and our principal fellowship program.

Principal Fellowship

With an anticipated launch in 2021, the annual fellowship will provide a state-wide cohort experience informed by a focus on cultural competence, racial, diversity, equity and inclusion aligned with California administrative credentialing requirements, that dives deeply into: the role a leader’s own cultural identity plays in their leadership (self-awareness), how systemic and structural racism and white supremacy (power and privilege) has impacted educators, educational leaders, and the students and families they serve. The fellowship will highlight how administrators serve as change agents to disrupt the status quo.