GGUSD Superintendent Recognized with Top Award for Valuing Diversity

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Garden Grove Unified School District Superintendent Gabriela Mafi was selected by the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) Region 17 for its 2024 Valuing Diversity Award for her exemplary leadership fostering a districtwide culture and climate that celebrates diversity and implementing systems that ensure success for all students. 

Serving her 11th year as Superintendent, Dr. Mafi is passionate about expanding opportunities for all students and celebrating the rich diversity of GGUSD in a way that empowers students and families. GGUSD is a highly-diverse district serving 38,000 students residing in primarily high-poverty immigrant communities across seven cities with 94.5% students of color including 55% Hispanic and 35% Asian. Dr. Mafi’s leadership style has focused on collaboration, transparency, and a deep understanding of the diverse needs within the community. Through a collaborative process, Dr. Mafi spearheaded the district’s three goals which include equipping ALL students with the academic skills (Goal 1) and the personal skills (Goal 2) for lifelong success (Goal 3).

Dr. Mafi’s focus on academic excellence has elevated GGUSD to a position of prominence among urban districts. The consistent achievement and ongoing improvement in SBAC scores, with GGUSD beating both the state and county averages, showcases the effectiveness of her continuous improvement strategies. GGUSD also outperforms the county and state averages for high school graduation rates and a-g rates, closing the opportunity gap among subgroups. Under her leadership, GGUSD schools have adopted successful AVID programs and College and Career Mentoring Programs that help equip ALL students with important college readiness skills.

Under Dr. Mafi’s leadership, GGUSD has prioritized publicly celebrating diversity through participating in communitywide Tet and Fiestas Patrias parades, implementing social media campaigns that highlight the heritage of GGUSD students and staff, spearheading a districtwide Latinos Unidos Club including an annual Leadership Conference which empowers students from all secondary schools and several elementary schools with important resources and a sense of connection and belonging. During her tenure, the district also successfully opened three Spanish Dual Immersion Academies and 1 Vietnamese Dual Immersion Academy, which successfully prepare students to become bilingual, biliterate and bicultural.

“Dr. Mafi is well-deserving of this recognition as a champion for diversity and her tenure has been marked by significant achievements of positive change, ensuring that our district has continually increased opportunities for students of all backgrounds,” said Board of Education President Teri Rocco. “Dr. Mafi’s commitment to diversity is obvious in all that she does including the creation of a mentoring program where she personally mentors groups of students from high-poverty schools from sixth grade to college, removing barriers and obstacles that too often students of color face on their path to lifelong success.”

Dr. Mafi’s work in supporting GGUSD students extends to their families.  Thanks to her vision, GGUSD has launched five Family Resource Centers that serve as one-stop shops to connect families with resources like food assistance, housing aide, immigration assistance, mental health counseling and more. The Family Resource Centers were designed with the intention of ensuring undocumented families know they have a safe place to turn for help.  Dr. Mafi also created and leads the district’s Parent Leadership Academy which are half-day trainings to equip parents with the skills to build a stronger school community at the schools their children attend.