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Recap: 2022 Birth to 12th Grade Water Cooler Conference

wcc 2022

On November 1st and 2nd we had our two-day, virtual Birth to 12th Grade Water Cooler Conference – Building a System of Belonging and Community Power: Transformation Rooted in Racial Equity!

This action-packed conference brought together many dedicated early childhood and K-12 stakeholders from across California. Together, we explored how we center equity and community voice in policy and budget investments that result in a transformative and racially just birth to 12th-grade system for California’s children and families.

Catalyst California would also like to thank you for your continued support in the fight for educational equity to help all of California’s youngest learners thrive. Check out some highlights from this incredible event. 

Christian griffith and power point

“For almost every district we have record funding...One of the challenges is because a lot of these districts aren’t in a place where they feel like they have resources, they are not doing investments at a time when we have real problems with teacher recruitment, real problems with retention...and students have higher levels of needs because of all the compounding impacts of the pandemic,” said Christian Griffith, Chief Consultant of the Assembly Budget Committee, during our Budget Landscape discussion.

vickie and panel 2022 wcc

“We need to focus on diversifying our workforce employees. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but it’s the best thing for all kids,” said Edgar Zazueta, Executive Director of the Association of California School Administrators. 

Brenda and panelists at wcc 2022

“We on the outside need to provide what is necessary for families, to convene people, to provide research or data if they need it, and we need to respect and believe families in what they say they need,” said Keisha Nzewi, a Board Member of the Mount Diablo Unified School District. 

anya and panelists at wcc 2022

“If you really want to get an idea of what people think of your system, go talk to the families that the system has pushed out and see what they say. Get the street-level data and be a good listener. Look at them with a strengths-based lens,” said Michael McCormick, Superintendent of the Val Verde Unified School District. 

nic stone 2022 wcc

Author Nic Stone spoke with InnerCity Struggle alumna Kirsten Roman. “Having the ability to share one’s own experiences and the stories of the group you belong to is important because representation matters!”

elena and panelist at 2022 wcc

During our panel on student, family, and community-led healing and thriving, Alma Cervantes, Regional Education Equity Director of Building Healthy Communities – Monterey County, said, “Families need to be at the center of the co-creation and co-development process to build shared power.”

Review the Agenda

Welcome & Opening Keynote 

John Kim, President & CEO, Catalyst California 

Vickie Ramos Harris, Director of Educational Equity, Catalyst California 


A Budget Landscape for the Birth to 12th Grade System 

Christian Griffith, Chief Consultant, California State Assembly Budget Committee 


The State of Education: Where are we now? 

Moderator: Vickie Ramos Harris 

  • Max Arias, Executive Director, SEIU Local 99 
  • Linda Asato, Executive Director, California Child Care Resource & Referral Network  
  • Toby Boyd, President, California Teachers Association 
  • Najla Gomez Rodriguez, Capacity Building Director, Californians For Justice  
  • Edgar Zazueta, Executive Director, Association of California School Administrators 


Reflections on the B-12 Landscape 

  • Sarah Neville-Morgan, Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction, California Department of Education 


Student, Family, and Community-Led Healing and Thriving 

Moderator: Elena Fernandez, Chief Program Officer, St. John’s Well Child & Family Clinic  

  • Liza Bray, Executive Director, Partners for Children South LA  
  • Alma Cervantes, Regional Education Equity Director, Building Healthy Communities-Monterey County 
  • Kamal Kaur, Center Director, Just Plane Kids  
  • Jessica Ramos, Student, UC Berkeley 


Closing Keynote 

Kim Johnson, Director, California Department of Social Services 


Closing Remarks and Next Steps 

Manuel Fierro, Associate Director of Early Childhood Policy, Catalyst California 

Welcoming Remarks 

Day Son, Senior Manager of Educational Equity, Catalyst California 


Opening Reflections  

Dr. Lupe Jaime-Mileham, Deputy Director, Child Care and Development Division, California Department of Social Services 


Designing Quality Whole Child Systems Rooted in Equity and Community Power   

Moderator: Brenda Aguilera, Director of Community Transformation, Para Los Niños  

  • Mayra Alvarez, President, The Children’s Partnership  
  • Keisha Nzewi, Co-Founder, Black Californians Unified for ECE  
  • Jackie Thu-Huong Wong, Executive Director, First 5 California  
  • Noemi Valdes, Director of Early Childhood Education, Oxnard School District  


Featured Keynote: A Vision of Rebuilding a Racially Just, Equitable World  

Moderator: Kirsten Roman, Youth Leader Alumna, InnerCity Struggle 

Nic Stone, Author, Dear Martin 


Centering Equity in K-12 Systems 

Moderator: Dr. Anya Hurwitz, Executive Director, Sobrato Early Academic Language (SEAL)  

  • Miguel Dominguez, Director of Youth and Education Policy, Community Coalition 
  • Dr. Jesse Levin, Principal Research Economist, American Institutes for Research  
  • Michael McCormick, Superintendent, Val Verde Unified School District 
  • Assemblymember Dr. Akilah Weber, California State Assembly District 79  


Closing Keynote 

Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, State Board President, California State Board of Education 


Closing Remarks, Evaluation, and Next Steps  

Jessenia Reyes, Associate Director of K-12 Policy, Catalyst California