Long before Concordia, as a teacher and administrator, Vendetta had a passion for being a voice for the children in her school district and was particularly vocal about the fact that the children weren't reading and writing at acceptable levels. Her time at CUI served to deepen her passion with respect to this issue, and has motivated her to continue working in her community to improve literacy.
Please tell us about what you consider to be one of the biggest impacts you are making/have made in one of your respective communities.
When asked about the positive impact she has had on her community, Vendetta Dozier Brown responded, “I have always had a passion to speak up.” The recently retired principal has indeed spent much of her career in administration speaking up for others in her community. She likes to consider herself a voice for the entire district and has found herself speaking up not just for her own teachers and students, but for all of the teachers and students in her district. Long before the era of Common Core she saw that kids weren’t reading and writing at acceptable levels and sounded the alarm.
What have you learned about the diverse needs of this community?
Vendetta was already an established administrator when she started her doctorate with CUI but working on her dissertation gave her the opportunity to look more deeply at some of the big issues plaguing her community. This in-depth exploration made her not only a better administrator but also better steward of those under her leadership and in her care.
Regarding her teachers she learned that she needed to examine herself when looking at their needs and ask, “Are you being empathetic? Are you considering all of the aspects of what the teacher is bringing to the classroom? Are you being supportive?” She also learned that as a leader she couldn’t make assumptions about their abilities and that by taking on a less authoritative stance she could let them do more. When she allowed and encouraged them to participate in leadership it validated them, helped her and pushed everyone to a new level of caring finding that, “ A teaching staff that cares energizes the others.I saw people believing in children more.”
Regarding her students she reaffirmed what she always knew that even though kids came from rough backgrounds and neighborhoods, the parents still want them have a good education.
How was your research/study as part of CUI’s EDD program helped you address the needs of this community?
For her dissertation Vendetta conducted a deep dive into the literature to learn about cognitive constructivist learning theory and CBAM Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM) Stages of Concern. This in-depth research gave her the theoretical basis for both the quantitative and qualitative pieces of her study. There isn’t enough space in this small vignette to explain the substance of her dissertation, but what she found when all was said and done was that a) the writing intervention really worked and b) her approach to working with the teachers who were administering the intervention was spot on!
Vendetta has been encouraged by her Dissertation Chair and committee members to take the results of her study to the District for consideration of broad use and also to write a journal article outlining her findings. These activities will allow her CUI research to not only meet the needs of her community but also of many others.
How have you used your research or experience to develop strategies to meet these needs?
The “glaring issue” was the fact that the Common Core gives standards with no direction for implementing them. “Districts are just given volumes of information to give teachers.” This concerned her that districts in California have not acted on remedying this. “Common Core says children need to be able to do X, but how do we get them there?” This was the impetus for Vendetta’s study and context for moving forward with such zeal.
But her dissertation research wasn’t the only aspect of her CUI EdD experience that helped spur her passion and shape her strategy to meet the writing needs of the children and the teaching needs of the teachers. The course work, trips and research worked together to teach her to reflect on where we are and where we need to go as a state and as a district. The trip to DC was eye opening and the research she did on test scores in the DC area while she was there actually made her angry! “1% proficient some of the schools! How can they allow that. Aren't here teachers with heart? This is my former community and these are low income kids who will never have a chance if something isn't done!” The Leadership courses impacted how she worked with teachers and in her words made her a better leader. In those courses she leaned about servant leadership and how to look beneath the surface before you can make an impact on the top. She found herself asking, “ What kind of leader am I? What kind of leader do I want to be?”
How has your involvement with this community impacted other areas of your life?
The people in the community with a lowercase “c” Stockton, and Stockton Unified are very important to Vendetta. These are the people she does life with. She lives, worships, shops and works in this community. Her children, family and friends are all here. Her community is her life.
The Community with a capital “C”, school age children, teachers and administrations everywhere is in her blood.Now that she has retired from district and completed her EDD she is looking for new ways to impact communities where students are struggling. She has been energized by the research and by the work and is now eager for the next step for herself. “It has to be impactful and move children along to the next level,” says Vendetta.
While we may not know yet what that next step is, we, her CUI community know this. Vendetta’s passion will make a difference.
Additional responses from Pre-Interview Survey
In what ways, if any, has the Ed.D. program enhanced your ability to assess and develop positions/programs/interventions to respond to the needs of this community?
It has enabled me to conduct research that will be important for promoting writing and literacy in Stockton and beyond.