Distinguished Panelists

Distinguished Panelists

portraitDr. Jorge O. Ayala, Superintendent of Schools for Yolo County

Elected Yolo County Superintendent of Schools since January 1999, Dr. Jorge Ayala directs the operations of the Yolo County Office of Education. He has served in this office for the past ten years. Overall, his career spans 37 years of educational experience as an elementary, middle, and high school educator in private and public schools. He has been an education administrator for 28 of those years.

Dr. Ayala currently serves on the following boards and committees: Chair-Elect, WestEd Board of Directors; Yolo First Five Commission; University of California, Davis School of Education Advisory Board; University of California, Davis; Superintendent’s Executive Leadership Forum (SELF); Yolo County Workforce Investment Board; and Yolo County Children’s Alliance. He is the first elected Latino County Superintendent of Schools in the state of California.


portraitDr. James Hammond, Superintendent, Davis Joint Unified School District

James Hammond was a scholarship player and head coach in college basketball, in addition to earning his teaching and administrative credentials. He obtained his Doctoral degree in Education at Washington State University and served as Superintendent of Tukwila (WA) schools, where his district received state and national recognition for its school-community coalition, for improving achievement, and for responding to the needs of its diverse student population. In Davis, Dr. Hammond has provided critical, effective leadership, making the closing of achievement and discipline gaps a consistent and explicit priority. He is one of 14 distinguished executives selected nationwide to the Broad Superintendents Academy, 2010 Class.


portraitChet Hewitt, President/CEO, Sierra Health Foundation

Chet Hewitt is the President and CEO of Sierra Health Foundation in Sacramento, where he oversees the foundation’s endowment. Since joining Sierra Health Foundation in August 2007, Chet has implemented increased grant making and has redirected resources to Northern California’s most underserved and rural populations. His leadership and vision led to the opening of Sierra Health Foundation’s Nonprofit Innovation Center, which establishes a new standard for nonprofit work space in the region. Before coming to Sierra Health Foundation, Chet was the director of the Alameda County Social Services Agency, where he became known as “the people’s director.”


portraitKadhir Rajagopal, Teacher, Twin Rivers Unified School District

I entered the teaching profession six years ago because I wanted to positively impact marginalized populations, especially urban and low income youth. I have taught in middle and high schools in East Oakland. Currently, I am an algebra teacher at Grant High School, a low income comprehensive urban high school in Sacramento. Last year, my students who were all low income and mostly African American and Latino scored higher than the state average on the California Standardized Testing (CST) for algebra. They outperformed the state average for white students as well as high income students on the state algebra exam. Therefore, they closed the achievement gap in terms of race and income that has been a challenge for educators throughout the state. I have developed an instructional model, C.R.E.A.T.E. that is based on the strategies that I have used in getting my students to consistently defy all expectations. I have written a book being published by ASCD (Association of Curriculum and Supervision Development), titled, Unleashing the Potential in da’ Hood, An Instructional Model for Closing the Achievement Gap.


portraitSandra McBrayer, CEO, The Children’s Initiative

Sandra McBrayer is the Chief Executive Officer of the Children’s Initiative and an internationally known advocate for children, youth and families. The Children’s Initiative is a San Diego based child advocacy agency. The Initiative, through collaboration and partnerships with community leaders, organizations and government agencies develops, enhances and strengthens policy, programs and projects which serve children and youth.

President Clinton named Ms. McBrayer the 1994 United States Teacher of the Year, and as such she served as a national education ambassador. Ms. McBrayer participates in national and international discussions and debates, addressing issues and concerns facing children and families. She was also the 1993 California and San Diego County Teacher of the Year. In 1987, Ms. McBrayer founded and developed the first successful school in the United States for homeless and unattended youth, serving as head teacher for the Homeless Outreach School (now known as Monarch High School) in San Diego until 1996. Ms McBrayer started her teaching career working at Juvenile Hall and with court involved youth.


portraitDr. Deborah Ward, Associate Dean, Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing, UC Davis

As associate dean for the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis, Ward oversees the education, research and community engagement missions of the School of Nursing and closely coordinates with the school’s leadership to transform health care through nursing education and research. She guides the creation of curricula for the School of Nursing, connects with community partners to design outreach programs and plans a faculty development program. As the first faculty member recruited to the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis, Ward plays an integral part in designing and developing the school’s curricula. A nationally recognized expert in health policy, Ward brings more than 30 years of nursing experience and a passion for healthy systems and healthy people.


portraitDella Warrior, Chief Operating Officer, Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation

Della Warrior has over 35 years of experience in management, tribal government, education, planning and evaluation, resource development, facility planning and economic development. She was appointed Chief Operating Officer for the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation in March, 2008.

Warrior is the former president of the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA). She is credited with the leadership of moving the campus out of World War II barracks, building a new campus, restoring federal funding, getting the college off of academic probation, establishing new degree programs and attaining 10-year accreditation. Warrior was also the first female chairman of her tribe, the Otoe-Missouria Tribe in north-central Oklahoma. Some of her other positions include general manager, Ponca Tribal Gaming Enterprise; grants and compliance officer, Pawnee Nation; director of development, IAIA; director of education, Albuquerque Public Schools; and resource specialist for the Tulsa Urban Indian Health Resource Center.