Debra Duardo ’94, M.S.W. ’96, Ed.D. ’13
Debra Duardo ’94, M.S.W. ’96, Ed.D. ’13, is the recipient of the 2022 UCLA Award for Public Service. With more than 20 years of experience championing the students of Los Angeles, she currently serves as L.A. County Superintendent of Schools where she is a courageous advocate for systemic innovations to build equity and student success.
The daughter of Mexican immigrants, Duardo grew up in the Pico-Union neighborhood of Los Angeles. She dropped out of high school to work full-time, restarting her education in her late 20s. Drawing from these experiences, she has dedicated her career to ensuring that students, including those who are underserved and underrepresented, receive an education in a safe, caring school and that every student is college-prepared and career ready.
Prior to attending UCLA, Dr. Duardo worked for 10 years at the Los Angeles Commission on Assaults against Women. She entered UCLA as a transfer student and left as a triple Bruin, holding a bachelor's degree cum laude in Women’s/Chicana studies, master’s degree cum laude in social work and a doctorate from UCLA’s Graduate School of Education & Information Studies where she led the Latina/o Caucus. After earning her degrees, Duardo served the Los Angeles Unified School District for 20 years in multiple roles overseeing programs designed to address barriers to student success, resulting in an increase in attendance and graduation rates and a decrease in dropout rates across the district.
In 2016, she was appointed L.A. County Superintendent of Schools by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and is currently the top education leader of the nation’s most populous and diverse county. In this post, she provides leadership support to the superintendents and top administrators of the county’s 80 K-12 school districts, which serve two million students. Her mission is to confront the county’s persistent educational inequities for all students and families by implementing a Community Schools model to transform campuses into hubs for a range of vital social and other services.
Duardo was honored as the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs’ Joseph A. Nunn Social Welfare Alumnus of the Year. Throughout her work, she lifts up those around her, including the many UCLA alumni who work with Los Angeles County schools. A passionate advocate for the children of Los Angeles, she is a leader who believes in "power together," and has promoted a view of youth "at-promise" instead of "at-risk." Dr. Duardo is building a brighter future for the students of Los Angeles, and building leaders to address the challenges of the 21st century.