State superintendent taps OCDE partner to help lead global education initiative

Two longtime California education leaders will work on behalf of the state to build partnerships with countries including China, Canada, Mexico and Vietnam with the goal of promoting international collaboration between California and other countries’ educational systems.

David Long, former education secretary for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former superintendent of Riverside County schools, and Steven Ma, a former math teacher who works as secretary of the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, will serve as the state’s first international education liaisons.

State Superintendent Tom Torlakson recently appointment Long and Ma to the positions as part of an effort to expand teacher and student exchange programs, share best education practices and improve cooperation between countries that play key roles in California’s economy. Long and Ma will work on a volunteer basis, drawing no state salaries.

“With all the things going on in the world, leadership through education can only bring nations together,” said Long, who currently serves as an education consultant through his firm, Dave Long & Associates.

“California is the perfect example of what the world looks like with its diversity of people and cultures,” Long said. “We will serve as an example for other states.”

Long has also worked in recent years with the Orange County Department of Education to organize the agency’s Safe Schools Conferences, where county Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Mijares, Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, Torlakson and other educators gather to discuss how schools and law enforcement can better respond to ever-evolving security threats.

As Liaisons, Long and Ma will use their experience and education contacts in Asia, Canada and Latin America to establish or expand relationships with education leaders in those regions.

Long said an immediate goal is for California to learn from these nations what works best in terms of curriculum and teaching approaches, and what challenges they also share with California.

He said he hopes to encourage Orange County’s teachers and education leaders to participate in this initiative because they already work with a diverse population with roots in these different countries.

Among the initial goals of the initiative, Long said, is for California to host an international education conference where educators from the different countries can gather to “talk shop.”

Last week, Torlakson visited Mexico City to meet with the Mexican Education Secretary to discuss increasing cooperation, teacher exchanges and assisting students who have attended K-12 schools on both sides of the border.

“In these uncertain political times, it is especially important that California educators remain engaged with the rest of the world,” Torlakson said.

“I am excited that Steven and Dave, with their remarkable experience and track record and passion for education, have agreed to help forge new partnerships and programs between California educators and educators throughout the world.”