Meet Roanoke City Public Schools first Latina principal

Published: Sep. 28, 2022 at 5:45 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Dr. Brenda Russ is the principal of Round Hill Elementary, making her the first Puerto Rican principal in Roanoke City Public Schools’ history.

“So, I am a proud Latina,” said Russ.

Born in Virginia, Russ lived in Puerto Rico during elementary and undergrad.

“Speaking in a household that spoke two languages really expose me to the richness of being bi-cultural, bilingual,” added Russ.

These unique experiences drive her work at Roanoke City Public Schools. Russ first joined RCPS in February 2021 as the director of diversity and equity. But has held multiple roles in other districts as an ESL teacher and assistant principal.

“From the decisions I make, from how I interact with parents, to how I lead, to the kind of curriculum we purchase, explore, read and utilize is through that lens of my own personal experiences.”

Guadalupe Yibale’s son is a special needs 4th grader at Round Hill Elementary. Yibale met with Russ to talk about her son this year.

“It means a lot to the entire Latino community, it’s like a triumph for us. It’s like she represents all of us,” said Yibale.

Talking with her in Spanish creates trust.

“Being able to communicate with her directly in Spanish is invaluable,” added Yibale. “Because we can express what we really want to make understood.”

Representation matters not just for the parents but also for the students.

“I want them to see that although they may not have many teachers that look like them or sound like them, it is possible to be a division leader, it is possible to be a teacher or now a principal,” explained Russ.

And although she may be the first, “I will say it is 2022, so I will be the first, but I won’t be the last,” said Russ.

National data show there is a lack of Latino and Latina principals in proportion to the students being served. Although Hispanic students made up 27 percent of students in public schools, only 9 percent of school principals were Hispanic in 2019.