Dear colleagues, partners and friends: greetings and abrazos,

2018 marks my 26th year as IDRA President & CEO, and as I plan to retire from my position in January of 2019, I do so with some trepidation and much excitement. I am deeply grateful for the kindnesses and generosity that so many have shown me over so many years. You have supported, applauded, challenged, encouraged, inspired, and educated me as we work side-by-side to put children first. It is time to make room for a new generation of leadership at IDRA that continues to move ahead with fulfilling the vision of educational opportunity for all.

IDRA is in a strong place.

The board of directors is uniquely committed to the IDRA mission, and staff include experienced and emerging leaders with demonstrated capacities. IDRA operating principles – advocacy, focus, independence, cohesiveness, responsiveness, innovation, cooperation, accountability, integrity and generosity – guide our work. Our strategic plan focuses on connections and networks that are sustainable, programs and models that are transformative, and research, policies and practices that secure real solutions to school inequality. Last year, we began a long-term grant initiative with 11 states and D.C. to develop capacity to tackle the most critical issues impacting students’ education and civil rights in the American South and its 2,341 school districts and 29,632 schools with over 1 million educators and 16 million students. This year, we began a new five-year project that focuses on developing and evaluating sustainable school leadership teams that transform schools for students. Our fiscal picture is strong, and the IDRA board engaged in a national search process to identify the next leader of IDRA. Celina Moreno, J.D., begins her work on January 3, 2019, and as President & CEO on February 1, 2019, bringing her expertise and passion for advocacy in education and civil rights. I know she will be an excellent President & CEO to carry forward our mission to achieve equal educational opportunity for all students.

I will continue to work so that IDRA leverages its national voice for action and change in ways that benefit all children and with initiatives that are well-funded and sustainable over time. I will also continue our José Angel Cárdenas School Finance Fellows Program (two of five cycles have been completed) to honor the memory of IDRA’s founder and to engage the nation’s most promising researchers in investigating school finance solutions to secure equity and excellence for all. The IDRA board of directors has asked that, after my retirement, I continue my association with IDRA as President Emeritus. I will.

I came to IDRA as a 23-year-old research assistant in 1976 and will leave a bit older, with a couple of more degrees, a lot more experience, and deep gratitude for the opportunities I have been given by so many people over the years. When my sons were young, I used to tell them that their job in life was to find out why they were put on this earth and then follow that path to leave the earth better than they found it. For myself, I know now that my path in life has been, is, and will be to create opportunities for others.

Some of you know that I am an independent Zen teacher in the White Plum lineage and received dharma transmission from Roshi Robert Kennedy S.J. four years ago. After retirement, I intend to expand my work as a Zen meditation teacher. On another vein, a fellow “peregrina” on the Camino de Santiago and I, may start a monthly “Caminante” group here in San Antonio. I have also been asked about teaching a course or two in research or non-profit management at one of our San Antonio universities. I hope to have more time with family and friends and, among other celebrations, invite fellow Laredoans to a gathering of the Los Dos Laredos diaspora. Maybe I will finally decide that, yes, I can learn to cook for pleasure not just necessity. Or not. We shall see.

Gracias y hasta luego,


Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel

President & CEO, IDRA

[©2018, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the November-December 2018 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]