Deborah Saldana, Ed.D.

Professor Furthers St. John’s Commitment to Urban Education

During the 17 years she has been at St. John’s, Deborah Saldana, Ed.D., Associate Professor of Curriculum and Instruction, has helped propel the University into the front ranks of urban education. “Dr. Saldana’s contributions in this area,” said Jerrold Ross, Ph.D., Dean of The School of Education (SOE),“are truly trailblazing.”

Dr. Saldana has worked tirelessly to extend St. John’s urban education franchise. She has  secured field placements at inner city schools for students enrolled in her classes and received a series of grants for initiatives she has created to help at-risk students and underperforming schools.

Dr. Saldana’s achievements have not only benefitted marginalized students and schools, but they have also helped the undergraduates and graduates she teaches. “My students tell me,” she said, “that these experiences give them excellent preparation for becoming outstanding educators. Field placements show them how essential it is to develop a culturally relevant curriculum; and participating in community-based projects exposes them to alternative career tracks.” Given the current economy, Dr. Saldana sees it as her responsibility to suggest that they consider looking for positions with nonprofits, businesses and governmental agencies as well as teaching.

The experience of Marianne Lucchesi, ‘07Ed, ‘10Ged, is illustrative. As a result of participating in St. John’s Attendance Improvement Drop Out Prevention program (AIDP)  — funded by United Way  — Marianne now holds a full-time position with the organization. “I owe Dr. Saldana so much for making this job possible,” she said. “Not only has it opened up new career possibilities, but I am growing personally as well as professionally as a result.”

AIDP, like many other collaborative partnerships Dr. Saldana has spearheaded, provides a model for how a visionary and civically engaged university can work with outside organizations to improve urban education.” Being able to put my ideas into action,” she explained, “is one of the reasons I am at St. John’s. The University’s Vincentian and Catholic mission perfectly matches my personal aspiration of making equitable and excellent education available to all students.”

Dr. Saldana is especially proud of the enduring relationship she helped forge in 1999 with the New York City Department of Education to create the Brooklyn Bridge Program — dedicated to helping the growing number of under credited students, age 16-21, earn their high school diplomas.

In 2007, Dean Ross asked Dr. Saldana to establish St. John’s Urban Childhood and Adolescent Research and Educational Services Institute (Urban CARES) to serve as an umbrella for her groundbreaking initiatives. “I am very grateful to Dean Ross,” said Dr. Saldana. “The existence of the Institute opens the way for the SOE to continue to change the landscape of urban education.”

In 2008, the Institute introduced a doctoral program for qualified, senior administrators working in inner city schools nationwide. “The new program,” explained Dr. Saldana, “enables professionals in the field to go beyond studying academic underachievement to explore the systemic issues contributing to minority male problems like unemployment and incarceration.”

Our goal,” said Dr. Saldana, “is to help St. John’s become a research and teaching resource for the nation’s urban education policymakers.”