“Teachers are heroes.” — Laurie Fong
Laurie Fong has worked in education for the past 40 years in many different capacities: teacher, principal, mentor, Trustee for Santa Rosa City Schools, and more. She joined educational field at the tail end of the Vietnam War when her two options as an Asian American woman were either cocktail waitress or substitute teacher. Here, Laurie found a passion for teaching; education was where she was meant to be.
Laurie was raised in San Francisco, California, and is the daughter of a first-generation English language learner from China who had to begin working at the age of 13. Due to her family’s hard work, Laurie had the privilege of obtaining an excellent education, attending the University of California, Berkeley for her Bachelor’s Degree. After meeting and falling in love with her then-husband, Laurie moved to an army base in Missouri and spent time deciding on the next steps of her career. She already had experience teaching Sunday school and with limited career options at the time for many Asian Americans, she became a substitute teacher and fell in love with teaching. Eventually, Laurie’s family moved to Utah where she taught for 12 years.
After gaining teaching experience in Utah, Laurie was ready to make her way back to California with her family. She found herself in Sonoma County where she was hired as a teacher at Montgomery High School and then later transferring to Piner High School. After 22 years of teaching, Laurie became principal at Montgomery High School. She has over 18 years of administrative experience in the public school system and has served Santa Rosa well in that time. She was named Sonoma County’s Principal of the Year and serves as President of the Asian Pacific Islander School Board Members Association (APISBMA).
As a member of the Santa Rosa City Schools Board of Trustees, Laurie has fought to dismantle oppressive norms in schools that hinder the educational experience of Santa Rosa’s most vulnerable populations. She understands that her decisions and those who serve with her ultimately shape the educational experience for generations of young people in Santa Rosa, a responsibility Laurie takes very seriously. Being on the Board of Trustees comes with great responsibility as the board sets the direction, vision, mission, and goals for the school district. For Laurie, equity is her biggest priority:
“We firmly, firmly believe that equity for all kids is primary and when I say ‘equity for all kids,’ I mean that every kid gets what he or she or they need to be able to master what we need them to master: reading and writing literacy, communication literacy, math literacy, a broad-based way to do research, ways to think and communicate...we went and exposed opportunities [for students] to collaborate with people different from themselves, [which] is super important for adulthood, for citizenship, for being contributing members of your own society.”
In recent years, the Board of Trustees have addressed several concerns related to diversity, equity, and inclusion at school campuses in Santa Rosa. As a response to the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing protests in 2020, Santa Rosa City Schools examined the need to have uniformed school resource officers on campus and the implications that their presence could have for BIPOC students. Laurie says that the decision to remove school resource officers from Santa Rosa City Schools campuses was met with mixed emotions, but the most important voices in the conversation were the students for whom this decision would affect the most. Although the topic of officers on campuses is controversial, Laurie feels that their decision was most in line with the Board’s values: “Because we are so equity-driven, we’re now designing [programs] for the kids who have always been on the margins, who’ve never had a voice, who need us to be their voice and that’s the decision we made, even though it was pretty unpopular with a lot of people...we really want to reinvent how we make campuses safe.”
Laurie Fong has dedicated much of her life advocating for youth, making sure their voices are heard, that they have access to opportunities and resources, and that they feel safe in school. Even in retirement, Laurie’s active role on the Board of Trustees has allowed her to continue to positively shape our youths’ futures, instilling change in our schools. Thank you, Laurie, for continuing to serve our youth. Your passion, drive, and expertise are needed here more than ever.
To learn more about this story and the important work of Laurie Fong visit the links below.
APISBMA: Laurie Fong, Board Member
Press Democrat: Santa Rosa City Schools votes to pause school resource officer program
Santa Rosa City Schools: Meet the Board
LinkedIn: Laurie Fong
Laurie Fong was interviewed by Daniel Chaparro, Community Outreach Specialist. Story written by Haley Katz, former Community Engagement AmeriCorps VISTA, and edited by Madelynn Cox, Community Engagement AmeriCorps VISTA.