Dr. Gwendolyn Dowdy-Rodgers, Area D representative of the San Bernardino County Board of Education poses for a portrait in her office on September 5, 2023. Dr. Dowdy-Rodgers made history in 2022, as the first African American woman on the San Bernardino County Board of Education. Her advocacy led to the recognition of “racism as a public health crisis.”
Dr. Gwendolyn Dowdy-Rodgers, Area D representative of the San Bernardino County Board of Education poses for a portrait in her office on September 5, 2023. Dr. Dowdy-Rodgers made history in 2022, as the first African American woman on the San Bernardino County Board of Education. Her advocacy led to the recognition of “racism as a public health crisis.” Credit: Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News / CatchLight Local


In the ever-evolving realm of education, the cultivation of student triumph and the fostering of community unity stand as paramount objectives. Black Voice News recently  had the honor of interviewing Dr. Gwendolyn Dowdy-Rodgers, Area D representative of the San Bernardino County Board of Education on these and other goals. 

In this illuminating conversation, Dr. Dowdy-Rodgers shared her fervent dedication to education, her proactive approach to community integration, and her unwavering commitment to ensuring every student’s journey becomes a testament of achievement.

Celebrating Milestones 

Dr. Dowdy-Rodgers, whose area consists of San Bernardino City USD, Rialto USD, and Snowline Joint USD, made history in 2022, as the first African American woman on the San Bernardino County Board of Education She has carved a path for transformative change. Her advocacy has led to significant declarations, including the recognition of “racism as a public health crisis” and the promotion of equity. Furthermore, her influence has propelled initiatives such as integrating mental health education pathways and broadening access to coding and esports programs. 

A seasoned advocate for student welfare and community harmony, she firmly believes that education should transcend mere knowledge dissemination. Rather, it should be a nurturing ecosystem that empowers students holistically. “We need to be concerned with the mental health and wellness of everyone, first. Then we can move forward.” She shared underscoring the critical importance of addressing the diverse needs of students, including those who are disabled or have experienced trauma. Her vision embraces inclusivity and equitable access to resources.

Dr. Dowdy-Rodgers’s unwavering dedication to student well-being and triumph radiate brilliantly. “I have a great relationship with students. I remind them that I’ve had the same phone number for 30 years. I don’t change it because I want them to be able to get in touch with me.” 

Dr. Dowdy-Rodgers’s approach to education extends beyond policy-making; she is immersed in the field, actively listening to the voices of students, parents, and educators. Her advocacy for tailored education challenges the conventional one-size-fits-all model, championing the individual.

Central to the conversation was the integral role of community engagement. Dr. Dowdy-Rodgers passionately posits that schools are not isolated entities but integral components of a vibrant community tapestry. She shared her proactive engagement with faith-based partners, inviting them to amplify the educational process through their extensive networks. Her emphasis on family involvement serves as a reminder that families are pivotal partners, not passive observers, in a student’s educational journey.

When it comes to student achievement, Dr. Dowdy-Rodgers accentuates her resolute commitment to addressing ancillary education needs, such as ensuring mental health support via community partners. Her vision transcends traditional boundaries, advocating for the seamless integration of mental health education and support at school sites. 

Drawing from both personal experience and her work with the behavioral health department, she passionately calls for understanding and support for students, especially those in vulnerable demographics, such as foster care. Early intervention and sustained engagement with families and students form the bedrock of her educational philosophy. 

Dr. Dowdy-Rodgers underscores the imperative for educators to remain open-minded, adaptable, and eager to collaborate with parents, community members, and students. Her words resonate as a call to action, an invitation to bridge the confines of the classroom and enrich lives beyond its walls. 

In the educational landscape, Dr. Dowdy-Rodgers stands as a beacon of passion, dedication, and innovation. Her vision of a collaborative, inclusive, and supportive educational ecosystem mirrors her commitment to nurturing empowered global citizens, not just educated individuals.

Enhancing Student Success: Dr. Dowdy-Rodgers’ Action Items

Dr. Dowdy-Rodgers shared several actionable strategies she believes are important to enhance student success and inclusivity in education. These initiatives, backed by her unwavering commitment, highlight the transformative potential of proactive community engagement. Let’s explore them:

Sign Language as a Foreign Language 

Dr. Dowdy-Rodgers champions the inclusion of sign language as a viable option to fulfill foreign language graduation requirements. This initiative not only enhances students’ communication skills but also fosters inclusivity by providing a means to engage with the deaf and hard of hearing community.

Dual Enrollment for K-12 Students 

Encouraging dual enrollment opportunities with local colleges is another pillar of Dr. Dowdy-Rodgers’ vision. This approach broadens students’ horizons and exposes them to advanced coursework, empowering them with a head start in higher education and career readiness.

Financial Literacy Curriculum 

Dr. Dowdy-Rodgers advocates for financial literacy as a legally supported curriculum in schools. Equipping students with financial knowledge from a young age ensures they are well-prepared to navigate the complexities of personal finance, promoting financial independence and security.

Accessible Indoor Spaces 

Recognizing the need for indoor spaces, particularly in schools lacking gymnasiums, Dr. Dowdy-Rodgers supports the construction of indoor facilities. These spaces provide a safe and comfortable environment for physical education and extracurricular activities, regardless of weather conditions.

Eliminating Grading with Zero Scores 

Dr. Dowdy-Rodgers emphasizes the importance of fair grading practices. Eliminating the practice of grading students with scores of zero helps prevent disproportionate negative impacts on their overall grades. This ensures that students have a better chance of achieving their academic goals. Follow this link to learn more about the impacts of zero grading. 

Advocating for Preschool Education

Dr. Dowdy-Rodgers stresses the significance of preschool education. She firmly believes that the first five years are crucial for foundational academic development and achievement. Advocating for accessible and quality preschool programs is essential to laying a strong educational foundation.

Elevating Education Through Community Involvement

Dr. Gwendolyn Dowdy-Rodgers emphatically asserts that community engagement is the heartbeat of quality education. Having operated at both the city and county levels, Dr. Dowdy-Rodgers acknowledged the pivotal roles parents, community members, and students play in fostering an enriching learning environment. 

She champions  parent participation in school board meetings, encourages active involvement during public comments, and fosters contributions to policy discussions. As an advocate for community engagement, recognizing that united voices bring about profound change on a broader canvas.

Inclusive Decision-Making 

Inclusive decision-making forms the cornerstone of Dr. Dowdy-Rodgers’ educational philosophy. She promotes  the utilization of advisory committees encompassing diverse voices. These committees ensure that policies and initiatives address the distinctive needs of diverse communities, culminating in a comprehensive and all-encompassing educational experience.

Remember that education thrives through collective effort. Each voice holds immense power. Whether inhabiting the roles of parents, community members, students, educators, or administrators, varying perspectives weave the tapestry of a more vibrant educational landscape.

Asante-Ra is a versatile writer committed to delivering informative and engaging content. They are a voracious media consumer, and lifelong learner passionate about science, health, gender diversity, accessibility, racial equity, and civic participation. They have a broad range of interests including society, culture, popular education, history, human sexuality, romance, comedy, poetry, and exploring topics such as indigeneity, world religions, mythology, astrology, and Blackness.