10/05/2012 by Victor Abalos
Contra Costa Latino parents gather to resolve education challenges
Mother of Pittsburg Unified student makes point about Latino academic achievement at community education summit sponsored by California Forward
Nearly fifty parents from Contra Costa County met face-to-face with representatives of three of the largest school districts in the county to discuss shared concerns about Latino drop-outs, the challenges English Learner students are encountering and the difficulties parents have getting involved.
The so-called Contra Costa County Education "Summit" was organized by United Latino Voices of Contra Costa County, a fledgling group of concerned activists and community leaders. Group members say they are concerned primarily with Latino student achievement. Latinos now make up more than half of all K-12 students in California.
“When Latino children are achieving, all children are achieving,” said Doreen Moreno, a member of United Latino Voices.
The group not only managed to get a large number of parents to attend the meeting on a Saturday morning, they also secured commitments from seven district officials representing Mount Diablo Unified, Antioch Unified and Pittsburg Unified School Districts.
During the summit, parents voiced many concerns regarding their efforts to connect and engage with school district officials, the most common being language. Many school district meetings or events do not provide translators which makes it impossible for parents who don't speak English to engage.
“If we do not get involved with the programs that are in schools, there is no way we can help our children,” said Carmina Ciguenza, whose daughter just graduated from a Pittsburg Unified high school.
After the meeting, school district officials sounded optimistic.
“This particular summit is going to allow parents to feel empowered and be able to inform other parents about what’s going on and let them know they also have the right to let their voice be heard,” said Jeanne Durante-Armas, Mt. Diablo’s Director of English Language Services.
“If you don’t have the parent component you will not be able to get the results you want,” said Ricardo Araiza, Principal of Foothill Elementary School in Pittsburg School District.
California Forward provided a moderator for the summit, as well as a graphic recorder, and a video crew. Dr. Gabriela Melano, the artist/recorder, generated a colorful log of the meeting on huge sheets of paper hung on the walls during the gathering. CA Forward also provided resources for the summit to hire translators for this meeting. CA Forward is now working with United Latino Voices leaders to develop tangible next steps and secure a "plan" for parents and district officials to continue this critical engagement.