Salem Reporter coverage of the our parent leaders priorities

 

Latino groups push for improved bilingual education, mental health support in budget

With budget cuts on the horizon, Latino organizations in Salem are urging Salem-Keizer administrators and the school board to move forward with plans to better serve students.

By Rachel Alexander – Salem Reporter

June 1, 2020 at 9:20am

Students organized by Latinos Unidos Siempre urged the new Salem-Keizer School Board to address the mental health needs of immigrant students and stop policies that disproportionately punish students of color at a July 2019 meeting. (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Latino community organizations are calling on Salem-Keizer School District leaders to push ahead with plans to improve bilingual education and mental health services next school year, even with budget cuts on the horizon.

“We all must work together to ensure that our children do not lose ground, and instead continue the upward trend of closing the achievement gap and increasing graduation. In the next few months, please reach out and include us in your decision-making processes,” wrote Annalivia Palazzo-Angulo, executive director of the Salem-Keizer Coalition for Equality.

Leaders of eight other organizations, including Latinos Unidos Siempre and PCUN, Oregon’s farmworker union, signed on in support. The May 26 letter was addressed to the Salem-Keizer School Board and the district budget committee.

The letter is an effort to salvage for students of color some of the school improvements that Salem-Keizer planned with money from the Oregon’s Student Investment Account. The account was intended to enhance local school budgets to tackle a variety of issues.

The district was to receive $36 million in the fall to be used for better serving students who have historically struggled in local schools, including bilingual students, those with disabilities, students of color and homeless students.

But as Oregon confronts budget shortfalls and significant drops in tax revenue from the coronavirus pandemic, it’s almost certain school districts won’t get the full amount they were expecting.

Districts are also facing significant drops in allocations they normally get from the state. Superintendent Christy Perry said the state’s latest projection would mean about $38 million less for Salem-Keizer next year without legislative action.

Perry said in an interview she expected much of what the Latino groups asked for would be possible. She and other administrators are looking for ways to include new initiatives but on a smaller scale.

Perry said she’s committed to not cut employees whose work is to close gaps for students, like the black and Pacific Islander graduation coaches who have helped boost graduation rates for both ethnic groups to historic highs in Salem-Keizer.

“Those positions have to be held harmless first,” she said.

Palazzo-Angulo said she knows the district can’t do everything it had planned, but outlined four priorities she wants in next year’s plans, based on discussion with Latino parents involved in the coalition.

Improving the district’s bilingual education in elementary school is a top priority, ensuring native Spanish speaking students learn to read proficiently in English while keeping their Spanish fluency.

Salem-Keizer’s plan called for hiring more coaches and mentors to help teachers at eight elementary schools improve English instruction for bilingual students. In the letter, community leaders urge the district to continue that plan on a smaller scale, with at least one elementary school that could serve as a model for bilingual teaching.

Mental health support is another priority, including hiring behavior specialists, counselors and social workers who “understand the intersection between race, ethnicity, language and poverty with adults’ perceptions of good and bad behavior.”

Palazzo-Angulo said district employees need to understand the school-to-prison pipeline, a term used to describe how students of color are more likely to face discipline at school than their white peers and may ultimately end up facing criminal prosecution.

That concern is heightened as students are expected to return to school this fall after months of stress from social isolation and the economic impacts of the pandemic.

“The stress and trauma both adults and children are going through, both at home and at school, can and will lead to negative interactions. The results will be devastating if we are not proactive,” the letter said.

The other two priorities cited by the group are continuing programs to recruit and retain more teachers and educators of color and bilingual teachers, and working to improve partnerships with youth while continuing to build connections with families.

“It’s an appropriate time to have a strong voice on the things you don’t want people to forget, the most important things out there, since there are going to be cuts,” Palazzo-Angulo said in an interview.

The district budget committee last week approved the budget for the 2020-2021 year that starts July 1, but it is certainly going to change. The approved budget, which by law must be approved before the new fiscal year starts, doesn’t account for the expected cuts or costs of the pandemic.

Any cuts in the new budget year will likely come later in the summer once the Oregon Legislature convenes and Gov. Kate Brown has decided how state spending should be reduced to account for steep drops in tax revenue.

Perry and district administrators would then propose cuts if needed, but school board and budget committee members would likely vote on a final plan.

Board chair Marty Heyen said it’s too early to speculate about what might be possible to save since the full impact of the state revenue slump on the district is unknown. She said she’d like to see the coalition’s priorities preserved so long as doing so doesn’t require cuts elsewhere to harm reduce services to students.

“The needs that were laid out by the coalition really are not necessarily needs for a particular group of children. All behavior issues and things they refer to in their document run through all cultures and societies, all our kids, all the different groups,” she said.

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For the full Salem Reporter news article with credits click here.

 

Our Annual Luncheon is Cancelled for 2020

Sadly, we at SKCE have decided that we must cancel our annual luncheon “Celebrating Latino Parents – the First Teachers,” that was scheduled for April 23rd.

After Governor Brown closed public schools and limited gatherings to 25 people, the decision was made to not live-stream or even postpone the luncheon. SKCE is committed to reducing the spread of COVID-19, so we have taken every precaution by cancelling all programs. Staff have been working remotely since March 13th.

SKCE relies on our annual luncheon to support our programs and services. The pandemic has caused a financial setback that has required us to rethink the way we provide support to parents. We are actively working on a plan to provide services remotely so we can continue to coach and mentor on parenting and child development. We will also continue to provide books, activities and art supplies to support academic achievement for children at home. This means purchasing equipment and materials that SKCE had not otherwise budgeted.

If you would like to contribute, please visit our donation page. This would be a great time to sign up for ongoing monthly gifts!

An email letter will be sent out to individuals, organizations and businesses that have made reservations or have sponsored the event.

If you have purchased a ticket, please read here.

If you sponsored the luncheon, please read here.

SKCE’s First “Forming Strong Families” conference at Waldo Middle School

Our first Formando Familias Fuertes parent conference (Forming Strong Families) on Saturday February 22nd was a success!

About 35 Spanish speaking parents and 36 children attended the parent conference at Waldo Middle School from 10:00am to 3:00 pm.

The morning began with introductions and welcoming statements from Joe Valencia, Assistant Principal of Waldo; Javier Quiroz, Director of the Parent Organizing Project of SKCE, and Christy Perry, Superintendent of the Salem Keizer School District.

Superintendent Perry shared an overview of the Student Investment Account process, and the final recommendations that the School Board would be voting on the following Tuesday (Feb. 25). (Testimony and voting begins on 1:19:44.)

Next, Carlos Ruiz, Assistant Principal of North Salem High School, introduced the Keynote Speaker, Teresa Tolento, Principal of Cesar Chavez Elementary School. Her speech struck a chord of the hearts of the families and brought tears to many listeners. She spoke of her immigrant Mexican parents and the struggle learning English while trying to hold on to her culture and language of her family, and the divide between the families and the schools. See the video here.

Participants had a variety of classes they could attend regarding the districts’ Positive Behavioral Interventions System (PBIS) program, addressing mental health issues of children and youth, addressing mental health issues of adults, bullying and harassment policies, helping children structure their time at home, effective parenting for preteens and teens, and effective advocacy for school success.

The overwhelming majority of parents attended the classes addressing mental health issues of their children and youth, showing that the ideas behind the Student Success Act’s funding are hitting the target. Programs for children of color, additional mental health supports, increased attention to school climate and culture, among others.

Lunch was donated by Tony’s Tacos and Don Panchos. Twenty organizations and businesses provided popular resource tables during lunch and thanks to our local United Way’s Give360 program, Amazon products were donated for both conference supplies and wonderful free raffle prizes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The grand prize was donated by Castro Monroy Group: a beautiful bicycle!

Waldo Middle School is a Title I school, where 100% of the students receive free breakfast and lunch. Donations and sponsors are critical for our Nonprofit Organization to provide services and continue our work helping thousands of Latino/a/x children succeed in school.

Many thanks to the Salem Keizer School District for helping fund the project, and to Waldo Middle School for hosting the conference. A special thanks goes to Joe Valencia who worked with our conference coordinator and program staff for months in preparation and provided all we needed for classrooms, childcare, lunch, gym activities, and student volunteers. The dedication of our Latino/a/x staff, teachers and administrators in the Salem Keizer District is amazing to behold. School staff who dedicated their Saturday to Latino/a/x parents:

  • From Cesar Chavez Elementary School: Principal Teresa Tolento, Assistant Principal Teresa Alfaro, and Instructional Mentor Nubia Green.

  • From Auburn Elementary School: Assistant Principal Erica Manzo.

  • From Parrish Middle School: Alyssa Darnell, Math teacher.

  • From the school district: Jed Thomas, Psychologist and Victor Juarez, LSCSW, both from the Office of Behavioral Learning.

Formando Familias Fuertes, Forming Strong Families, is also a program of SKCE throughout the year. We look forward to making this parent conference bigger and better, and making it a collaborative tradition in the years to come.

Latino/a Parent Leaders Work with Salem Keizer School District

Last Wednesday, February 12, was the culmination of a series of meetings between the SKCE Parent Leadership Group and school board members, which began last August. School board member Sheronne Blasi, our Liaison, and Superintendent Perry were invited to discuss the concerns the parents had brought to the school board last June, and how they might be addressed through the SIA recommendations. The superintendent answered a number of questions and explained the next steps in the SIA process.

We have been involved with the Salem Keizer School District since last fall, working on the Student Investment Account (SIA) Task Force.

The district pulled together a diverse group with many people of color—teachers, staff, community members and parents—to help develop their plans for using the $35 million from the state’s SSA (Student Success Act) fund. This new fund from the legislature is intended to help the students who are struggling the most, with the goal of Oregon’s students having a 100% graduation or completion rate!

SKCE’s representative on this task force is one of our parent program directors—a Latina mom whose voice is critical to the process in identifying issues from a mother’s experience and all the mothers and fathers she works with. On November 21, SKCE staff recruited over 80 parents, 18 teens and cared for over 40 children! School board members, district leaders, even the superintendent came to watch and participate! They appreciated our contribution to this important work of the SIA committee.

Read more about SKCE’s work with the SSA and SIA.

The SKCE 2019 Fall Fundraiser is in Full Swing – Make Your Tax Deductible Donation Today!

Learn more about our recent activities and plans for this school year by reading our SKCE Fall Fundraiser page. Latino students do better in school when their parents are involved. Parents in SKCE Programs learn how to be effectively involved and help their children graduate. Parents learn how the school system works, how to work with teachers and other staff, and how important attendance and homework are.

Evaluations have shown that students whose parents have been involved in SKCE programs increase attendance, improve their grades and test scores, and graduate.

courtesy of Statesman Journal

Our programs serve parents with children from Preschool to Graduation, and we serve about 700 parents and children each year.

We need to raise $12,000 by the end of December.  You can help change the lives of hundreds of students this school year.

To learn more about how our programs help parents as the first teachers, mentors and coaches for their children, check out our Parent Organizing Project and Early Learning pages. To learn more about how our programs help parents become leaders at home, at school and in the community, check out our Leadership and Civic Engagement page.

Kaiser Permanente Partners with SKCE and Salem Keizer Public Schools to Tackle Chronic Absenteeism

“In 2018, Kaiser Permanente awarded more than $1 million in grants to five nonprofits and two school service districts in the Northwest. One of those partnerships involves the Salem/Keizer Coalition for Equality. The nonprofit utilizes funding support to provide workshops for Marion County Latino parents to encourage involvement in their child’s education while highlighting the importance of regular attendance.”

 

“The collective efforts supported by Kaiser Permanente to address absenteeism are making an impact. This year, 75% of Salem-Keizer Public Schools grew their attendance rates when comparing the 2017-18 to the 2018-19 school years. At the same time, more than 400 additional students are now considered to be regular attenders.”

 

Read the full article:

Another way to keep children from being absent: back-to-school medical checkups help keep Mid-Willamette Valley kids in school Why a wellness check is important to your child’s academic future

https://www.statesmanjournal.com/story/sponsor-story/kaiser-permanente/2019/08/01/back-school-medical-checkups-help-keep-mid-willamette-valley-kids-school/1815404001/

 

Back to school: Look what’s happening around the Salem Keizer School District!

a. Five Benchmarks Parents Should know

https://www.salemreporter.com/posts/1213/five-benchmarks-to-help-your-kid-succeed-in-school-this-year

b. Increase Mental Health Services, Dismantle Prejudice

https://www.statesmanjournal.com/story/news/education/2019/09/11/suicide-prevention-salem-keizer-schools-increase-mental-health-services-address-stigma/2013393001/

c. McKay’s August Graduates

https://www.salemreporter.com/posts/1253/august-push-at-mckay-means-more-graduates-for-class-of-2019

e. https://www.salemreporter.com/posts/1232/photos-salem-keizer-students-head-back-to-school

After SKCE Parent Leader Testimonies about Child Safety Concerns, School Board Adopts New Version of Safe and Welcoming Schools Resolution

The first Safe and Welcoming Schools Resolution 3 year ago was created directly because of work

on the Latino students’ and families’ behalf by SKCE.

Each year since, SKCE has worked with the Salem Keizer School Board and Superintendent Christy Perry to update the resolution.

The goal each year is to edit and reaffirm the Safe and Welcoming Schools Resolution so that it addresses issues current for the coming school year.

At June’s School Board meeting, SKCE Parent Leaders testified about concerns they have regarding their children’s safety. The two most pressing concerns were bullying due to racism and potential actions by immigration officials.

 

Parents talked to the school board again in August.

The passing of the 2019 adjusted and reaffirmed Safe and Welcoming Schools Resolution was announced at the August meeting.

 

This CCTV recording is of the August School Board work session and public meeting.

The School Board work session ends and the School Board public meeting with testimonies

begins at about 1 hour and 40 minutes.

 

 

On the Salem Keizer Public Schools website the announcement of the Safe and Welcoming Schools Resolution press release can be read. Spanish translation is also available – choose the word English in the upper right corner, and then from the dropdown menu, choose Spanish. The text of the resolution itself in English or Spanish can also be viewed.