By: Dulce Galicia
Community Engagement and Advocacy Lead // Building Blocks for Kids Richmond Collaborative
I came from a working class family with parents from Mexico. I attended public schools in San Francisco and my parents made their best effort to send me to college! Thanks to them, I graduated. My father and I would sit on the kitchen table with an abacus doing addition and subtraction. Although my parents weren’t always able to help me answer all the questions, they were involved and cared deeply about my future. It made a big difference.
The Education Trust West gave the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) an F on its California District Report Cards. That is where I live and a community I care about. In this district, 48% of the students are Latino and 23% African American. The statistics are concerning and the organization I work for – BBK Richmond – decided to do something about it.
I work with parents at three school sites in the WCCUSD equipping them with tools to be successful advocates for their children. I teach parents how to file a complaint, how to set meetings with school administration, where to find answers in the Ed Code and how to document the things they see. I have seen parents run with the tools we gave them. They are empowered because they now understand how the system works.
For example, a parent made a school wide announcement about the abnormally high suspension rates at her school. She collected 98 signatures and while doing so, the principal called the police on the parent, but was able to resolve the issue and parents saw suspension rates reduce. Latino parents engaged in a dialogue with an African American principal to have a common understanding of one another and to create a line of communication so that Latino parents felt welcomed at the school site as well.
I also saw the power of partnering with the school District. I worked with school staff to bring a series of trainings to each school site. Some principals were apprehensive of the training modules which included topics about leadership, communication and team building, but I think they were more uneasy about the information that parents would receive. Imagine a parent at a title 1 school asking about test scores, a school budget, construction progress, suspension rates! Parents were instructed to support their children on improving their own report card, and parents were left out of the equation in helping improve the district’s report card.
The truth is that BBK parents are courageous, positive and fearless leaders. Over the last year, parents held a leadership position at all three BBK target schools, had over 20 persuasive conversations, cross collaborated with each other’s school sites, shared best practices on organizing and solved 5 school site issues. Our parents are labeled “BBK parents” by school administrators and I am convinced that what our partners in the district really mean every time they say BBK parents are Brave, Bargaining Kinfolk.
Parent leadership and engagement makes a lasting impact. I have seen this firsthand. We must continue to invest in parent engagement and leadership at all schools.
I want our school district to receive an A, not an F. With strong parental leadership, I know that it is possible.
To learn more about the District report cards: http://reportcards.edtrustwest.org/district-data?county=Contra+Costa&district=West+Contra+Costa+Unified&report_year=2010