School Board Member Encourages Hispanic Parents to Meet Often

by Zulma Martinez

Ana Sol Gutierrez, a member of the Montgomery County Board of Education, was the presenter at a recent Hispanic parent meeting in Blair. The purpose of this meeting was to let the parents know how important it is for them to get involved with their children's school needs.

There are many things the parents do not know about the school system, things like the senior year of their child, how they can apply for financial aid or about the school counselors. One parent asked, "I don't understand why my child is taking Algebra 1 when he is supposed to take Algebra 2."

"The job of the counselors is to inform the parents about why some Hispanic students are taking lower classes. But the counselor has the key to help them or they can hurt them," Mrs. Gutierrez answered. Also she added that we should not think that Hispanic students cannot learn. "They are smart because they are bilingual and the only things they have to do is work hard," she said.

Mr. Fernando Moreno, a Hispanic ESOL counselor who was also at the meeting said, "This meeting was very productive. Mrs. Guitierrez is a very charismatic woman and the open discussion helped the parents to understand about Blair's system."

According to Ms. Gutierrez the most important thing the parents must do is to meet regularly, "If they do so they can know what is happening." Montgomery Blair has such a large number of Hispanic students. "It so sad that their parents don't have a meeting more often and don't show up at the meeting," Mrs. Gutierrez said.

Some high schools with large ESOL populations have a special person whose job is to help parents with school problems. Nivea Berrios, a former Blair teacher is now a Parent Outreach Teacher for Springbrook High School and other nearby schools. "To have a successful meeting, it is important that the person who is conducting the meeting to have close communication with the students." Also, she added, "You don't have to know the language of the parents to conduct the meeting."

Even though Blair has the most ESOL students, it doesn't have a parent outreach teacher like Springbrook and other schools do. According to Ms. Maria Malagon, the director of the ESOL/ Bilingual Programs, "The system does not have enough resources to assign staff to Blair." Some elementary schools have a person in the building to do parent outreach including the coordination of meetings. Mrs. Malagon added, "It is my hope to include Blair as one of the clusters to be served by a parent outreach teacher. We are in the process of trying to negotiate that," she said.

Copyright © 1998, Silver International, Montgomery Blair H.S., Silver Spring, MD USA

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