parents' group honored for San Jose school's improvement
by Larry Slonaker, San Jose Mercury News, December 22,
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SAN JOSE - A tiny parents' group in a tiny school district
recently has been receiving some big awards.
Padres con Poder (Parents With Power) started in 1993 in the
one-school Luther Burbank School District, in an effort to
involve Spanish-speaking parents in their children's
education. In the beginning, only about 20 parents
Now, at the group's most recent meeting, about 150 parents
"It's very successful. It's phenomenal," said Yvonne Cook, a
trustee of the Oak Grove School District. Cook was chairwoman
of the panel that selected Padres con Poder to receive an
"Exemplary Program Award" in October at the Santa Clara County
School Boards Association annual awards dinner.
On Dec. 6, the group received statewide recognition, the
"Golden Bell" award from the California School Boards
"Lots of schools have programs like this, but what this one
shows is, a good program works," Cook said. "It just takes
working closely with the parents and keeping them
The group was formed because a basic need of education,- the
involvement of parents, was not being met by the
Spanish-speaking population in the central San Jose district,
said Blanca Diaz, an original member of Padres con Poder and
now a district trustee.
The lack of involvement posed a major problem, because about
75 percent of Burbank's 450 students are Latino. But because
information on the school suddenly was available in Spanish,
Diaz said, some of the reluctance and wariness started to give
"It's our responsibilities as parents not to leave the school
and teachers by themselves, but also help them at home with
our kids," she said. "Realizing we didn't need to speak
English in order for us to help, that was a big thing."
The organization started with several goals for
Spanish-speaking students, including increasing attendance and
the number of honor-roll students, and reducing discipline
referrals. Progress has been recorded on every level. For
example, the number of honor roll students went from a range
of zero to three per class in 1993 to five to eight per class
At the same time, the number of discipline referrals dropped
from 735 a year to 107 in the last school year.
In the most recent results of the state Academic Performance
Index, Burbank exceeded its 14-point growth target by 66
One of the biggest successes that supporters point to is the
increasing comfort level of parents in the community.