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Last Updated: 04/12/2018


 Article of Interest - Cultural Issues

Latino parents' group honored for San Jose school's improvement
by Larry Slonaker, San Jose Mercury News, December 22, 2002
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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 participated.

Now, at the group's most recent meeting, about 150 parents showed up.

"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 Association.

"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 enthusiastic."

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 way.

"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 this year.

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 points.

One of the biggest successes that supporters point to is the increasing comfort level of parents in the community.

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