SCLPC Education Features

News

How One Innovative School District Has Closed
Gaps on Harder Common Core Tests

Emmanuel-Felton-Felton-CC-Wiseburn1-816x0-c-default
Octavio Gutierrez works with a group of students learning English, giving them a preview of what their fluent peers will learn later. Photo: Emmanuel Felton

(Hechinger Report – Emmanuel Felton – June 7, 2016)
With testing season starting up again, here’s a reminder of last year’s demoralizing news: Every California district and demographic group fared worse on the national Smarter Balanced tests, and the state’s already large test score gaps grew.

The results from those new Common Core tests – designed explicitly to look for the skills kids need in college, namely critical thinking, problem solving and analytical writing skills – have been held up as proof of the persistence of deep-seated disparities in the education provided to poor students and children of color.

But bright spots across the state could provide lessons for how California might do better in the future.

Wiseburn Unified School District in the South Bay region of Los Angeles County, for example, did a particularly good job preparing its low-income black students to compete with more affluent kids across the state. And its poor Hispanic students and students still learning English performed much better than similar kids statewide.
(Read more…)

Report: California Public Colleges Not Producing Enough STEM Degrees

DSC_0208(EdSource – Fermin Leal – June 13, 2016)  California’s public colleges and universities are failing to graduate enough students with degrees in health fields and the so-called STEM subjects — science, technology, engineering and math — to meet the state’s growing job demands, according to a new report.

The report by The Campaign for College Opportunity said California ranks near the bottom nationally in the rate of bachelor and associate degrees in those subjects at a time that it has far more STEM entry-level jobs than any other state.

“What’s pretty striking is that in spite of having the largest college and university systems in the nation, California is so far behind,” said Michele Siqueiros, president of the Campaign for College Opportunity, a nonprofit advocacy group focused on higher education. “This is the same state that invented the iPhone, and is home to Silicon Valley.”
(Read more…)

More than 150 Local Measures on June 7 Ballot

DSC_6955(League of CA Cities)  Based on election night counts with 100 percent of all precincts reporting, 70 of the 89 tax and bond measures have passed. Several others are too close to call. All majority vote city tax proposals passed except perhaps one: a one percent sales tax measure in Compton that currently is too close to call at 49.5 percent yes.

All seven school parcel tax measures passed and 41 out of 46 school bonds were approved. 


Free Year of College for LAUSD Grads
laccd students
LACCD Chancellor Francisco Rodriguez chats with students at East LA College.

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti recently announced a partnership between the City, LAUSD and the LA Community College District to provide a free year of community college for all LAUSD high school grads. The idea – an off-shoot of President Obama’s College Promise – will be funded by money the Mayor will raise along with support from an endowment LACCD will raise. More about the proposal here.

Community Colleges are increasingly becoming a first option for thousands of Latino high school graduates who either didn’t get into the UC or CSU system or can’t afford their tuition even if they got accepted. LACCD’s enrollment is more than 82% Latino, African-American or Asian.

Norwalk Councilman Leaves Post to Run Contract Cities

Big changes at Contract Cities Association – Sam Olivito, who’s run the organization for 34 years is stepping down and is already grooming the next executive director.

ShowImageMarcel Rodarte, who’s served on the Norwalk City Council since 2011, announced in early April he’s stepping in down from the Council to replace Olivito.

Contract Cities Association represents nearly 70 cities in the state who technically “contract out” their police and fire services.

Under state election laws, the Norwalk council has 60 days to decide whether to appoint a replacement for Rodarte, conduct a special election, or go with four officials until the next regular election, which is next March. More on this story here.

Letter to the Governor: Close the Achievement Gap
ryan smith
Smith was a panelist at the SoCa Latino Policy Center Forum at USC in 2014.

Ed-Trust West Executive Director Ryan Smith released an open letter to the Governor taking him to task for comments he made which appeared – certainly to Smith – to indicate the Governor is backing away from trying to make any progress on the growing educational achievement gap between white students and students of color. Smith writes:

“…you seem to provide a justification for the need for these gaps to exist. When asked about the goal to prepare all students for college and career, you remarked, “[do] you mean a career as a waiter? Do you mean a career as a window washer? Or do you mean something more elevated? Then who’s going to do all that other work that’s not elevated? Who does that? Or do we get robots for that?”

Brown’s comments were initially reported on a state news blog. He says closing the achievement gap wasn’t a goal of the Local Control Funding Formula (LACFF) initiative which dramatically changed how school districts are funded putting the onus on local school boards to decide how to spend their dollars.

Smith’s letter was published by EdSource. Read it here.

 

Straight Outta Compton to Coding

Lucio

by Erika Maldonado

Lucio Villa, 28, creates web pages, sites and apps as a news applications developer for Hoy, part of the Chicago Tribune Media Group. Working in both web development and in photojournalism, he said it was difficult to find other people like him. He and his team at Latino Techies are working to solve this with what they call the first tech network for millennials in Chicago. They have already hosted the first Latino hackathon and bilingual tech fair in the city.

“Growing up in Compton made me realize the lack of resources within school and outside of it,” said Villa. “I didn’t feel challenged in school. I wish there were more computer science courses offered and I wish they offered more AP courses for students like me to be challenged.”

Hackathons, not to be confused with groups like the elusive Anonymous group or last year’s Sony controversy, have been growing in popularity as a vehicle to provide useful solutions for improving quality of life. From Los Angeles to the White House, web developers, engineers and people lacking technical skills, but are active in their communities are coming together to create websites or apps for social good.

Sabio and the Southern California Latino Policy Center’s January hackathon aimed to serve the needs of residents of Southeast Los Angeles, including Villa’s family who still live in Compton. Winning participants  earned more than $5,000 in prizes for creating solutions for traffic and congestion, more transparency and accountability in local government and lack of accessible open spaces.

Lucio-photo3Prizes aside, Sabio co-founder Liliana Monge says participating in hackathons are great for networking, can boost your resume and even land you a job.

Villa, who proudly describes himself as a nerd growing up has worked to expose youth from underserved communities to technology and motivate their curiosity. Since there weren’t any courses available for him to take during his time at Compton Unified School District schools, let alone a hackathon, he taught himself by checking out books on C++ programming and HTML from the library.

“Being in both worlds of journalism and technology, there’s a lack of diversity,” said Villa. “My goal is always to empower students, people of color and especially Latinos.”

Villa, who will be returning to California this year to join the San Francisco Chronicle as an interactive producer, says gentrification could be another issue tackled at the hackathon. Creating a website that tracks how median income, home prices and development in neighborhoods over a period of time have changed could predict patterns to identify the next gentrified community.

“I am not a math/stats wiz,” Villa said. “But I can see how neighborhood and community organizers could use this data to prepare residents for possible rent increases and empower them to fight against the pressure of being displaced.” Villa hopes to continue sharing his skills on accessing public data and creating communities for people of color to share the endless opportunities and possibilities technology has to offer.

Dreamer Uses Tech to Hack Pursuit of Success

Xec-photo1

By Erika Maldonado

Aura Xec was 10 years old when she started school in the United States. English was as foreign to her as Los Angeles’ urban landscape. She was reunited with her parents who were in the States for three years and her last home was in a rural village in Guatemala where she lived with abusive relatives. She hadn’t been in a classroom for the past year. In order to help her connect with her new country, she turned to technology and spent hours watching English tutorial videos on YouTube.

“In Guate, we didn’t have anything,” Xec said. “Here technology is everywhere. I can practice my writing and look up a word I don’t know. It’s so much easier.”

Xec, who is now 18, knew that the way to improve herself was to focus on her education. She has met her requirements for graduation at Youthbuild Charter School in Los Angeles a semester early and will attend her commencement ceremony in spring. Her tech teacher Julia Mijango invited her and a few students to participate in a five-week coding class earlier this year, which sparked an interest for web development. She attended her first hackathon, WeHack/Southeast Cities, in January to learn more about ways to use coding to positively impact her community.

She wants to empower others to share their stories with personal websites.

Xec-photo3“By sharing your story, you help others realize that they’re not alone,” Xec said. “And that they have the power to change their situations.”

The Southern California Latino Policy Center and developer program, Sabio partnered with East LA College and surrounding cities to address issues such as affordable child care, lack of open space, health and public transportation that are plaguing the area.

“Sabio wants to expose Latinos, like Aura, to the vibrant world of tech because it is dynamic and fun,” said Sabio co-founder Liliana Monge. “Our Latino community must participate in this tech revolution to ensure its success.”

Attending hackathons geared for people like herself is the first step, Xec said. Her mission is to help people and the ever-changing landscape of the tech sector is what drew her to it. With a high school diploma just in reach, she looks to a future with endless possibilities. The mental and physical abuse by relatives who should have looked after her while her parents were in the U.S., she said, serve as a reminder that she proved them wrong.

“We cannot do anything about the past,” Xec said. “It’s up to us to change how we want to live. We can do anything if we try our best.”

Student Health = Student Success


With so much emphasis lately on test scores and teaching methods – it’s a good time to remind school officials there’s still one strategy for student academic success that has never failed – simply making sure kids get to school.

On a recent school day in Dianne Taylor’s fourth grade class at Compton Unified School Districts’s (CUSD) Foster Elementary, she engaged students on a conversation about their health, specifically, staying healthy when cold and flu season comes around. Just like every other school in Southern California, when one student gets sick others always follow.

“What kind of things do we do when we get sick?” she asked the class. “You should drink lots of water,” one student offered. “Eat your fruits and vegetables,” said another. “What about washing our hands?” Mrs. Taylor suggested.

In fact, doctors and health professionals have long maintained the importance of good hygiene habits such as keeping hands clean, particularly in closed settings like classrooms, as a way to prevent the spread of germs and not getting sick.

“Whatever we touch we get germs,” says Mrs. Taylor. “And if we don’t clean our hands with soap and water or with sanitizer we can spread those germs everywhere. And if those germs spread then students get sick. And if they get sick then they can’t learn because they won’t be in school.”

“It’s very important that schools and households as well, have hand-washing techniques in place and easily accessible,” says Dr. Raj Dasgupta, pediatrician at St. John’s Well Family and Child Center. “Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a useful alternative.” Dr. Dasgupta also says making sure students know how to wash their hands properly is just as important.

Foster Elementary School Principal Jessicka Mears says they work closely with parents to keep students healthy and in school. “As the seasons change students begin to get sick and we try to minimize that. We communicate with home by suggesting things they can do at home. Here at school we encourage the students to drink lots of water, to wash their hands frequently and make sure they keep their germs to themselves.”

That’s why Compton Unified Board Member Micah Ali says the district’s partnership with Gojo Industries, makers of Purell hand sanitizer, has been effective. “We believe that Purell is a preventative measure where students can utilize hand sanitizer to zap those little cooties and make certain they are in their seats and ready to learn each day.”

The company installed hand sanitizers in several CUSD schools at no cost to the District, as part of a unique student hygiene project designed to help keep students healthy and in school.

“Compton is kind of an iconic place and there’s been such a turnaround story here,” says John DePace, a Gojo Industries spokesman. “We just thought they would be good partners. They were willing to invest their time, we were willing to invest our resources.”

The turnaround DePace is referring to is the recent academic success of the district on a national level in addition to higher test scores, graduation rates and college placement. John Brassfield, Jr. says he supports the project and advocates the clean-hands strategy at home with his grandson, a first-grader at Foster.

“We try to tell him, if another kid has a runny nose, stay way, and if they do (get close) wash your hands. Anything you touch, a pencil, door knob, chair, there’s germs there.”

Ramon Castro, another parent added: “I work in the medical field so I teach them the importance of hand washing. We don’t send our kids to school when they’re sick and don’t want them anywhere near sick kids as well.”

“We have hand sanitizer stations in every building,” says Principal Mears. “It’s available for all of our parents and scholars and staff. We encourage the students to use it before recess, before and after lunch. And it’s a great benefit to reach our goal of having every child at school every day.”

Rethinking Family Engagement for Successful Learning

By Erika Maldonado
For the Latino Policy Connection

5452085The power of parent engagement and the impact it has on a student’s academic success has rid doubt of even the most skeptic. But the debate about effective parent engagement strategies – even about what constitutes parent engagement – continues to divide.

Through our research and interviews we have come to some conclusions we hope will be useful to education policymakers in this region. We’ve learned that in order to be effective, Parent Engagement should:

  • Be adequately funded
  • Provide training for all staff
  • Promote awareness of what schools need
  • Effectively engage families with culturally appropriate outreach
  • Engage parents over the course of the year – no more one-offs!

Funding and Training
More frequent participation beyond a workshop once a year or an occasional parent-teacher meeting is what organizations such as Families in Schools, FIS, champion. Though the funding needed for resources and training may seem like an initial barrier to school districts, FIS President and CEO Oscar Cruz says it is a matter of prioritizing.

Cruz“There is a huge mismanagement of investment versus resources when you look at parent engagement programs for schools,” Cruz said. “At best, schools are using one percent of Title I money, but if we want to increase parent engagement, that has to change.”

The Azusa Unified School District Board approved FIS’ program last month, which includes training workshops for all school staff in order to improve communication and engagement with parents.

“It really does take a village,” said Azusa Unified School District Board President Yolanda Rodriguez-Peña. “From the board members, family members, teachers and even cafeteria workers, we are all a team and we need to stay that way if we want our kids to succeed.”

Rodriguez-Peña says the funds are currently available and that Azusa Unified is implementing the family and school program after voting to approve it last month.

Parent centers were established throughout the Azusa district to connect families with student’s progress, with furniture donated by families, including Rodriguez-Pena. She says it provides a sense of ownership and a welcoming space for family engagement.

Academic and Cultural Relevance
In order to be effective, parent and family engagement must be culturally relevant to parents. This means meeting the specific needs of each school’s parent “community.” Implementing the Latino Family Literacy Project throughout the Culver City Unified School District, for example, looks different for each school site, said English Language Development Specialist Claudia Benitez. The project encourages family reading that is tailored for preschool, elementary and middle and high school with up to 10 sessions throughout the school year.

4292117“It starts with a welcoming environment,” Benitez said. “Being able to support parents and students so that they know they’re not alone with concerns and questions they may have will encourage them to be more involved.”

For Pomona Unified School District Board Member Frank Guzman, it meant starting a bi-weekly family support group, modeled as round table discussion where parents share advice and address concerns.

“In order to get results, you have to be a person of action,” said Guzman. “We are in the business of educating students. How can we do that without engaging their parents? We’re also empowering families to educate themselves.”

FIS’s Cruz agrees. That is the one thing preventing many parents from engaging with their child’s school beyond just picking up and dropping them off. “Many parents don’t feel like the school belongs to them. They don’t feel empowered. They feel pushed out.”

Having teachers who live within the communities they teach will provide deeper connections with students and enrich learning. Other methods such as providing a translator for school meetings and alternating meetings times in mornings, afternoons and evenings to accommodate working parents are a few solutions Benitez from Culver City Unified found to be effective. With more control being given to schools on how money is spent, inviting parents, students and community members to have a voice in decision-making will foster more inclusion.

4860739_origFrequency of Interaction
An approach that fosters constant interaction rather than a once a year parent conference is considered optimal by educators such as Maria Paredes, Director of Community Education at Creighton School District in Arizona.

The FIS director cited Paredes’ model as a good example of a welcoming space where parents can establish familiarity with teachers and other parents. Cruz believes that a collaborative approach to education is crucial.

“When you talk about parent engagement—It’s perceived as what parents are not doing,” Cruz said. “It’s more about what are the roles and capacity of the schools? And how can they work together?”

More Parent Engagement Resources can be found at:
Attendance Works
Abriendo Puertas
Univision’s Clave al Exito

Erika Maldonado serves as a programs associate at The Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California where she manages social media and oversees the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times poll series along with supporting daily operations. She is a Journalism graduate from San Francisco State University.

Political Savvy Always Trumps Insults

SoCa Latino Policymakers Respond to Candidate’s Inflammatory Comments

TrumpEditor’s Note:
As our Board President explained in his blog this month, our feature article for October focuses on what we’re calling the Trump Effect – the impact the millionaire presidential candidate has had not only on the national campaign but also in re-framing the national debate about immigration, and inevitably, about Latinos.

trump pinataWe’re focusing on Trump’s comments because they go beyond presidential campaign politics and party issues. They speak to a persistent theme in presidential campaigns – the scapegoat – this time around it’s us – again. How this will impact his campaign and the race itself is a dynamic we are all watching closely, as evidenced by the comments we are publishing.

Writer Bill Britt posed a series of questions to a broad cross section of Latino policymakers from this region. We reached out men, women, Democrats, Republicans, council members, school board members, community college trustees and even a couple of members of Congress. Not everyone responded but we are grateful to those who did.

Victor Abalos
Executive Director

Our panel (in alphabetical order):

  • Luis Ayala, Mayor, City of Alhambra
  • Sylvia Ballin, Vice-Mayor, City of San Fernando
  • Miguel Canales, Mayor, City of Artesia
  • Cecilia “Ceci” Iglesias, Board Vice President, Santa Ana Unified SD
  • Cristian Markovich, Mayor, City of Cudahy
  • Michele Martinez, Council Member, City of Santa Ana
  • Manuel Perez, Council Member, City of Coachella
  • Linda T. Sanchez, U.S. Representative (CA-38)
  • Tony Vazquez, Mayor Pro Tem, City of Santa Monica
  • Aurora R. Villon, Ed.D., Board President, El Rancho Unified SD
Donald Trump is one of the most prominent newsmakers in the race for the White House. What impact has his campaign had on the Latino community?

Dr VillonAurora Villon, Ed.D.
President, El Rancho Unified SD
He’s great for the working people who are making money selling Donald Trump piñatas. On a serious note, [he’s] done something that has never been done before.  Through his racist messages he has captured the attentions of all Latinos as well as mainstream America.  He is the ‘ugly’ American everyone wants to ignore but cannot stop listening to.  Trump has done wonders in uniting Latinos.  The thing Latinos don’t seem to realize is that what [he’s] saying is no different [from] what politicians have been doing throughout history – treating our people as second class citizens and a burden to society.  The difference between other politicians and Trump is that Trump is dumb enough to say what he thinks while others are masters in hiding their true feelings and intentions.

 

linda sanchezRep. Linda T. Sanchez
38th Congressional District
The Latino community is engaged and we are ready to make sure our voices are heard on Election Day. We’re tired of the anti-immigrant, anti-Latino rhetoric coming out of the Republican Party.  In Los Angeles, and in other cities across the country, you see Donald Trump piñatas selling out. Every young child who takes a whack at a Trump piñata is another future voter in a generation of Latino voters that the Republican Party has alienated, and potentially lost for life. 
But, the challenge for the Latino community is to turn our numbers into real political influence. We have already seen a big push by many groups to increase Latino voter registration – especially by helping those eligible for citizenship to become U.S. citizens. Of the 8.8 million legal immigrants eligible to become citizens, about 5.4 million are Latino. I am on a personal vendetta to get every Latino I know fired up, registered to vote and ready to cast a ballot in every election. We can’t sit on the sidelines just hoping things will get better.

 

tony vazquezTony Vazquez
Mayor Pro Tem, City of Santa Monica
I think he’s going to have a positive effect, but not for himself. I’m hoping he’ll turn out the Latino vote for us like Governor Pete Wilson did for us here in California. Wilson was the champion of Proposition 187, which basically tried to take rights away from immigrants both documented and undocumented. It turned out the Latino vote in huge numbers, but not for him. I think Trump is headed in the same direction with his really ridiculous statements.

 

 

ManuelPerez

Manuel Perez
Mayor Pro Tem, City of Coachella
I look at this as an opportunity for Latinos to seize the moment. It’s time that the sleepy brown giant awakens. I think this will galvanize Latinos to educate themselves, register themselves, organize themselves, mobilize and eventually go out and vote and / or run for office.

 

michele 2Michele Martinez
Councilmember, City of Santa Ana
In many respects it’s creating a positive effect for getting the Latino community to come out to vote and voice their opinion on how someone like Trump can be so disrespectful towards Mexicans. I think people now are awake and observing and paying attention to politics.

 

 

LuisLuis Ayala
Mayor, City of Alhambra
It’s sort of an awakening in a political sense to not get Trump elected, but it’s also creating an incentive for more political activism in the Latino community. He’s creating some good discussions as to what is important to us in a Presidential candidate.

 

 

Canales, MiguelMiguel Canales:
Mayor, City of Artesia
What surprises me more than anything is the hatefulness. [He] keeps saying he’s not politically correct. No he’s not, but he’s just not nice. He’s a jerk. He’s being a bully in a society where we’re trying to teach our kids not to be bullies. You don’t have to be politically correct, but be kind. I guarantee you the words he’s using won’t be forgotten. Once people are motivated, they do show up for elections.

 

Sylvia Ballin
Mayor Pro Tem, City of San Fernando
He is uniting our community. We will not empower/elect an egotistical, prejudiced, self-absorbed man who clearly lacks education on the importance of holding the office of President. He is divisive, verbally abusive, and clearly too comfortable attacking women. He does not understand one of the most important words in the Latino community, ‘respect.’ The majority of the Latino community I’ve spoken to consider him a loser and loose cannon capable of launching World War III because of his lack of knowledge of the real important issues and diplomacy. I want to see his birth certificate. Is he really a citizen?

 

cristian markovichCristian Markovich
Mayor, City of Cudahy
Donald Trump’s campaign I believe has really mobilized the Latino community on both sides of the aisle. The vitriol he spouts offers no substance or solutions to the issues that this country faces nor does he make an effort to have a civilized conversation with well- respected members of the Latino community. So much so that ‘Donald Trump’ has become a personal insult that some use.

 

Cecilia Iglesias

 

Cecilia “Ceci” Iglesias
Board Vice President, Santa Ana Unified SD
Donald trump is energizing Latinos to become citizens and register to vote. He is also making the uninformed voter resent the Republican Party.

 

 


What must any Presidential candidate do to win the Latino vote?

 

latino voters

Rep. Linda T. Sanchez
I have said for a long time now – Latino voters care about more than just immigration. Immigration is an important issue to our community but we also care about jobs and economic opportunities, college affordability and vocational training, a clean environment, affordable health care, retirement security – things that all working Americans care about. Our community is looking for a Presidential candidate who respects us and lays out a vision to help hardworking families and grow the middle class.  And I think there is a clear contrast in the message you hear coming from the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.

 Cecelia “Ceci” Iglesias
In order to get the Latino vote a candidate needs to speak to the heart. [Their] tone has to be humble [and they should be] compassionate in their speech. Focus on the American Dream.

Dr. Aurora Villon
Have big ears, a tender heart, and a humble spirit:  Big ears to listen to the many issues impacting and marginalizing Latinos.  Politicians claim to understand the Latino community but how can they understand us when we only become visible when they want our vote?  A tender heart to understand the hardships our people have endured and are still enduring.  We are a proud people who have migrated to this country to give our best and not to take away from anyone.  The economy of this country would not survive without the Latino market and the Latino workforce. A humble spirit of servitude and compassion.  How can a leader lead if he/she does not have an understanding of the people who have placed him/her in a leadership position? The same Latinos who carried flags and protested injustices in the 60’s and 70’s are now doctors, educators, businessmen/women, lawyers and still fighting for the same things that were important back then…equality, social justice, humane treatment, and the right to be treated with respect, dignity, and as equal citizens of this beautiful country.

Manuel Perez
Policy is critical, but when we think about policy and the Latino vote, we usually only discuss immigration policy. We also care about jobs, about making sure they can pay our bills, about manufacturing going away to other countries. And they need to have compassion. It’s not just about them. It’s not just about selfish power. It’s about empowering others. Those are pieces of an essential puzzle that needs to be considered. I’ve had to [remember that] a few times. Not as a Presidential candidate but in my own way.

Michele Martinez
I think Latinos across the country are realizing it’s not about being Republican or Democrat. This is a perfect opportunity for the Latino community to unite and not talk about partisan politics, but instead making sure that what we stand for, our values, our family, our work, that we find a candidate will to put that at the forefront and respect the Latino community with integrity. That’s the kind of candidate we’re looking for.

Luis Ayala
We all care about moving this country forward and creating opportunities for everyone. Just because we’re becoming a majority doesn’t mean that we care about issues that are different from anyone else’s. And because we tend to be at a lower income, we tend to be in college significantly less than the mainstream. I think a candidate would be successful by talking about those realities and paving a path that would create opportunities and policies that will get us there.

Cristian Markovich
The Latino vote isn’t ‘won,’ it is earned.


Is there a Presidential candidate who best represents the interests of Latino voters?

Cruz Rubio

Manuel Perez
I know the names that pop up are [Ted] Cruz and [Marco] Rubio because of their Latino surnames. Jeb Bush because he’s married to a Mexican American. But honestly I haven’t felt that there’s been a genuine effort yet from any one of these candidates. Of the Democrats, I’m leaning towards Bernie [Sanders] because I like the fact that he’s talking about [economic and social] inequities. Individuals usually don’t [talk about those issues] when they’re running for office. It’s tougher to speak to those truths. I love Hillary but she’s got a battle right now because of her email problems.

Luis Ayala
Among the Republicans? No. I don’t think there’s anyone that fits all the qualifications to lead us, based on my convictions. If I were to vote today, Hillary Clinton fits that bill, and to an extent, Bernie Sanders.

Dr. Aurora Villon
Republicans? Bush and Rubio. Democrats? None.

Cecelia “Ceci” Iglesias
Republicans: Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush.

Michele Martinez
We have the same values and interests as everyone else. I think Jeb Bush understands that. As does Bernie Saunders and Hillary Clinton. Those three, in my opinion, understand that the Latino issues are the American issues and the need to bring 55-million people into the fabric of America and not exclude them or label them. My ideal Presidential dream ticket would be Hillary Clinton and Bernie Saunders, but I love Jeb Bush! That’s my problem! I like all three equally. Now that I think more about it, I’ll go with Hillary and Elizabeth Warren. That’s never gonna happen!

Rep. Linda T. Sanchez
I think President Tom Perez and Vice President Linda Sánchez has a nice ring to it. In all seriousness, I would love to see the day when we have our first Latino or Latina President of the United States.

Latino Political Consultants Struggle to Lead High Profile Campaigns


DSC_6931If anything was proven in the last few elections it is the fact that the Latino vote can decide it all. And even though the official 2016 race for the Presidency hasn’t started yet, we are watching many candidates try to gain favor with Latinos through a variety of strategies. In the case of Donald Trump, connecting with Latinos doesn’t appear be a priority, but most of the other candidates are using immigration, jobs, education and even foreign policy to engage Latinos.

The average voters may not notice or care, but those of us who follow these campaigns closely are very curious about who is shaping Latino strategies for the national campaigns. There is one inescapable fact: Very few of those charged with connecting with Latino voters are Latino.

i-mike-madridMike Madrid is a veteran of national political campaigns and sits on the Board of the American Association of Political Consultants. “We believe that if you hire people that understand the community and the culture, the language, the issues, and can communicate and speak to people in the community, we can use that as a way to increase civic participation and turnout among Latino voters.” Madrid, and some of the handful of Latinos active in the AAPC, are launching an ambitious plan to increase the numbers of Latino political consultants by promoting regional forums in cities like Los Angeles. The AAPC is a “white boy’s club,” admits Madrid but that can, and has to, change.

unnamedWith almost two decades of experience, Silissa Uriarte-Smith says that in the specialized business of political consulting, networking across the race and gender spectrum is necessary to survive. “I straddle both worlds really well, meaning the white world and the Latino world, so a lot of my mentors are white and they taught me the job,” Uriarte-Smith states. She is not an AAPC member, but in her opinion it is imperative to conduct research on the Latino presence in the consulting business in order to empower young people, especially women.

Madrid and Uriarte-Smith are proof of the success that Latinos can achieve as political consultants, and both agree that mentoring is essential; perhaps at its regional forums the AACP could offer training seminars for young Latinos so as to stimulate that greater grassroots political participation that their communities need.

DSC_6955Madrid is working with other Latino consultants to organize a gathering this fall or early next year to gather Southern California Latino political consultants together for panels and workshops focused on professional development and to generate conversations designed to get more Latino political consultants into mainstream political campaigns.

by Guadalupe Vicón

Policymakers Aim to Bring Technology into Classrooms and “Leave No Child Offline.”

By Bill Britt
Latino Policy Connection Contributing Writer

5VD_0140When it comes to finding different ways to get technology into more California schools, Dr. Darryl Adams should be regarded as a pioneer. As the superintendent of schools for the Coachella Valley Unified School District, Adams heads up one of the poorest school districts in the nation but he relies on a toolbox of rich ideas.

“I kind of consider myself the messenger for the movement of a 21st Century education,” he said, just moments after sharing his message with attendees at the Latino Policy Forum’s “21st Century Cities and Schools” on the campus at Cal State LA where he repeated his favorite mantra: “It’s time to leave no child offline, as opposed to leaving no child behind, because if we don’t have them connected we surely will leave them behind.”

AVV_5391Adams, along with Dr. Vanitha Chandrasekhar, the Education Technology Coordinator for the Long Beach USD and Rancho Minerva Middle School principal Ben Gaines from the Vista USD were panelists for the Forum’s “Wired Schools” workshop, a 90-minute show-and-share discussion about using new technologies to approve academic achievement.

“One of the biggest things we have to realize,” Chandrasekhar said, “is students today are digital natives. They’ve been born and brought up with technology and they’re used to it. We need to give them the ability to use it effectively for their own learning.”

Coachella landed in the national spotlight when President Obama singled it out at last year’s White House ConnectEd Conference, which seeks to empower classrooms with technology and connect all students to high-speed Internet. Adams, who had been invited to the event by the President, was more than delighted to hear Obama heap praise on his school district’s plan to expand internet access to Coachella’s east valley with Wi-Fi routers mounted on school buses.

AVV_5591“This is really smart,” Obama said at the time. “You’ve got underutilized resources — buses in the evening — so you put the routers on, disperse them, and suddenly everybody is connected. Now it’s not just students who can get online. It’s their families as well.”

Chandrasekhar says that type of success comes from having a plan. “When we just bring the technology in, put it in the classrooms without any support, without any training or purpose it sits there and it’s not as effective as it could be.”

5VD_0005Coachella’s planning stage resulted in the district’s Educational Technology Division. After all, Adams explains, “We have information technology [IT] support, but you’ll need educational technology support for teachers. You’ll want to cross-train your IT and Ed Tech teams and have them work with teachers and administrators. That cuts down on a lot of despair and people not being certain about what they’re doing.”

And according to Adams, there was no despair among educators who’ve been teaching long enough to literally be referred to as Old School. “We have a teacher certification program in educational technology called the Samari Program to help train teachers on how to transfer to a 21st century style [of teaching.] We’re very excited to see that everyone is willing to make the change.”

AVV_5921Forum attendee Liliana Monge is a co-founder of Sabio, LA, an innovative developer training program aimed at attracting women and people of color. She’s hoping Adams’ road to success will be well-traveled by policymakers eager to follow his lead.

“Everyone has to finally contend with this tech elephant in the room. We no longer have the ability to say technology is something that’s optional. It’s not. I told Dr. Adams that he’s been to the promised land. He knows it’s real and he’s going to help all of us get there. And that’s what we all need to aspire to.”

 

Coachella Valley Unified School District is using technology to change the classroom and student’s lives. Watch their video:

 

From Activist to Policymaker: Now What?

by Bill Britt
The Latino Policy Connection

AR-302099951“I still consider myself an activist.”

Oscar Magaña – Mayor, City of Maywood

Self-proclaimed community activist Oscar Magaña didn’t expect to lose friends when he won a seat on the Maywood City Council in 2011, but that’s exactly what happened when some of the people who encouraged him to run realized he wasn’t going to deliver for them.

“My transition into office was probably more difficult for them than it was for me. There are people who knocked on doors for me who don’t talk to me today because they wanted a favor or something that I knew, morally, I wasn’t going to do.”

That’s the first splash of ice-cold reality that typically hits newly-elected policymakers. The second and far more harsh awakening is the realization that they’re now part of an organization that functions with a specific set of rules. They’re reluctant to admit they don’t know what those rules are, let alone understand them. Which is why they should take a few cues from predecessors like Magaña, who didn’t hesitate to ask for help the moment he achieved the status of Insider. “I formed a relationship with people I could trust, who’ve been in office much longer than I have,” he says. “I looked to people like Aide Castro for advice.”

images“You can’t be on the dais protesting.”

Aide Castro – Councilmember, City of Lynwood

 

Aide Castro, elected to the Lynwood City Council in 2007, has been around long enough to recognize the pitfalls of former activists who are more accustomed to confrontation than compromise. “If you learn the rules for addressing your colleagues and understand protocol, you can still push an agenda but you can’t be on the dais protesting at city council meetings.”

“I can see where she’s going with this, regarding certain people who continue to be combative,” says Huntington Park Mayor Karina Macias, who’s been Mayor for the past two months and a City Council Member since 2012. “I always extended an olive branch and showed up with an open mind. But I wasn’t going to vote ‘yes’ on council matters for the sake of voting ‘yes.’ I stood my ground on issues that I knew were important to the community at that time.” In fact, she says her early years were mirror images of Magaña’s experiences. “I lost a few friends as well. I sat down with a constituent who actually did not want me to associate with another council member and I said, ‘Look. She’s my colleague. I have to talk to her!’”

karina-macias-headshot-635359388252556000

“I always extended an olive branch…”

Karina Macias – Mayor, City of Huntington Park

 

Based on council member Castro’s observations over the years, Mayor Macias’ willingness to engage is a welcome exception to the norm. According to Castro, there’s “a trust issue among the elected and the staff,” but the first people newly-electeds should trust are city managers. She doesn’t mince words when asked to explain the importance of city mangers to new officer-holders.

“If you go to your city managers, or at least get them on the phone once a week and ask questions before the next city council meeting, you can avoid spending time on the dais asking those questions. You think you sound smart, but you don’t. You’re just frustrating the hell out of everyone else who’s there trying to get things done.”

tn-blr-south-gate-gives-flad-215000-contract-2-001Mike Flad, the City Manager for South Gate, has an administrative career that dates back 30 years, mostly with the city of Burbank. “I’ve put in 50 to 60 hours a week for decades, and I’ve seen everyone benefit when newly-elected people meet with city managers on a regular basis. “Let’s say you want to reduce unemployment and you believe building an employment center in your community would be a huge step in that direction. It’s totally appropriate to go to your city manager and ask, ‘How do I get there as a council member? Where do I start?’”

imgres-1Castro suggests they start with their own staff. “Discuss your idea with them and have them gather all the research. Then, go to your city manager and explain that you want to put it on the council’s agenda. Your staff’s recommendation will state that you’re either agreeing with it, or you’re asking for the council’s direction. This way, when you go to council meetings you’re presenting solutions rather than complaining about problems.”  

“I saw all the arguing going on before I was elected and I didn’t like it,” says council member Magaña. “While some people were saying I was too young and inexperienced for office, they didn’t realize I planned on being the most mature person there. If I took office and started arguing with people and not listening to others, they would’ve said, ‘See! He’s too young and inexperienced!'”

That’s not to say he arrived with the air of a soothing diplomat. “At first it was a little difficult understanding there are certain things you can’t say as an elected official because you represent the entire community.” He also learned some of the rules and protocol during his activist years, but he admits “there was a lot of trial and error involved” when he got into office.

Oscar-Magaña-en-una-escuela-561x375Ironically, Magaña’s first year was complicated by a compliment. “I was appointed Vice Mayor by my colleagues. My second and third year they appointed me Mayor.” City Manager Flad explains why that’s a complicated twist for new office-holders. “There’s a difference between attending a meeting and running a meeting. When you’re a council member you’re focused on the issue. When you’re the mayor you’re responsible for making sure the process that’s followed is going to be legally binding, and you’re trying to advocate your own position while you’re doing that.”

“Most newly-elected officials have never helped run an organization with a 100-million dollar budget and several hundred employees.” And as Flad points out, when that organization is a city, the smallest misstep can derail the best-laid plans. “You have to make sure the procedure is done right so that new law you’ve just created isn’t thrown out because you didn’t follow the rules.”

Says Flad, “city managers can explain those rules for you. Getting elected requires one set of skills. Governing requires another. There’s a lot of knowledge out there that needs to be shared.”