SCLPC Opinions


Latino Community Can’t Afford To Be Left Out Of Cannabis Industry Opportunities

By:  Phil Reyes

After a slow start, the momentum is now building for the medical cannabis industry to emerge from the shadows.  After decades of demonizing our communities’ natural remedy, a series of measures (most recently the passage of SB94, comprehensive cannabis regulations) are a game changer that will provide good jobs, and substantial revenue.  This is a generational opportunity that Latino communities cannot afford to slip by.

The law now provides substantial public safety safeguards, such as making it a felony to supply cannabis to minors.  It allows patients access to a safe and more effective alternative to opioids.  And it provides business opportunities, jobs, and a stream of revenue for our communities.

Compliance with local laws is required for businesses to acquire a state license in 2018.  Latino communities in front are taking steps to identify green zones, adopt ordinances, and screen for responsible businesses to provide jobs for their communities and to capture their market share of revenue!  Municipalities that do not act NOW will be left behind.

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for communities of color to move up in the economic ladder and to create wealth. Let’s not let down our Latino communities!! 


Phil Reyes has over thirty years of professional and public affairs experience with a proven record of strong leadership.  Phil recently launched a new LLC, Professional Organic Solutions / POS, which specializes in assisting municipalities and the cannabis industry in facilitating through the entitlement process.


Pepperdine Offers Intensive Workshop on Public Engagement for Local Government

By:  Ashley Trim

In these times of endemic mistrust of government (and all institutions for that matter), local governments are finding that well planned and executed public engagement helps communities come together for civic improvement. Public engagement is not a fad, buzz phrase or government jargon. It is a movement that is gaining momentum from experiences throughout California and beyond.

But there is often a gap between how today’s local leaders were prepared in their undergraduate and graduate programs and what they actually need to lead in this “new normal.”

At a Pepperdine conference several years ago, a former Los Angeles-area planning director noted, “We (in the planning department) always put people up in front of the public who are the least prepared to be there.”

She was not suggesting that her planners had not been well trained in their policy or planning schools; rather, she was acknowledging that in some ways their very immersion in the field of planning had left them unprepared to explain technical issues in a nontechnical way or to collaborate with residents who may have priorities beyond that field of expertise.

That is why this summer the Pepperdine University School of Public Policy and the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership are teaming this summer to offer a first-of-its-kind Professional Certificate in Advanced Public Engagement for Local Government.

From July 28-30, mid-career professionals will be prepared to lead a publicly-engaged organization by gaining a deep understanding of the context, purpose, and best practices for engaging residents in the decisions that affect their lives and communities.

In workshops led by former city managers, thought leaders in civic engagement, and School of Public Policy faculty, this inaugural cohort will explore questions like:

  • How has public engagement been practiced in the past, and why is it so important in this moment in history?
  • What are the roles of local government, residents, community groups and the media in good engagement?
  • What are the state-of-the-art public engagement techniques and when where and how to use them?
  • How do leaders identify pitfalls, common errors and warning signs?
  • How can leaders reach out to traditionally disengaged members of the community?
  • What role does technology play in public engagement? Are there limits?

You can find out more here: engagement


Ashley Trim is the executive director for the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership at Pepperdine University. She overseas the Institute’s annual public engagement grant program, administers Davenport Institute trainings in civic engagement for local government officials, and writes and speaks on public engagement and transparency throughout California as well as at national conferences and convenings.


School Districts Entrusted with Taxpayer Money

By: Maribel Medina

An accomplished superintendent of a school district or college district is worth his/her weight in gold.

Skilled education administrators can pull troubled districts from the brink of fiscal and/or academic ruin or guide poor performing districts to dramatically improve their student’s academic success.

But what happens when the lead executive is inept, inexperienced, or worse, corrupt?

Many of you can probably name a school district or two that gained unwelcome notoriety because of mismanagement or malfeasance by these kinds of superintendents. Removing them often takes months, even years and then to add insult to injury, districts then face contract payoffs amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

School districts historically have been hamstrung and just had to pay. The state legislature has provided districts with some relief, although not enough school districts are utilizing these remedies.

Under AB215 severance payments to departing superintendents are capped at 12 months, down from the previously permitted 18 months. The legislation, authored by Assembly Member Luis Alejo, was passed in 2015 after a Bay area administrator reportedly received a payout of more than half a million dollars.

And under AB1344, those districts can now even recover severance or amounts paid while on administrative paid leave to superintendents later convicted of crimes involving their positions. That can often amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars that can now find their way back into the classroom.

AB1344, better known as the “Abuse of Office” statute (and also authored by Alejo) was a direct response to the city of Bell scandal, where that community’s residents had little recourse in pursuing the millions corrupt officials there stole from them.

Why hasn’t a single school district in California used this provision? There have certainly been opportunities – one of which our firm is currently pursuing.

Not using this statutory authority simply amounts to leaving money in a wrong doers’ pocket that rightfully belongs in the classroom.

We understand that the process of investigating and removing a corrupt administrator is often traumatic for school districts. The financial cost is often daunting and the emotional toll it can take on a district’s staff and school board, not to mention its credibility, may be incalculable.

This is precisely why AB1344 was created. School district policymakers must do everything in their power to recover valuable resources. And perhaps more importantly, ensure future administrators clearly understand corruption will not be tolerated. It might be the most important lesson a school district can impart.


Maribel S. Medina is a partner in the law office of Leal & Trejo.  She is an education law expert who has represented school districts for two decades.

@maribelmlaw; 213-628-0808


“We must lead”

By: Antonio R. Villaraigosa

As the threat of Donald Trump’s policies become all too real, Californians are uniting as never before. We have now seen millions marching to defend our health care, defend a woman’s reproductive freedoms and defend the very right of millions of Californians to stay with their families rather than face arrest and deportation.

As we fight against Trump, it is necessary to also pause and reflect on what we are fighting for. While it is appropriate that we defend our progressive values, it is equally necessary that we work even harder to make progress for the many Californians who are still being left behind. We must make progress on improving our schools, improving access to an affordable college and lifelong learning and improving our infrastructure so it will spur and allow our economy to grow.

Because we need to do more than stop Trump, we need to keep California moving forward.

We should be proud of our progress, but the last thing we can be is complacent. We must act now, and we must act boldly.

As a former mayor, I know that action at the local government level – the closest government to the people – can have the quickest and longest lasting impact.

For the first time in many generations, our middle class is shrinking. We have more wealth as a state – but also more poverty – than any state in the nation. More often than not, those in poverty are Latino. We do not need to look very far to realize that many of the communities being left behind are Latino neighborhoods and many of our most challenged schools have students who are predominantly Latino.

This growing inequality is threatening the very fabric of our society.

Economic inequality has grown because our policies have not kept pace with our economy. As in other states, California has lost many good-paying jobs and replaced them with jobs that pay low wages.

The truth is, in today’s economy, having a job is often not enough to ensure those things all Californians want for our families – an affordable place to live in a safe neighborhood, basic health care, child care and good schools for our children and the chance for a secure retirement for every family.

At precisely the moment Latinos have become the largest ethnic group in California, the promise of a better life is growing farther and farther out of reach for a growing segment of our society.

If the recent election taught us anything, it is that where there is no hope, people will act on their fears. The erosion of economic opportunity gives space for the politics of fear.

So now, California must lead. And because Latinos will soon be the majority of this state, we must lead. We must help this state to become a national example of how to build a successful 21st Century Economy that creates middle-class jobs. We must work to preserve the fundamental notion that anyone willing to work hard and play by the rules can meet the basic needs for themselves and their family.

Californians remember that voters lashing out amid economic anxiety is nothing new. As a state, we have gone through this before.

I was first elected to the Assembly in 1994 on the heels of a deep recession that plunged our state billions of dollars into debt and sent unemployment sky high.

That economic upheaval helped give rise to a politics of demagoguery, division and the scapegoating of immigrants. That culminated with Proposition 187 and the elimination of bilingual education and affirmative action.

But during my six years in Sacramento, including three as Speaker of the Assembly, I worked with leaders from both parties to find common ground to find solutions to the problems facing our state.

We created a children’s health care program, which extended coverage to three quarters of a million kids across the state. When the federal government stripped public support for legal immigrants, I helped bring people together to ensure those benefits were covered here in California.

At that time, Latinos were a minority – fighting to protect our families from very Trump-like attacks. We should all remember that we were not alone then. Asians, African Americans, Filipinos, the LGBT community, progressive and liberal whites and even conservative whites stood with us because they understood that we embraced and embodied the American dream.

Now that we are soon to be the majority, let’s always remember that moment. We endured because we were not alone.

We stand at a moment of great change and a time of great anxiety. But we have been here before and have persevered and prospered. As a leader in our community, your voice is needed like never before in our history. I look forward to standing beside you as we fight together, community by community, to defend our communities and make sure that no voice in California goes unheard.

Antonio R. Villaraigosa served as a Member of CA State Assembly, Speaker of the Assembly, and then served on the LA City Council before becoming the 41st Mayor of Los Angeles. He is now a candidate for Governor of California.



Tell Your Own Story

by Ed Coghlan, The JVA Group

Leaders of school districts and municipal government constantly ask us, “how can we get our story out better?”

Our answer is simple: “Tell your own story.”

The old way of doing things — putting out press releases and putting them on your website — simply doesn’t work anymore.

You must be your own best storyteller.

Develop your own content and promote it on social media platforms that you should have, like Facebook and Twitter. Whether it’s a story about a successful student or a positive economic development in your city, you can – and must – tell these stories every day. Use all your platforms like your website, newsletters, emails, even events – to promote these stories.

Develop a positive and consistent narrative to change or cement perceptions that you are doing a good job! This requires an investment but this is an investment with an important return – engaged and informed stakeholders.

If you believe communications is important to making sure your constituents and stakeholders know about all the good work your organization is doing then a strong, content driven, digital strategy is your answer.

Ed-headshotEd Coghlan is a principle with the JVA Group. He is a former LA news director with more than thirty years experience as a communications professional.



California’s Proposition 56 Will Raise Tobacco Tax to Save Lives, Protect Children in Latino Communities and Across the State

By:  Hector Flores, MD

17000 Kids InfographicIn November, Californians will have a vital opportunity to save lives and to stand up to tobacco companies that have relentlessly targeted young people and ethnic minorities by approving Proposition 56. The initiative will raise the tax on tobacco products, which take a deadly, costly toll on Latinos in California.

Smoking is the number one cause of preventable death among Latinos. At 15.5 percent, Latino men have one of the highest smoking rates among all ethnic groups. Low-income Latinos smoke at especially high rates.

Prop 56 works like a user fee – adding a $2 per pack tax on cigarettes with an equivalent increase on other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes containing nicotine. These tax dollars will be used to pay for treatment of tobacco-related diseases and for research designed to improve tobacco use prevention and tobacco cessation.

Taxing tobacco is proven to prevent would-be smokers – especially youth – from ever starting, and studies have found that Latinos of all age groups are more likely than other ethnic groups to quit smoking or cut back because of tobacco taxes. In every single state that has significantly raised its cigarette tax rate, smoking rates have gone down sharply.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association in California and American Heart Association are sponsoring Prop 56, because tobacco hurts all Californians – even those who don’t smoke.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among Hispanic men and the second leading cause among Hispanic women. All told, tobacco kills 40,000 Californians annually, more than guns, car accidents, HIV, alcohol, and illegal drugs combined. And Californians spend $3.5 billion dollars each year treating cancer and other tobacco-related diseases through Medi-Cal.

Only those who use tobacco products will pay this simple user fee. The majority of funds (estimated up to $1 billion annually with an additional $1 billion in Federal matching funds) generated by this initiative will go to pay for health care through Medi-Cal. About half of the 13 million Californians enrolled in Medi-Cal are Latino. Additional funds will go to reduce tobacco-related health disparities by training physicians in medically underserved areas, improving access to dental care, and funding tobacco prevention programs among kids.

Ninety percent of smokers start as teens, and tobacco companies are targeting Latino youth with high densities of tobacco advertising and discount tobacco retailers in Latino neighborhoods. The California Medical Association reports that flavored tobacco products are creating a dangerous new public health threat, particularly to youth and people of color.

In fact, youth-themed, candy-flavored electronic cigarettes containing nicotine are allowing a new generation of young consumers to get hooked on smoking. Teen use of e-cigarettes tripled in just one year. Kids who smoke e-cigarettes are twice as likely to start smoking traditional cigarettes. This year alone, an estimated 16,800 California youth will start smoking with Hispanic youth having the second-highest smoking rate of any ethnic group. One-third of those kids will eventually die from tobacco-related diseases.

No matter how you package it, smoking kills and taxing tobacco saves lives. Prop 56 is an important opportunity to safeguard Latino children and improve California’s communities, economy and healthcare system. Learn more at

Twitter: @YesOn56
Facebook: @YesOn56
Instagram: @YesOn56

Flores Hector March 2011Hector Flores, MD, is Co-Director of the White Memorial Medical Center (WMMC) Family Medicine Residency Program which is widely recognized for training culturally competent physicians and placing them in medically underserved areas. He is also a member of the Los Angeles County Medical Association (LACMA) Board of Directors.



Why We Are All Porter Ranch

By: Kit Cole

Photo Courtesy SCPR

On October 23, 2015, residents of the quiet Southern California bedroom community of Porter Ranch found their world changed forever. That day a massive leak was discovered at the natural gas storage facility in nearby Aliso Canyon and reports of community health problems ranging from headaches to nosebleeds soon followed.

In the following weeks multiple attempts to close the well failed, and thousands of residents were relocated away from their homes. Porter Ranch had become a catastrophe – one with environmental, economic, and human consequences. The infrastructure residents barely knew was there had changed their community forever.

In the aftermath, folks have asked why the Porter Ranch community was built there in the first place, next door to a natural gas field. It’s easy to assign blame – to the housing developers, the City of Los Angeles, even the residents. It is especially easy to lay blame at the feet of the Southern California Gas Company (SoCal Gas), the gas field owner and operator, for allowing the disaster to happen.

imgres-1But there is nothing unique about the events that played out at Porter Ranch. Collisions between communities and infrastructure happen all the time.

We prefer to think something like the Aliso Canyon leak couldn’t happen in our community. But the opposite is true.

We are all Porter Ranch because we all live – like it or not – in close proximity to some aspect of the infrastructure we depend on.

There are more than 527 miles of freeways in Los Angeles County alone, and 382 miles of conventional highways – and those are just the obvious features we drive every day and can’t help noticing.

imagesThere’s “invisible” infrastructure in your neighborhood, too. In November 2015, it was announced that the City of Los Angeles may start to embed cell phone towers inside street lights. That fixture at your curb may have even more infrastructure inside of it than you know.

High-tension electrical lines, airports, power plants and substations, landfills and recycling centers, gas stations, flood-control channels and more are all around us. They’re in our neighborhoods and – in many cases – in our backyards.

We generally ignore infrastructure until it becomes a real or perceived problem – that’s just human nature. When the infrastructure gets bigger, changes, or becomes dangerous (as at Porter Ranch), we often react with surprise and hostility.

imgres-3But the infrastructure around us isn’t going away. In fact, as population density increases and we demand better and more sophisticated communications technology (and the electricity that powers it), the amount and kinds of infrastructure surrounding us will only increase.

The reality is that the 13 million of us in the LA Basin, living within an area of less than 5,000 square miles, need water, power, communications, and jobs, and the only way to provide these is through infrastructure. The same is true for every community in Southern California, and beyond.

Where there are people, there is infrastructure

So how can we live peacefully (and potentially even happily) with the facilities we need to deliver the services we want? Is there a way to respond to new projects – or address problems with old ones – in a more constructive way than denial or anger?

P1010516I believe there is. Companies that are our neighbors must begin to treat the general public as partners, rather than an inconvenience that is occasionally told about what’s happening at the facility next door.

And we, as the public, must stop seeing big companies as evil organizations, run by Darth Vader-ish executives or, even worse, seeing companies as gigantic ATM machines, providing cash handouts to placate us. Companies are run and staffed by people, many of whom live in the same communities they affect.

If not cash handouts, then what can communities gain from corporations? How about access to highly skilled people who can become partners in solving community problems? Companies can use their relationships and expertise to bring community leaders together with government agencies and private nonprofits and the results can be amazing.

One underserved Southern California community was able to figure out a way to address chronic flooding caused by lack of gutters and sidewalks, because they worked together with a waste-management company to approach LA City and County. Rather than a handout, they were empowered to solve one of their pressing problems. And the company got permission to build a recycling center. Everyone won.

P1010503Communities must step up and think beyond outdated and overly simplistic NIMBY (“Not In My Back Yard”) approaches and thoughtfully leverage the resources of companies – not just money but also the company’s personnel. It is time for companies to step up to the plate and empower folks on the ground, including their employees, rather than patronizing them.

Through partnership with companies, communities can get infrastructure that works for them and also take on really tough issues, like homelessness, poverty and chronic health problems in infrastructure-dense, low-income communities. When corporate resources and community know-how gets together, there’s tremendous problem-solving potential.

There will be another Porter Ranch. It is inevitable. For as long as humans have been building mines, power plants, and dams, there have been failures. That’s why we need to come to terms with the infrastructure in our midst and get to know those who provide it – not as evil corporate overlords or as “Santa Claus” bribing us with goodies so we’ll ignore their presence, but as allies in the great urban experiment that is Los Angeles.


Kit CoKit Cole is a consultant working on changing the paradigm of how companies and communities interact. She most recently worked in community outreach at Southern California Edison.

Kit Cole Consulting



Converting Hoover Street

By: Sergio Contreras, Mayor Pro-Tem, City of Westminster
(Originally published in the Orange County Register)

An unkept atmosphere and sidewalks littered with trash used to be what greeted people traveling down Hoover Street in Westminster.

Now, for two miles between Garden Grove Blvd. and Bolsa Ave., drivers, bikers and pedestrians see a beautifully landscaped recreation corridor where families play together in safety.


When I began my journey down Hoover Street, it was being used as a garbage dump, with large items, garbage bags, and clothing littered everywhere. Overgrown vegetation had begun to consume the bike trail with oleander branches and debris overtaking and obstructing the path, breaking up the asphalt and creating an uneven trail.

Some roots had caused cracks the rose 4­5 inches from the ground making conditions unsafe for the public and opening the city up for liability. Some areas along Hoover where used off­and­on as homeless encampments. As a result, areas smelled of urine. The abandoned bike trail had become an eyesore over years of neglect.

Blight complaints from community members flooded my inbox. As Westminster’s Vice Mayor, I often receive notes from constituents about things they’d like to see improve in the City. But this project really stuck with me.


Even after I had some large refuge removal done, I could see the potential in the space. See, I pass Hoover every day when I take my two kids to school. And every day that I drove that street, I saw more and more potential.

One of my main goals for Westminster is to provide more outdoor recreational opportunities for families. That is why I created the Westminster Parks Master Plan, and why I decided to not just dispose of Hoover Street’s trash, but to transform it into a walking and biking trail for families to use as recreation and transportation.

So I set out to change things. I organized with community members and obtained 200 signatures in support of revitalizing the Hoover Street Trail. Then I convinced my colleagues on City Council to join with me in transforming this once forgotten space. I placed a resolution on the Council Agenda and ignited the spark that led to the Hoover Trails shining as bright as they do today.

Hoover Street Bike Path and Walkway

Utilizing funding from the State Redevelopment Funds, to prevent them from being absorbed back by the State, and funding currently available in the municipal lighting district fund and park dedication fund, we were able to complete the trail’s transformation at no cost to the city’s general fund.

When all was said and done, the area was completely overhauled, featuring 283 new trees, shade and landscaping elements; 200 security lights; 13,700 drought tolerant plants; mulch and gravel; new fencing; a new irrigation system; and new cement, new striping and resurfacing along the two mile path.

What is most important is that we do all that we can in order to ensure that Hoover Street stays the neighborhood gem it has become. I have already instructed staff to look for additional ways that we can obtain grants to further drive down costs of maintaining it and even generate funding to improve more areas of Westminster.

The first taste of this grant funding comes on May 21 during the Experience Hoover Event. City staff applied for and received a grant from Southern California Association of Governments’ Active Transportation Safety and Encouragement Campaign and received approximately $30,000 in hard costs for the event. This event will celebrate that milestone.

image4I encourage you to bring your family and friends down to the Hoover Street Trails and experience the transformation in person. I encourage everyone to see what is truly possible in our City when we dedicate ourselves to a cause together.

For me, this cause has inspired a greater desire to improve even more areas of Westminster – to create a family­friendly, safe city where new business take root and crime rates take leave – and instilled within me a hope that working together with the Council and our Community, we can achieve even more progress for Westminster.

Contreras20142015_1Mayor Pro-Tem Sergio Contreras was elected to the Westminster City Council in 2012. He was raised and educated in Westminster and graduated from Westminster High School. He also served for eight years on the Westminster School District Board and is currently senior manager of education for the Orange County United Way.

Opinion: The Best Way Schools Can Communicate With Parents

3241879_origBy Victor Abalos

The rush is now on for school districts to expand their “parent engagement” programs in an effort to comply with a new state mandate. But if previous parent engagement campaigns in this state are any measure, whatever school districts come up with will fall short and we simply can’t afford that any longer.

School districts must stop relying on passive parent “outreach and education” strategies and look to the marketing world for help, specifically social marketing.

Everyone in education knows that when parents are involved in their child’s education they do better. There’s no disputing the research. And Local Control Funding Formula now requires more rigorous parent engagement by all districts in this state.

But effective parent engagement impacts much more than student achievement:

  • It is the most effective way to combat at-risk behavior such as alcohol/drug use and violence.
  • It is the best way to implement student retention campaigns.
  • It can dramatically impact and improve attendance.
  • It is the best way to explain to parents (and voters) why they should support the district’s upcoming bond measures and any other district initiatives and projects.
  • In fact, there’s no end to what a district can accomplish once it effectively engages with a large segment of parents.

But how do you get parents “engaged” in an effective way? And what is effective “parent engagement?” This is particularly challenging in school districts with a high percentage of poor and working-class families.

Part of the challenge is that just about every school district thinks it already does a good job. Most of the school board members and administrators I’ve talked to will admit they could do better but they expressed satisfaction and sometimes pride in their efforts to productively engage their student’s parents.

But when you look at the research it’s hard to understand that perspective. Many times, it’s challenging to find school districts that even measure the effectiveness of their parent engagement in any meaningful way. They’ll provide numbers of parents that attend meetings as if that alone can tell you anything.

I don’t want to beat up on school districts over this. They are encumbered with so much reporting and measuring and quantifying it’s not surprising this area is a challenge. And during those conversations I’ve had with administrators and school policymakers about parent engagement I’ve always come away believing they genuinely want to connect with parents. But they’ve gotten trapped doing the same thing they’ve done year after year.

That’s why I believe school districts should utilize social marketing strategies to revitalize their parent engagement. I’m sure those words are making some educators cringe. I can hear the critics, “Marketing? We’re not in the business of selling anything!” But social marketing is not necessarily advertising.

Social marketing is the use of commercial marketing principles and techniques to improve the welfare of people and the physical, social and economic environment in which they live. It is a carefully planned, long-term approach to changing human behavior.

“What is Social Marketing?”

The key to social marketing is changing human behavior.

We have all been successful targets of social marketing. It’s why we don’t litter, or don’t smoke, or don’t start forest fires. These were all highly successful social marketing campaigns. Social marketing is a business “science” that relies heavily on research and measurement. It combines marketing and advertising with psychology and sociology. At it’s worst, depending on your point of view, it’s convinced us to buy crap we probably don’t need but at it’s best it has saved lives or at least helped us lead healthier lives.

An effective social marketing campaign works because it relies on proven strategies and tactics and it includes ways to measure whether the campaign is working. Most social marketing campaigns include:

  • A clearly identified Audience and research how to reach that Audience
  • Specific (and tested) Messages – “Your direct participation in your child’s education dramatically improves their chances of success” is only one example.
  • And the messages must include responses to marketing opposition – “I’ve got two jobs. I’m too busy!”
  • A direct Call-to-Action – “Get involved and here’s how!”
  • Proven Tactics connected to effective marketing – phone calls, social media, websites, PR, events, etc.
  • An understanding of the importance of language(s) – some people call this “cultural competence”
  • And especially Measurement – surveys, focus groups, digital metrics, bounce-back cards, etc.

Traditionally, districts have approached parent engagement as “education” or “outreach” which too often involves passive strategies. They rely heavily on the belief that their target audience is just waiting to get this information and poised to take action. That used to work for most schools and it still works in some schools, particularly in higher income districts. But for poor and working class families that is just not true and if that describes your district I probably don’t need to convince you of that.

At the heart of parent engagement is a call to parents to get involved – to change their behavior and stop doing things that aren’t supportive of their child’s education and start doing things that are. Whether its enforcing an early bedtime, to ensure their children get plenty of sleep, to creating a homework space in the home, there’s a long list of things parents can do that don’t necessarily involve attending meetings or going to their child’s school.

Changing behavior is not an easy task. It requires getting an important message through to parents – a message in a language they understand and will listen to – and convincing them to take action. That doesn’t happen in one meeting or after one phone call. It takes time and persistence and the use of effective strategies that you can measure to make sure you’re headed in the right direction. In short – social marketing.

Most school districts are not prepared to develop and launch their own social marketing campaigns. But they already rely on outside support for staff training and professional development, research, IT support, construction and a host of other services. Communications and marketing should be on that list especially when it comes to parent engagement. They simply need to re-direct resources away from out-dated parent engagement strategies to effective social marketing campaigns. Remember, this should not generate additional costs. Districts already have resources committed to parent engagement and the state and feds are moving to provide additional resources.

The next step is the most challenging for school districts. If you don’t have a marketing or communications professional on your staff this is not the time to “make do.” And this is not PR. You shouldn’t ask your Public Information Officer or media person to do this – not if you’re interested in results. Public or community relations is not social marketing. It can, and should, be used in a marketing campaign but it’s not “the same thing.” If you didn’t know that, then please consider that evidence you need help.

Go find experts who have a proven track record and experience with schools. Insist on measurement. Once you have found your outside resource make sure they can demonstrate results. Try some agencies or consultants out first with a small project before committing to an RFP and long-term contract.

Getting thirty parents to an after-school event is a great start. Staying connected to those parents in a meaningful way after the meeting and convincing them to get involved is really the goal.

Victor Abalos is the founder of the JVA Group, a strategic communications/outreach consulting practice based in Los Angeles.

AT&T Investing for a Brighter Future

by Adriana Martinez

The 24-year-old Lopez twins, America and Penelope, took the top prize in the Women in Tech Challenge at the 2015 AT&T Developer Summit and Hackathon held in January in Las Vegas

AT&T is leading the way to the future – for California communities, businesses and the industry. Every day, we’re developing new technologies to make it easier for our customers to stay connected. We also continue to invest in a diverse workforce for the future, and believe these investments will provide a bright future for everyone: students, families, small and large businesses and California’s growing economy.

AT&T is bringing our customers access to video on every screen to enjoy their favorite movies, TV shows, music and sports. With our acquisition of DirecTV, we can give millions of Californians more choices for video entertainment on any screen from almost anywhere, any time.

Through our commitment to technological innovation, we’re helping our customers improve their lives with new solutions such as connected cars, wearable devices, and tools that help cities with energy grid needs, streetlights and irrigation pipes. In other words, we’re mobilizing a world that works for people faster than ever before. This approach has led to new technologies, apps, products and services that are improving lives at home, work, and play.

We also understand that the tech industry needs a capable and diverse pipeline of employees to fuel 21st century jobs, but the need is currently outpacing supply. To power the global economy, we need to bridge the skills gap and build a diverse talent pipeline for the jobs of today and the future. By 2020, around the world, there is likely to be a shortage of approximately 40 million high- skilled workers and 45 million medium-skill workers.
AT&T has a number of programs and partnerships focused on increasing the number of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) students in the pipeline. On a national level, through AT&T Aspire, we are partnering and collaborating with organizations like Girls Who Code, General Assembly, Black Girls CODE and All Star Code to help increase diversity in the STEM field.

Here in California, AT&T has supported the Latino community through such programs as AdelanTECH Leadership Program, Hispanic Heritage Foundation’s LOFT Coder Summit, Latino Startup Alliance, and upgrading LULAC’s technology center in Los Angeles. We believe these programs will help Latinos here in California prepare for, and access STEM tech jobs today and into the future.
We understand the technology field is constantly evolving and changing. AT&T is bringing exciting new products to our customers while also preparing our future workforce for long careers in technology and innovation.

Adriana pic 2014



Adriana Martinez is Director of External Affairs, AT&T California