The voice of California’s charter school movement

Getting Involved: Latino Parents at Three San Diego Charter Schools Share Their Journeys

By California Charter Schools Association

According to most educators, parent engagement is a shared responsibility in which schools and other community agencies and organizations are committed to reaching parents in meaningful ways, while parents are committed to actively supporting their children’s learning and development.

This is very true in San Diego County, where many charter public schools enjoy high levels of parent engagement because schools offer parents a myriad of volunteer opportunities on and off campus. Educators say this outreach is critical to making sure all families feel more invested and connected to the school community – especially Latinx parents and caregivers: the data shows parent engagement among Latino families is typically lower at school sites due to language differences, cultural barriers, work obligations and/or lack of transportation.

Charter public school educators are thinking creatively about how to overcome these hurdles and inspire parents to get involved. We spoke with Latino parents at three San Diego charter school campuses about why and how they got involved.



San Diego Cooperative Charter School (SDCCS)

Unknown-2-Nov-05-2021-10-36-21-44-PMAbout eight years ago, Erica was looking for a new school for her older son. She would pass by San Diego Cooperative Charter School and see how happy the students seemed to be. Finally, she decided to schedule a school tour with her son. They were immediately impressed with the school's emphasis on art, project-based learning, and parent involvement.

Soon after that, Erica enrolled her son at SDCCS and was offered several ways to volunteer as a parent at the school -- participating in the Parent Staff Association, helping in the classroom, and attending field trips.

SDCCS continued to offer Erica engagement opportunities, ultimately landing her a job at the school as a substitute in the front office. Today, Erica is SDCCS's front office manager where she provides a strong Latinx voice for the school where about 40% of the students are Latinx.

“Erica has always been a really engaged parent and has her finger on the pulse of the Latinx community," says Sarah Saluta, SDCCS Education Director. “She will pick up the phone and call parents, translate, and connect Latinx parents to volunteering and meetings.”

Even though she works at the school full time, Erica continues to volunteer at the school by engaging Latinx parents of current and prospective students. Erica says it helps when educators and staff look like the students and families they serve.

“Latino people have been told to be quiet but here they have a voice and it’s home," she says. "[Families] don’t see the difference. They just see a community that has embraced them.”

Thanks to Erica's work, the school has experienced an uptick in the number of parents wanting to volunteer at SDCCS this year.

Interested in finding out how SDCCS and parents work together as a team? Check out this SDCCS' Parent Orientation 2021-22 PPT.



McGill School of Success

Unknown-Nov-05-2021-10-36-21-00-PMWord of mouth can be powerful when parents are looking for a new school option for their child. That was the case for Idalia Rodriguez.

Idalia learned about McGill School of Success after a friend talked about the benefits of having her children at a small school where everyone knows each other.

Idalia’s oldest son was the first child in their family to enroll at McGill several years ago. He now attends High Tech High Middle Media Arts, another high-quality charter public school in San Diego. Because Idalia’s son had such a great experience at McGill, she also enrolled her daughter who is now in the 3rd grade at McGill.

From the very beginning, Idalia wanted to be involved at the school and McGill offered her ways to get connected. She began volunteering and assisting with community events including the South Park Walkabout, a neighborhood event in which businesses and organizations open their doors to the public during the evening. For Idalia, volunteering at community events soon evolved into taking a leadership role in school-based decision-making. She began serving on McGill's Board of Directors for about seven years in various capacities -- from secretary to president.

“Idalia’s voice as board president was crucial as she was the only Latinx on the board that served a school with 80% Latinx student population” says McGill School of Success Principal and CEO Norma Sandoval. “Parents like Idalia play a key role in advocating for all children.”

As a predominantly Latinx school, Idalia says, “I like it because I want my daughter to relate to kids with her heritage.” And, she adds, “We have a principal who likes to teach about diversity and have an understanding where they came from and how they can impact their community as a whole.”

Learn more about how McGill engages parents by reading the school’s latest edition of the McGill Parent Newsletter!




Springs Charter Schools

Aurora began volunteering at her son’s school when he started kindergarten. Even though Aurora worked full-time, she found time to volunteer in the classroom or on class trips.

This year, she made the decision to send her son to a charter public school. He is now in 7th grade at Springs Charter Schools where he receives additional instruction and support at the school’s Del Rio Student Center in Perris.

Unfortunately, the pandemic sidetracked some the school's volunteering opportunities this year, but that hasn't stopped Aurora from getting involved and engaging with other families.

“It’s important to be involved, especially as a Latino parent,” says Aurora. “If you get involved, you learn more ... Every time I go and ask for help, I get a yes for an answer."

To date, Aurora has been able to recruit five other students from her son’s former elementary school to enroll at the Del Rio facility.

"I knew immediately that [Aurora] was a parent I wanted on my parent support team,” says Shawna Lewis, principal of the Del Rio Student Center & Palm Academy. “Her passion for ensuring her son have the best educational opportunities was evident.”

Check out Springs Charter Schools super snazzy 2021-22 Student & Parent Handbook to find out this school motivates families to stay engaged and connected!