Friday, May 16, 2008

Einstein Latino Parents in the Sentinel

Man, it is wet out there this morning! I heard something about flooding on the news last night, hope everybody's safe as they read the blogs this morning.

You know started from some comments on the Albert Einstein High School listserve. Of course we have spread out from there, but Einstein really is highly represented in our core group, you might say, even still, it's sort of our home school. So we are particularly interested in watching the developments following an incident last month where a gun went off in the boys' room there. There was a lot of negative publicity, but the school administration reacted almost perfectly, parents were all-in-all pleased with the way the situation was handled, and most interestingly the Latino community at that school has come together in an inspirational way to take responsibility for making Einstein a safe school and something to be proud of.

The other day I mentioned that only The Gazette had covered this positive story, but somebody sent me a link to The Sentinel's article on the topic, and it's very good too. The Sentinel is a small local newspaper that has had mostly-consistently-good coverage of issues we have been involved in (I say "mostly" because there was one weird story that appeared to have been written by a relative of the CRC or something). I knew they had a reporter at the march at Einstein last week, but had not seen the story. Sometimes they hide their content behind a firewall online, so we miss a good story unless somebody sends it to us -- their story about the Einstein situation is accessible to the public. Here's how it starts.
On Friday evening, Latino parents chanted, "padres unidos, jamas seran vencidos," a Spanish phrase meaning "united parents, they will not be conquered." The parents marched from Newport Mill Middle School to Albert Einstein High School in support of the high school, administration and the community following a gun incident on April 9.

"I want others to know that the Latino parents are worried too," said Gloria Gavidia, member of the Latino parents committee, in Spanish. Gavidia has a daughter in the ninth grade at Einstein.

Rosa Sanchez, another member of the Latino parents committee, also has a daughter in the ninth grade and said that with this march and the meetings, she hopes for others to become more educated about the school and issues in the area. She also wants other parents to know what they can do for the school. Einstein parents march to support school

There used to be a blog here in Montgomery County that was focused on a single topic: its whole reason for existing was to spread bad news about Hispanic immigrants in our community. Every time somebody with a Spanish surname got arrested for something or did anything wrong, they'd put it on their blog and make a big point about the undesirable people moving to our area from Central and South America. They complained about the day laborers and every other thing they could find. A guy named Lopez spits on the sidewalk, they'd have a picture of it and gross details. It was stupid, and I'm glad to say that blog has finally just gone away. There is certainly a segment of our population that is reluctant to accept these newcomers; maybe it's because I grew up in a region of the US that was originally part of Mexico, where the gringos were the newcomers, but I just don't see what the big threat is, neighbors who speak Spanish.

Having been in foreign countries, I imagine it is not easy to suddenly have to conduct your business in a new language, learn new customs, find out where things are and how you do different everyday things. If I moved to a foreign country I am sure I would search out other Americans and hang out with them, even if I wouldn't be their friend here in the USA I would be glad to hear a familiar voice, and the locals would see us as clustering together, clinging to our old ways, they might see us as outsiders, a threat to their traditional way of life.

These Einstein parents are making a conscious display of not doing that. They are saying that they want to integrate with the community, they want responsibility, they want to make a good life for themselves and their neighbors. It's too bad that some kids had some guns at the high school and that one went off, it's good nobody was hurt, and it is inspiring to see how these Einstein families are coming together to make the best of it.

Some more ... a familiar name or two tucked in here:
The Latino parents committee was informally organized after a community meeting was held at Einstein following an incident where students brought guns to school for sale and a gun was accidentally discharged in the boys' bathroom on April 9. Students were arrested following a code-red lock down prompted by a gun shot in the second floor boys' bathroom. Police confiscated three loaded handguns following the arrest.

But, it wasn't just Latino parents that showed up to the march. Maddie Grewell, a junior, said, "I'm here because I think the media did a really bad job covering it [the gun incident at Einstein]." Grewell's mother, Chris, learned about the march from the school list-serve and said, "It's a great idea to support the school."

Mariana Davis, a longtime resident in Montgomery County, has three children that have graduated from Einstein and one that is currently a senior at the school. At the community meeting following the April 9 gun incident, some parents recommended the use of metal detectors to verify that none of the students were carrying weapons of any sort. Davis said she believes that those parents were merely panicked.

I am skipping through this informative article a little bit -- follow the link to see what I've left out.
At an informational meeting following the march, parents and community members were provided with hand-held translators that translated both from Spanish to English and English to Spanish. "It's the first and not the last [meetings]," said Patricia Lazeras, a member of the Latino parents committee.

Parents asked questions ranging from security at the school to ways to become informed about school activities. In terms of security, Principal James Fernandez said, "I don't want students to feel afraid of us." Fernandez explained to parents that he wants students to feel comfortable to speak to security but also stressed the idea that parents need to be involved in their children's lives.

Gloria Rivera said, "I get embarrassed that there are 44 percent Hispanics but where are they?" Rivera encouraged parents to be active in the school and not to feel ashamed to ask questions. Fernandez reminded parents that there is Spanish-speaking faculty available on campus for anybody that does not feel comfortable speaking English.

In Spanish Maryland House Delegate for District 18 Ana Sol Gutierrez (D) said, "I'm not from the government. I am first and foremost Salvadoran ... It's been almost, maybe eight years, in this school that there was the most active Latino PTA. Here they won awards ... here we demonstrated what can happen when Latino parents get together." She encouraged the group to continue to meet and to continue to talk to their peers.

"I think it's fabulous. My hat is off to all of the parents ... this is what has to happen. You can't do this by yourself," said County Council member Valerie Ervin.

Meetings in Spanish have been held nearly every Friday since April 9. The next Spanish meeting is this Friday at 7 p.m. but will not be as elaborate or extensive as the meeting on May 9.

It's cool to see the people picking up the ball here, dealing with a situation directly. They're not asking the government or even the school administration to solve their problems for them, they're saying they want to solve their own problems. And I can't see a downside to that one.


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