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For Latino Parents : Help Offered in Unraveling Mysteries of School System

August 03, 1986|JOHN L. MITCHELL | Times Staff Writer

A program designed to teach Latino parents the ins and outs of the Santa Monica-Malibu school system was introduced last week by a community organization.

Yolanda Becerra Jones, executive director of Santa Monica's Latino Resource Organization, said the new program should increase Latino participation in such groups as the PTA and help parents deal with officials in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.

The organization plans to begin a 10-month "leadership training program" in September for 50 parents.

Weekly workshops will be conducted in Spanish, and transportation and child care will be provided.

Where to Take Problems

Parents will learn how to pursue complaints and whether they should take their problems to an administrator or to the school board.

Jones said that the workshops will stress the need for Latino parents to bring pressure on the board to solve problems that involve Latino youngsters, such as the high dropout rate. Parents also will learn how to raise funds for their schools.

"Latino parents often find it difficult to interact with school administrators for a variety of reasons--language, lack of familiarity with school district policies and obstacles in the home such as the need for child care," Jones said.

Santa Monica-Malibu officials hope the program will increase parent participation in the education process.

The number of Latino students has increased in past years and is 23.6% of the district's enrollment, according to the most recent survey taken last year.

'This Will Be Good'

"The lack of Latino parent participation can only be solved by a Latino group," school board member Peggy Lyons said.

"Santa Monica has a very high level of parental support," she added. "I have done studies that show that parents who have the highest level of involvement in education get the best education for their children. I can only imagine that this will be good."

School board Vice President Della Barrett described the program as a "wonderful idea, well thought out and well put together."

Board member Mary Kay Kamath said she hopes the program will encourage Latino parents to take a more active role in district politics, including running for school board.

The 6-year-old Latino Resource Organization, which strives to help Latino families obtain city services, proposed the program.

Financed by the City

The organization, which operates in basement offices at 1320 Santa Monica Mall, receives $96,000 from the city of Santa Monica.

In addition to the executive director, the organization has three consultants, a secretary and six summer youth workers on its staff.

Jones said she conceived of the training program "because many parents have a hard enough time dealing with their own day-to-day needs and do not know how to crack the system. They want their children to go to college, but they don't know exactly how to get them there."

She said that Latino families have special needs yet often have a hard time getting those needs addressed because they are unfamiliar with the educational system.

"These parents are bright and sophisticated," she said. "We are not going to tell them how to be better parents, but we are going to tell them how to get more for their children."

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