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THE BIG FIX

How to leave no child behind. What do L.A. kids need to thrive?

Treat your 'kuriks' well

December 29, 2007|BY SANDRA TSING LOH | Sandra Tsing Loh's commentary appears on KPCC-FM (89.3) and in the Atlantic.

Pity the 21st century Los Angeles PTA. Such beloved fundraising chestnuts as See's Candy sales and Christmas gift wrap drives are out, one because it trafficks in banned sugar substances, the other for encouraging the insensitive celebration of an illegally religious holiday.

Meanwhile, the few tools left in the PTA arsenal can be wildly confusing to many of our English-challenged LAUSD parents. "What is bear?" a Guatemalan mom once asked me when faced with a giant display of $1 Build-a-Bear raffle tickets. "Chuck E. Cheese fundraiser? What is? What is?"

The good news is, while there is a massive culture gap for many families new to U.S. public schools, native Angelenos can help. Recently, an Armenian mother at our school expressed a vague, haunted feeling that she was being discriminated against by the front-office staff. They just didn't seem friendly, Lucine noted, with an eyebrows-drawn-together expression that, frankly, a good deal of our newer immigrant mothers rush around with all day long.

"Kurik!" I exclaimed. (I think that's slang for "girlfriend" in Armenian -- while my pronunciation is terrible, my kuriks seem to appreciate that I at least try.) "You look so anxious!"

When I suggested that Lucine start over at the principal's office with a smile and a box of Krispy Kremes, her face lit up. She didn't know you could offer doughnuts. (Our ways are complicated: sugar for kids, no; sugar for adults, si.)

The point is, parent to parent, we have to build bridges because PTAs still need to fundraise -- for the new gardens or music programs it would otherwise take the district until 2025 to get. Metaphorically speaking, PTA dollars come in all colors, and via home-cooked ethnic food sales, spelling bees with admission or ... shhh, even gift wrap. Christmas gift wrap. (An incredibly hot seller -- just don't tell anyone.)

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