Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Illinois School District Trains Hispanic Parent Leaders

After noticing that few Hispanic parents were serving on school district committees, an Illinois school district superintendent decided to create a program to teach parents the skills they need to become effective leaders.

Elgin Area School District U-46  superintendent Jose Torres tasked family and community engagement employees with creating the two-year Hispanic Parent Leadership Institute in 2010 to foster greater parent involvement, The Daily Herald reports. The district even compensates parents with $1,000 stipends for their participation.

The school district is the second largest district in Illinois next to the Chicago Public Schools, and its student enrollment is about half Hispanic.

In the first year of the program, parents meet one Saturday a month to learn about the district and go through leadership training. In the second year, parents meet every other month engaged in hands-on learning opportunities.

The district already has some success stories to share about Hispanic parent participants. Teresa Aguirre serves on a middle school Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO). Other parents have advanced to positions on various committees and advisory councils. One parent was elected to the school board.

Elementary school parent Tomás Figueroa, is a participant in the program.

“Like most parents, I wanted to get more involved in my kids’ education and find out who’s making the decisions on what they’re learning,” Figueroa told the Herald. “All those questions were answered. I would recommend it to everybody.”

I previously blogged about the Elgin district this spring when it decided to require teachers at ten of its low performing elementary schools to earn English as a Second Language teaching credentials.

The district’s treatment of Hispanic students hasn’t gone without some criticism. A federal discrimination lawsuit was filed against the district in recent years, accusing schools of running a segregated gifted program that placed elementary students whose native language is Spanish in a separate program from gifted native English speakers.