Victories can be hard to come by in the Philadelphia public school system, but about a month ago, Juntos, an organization that works with Mexican-Americans in South Philadelphia, won a huge victory for that community. Until that point, School District service to Spanish-speaking parents has been extremely limited. At many schools, a bi-lingual counselor was available only one day per week. This left parents without any real means of being involved in their children’s education. But parents organizing with Juntos got the district to sign an agreement that guaranteed many things, including:
Three new full-time"bi-lingual para-professionals (BCAs)", providing more language access for parents and the community;
a review of BCA training procedures and an on-going professional development plan at community disposal for feedback;
transparency on lists of BCAs, their deployment, budget, and criteria for allocation (lists and budget);
a commitment and plan from the District around increasing bilingual staff in the South Region;
a formal plan for BCAs, parents, and the South Region to meet quarterly to discuss quality of services to ELL families;
and a twice yearly mandatory report/evaluation from school principals in the South Region regarding language access services and any issues.
In a time when we are constantly hearing news of cuts to services for poor and marginalized communities, it is heartening and encouraging to hear about a real organizing victory. Congratulations, Juntos!