Meetings aimed at Hispanic parents

Published 7:49 am Friday, September 10, 2010

As the school year continues, Hispanic parents who don’t speak English well can learn how school’s going firsthand at monthly Hispanic Parent Meetings held by Austin Public Schools across the district.

“They’re an opportunity for parents to get together,” said Kristi Beckman, the district integration coordinator.

The district started holding monthly meetings for primarily Spanish-speaking parents in 2001, around the time Valentina Gallegos, Southgate Elementary’s success coach, was hired as an interpreter.

Email newsletter signup

“Within the two months that I started working, we decided that that was a need we needed to provide for our parents,” Gallegos said.

By 2006, every school in the district held monthly meetings to address the needs of Hispanic parents while informing them about their children’s education. Depending on the school, success coaches will go over the events and activities that are going on, what type of weather to prepare for, lunch schedules and other topics parents might not know about.

Laura Ramirez, the success coach for Woodson Kindergarten Center, says she primarily focuses on training the parents that attend her meetings to get more involved with their kids. Because kindergarten parents are often new at experiencing school life, they have more questions than parents who attend meetings at the other schools.

One of the important issues Ramirez goes over with parents is the fact that their children can bring their own lunch to school. According to her, most primarily Spanish-speaking parents think their children have to eat school lunches, even if they don’t like it.

“They say, ‘Oh, we can do that?’ I tell them ‘Yes, you can do that,’” Ramirez said. “Because they don’t know that they can send lunches with their children.”

Aside from answering questions, Ramirez also focuses on working with parents so their children can meet the educational goals Woodson sets for every kindergartener at the end of the year.

Once children enroll in elementary school, the monthly meetings focus less about informing parents on what is happening at school and more on addressing parent concerns. Gallegos helped organize computer classes during the parent meetings last school year, even creating a math class at the last parent meeting of the school year, in response to suggestions made by several parents.

“We’re just there to support them in any way we can,” Gallegos said.

Each school usually holds Hispanic Parent Meetings on different days of the month. For example, Ellis Middle School holds their Hispanic Parent Meeting on the second Tuesday of the month whereas Banfield, Neveln and Southgate Elementary Hispanic Parent Meetings usually take place on the third Wednesday of the month. Parents interested in attending a meeting should call their childen’s schools or visit the Austin Public Schools web site at