School system reaches out to Latino community
Published: Sunday, April 6, 2014 at 10:34 PM.
Byron Martinez said Gaston County Schools is making strides in equality for Hispanics.
A recent “Meet the Superintendent” event, to hear concerns from Hispanic families, helped break down language barriers.
Five translators on hand eased conversation between parents and school officials at the Monday meeting, he said.
Martinez, who acts as a liaison between the local Latino population and the school system, said the
150 people who attended the meeting felt more comfortable sharing their thoughts without fear of being misunderstood.
In some of their native countries, speaking to authority figures is intimidating, Martinez said.
If they misspeak, even by accident, the repercussions can be troubling.
“It helped them a lot. They always felt scared to talk, to say what they feel,” Martinez said.
Gaston County Schools Superintendent Jeff Booker held the event seeking feedback from the community. He’s held more than a half-dozen such events throughout the county.
Translators at Monday night’s event opened the lines of communication, Martinez said, allowing parents to speak up with confidence about what they expect from the school system.
Gaston County Schools prepared fliers advertising the event in Spanish.
That impresses Martinez. And he’s heard from other Spanish-speaking parents who appreciate the gesture.
A family told him of receiving a flyer from their child’s school. It was the first Spanish-language notice of a school-related event they had ever received.
It made them feel welcome, Martinez said.
Parents came prepared to voice concerns last week. Martinez said school officials took note.
“I think it went great. I think that (Booker) is very open to make changes for the Hispanic community, for the kids,” he said. “He didn’t give me any wrong impression. He was very, very humble.”
Concerns from parents include having more translators at school events, school bus pick-up locations and issues as students ride to school, said Martinez’s brother, Carlos Martinez, who also attended the event.
Last year, Byron Martinez helped local families file complaints with schools about gang contracts.
Before the 2012-2013 school year, Gaston County Schools used the contracts as a way to identify students suspected of being in gangs.
Martinez said that duty now rests where it should — with police officers.
You can reach Wade Allen at 704-869-1828 or twitter.com/GazetteWade.