E4E-Boston Convenes Spanish-Language Space for East Boston Educators and Parents to Collaborate
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, educators and parents have had to be in constant communication to ensure that the needs of every student are met in a constantly changing education landscape. While we have heard many of these stories, one group has consistently been left out: families where the primary language spoken is not English. In East Boston in particular 67% of families speak a language other than English at home, with 30% of families speaking Spanish at home.
To address this, Educators for Excellence Boston was proud to host “Education Equity for East Boston Families,” a Spanish-langauge event where we could center the voices of Spanish-speaking East Boston parents and bridge the gap that had grown between them and educators. By partnering with the Collaborative Parent Leadership Action Network (CPLAN) and Neighbors United for a Better East Boston (NUBE), we were able to draw 70 parents, educators, and decision makers to engage in this crucial conversation.
The event’s lead organizer Leidy Quiceno, who is an Outreach Director at E4E-Boston and a longtime East Boston community member, said that she wanted to create this space because, “these parents have concerns and questions about their child’s education like everyone else, but language barriers have kept them from participating in traditional spaces like School Committee meetings. I hope our event has started to shift the way we envision parent outreach, and encourages decision-makers to consider how best to include parents whose first language is something other than English.
Educators and parents engaged in a generous and respectful dialogue about each group’s experience over the past 15 months, and what they can do to work together going forward with students at the forefront. Some of the areas of discussion included:
- Parents and educators to collaborating on meeting students social-emotional needs and addressing trauma from the last year
- Ensuring that immigrant students and their unique needs are at the forefront of Boston’s recovery plans
- Establishing and maintaining innovative communication protocols that keep parents whose first language is not English or who may work multiple jobs in the loop as educators begin the work of addressing unfinished learning from the pandemic
At the end of the event, several decision makers who had listened thoughtfully to the educators and parents were invited to share one policy solution they would pursue to address the issues they heard discussed. Their proposed solutions, which the educators and parents agreed to hold them accountable for, were:
- Representatives from Rep. Adrian Madaro’s office said their main priority was to ensure that funding levels for English Learners in Massachusetts schools were maintained or increased.
- Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards shared that she would be fighting for a Boston City ordinance that would prohibit the sharing of students’ immigration status with police officers, immigration agents, or other authorities.
- Boston City Councilor Julia Mejia announced that she is working on an ordinance that would ensure all information about city resources is immediately translated into the many languages that Bostonians speak, which is not happening now.
- Representatives from Boston City Councilor Andrea Campbell’s office said they will advocate for providing resources specifically to English Learners who also have learning disabilities
- Boston School Committee member Ernani DeAraujo shared that he would ensure that the $400 million Boston Public Schools received from the federal government via the American Rescue Plan would serve and benefit all students, including the ones mentioned during the event.
This is our second year hosting an event for the East Boston community, and E4E-Boston State Director Lisa Lazare looks forward to continuing this tradition, while also expanding to new neighborhoods. “I am proud to lead an organization that creates space for all and elevates voices that are rarely heard by those in power,” said Lazare. “We look forward to bringing educators and parents together to fight for education justice in every neighborhood across the city. When these two groups work together on behalf of students, there’s no stopping them.”