• IDRA Newsletter • August 2010 •

On July 13, 2010, IDRA held an event in the Rio Grande Valley that brought together more than 140 cross-sector education stakeholders, including families, community organization leaders, public school educators, foundation representatives and public officials. Juan Sepúlveda, director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, presented findings from the initiative’s national listening tour to gather input on the educational needs of the Hispanic community. A panel of community leaders, school officials, and students described unique education needs and assets of the Rio Grande Valley and how the federal government can help address these needs. And using IDRA’s School Holding Power portal, participants examined data about their schools and developed strategies they will take to improve schools for children and youth in the Rio Grande Valley. ¡YA! Es Tiempo demonstrated how people in different sectors of a community (students, parents, school leaders, community-based organizations, and policymakers) can come together to create strategies for improving their neighborhood public schools to ensure all students graduate ready for college and career. On these pages, we share highlights from the event.

“There’s the myth that our families don’t want our kids to go to college and that we don’t want them to continue their education. We know that’s a complete lie.”
Juan Sepúlveda, director, White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans

“South Texas – the Rio Grande Valley – is ready to transform itself from a place with a history of educational neglect to a place of high educational quality for all kids… There is a convergence of a number of schools and school districts in the Valley with very good leadership and very good leaders that, in collaboration with communities, are making some significant changes. So we know that change is possible by what is happening here in the Rio Grande Valley.”
– Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, IDRA President & CEO

“I’m not really here to talk about me because I am one of those students that graduated from high school… I’m here because our dropout rates here in the Valley are really high. There are a lot of dropouts. It’s not hard for me to put myself in their shoes.”
– Sylvia Tovar, college student

“Tenemos que entender que, como crece la población latina en el grupo minoritario más grande de América, la tasa de deserción escolar entre los latinos no es un problema de América latina, es un problema americano.”
“We need to understand that, as the Latino population grows into the largest minority group in America, the dropout rate among Latinos is not a Latino American problem, it is an American problem.”
– Joe Medrano, community education officer START Center in San Benito Texas

“Our Texas Valley is the key to the future of the state. It is a laboratory for resolving problems that will confront the state in the future. Together we can get this done and the time is now.”
– Daniel P. King, Superintendent, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD

“In Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD, a classroom of 25 students has $250,000 few dollars for the education of its children than does Highland Park ISD. We cannot wait any longer to demand and get fair funding and to close equity gaps. Ya es tiempo… It is time to close the unacceptable gaps in equity and in opportunity that hinder our children on their way to completing the great education that they deserve.”
– Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, IDRA President & CEO

“I am very impressed and inspired by the member organizations in the Equal Voice Network – Rio Grande Valley because they are creating strategies that are based on their values of empowerment of families, and this will certainly improve the school and have longer-term impact on the community at large. This is the crucial part of other school reform efforts that have failed – Families voices need to be heard. And, that is what is unique and essential in ARISE’s formation of a PTA Communitario.”
– Peter Bloch Garcia, MPA, Program Officer, Marguerite Casey Foundations

“¡YA! Es Tiempo fue evidencia clara que nuestras familias, estudiantes y educadores pueden dialogar críticamente con gran sentido sobre la data actual de las escuelas. El portal de IDRA organiza la información sobre las escuelas en una manera comprensiva y útil. Con esta data comunidades pueden tomar acción para mejorar sus escuelas públicas en nuestras vecindades.”

“¡YA! Es Tiempo was clear proof that families, students and educators can have meaningful, critical conversations about actual school data. The IDRA portal organizes public education information comprehensibly and usefully. With this data, communities can take action to improve neighborhood public schools.”
–  Aurelio M. Montemayor, M.Ed., director IDRA Parent Information and Resource Center

“We are not so interested in answers from above. But we really are interested in bringing our assets into the White House. The border area has a very special take on the future of education of our children.”
–  Mike Seifert, Network Weaver/Coordinator for the Equal Voice Network

“We know something is breaking down in the system when you have a piece of paper that says you’ve graduated from high school but you’re not ready to go to college… At the early childhood level it’s about making sure [programs] are high quality… making sure students are graduating from high school and that they’re not only getting into college but graduating. Our office has been around since 1990 and one of the challenges is that people don’t know this office existed. We’re trying to first let people know we’re here and let them know people have allies in the White House… but also to get beyond reports to say we as a federal government need to partner with communities.”
– Juan Sepúlveda, director, White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans

“At the intersection of two nations, the Rio Grande Valley is a young, vibrant, and growing community of over a million people. The Valley is also a place where rootedness, resourcefulness, and generosity of spirit abound … this community has taken on big challenges and now it can lead in transforming education.”
– Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, IDRA President & CEO

Comments and questions may be directed to IDRA via e-mail at feedback@idra.org.

[©2010, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the August 2010 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association.  Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]