By Kate Jonuska
The Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) has always welcomed and encouraged parental engagement, particularly among the families of their Latino students. But two years ago, under new superintendent Rob Anderson, BVSD shifted from a passive strategy toward actively seeking partnerships with such families via the Latino Parent Advisory Council (CAPL in Spanish).
“All the research on successful schools shows that in the strongest schools and districts, there are high levels of trust and connection between staff, students and families. It’s really a trinity and the foundation for all good progress,” says Ari Gerzon-Kessler, BVSD’s director of equity and partnerships.
“They’ve [Latino families] historically been marginalized in our district and most districts around the country,” he says, “and we felt it was incumbent upon us to make space for their voices in order to learn from them and to have their questions, concerns and hopes shaping our next steps.”
Over the past two years—and despite ongoing pandemic challenges—CAPL has gained momentum and focus. Research and input from dozens of the council’s parent-members have grown into concrete recommendations for improvement in areas such as academic gaps, discipline disproportionality, Spanish instruction and family communication.
“My main area of concern is still the educational gaps that exist for the Latino students and the Latino population as a whole in our community,” says Domenica Ortega, a CAPL member. This parent of two sees educational equity as a step toward Latinos being welcomed into our community as full partners. “I am happy CAPL exists because this is a safe space for us, and the place where closing the gap must start—with our children.”
Gerzon-Kessler explains that actively reaching out via CAPL has allowed BVSD to break down barriers they’d unintentionally created for parents, who may have less flexible work schedules or less access to technology.
“Latino parents want to be involved, but because these barriers can exist, it is very difficult to do so,” says Ortega, who specifically points toward the problem of district communication with Spanish-speaking parents. While individual schools vary in their interpretation services, BVSD had no district-wide system for translation and interpretation, meaning Latino parents might feel uninformed and unable to advocate for their kids—until just recently. One of CAPL’s first big successes was getting a new district-wide interpretation coordinator hired. “Interpreters and translators will now be available for teachers and parents to communicate with each other without having to worry,” Ortega says.
Gerzon-Kessler says there have been very tangible results. “In any big decisions related to the strategic plan, CAPL has become a powerhouse as a parent group. Different district leaders come to CAPL for input, whether they’re reforming summer school or want to hire or retain more teachers of color. CAPL is winning that vision of the advisory portion of its name and showing us how to do better.”
For more information or to get involved with CAPL, call
720-770-0102 or email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.