Education is the best social and economic equalizer and the key to improving lives and opportunities in the Latino community. So when it was recently discovered that the Roseville Joint Union High School District had neglected to utilize $328,000 specifically allocated toward helping English-learning students, we were naturally concerned about the resources our students were being denied; the lost opportunities for enhanced education and improved futures; and whether this was an isolated case of negligence or a systemic and ongoing problem.
We were heartened to see the school district own up to its failures and immediately seek to rectify the situation and put in place a better system to ensure this disservice was not repeated. Top school district officials and their consultants attended our Latino Leadership Council meeting this month to let us know of the progress they were making and how the Latino community could remain involved.
While we are thankful to the school district for their efforts and applaud them for the new direction in which they are headed, there remains a lot of work to be done. This includes owning up to their responsibility to students who were failed during the years that the monies and resources weren’t rendered as required. Students who graduated or dropped out during those years may have fewer opportunities for higher education or work due in large part to the help, resources and guidance they did not receive while in high school. The school district should fulfill its obligation and help those young adults. It’s not too late. Other issues include the need for bilingual and bicultural staff as well as trained interpreters to help parents better engage the school system and advocate for their children.
More importantly, while the Roseville Joint Union High School District is engaged in an exemplary effort to improve their English Learner system, this experience also serves as a warning call to parents, community leaders and school officials in Roseville and beyond. We, as a community, must remain vigilant and engaged in our schools, demanding and ensuring transparency and accountability. There’s no reason this should have happened in Roseville. And less reason that it should have happened over as many years as it did.
The District claims surprise at the increase of English-learner students, yet newspapers, television news, census data and every other indicator clearly show how Latino students make up the majority of students in California schools. A look at the changing faces of the students immediately lets anyone know that change is coming and that current systems must evolve to effectively meet the needs of a changing student body. It should have come as no surprise to anyone. And we urge other school districts to immediately assess their current systems’ abilities to meet this challenge.
Schools must be anticipative and responsive to changing demographics. Parents must be present and engaged in their kids’ schools. The community must demand transparency and accountability. And the Latino Leadership Council will stand side by side with all parties to ensure our children are not cheated again.