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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Contact: Carolina González, cagonzalez@seiu32bj.org(929) 287-4263

Orange County Spanish-speaking parents receive more resources in public schools

OCPS officials commit to orientations and translation for 2017-2018 school year

Orlando – The Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) board approved funding at their July meeting last week for three measures requested by a group of Hispanic parents in the district, to have greater access to information and to communicate better with school personnel.

 

Several parents with kids enrolled in OCPS schools, and community members who are part of VAMOS4PR Florida, testified at the budget hearing, where the board voted to approve the budget for the 2017-2018 school year. These parents, who have been organizing to improve conditions for all parents in the district, proposed three measures that they said will help parents not yet fluent in English become more integrated into their school communities.

 

In the past school year, OCPS enrollment of new students migrating from mostly Spanish-speaking countries and Puerto Rico has increased by more than fifty percent, and 40 percent of enrolled students identify as Latino.

 

“Most parents want to be involved in their kids’ school, but I have seen a lot of parents who because of a language barrier, have trouble getting the information they need in the schools, and get frustrated,” said Dayana Ojeda, who moved from Puerto Rico last year and whose daughter attends an OCPS school. “We are really excited to see that when parents come together, we can make things happen that will benefit all parents.”

 

One measure that was approved will add monthly orientation sessions, in Spanish, to inform parents about their rights and the resources available to them. The board also approved an extensive outreach program for the orientations via letter, phone and email.

 

A second measure approved will have the district contract with a multilingual translation phone line, so that parents can communicate more effectively with school personnel. Similar phone lines are in use in other public agencies in the state, and in other school districts around the country.

 

A third measure will have the school district contract with a translation service to provide a full translation of the OCPS website, including all sections containing information for parents, and all materials for parents.

 

The board also announced plans to expand these services to other languages spoken by families in the district, including Creole, Portuguese, Arabic, and Vietnamese.

 

“Hearing from parents what resources would help them the most helped us make some good decisions to help these families become involved and engaged in their children’s school, which makes their children more successful,” said Linda Kobert, vice-chair of the OCPS school board.

 

Members of VAMOS4PR Florida, which includes organizations and individuals working to build power for Puerto Ricans on the island and in the states, testified at the July meeting. Several members of the network also testified in support of parents at the school board’s May meeting, and participated in meetings with school board members to develop the proposals.  They also brought to the hearing hundreds of postcards signed by Orange County parents asking school board members for these types of resources.

 

VAMOS4PR Florida is a network of community, religious, labor and civic groups committed to empowering the Puerto Rican diaspora and protecting the rights of the growing Latino population in Florida.

 

“Schools are the first public institutions that most people encounter when they move here from Puerto Rico or another country, and it’s important for families to feel integrated there, and in other parts of their community,” said Wanda Ramos, a member of VAMOS4PR who graduated two kids from OCPS schools. “We are gratified that the OCPS listened to the community and has laid the ground for a positive relationship, which we can build on to make our schools, and our communities, better for everyone."