Baking 500 muffins for a fundraiser and being that one audience member filming their kid on stage during a talent show is not 45-year-old Alma Loredo’s idea of an “involved parent.” Or at least, it’s not the only way she knows parents can show commitment and engage in the rearing and education of their children.
Loredo’s role as a parent leader with Padres Unidos – a committee of parents in East Salinas who advocate for more equitable learning systems, particularly in Alisal Union School District and guided by Building Healthy Communities – gives her a unique perspective and an expansive definition of involved parenting.
In her eyes, parents working three jobs doesn’t necessarily equate to absentee parenting, nor does being on a school site council – typically a coalition of a school’s community members, parents and teachers – equate to the only way working parents can make changes in their schools. “[Parent Teacher Organizations], school site councils, those are important,” she says. “But it’s not the only way.”
Growing up in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, Loredo was used to parents having a few responsibilities. “We just feed [our children] and buy them books,” she says, noting a contrast to the United States’ system: “Here we have more leadership.” Here’s what this mother of three is doing in her newfound role.
Weekly: What’s Padres Unidos’ vision?
Our vision is to have a welcoming group for parents and to help them understand that once you transform the system to be equitable for every student, the school climate is better. Like today, we have social-emotional support and the whole climate [at AUSD] is more inclusive of parents and respectful of our children and our culture.
Parent involvement is something that districts are struggling with as this “missing piece,” especially in school districts that look and feel like AUSD – majority English-learners, majority low-income students. Districts are trying to figure out how to be better in staffing, in meeting student needs and with minimal resources, but parental involvement is a challenge.
Districts need to understand we – the parents – are the experts on the needs of the child. It is important they recognize that relationship and how sometimes it can feel like the system is set up so we feel like we don’t belong there. I want to feel like I can express my feelings in a safe space without bringing harm to me or my child.
So how does that change? Alisal was very different a few years ago and I’ve heard going to board meetings was insane – yelling matches and everything.
Oh yeah, now it’s a different story. The avenue we took is the LCFF (local control funding formula). We advocated for more programs that focus on social-emotional learning – looking at the whole child. Certainly now we hope to get more funds for parent-leadership and helping parents become better advocates for their own children. We want to be those people who can help the district make better decisions, but we need investment in our leadership.
We have this process with [AUSD], since we’ve cultivated our relationship. We bring parents to LCAP (local control and accountability plan) meetings. They were just doing the surveys and we told them that’s not enough, hold meetings, and we will bring the parents. So we help organize parents outside of the district. And we design those presentations at those meetings. We help make those meeting spaces more accessible. We transformed the process.
What does being an involved parent mean?
I think there are different levels of involvement and sadly, the district for a long time only recognized one kind of parent: being part of committees or school site councils. That’s important. But an active parent makes sure kids get to school on time, or they’re spending five or 10 minutes talking to kids over breakfast, or reading to their kids. Parents are the ones that help cultivate values, even if they’re working three jobs.
Districts shouldn’t just say, “Oh OK, they tick off this and this box.” Parents can be involved in authentic and meaningful ways, not just in the ways that [school administrators] know.
Do you feel a big responsibility now?
Oh yes. I take my responsibilities very seriously. I see my child in every child and when one, two, three are being left behind, that’s not a good system. It’s not an equitable system.
The worst part about being a parent?
Driving them to the mall to the movies. I think it’s because it’s when they’re exploring their independence. They’ll always be my babies!