Hispanic liaison brings results

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Sarai Salazar credited with boosting communication, trust in Purdy schools

Major progress has been reported in communication between the Purdy schools and its Hispanic community, credited to efforts by Sarai Salazar, the district's Hispanic liaison who also works as the school nurse.

Superintendent Steven Chancellor reported an experience at a preschool graduation provided insight into a lack of communication with Hispanic families. One family sat in the back row. When their child was recognized, they did not go up to the front to take a photo, not knowing that was all right. A subsequent conversation revealed such presumed understanding had not reached everyone, and some families were missing out on special moments by not knowing.

"We knew we had to do something better," Chancellor said.

Last year, Salazar began clocking out to make home visits to Hispanic families and quickly gained significant insight.

"She learned most families didn't understand what we're doing, especially in high school," Chancellor said. "In their former homes, students graduated in the eighth grade. Credits were meaningless."

Salazar especially visited homes of students who were in danger of not graduating. As a result, Chancellor said parent involvement with the students increased, and more parents are coming to school functions. Salazar's role as a counselor, helping students think about where they will go after high school, filled an unforeseen need. Results were already showing up in students as the new school year began. During parent-teacher conferences in September, Salazar was on campus in the evening helping to translate.

"She's awesome, a pillar in the community," Chancellor said. "I don't think we really understood what she means to the families."

Salazar began her outreach making cold calls, the most difficult approach. She subsequently visited homes, helped to plan schedules, making repeat visits to many families. She is continuing the effort this year. Chancellor observed that many families take time in the late summer months, after school starts, to visit family outside the country. Absence from school in the first weeks of school hurts students' progress, and Salazar has tried to explain that to the families.

"She's connected [with families] through the church," Chancellor said. "Her husband does a lot of preaching. A lot of families she knew. She's worked hard to earn their trust. There's a night and day difference."

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