Dr Gutierrez, Superintendent of Edinburg CISD met with 100 families his first 100 days of his superintendency. Among board meetings and budget deadlines, Dr. Gutierrez found it necessary to leave his office in 2009 and sit on the couches, chairs, and even hang out in a garage to meet parents in their homes. He hasn't stopped connecting with his families since then. "There is more support from the families than we think. They respect the school system and they are thankful and appreciative. I made a connection early on and I needed to get to know the community I was serving in order for me to do the best job," Dr Gutierrez said.
He is still serving Edinburg, TX with the same "pull up your sleeves" kind of leadership. Edinburg is a city of about 74,000 citizens. 88% of the population is Hispanic and the city can be found about 25 miles north of the border of Mexico.
|Dr. Rene Gutierrez, Superintdent of Edinburg |
CISD and Dalinda Gonzalez-Alcantar,
CEO of eJucomm
When I asked Dr. Gutierrez how his own family effected his success he simply said this, "my father worked in construction and my parents worked very hard. I saw that! My father was a visionary even though he didn't speak English. You can live your dreams if you have the "ganas", the will. I saw, with my parents, that it is a difficult life without an education and I knew that an education could level the field. My mother would tell me, "you've got to get an education so you don't have to work in the field because that is "trabajo pesado"," hard work," Gutierrez remembers.
When asked what expectation he had for family engagement in Edinburg he stated, "I would like to see parent training. I would like to continue learning how we can help train the parents to help their kids at home. I want to see parents as tutors not cutting and pasting things for the bulletin boards. If they are on campus I want to see them reading to the class or learning from us."
Because Dr. Gutierrez and his family went through many of the same difficulties and struggles that plague our school children today, I was interested in his perspective when it came to potential barriers that prohibit families from getting involved and was surprised when he did not mention language, poverty, lack of transportation, etc. "Look, parents want to do the right thing for the most part but they really don't know how. Many parents are just too busy for their children and they need to stop. Parents need to dedicate time to their children. We are here to serve them but their barriers exist because they create them."
As I walked passed the parental involvement office all the lights were off and then it made sense because Dr. Gutierrez said the entire parental involvement division was out in the community recovering "leavers", those students that dropped out of school. "We go to their houses and we talk with the parents. It is very important that we talk with the parents and let them know how we can help them. We have to be careful and we always wear something that shows we are from the school district because many families won't open the doors because they are here illegally and think we are the border patrol, Gutierrez said. "Actually that might be the only barrier I can think of, "parents are afraid to leave their home for fear that they will be picked up by the border patrol."
As I continued to talk to Dr. Gutierrez it was clear that he was not a Superintendent afraid to pull up his sleeves and make some grassroots efforts to ensure that all children are successful through family engagement. However I had to ask, "what role do you think social media and technology play in family engagement? " "It is excellent," he said. "I like social media, the phones, the website, text messaging, all of it. We can never do enough to keep parents informed and allow them to communicate with us. One of our main goals in this district is parental involvement because you can never have enough; I really believe that."
What type of action has your leadership taken to ensure that more families are involved in schools? Let us know. We love to learn from you. -Juntos. Podemos, Dalinda Gonzalez-Alcantar-CEO of eJucomm