Sedona-Oak Creek School District’s strategic planning committee held its final community forum Tuesday, Dec. 12, at West Sedona School; this forum was geared toward Spanish-speaking parents and students.The district’s translator Maria Ortega, along with several bilingual teachers and parents, facilitated the evening’s SWOT analysis and general discussion, where the forum examined the district’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and shared ideas for how the school district should move forward.
According to demographic data, the district is made up of 47 percent Hispanic students, 47 percent white students and 6 percent students of other ethnicities.
“That’s why it’s very important for us to get your views tonight, because we can improve our school district as we go forward through the information shared in these forums,” said Don Groves, the education consultant who volunteered to lead the strategic planning committee.
Themes from past forums carried over into this one, with the 30 attendees expressing concern at low teacher pay, high cost of living and budget cuts, while praising the district’s dedicated teachers, supportive parents and opportunities in the elementary schools’ curriculum, such as West Sedona School’s science, engineering, technology and math accreditation.
The bulk of the forum, however, was spent discussing the district’s shortcomings in communicating with and involving its parents, particularly its Spanish-speaking half.
Several expressed difficulty connecting with their kids’ teachers, in part because of language barriers — Ortega is the district’s only dedicated translator, and not many staff are bilingual or able to provide translation.
One solution presented included creating more community-building opportunities, such as potlucks, that would bring teachers, parents and students together in an informal, non-academic setting.
Teachers and parents alike also saw the opportunity to create a more bilingual-friendly environment by incorporating Spanish lessons in elementary school as well as giving more support to English language learners.
Following up on an issue brought up at the committee’s first meeting in early November, Groves invited parents present at the forum to join the strategic planning committee in order to give the Hispanic community a voice in the planning process.
While the community input period has ended, each committee meeting is open to the public. It next meets Tuesday, Dec. 19, at 4 p.m. at the Sedona Red Rock High School library.