More bilingual staff, vigorous celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month and an end to practices that deter undocumented parents from volunteering in schools are among the suggestions a coalition of Latino groups has presented to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools leaders.
For several years, Hispanics have been the fastest-growing minority group in CMS. They made up 17 percent of the student body in the school year that just ended, and at least half the students at five elementary schools. But the Latino voice has been mostly silent in public discussion. Community leaders have been working to change that, and the education forum took those efforts to a bigger audience.
Among the ideas that emerged:
*Stop asking parents to provide a Social Security number for volunteer background checks. That intimidates those without papers, and there are other ways to check criminal records, the report says.
*Actively recruit bilingual staff and pay a stipend to employees fluent in another language.
*Provide better information about college opportunities to all students, "regardless of immigration status."
*Find better ways to communicate with Spanish-speaking families and partner with community groups who can support them.
*Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month districtwide, rather than leaving it to individual schools.
The ultimate goal: Get more Hispanic students across the finish line and into college and careers. Only 58 percent of Hispanic students in CMS graduated in four years, compared with 73.5 percent of all students.
"This is a crisis that CMS and the Latino community have to address together," the report says.
The coalition is likely to find a sympathetic ear in Morrison, who is leaving a district in Reno, Nev., that is 37 percent Hispanic. Morrison is big on promoting "cultural competence" in education, and started learning Spanish so he could at least try to speak to Hispanic families in their own tongue.