Thursday, December 21, 2017

Our testimonies at the December 18, 2017 AISD Board of Trustees Meeting [VIMEO]

Our testimony at the December 18, 2017 Austin Independent School District Board of Trustees Meeting [VIMEO]

Nuestro Grupo's post-testimony group photo, Dec. 18, 2017

It went well for us in this past Monday evening at the school board level. You can hear our testimonies from the AISD-Vimeo website as follows:

Cori Salmeron—1:12:30
Angela Valenzuela—1:15:00
Emilio Zamora—1:17:49

We in Nuestro Grupo, the community-based organization that organizes the activities of  Academia Cuauhtli —recoiled recently when we got word recently of school closures and consolidations of Eastside schools, including Sanchez, Metz, and Zavala. You can read about these terrible news here.

Me testifying.  You can get the publication I'm holding HERE.
These are all incredibly historic schools with embedded memories that track back to segregation. And now, gentrification.

To cut them back, to repurpose, to eliminate them is to erase historical memory beginning with the changing of the names like Spike Lee has recently commented on NPR regarding gentrification‘s impact on the soul of a community. It’s so sad—and for so many of us that have spent years working in and with these schools—enraging.

These are the ones that we as Nuestro Grupo work closely with through Academia Cuauhtli.  We also draw children and families from Houston and Pérez elementary schools in Southeast Austin.

To add insult to injury, this was done right after the successful bond election where Trustee Dr. Ted Gordon’s conciliatory plea to the struggling and the dispossessed, to support a bond that even in its outlay was going to be inequitable.  The sincerity of his plea and his expressed commitment to work toward equity actually encouraged me and many others to support the bond.  Regardless of where things stood pre-bond election, he promised that everything was still going to be negotiable— which was the reason that he put forward to support the bond. Our deep respects, Dr. Gordon.

So I expressed some dismay with that and shared my research-based literature review on Grow Your Own Educators.  N.B. Thanks to IDRA for giving me this opportunity to research, write, and publish this.

I also asked them to begin to take some notice of all of the amazing things that we are accomplishing. I guess we have been invisible.

Thankfully, the AISD Board and Superintendent Paul Cruz and Associate Superintendent Edmund Oropez have redoubled their commitment to work with us as a community.  

We are invisible no longer, my friends. We are coming together!  All of us. Everything on the table. There’s so many wonderful people in the district and in our community that we look forward to working with in the coming weeks and months.

All of it also sounds simultaneously fun, creative, and community-uplifting. We certainly have our hopes up!  Sí se puede!  Yes we can!   

-Angela Valenzuela


Testimony by Cori Salmerón, Doctoral Student & Assistant Instructor, Curriculum & Instruction - Language and Literacy Studies, The University of Texas at Austin

Cori Salmerón, UT Doctoral Student & Assistant Instructor

Good evening, my name is Cori Salmerón. I am a doctoral student in the College of Education at UT Austin, a member of Nuestro Grupo and a volunteer at Academia Cuauhtli. I am also a teaching assistant in the UT Austin bilingual education teacher preparation program. My personal experience, standardized evaluations, and research support the value of bilingual education. For example, In our class the UT students tutor 2nd grade bilingual students at Sánchez Elementary School. Seeing the Sanchez students have the opportunity to learn and express themselves in both languages is very powerful. For instance, this semester the UT students and the Sanchez students investigated an issue that is important in their community and developed a plan for change. One tutoring pair researched bullying in English and Spanish and wrote a bilingual book about how to make friends instead of being a bully. Because they were tutored by a bilingual teacher, the Sanchez students had the opportunity to develop biliteracy by researching and creating the project in English and Spanish.

In addition, a recent 5 year longitudinal study in AISD of emerging bilinguals, in comparison to monolingual English speakers, that ended in the spring of 2017, found that by 7th grade, the emerging bilingual students performed 6 percentage points higher on the STAAR math test and 1 percentage point higher on the STAAR reading test.

In terms of the pedagogical value of bilingual education, research conducted by well-known scholars shows that culturally responsive, additive bilingual instruction is helpful by simultaneously developing the student’s native language and English language proficiency. Research has also found that bilingualism has cognitive, social, psychosocial, and socio-cultural benefits. With this in mind, it is imperative that we support bilingual education. Thank you.

Testimony by Dr. Emilio Zamora, History Department, The University of Texas at Austin 

This is my testimony on Monday, December 18 before the Austin School Board when I accompanied the Nuestro Grupo/Academia Cuauhli group pictured above. I will be stating familiar observations and arguments in my testimony, but they are necessary to address the major crisis of dropping enrollment figures in our predominantly minority schools. Other persons representing Nuestro Grupo/Academia Cuauhtli will speak more directly on model educational initiatives in East Austin schools. We offer our help in devising effective plans to avoid school closures.

Dr. Emilio Zamora, UT History Professor
The City of Austin has been promoting policies that seeks real estate and business investments at the same that it favors a resident base with higher taxable income. This has had predictable consequences. As housing prices have increased, higher income homeowners and renters have flooded into the city, and mostly low and moderate-income families are leaving their traditional neighborhoods. As a result, Austin ranks tenth among the “fastest gentrifying cities in the country. 

A disproportionate number of the displaced families are of Latino or African American origin, while the great majority of the newcomers are White. This constitutes racialized gentrification and our leadership in Austin knows it, but they seem to be unable to do anything about it other than to express dumb-founded concern over some of its effects, including displacement and the erosion of cultural institutions like our public schools.

The displacement of African Americans in Austin is so serious that the community is no longer able to reproduce itself. Austin is the third fastest growing city in the nation, and the only one among its competitors with a net loss in the African American population between 2000 and 2010. Latinos, on the other hand, are continuing to register a high rates of growth in the state but a dismal showing in Austin where Whites have outpaced their increases by significant margins between 2006 and 2016. It is obvious that Blacks and Latinos are disappearing and that Austin’s liberal reputation is now a myth, especially because our city leadership does not seem able to prevent the growing problem.

To an extent, these inequalities stem from past discriminatory policies and practices, especially in employment and education. The present moment of seeming indifference, incapacity and/or hopelessness reinforce these inequalities as much as the removal of Mexicans from Central Texas towns for aiding enslaved African Americans escape slavery prior to the civil war. Gentrification is the new removal act of today. 

Gentrification has also resulted in a major enrollment crisis in schools that minority neighborhoods are unable to sustain. One of the most serious consequences is that this new crisis is supplanting our dialogue on equity issues like the almost permanent achievement gap between minority and White youth, the poor representation of minority persons and views in the School Board, and the often questionable financing and management of our schools. 

I would suggest that members of the School Board enter into a renewed and robust process of self-evaluation with the help of representatives from the community. Greater participation will insure that we review all opportunities and possibilities fully and generate stronger support for actions by the Board.

@ESBMACC #AcademiaCuauhtli @AISDMultilingue #AISDProud #GYO #NLERAP @AISDSupt @AustinAABE

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