A Latino and Spanish-speaking parent group is re-establishing itself in the community this week to provide a singular home for Latino and Spanish speaking parents, students, and community members of Santa Monica High School.

The group, Parents, Estudiantes, y Maestros Asociación (PEMA), will hold it’s first meeting Wednesday, May 23 at 6 p.m. at Samohi. PEMA previously existed in the 1980s as the Hispanic Parent Teacher Student Association then SOL before becoming defunct.

PEMA’s first meeting will inform parents and community members of the group’s mission and vision, which includes closing the achievement gap and providing a voice to what the group calls a lack of a Latino voice throughout the high school and district.

The Santa Monica Malibu Unified School district has a program which supports many Spanish speakers learning English in the English Learner Advisory Committee (ELAC),which provides parents and community members an outlet to voice their concerns and ideas to schools, the district, and school site councils.

However, PEMA members say that while ELAC helps many English learners in the district, it doesn’t provide Latinos specifically— over 30% of the district’s population— their own voice.

“We want to work together,”  Dr. Berenice Onofre, a PEMA founder and community organizer, said about working with Samohi and the district. “ELAC is sometimes seen as a Latino parent meeting, but not all Latino parents are involved; the parents will look [at an ELAC meeting] and think, ‘My kid isn’t an English learner, he’s in AP’ and they don’t go, they feel like they don’t have a home.”

Dr. Irene Gonzales-Castillo, the district administrator of DELAC (DELAC is district level, ELAC is site-level), said that ELAC has “its own specific function” in terms of supporting English learner families in the district, saying the program attempts to help all.

“There are certain requirements you must cover within the program,” Gonzales-Castillo said. “[PEMA] felt they needed something in addition and they’re working closely with Samohi leadership to do that.”

Gonzales-Castillo added that she thinks the recently adopted Family Engagement Framework will help parent and community needs moving forward, including that of PEMA.

Gail Pinsker, community and public relations officer for the district, said that the group’s first meeting would be an unofficial one, as there are certain guidelines the group hasn’t followed thus far.

“From a district standpoint, the district is supportive of a process like this,” Pinsker said. “But a group like this, like any group, must go through a certain process. We’re working with this group to establish themselves through this process.”

Pinsker says Superintendent Dr. Drati has a meeting with the group this Friday to discuss further options concerning the group and its establishment.

A flyer for the first meeting was obtained by the Daily Press and summarizes the first meeting as follows:

“We invite Latino parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and family members to our first meeting at SAMOHI. The objective of the meetings will be to inform ourselves about the education system in the U.S. and to work together for the education of our children and all Latino SAMOHI students.”

Guests for the first meeting include Deacon Raul Molina and Padre Jorge Guillen from Saint Anne Catholic Church.

Parents, Estudiantes, y Maestros Asociación’s first meeting will take place at Santa Monica High School’s Salón i211, located in the Innovation Building, on the second floor.

angel@smdp.com

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