An employee beloved by the Latino community in Santa Monica is to be reassigned, according to an adopted resolution by the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District. Although privacy policy doesn’t allow the employee to be named, parents in the community say it’s SMMUSD family engagement coordinator Aida Diaz.

In 2016, a similar situation with Diaz occurred. At the time, Diaz was the district’s longtime coordinator for English language development programs. The district sought to eliminate that position in lieu of a new parent engagement position as well as a new language coordinator job to improve dual immersion in SMMUSD.

Parents were upset with the change to Diaz’s job status then and they are upset with the changes now.

During the school board meeting, seven public speakers spoke in support of Diaz, questioning why parents were informed on short notice (many telling the Daily Press they were informed Monday, February 26th of the Thursday, March 1st decision) that the district would reassign Diaz’s position, a position that’s made her invaluable to the Latino community.

Nancy Gutierrez, a 20-year bilingual community liaison, praised Diaz as “for years, the glue that holds underrepresented parents, liaisons, and school administrators together,” building a bridge for predominantly Latino and Spanish speaking parents to schools and the school system.

“Underserved parents require nurturing to fulfill their role as a parent in the district,” Gutierrez said at the board meeting. “They connect with individuals they trust. For years, Aida Diaz has built many relationships with families. When they have problems, they seek her out because they trust her.”

Gutierrez said that from her experience, parents had become more participatory in different programs and meetings solely because they knew Diaz would be there to assist parents personally or guide them to helpful resources.

Maria de Luna and Laura Hernandez are both parents who have benefitted from Diaz’s personal touch, both discovering programs through Diaz to assist their special needs children.

“It helped me a lot because as a parent I need someone else that knows how to help with special needs,” Laura Hernandez said. “It’s helped me meet parents meet others in that community. Aida also gives us a lot of support in Spanish. Spanish speakers are scared sometimes to speak up and Aida helps us engage with people.”

Maria de Luna says Diaz is “an advocate for parents,” the family coordinator helping de Luna get involved with the community, attending LCAP (Local Control and Accountability Plan) and DELAC (District English Learners Advisory Committee) meetings as well as helping to meet others at the JOY Foundation and a special needs support group.

“It takes trust and it takes time to build a connection,” de Luna said. “Losing Aida as a coordinator, you can’t just start from scratch. If they (the Board) could at least sit there and go to the meetings and see her effect on the community, they could see what she does for us and change their mind.”

“I strongly encourage you to listen to the parents,” Gutierrez said, concluding her speech to the Board. “Honor what the parents are telling you, they want and need Aida Diaz.” Gutierrez finished by commenting replacing Diaz would set relationships between minority parents and the school district back “years”.

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