Jose Granda submitted his response to the GATE/AIM Vanguard Question. The other responses were published on Friday.
Question #4: Have you been involved in the GATE/AIM Committee Meetings? If so, what has been your involvement? How do you view the current state of the GATE/AIM program, and what would be your interest in a future direction? Finally, how will you be able to balance the needs of the great majority of students that are not in the GATE/AIM program with that for GATE/AIM students?
Jose Granda: I have not been involved on those meetings. I have an open mind, if elected, will look at the situation considering all sides. I believe the GATE/AIM program is very good for Davis Schools; I have had two of my own children accepted in that program. The program provides an opportunity to excel and thus needs to be supported. The major question for me is how you get to attend this program. Is it a teacher’s decision? Should it be the parent’s decision? Is it up to a Principals decision?
In my opinion that decision belongs to the student with guidance and support from the parents. The obligation as a school trustee if elected is to provide the opportunity for ALL students who wish to try it. A system of a lottery for admission is not acceptable. A child’s future should not depend on a lottery. So what do you propose? If this is important to the district then the School Board members need to figure out a policy of inclusion not a policy of separation and discrimination. I propose that ANY student who wishes to be challenged with support from their parents should have the opportune to try this program without any psychological private evaluations or favoritism from a teacher or a principal. I would like to propose the creation of a Pre Gate class, a class where anyone without distinction, can attend at least for six months. If the student s performing well then he/she should continue on with the rest of the program without further question as to whether there is a place for that child.
Allow me to answer other very important questions that some of your readers regarding Hispanic students and GATE. There are only about 5% of Hispanic students who participate. How can we do better? I checked the figures; exactly we have 18% Hispanic students attending Davis Schools. Is all about creating the opportunity and understanding the culture. Let me introduce my own experiences. STEM careers at the university level are like the GATE program in schools, both have the same problem. The lack of participation in science and engineering careers has been a source of concern for those of us who make a living teaching STEM careers. A couple of years ago, with the help of the California Space Grant, some of my students and I decided to research this question and not only surveyed students but also the parents seeking the answers. The results point to the mismatch of culture and understanding of the educational institutions with how Hispanic students and their parents see the opportunities in front of them.
We live in a generation where the parents have had low educational opportunities or even cannot communicate in English. So how can they guide they kids and be motivated to send them to a GATE program that they do not understand? Many GATE parents are heavily involved in providing opportunities for their kids, they research the benefits, seek where the program is, provide the required evaluations for their kids etc. Hispanic parents have not had the opportunities themselves so they are not in the same position to help their children seek those opportunities. When School Board members and administrators do not understand the culture or the language they do not have a prayer of a chance that things would change. They cannot expect they will come knowing on the door of a GATE administrator with the application for their children. The School Board and the school administrators need to take an aggressive stand and go seek these students and bring the parents for workshops in Spanish if necessary so that there is a clear understanding of what GATE/AIM can do for their children, an active promotion and selling of the program to them.
Let me give you some examples that illustrate what I am saying. I had a Hispanic student who on my way to lunch I run I into and I asked him. “Ignacio, have you filed the NASA application for an internship next summer?” He said to me. “Professor they will never accept me”. I told him, just file it and we will deal with your question later. Three months after he received his acceptance. What this shows is that Hispanics by culture and by circumstances of their lives in the US still see themselves as not having the same qualifications or feeling accepted. Their self-esteem needs to be greatly uplifted. What it takes are incentives and deliberately seeking these students and giving them the opportunity to come into a GATE program but you are not going to do it by placing restrictions that for them are huge obstacles. They need to find in the administrators and the School Board members open arms to embrace them and tell them “si se puede” ( yes, you can do it).
Davis voters have a unique opportunity to elect the first Hispanic to run for the School Board in the thirty six years I live in Davis and give that 18% of students and Hispanic parents to have some representation on the School Board. By electing me not only the Board will be enhanced with someone that understands the Hispanic culture but can communicate fluently with that 18% of the population of students and parents. I invite your readers to consider to whether the time has come with my candidacy to introduce diversity and understanding in School Board and consider voting for me on November 4.