Latinos comprise 16 percent of the student body at Evanston Township High School and this is first year in ETHS history that a Latina — Elena Garcia Ansani — is running for the District 202 board.
With such demographics, why is Latino representation on the board so important?
Because of language and cultural barriers, the Latino community is the least visible and most institutionally underrepresented in Evanston. As a board member of the Evanston Coalition for Latino Resources, I have heard many Evanston leaders lament this situation. On April 9, all eligible voters in Evanston can take a giant step toward institutional Latino representation while voting for someone who will advocate for every student in the Evanston community–Elena Garcia Ansani.
Elena has the knowledge and the temperament to act as a liaison between fellow board members and the Latino community. She will be able to articulate the Latino community’s unique and diverse needs and experiences and connect them to the school’s goal of excellence in education for all.
For example, Elena can explain to the other board members the frame of reference of many Mexican parents. Public school teachers in Mexico often are part of a patronage system and don’t necessarily have or need educational credentials. The learning curve is daunting for Latino parents who have to scale such cultural differences. And Mexico is only one cultural context within Evanston’s Latino community. The community is not monolithic and Elena understands that.
In July 2010, the Public Policy Institute of California published the report, “Examining Latino Representation on California’s School Boards.” This research underscores potential benefits of higher high school and college graduate rates as a result of increasing Latino representation on school boards.
In the June 2012 report, “Shaping Our Future,” the Chicago based Latino Policy Forum advocated for the encouragement of “racial and cultural diversity within the educator and leadership workforce (i.e. teachers, administrators, board members, elected officials, paraprofessionals….)” School board members are key because of their far-reaching impact on school-wide policies and practices.
Voting for Elena is a win-win for all of us in Evanston. She will advocate for excellence in education for us all.
Evanston resident Terry Soto is a facilitator and project coordinator who advocates for social justice.