Silvana Diaz: Choosing Strong Advocates for Our Children


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I’m sure most mothers feel the same way: It seems like only yesterday that I was burping my son, Jaden, and changing his diapers.

Now that he’s a precocious 3-year-old, though I find myself faced with a new set of parenting challenges. He’s starting pre-K this year, and I’ll need to think about where he’ll get the best education.

But finding the right preschool or school district is hard on Long Island, especially for parents from communities of color. Since this is preschool, I have a choice about where I want to send Jaden. By the time kindergarten comes around, however, I won’t have that option – he’ll attend our district public school.

We all know that parents in African American, Latino, and immigrant districts on Long Island face a slew of challenges, most notably limited resources in comparison to wealthier, whiter districts. Considering economic disparities, it’s extremely important that those districts have community representation through their school boards. We need strong advocates for our children, but often what we’re getting is the opposite.

One of the most important areas for representation of people color is in Brentwood. In this district, the largest on Long Island, a majority of residents are of color, but the school board has been marred by allegations of discrimination by certain members. Among the allegations were that one member referred to minority students as “undesirables, outsiders, and illegals.”

desk(Credit: cayoup via Flickr)

This is why we need events like an upcoming May 9 school board debate at the Brentwood Public Library. At the event, Brentwood parents will have a chance to meet the people who will serve as their advocates. Then, when parents vote for school board officials, they’ll be able to make an informed choice, and select the right person to make vital decisions on school budgets, hiring, and school environment.

The debate in Brentwood is emblematic of a larger issue on Long Island, where parents in communities of color are often left out of the decision-making process when it comes to the education of their children, and the distribution of educational resources. I hope this debate can change that, for our sake as parents, and for the sake of our children.

“Growing a Diverse Long Island: Brentwood School Board Candidate Forum” will take place on May 9 at 6:30pm at the Brentwood Public Library, and will be co-hosted by Noticia, the Long Island Civic Engagement Table, and Long Island Wins.

Silvana Diaz is publisher of the Long Island Spanish-language newspaper Noticia.

Feature image courtesy of The Photomaton via Flickr.