That position has been held since 1994 by José Luna.
Ramón Pérez, a community activist with United North, told La Prensa there were 60 Latinos in the main room at the Thurgood Marshall Building and another 22 in the overflow crowd which had been shunted to Leverette School.
Jessica Molina, one of the protest organizers, called for Latinos in the room to stand up prior to her impassioned presentation to the board. The result showed a solid Latino presence in the jam packed meeting room, with several rows of seats fully occupied by Latinos.
If you didn’t attend the event, you probably wouldn’t know about the strong Latino presence. It was not reported by The Blade or Channel 13 in their coverage. However, both Channel 11 and Channel 24 did report it on their online sites.
Speakers were allowed three minutes to make their case before the board. Other Latino community advocates who spoke in addition to Molina were María Elena Aguilar, Ana María Ponce and Abel Ramos.
The organizer of the protest, community activist Margarita De León, told La Prensa earlier that she would be unable to attend the meeting. She said she had organized a phone bank to notify the community about the meeting.
Prior to the public comment feature, TPS Board President Bob Vásquez and other members of the board recognized a number of teachers and school board employees for their service. Among those honored was Mary Morales, who is retiring as a mathematics teacher from Waite High School at the end of this semester after 35 years of service.
Prior to Molina’s presentation, several other parents pled their case against cuts in special teachers and art, music and sports programs in order to balance the TPS $35 million budget deficit by June.
Molina captivated the audience in the room as she presented the facts for retaining the Hispanic Outreach Coordinator position.
“There are more than 2,000 Latino students in the Toledo Public Schools system, but only one person to work with them. Latinos are the fastest growing minority population, but are the lowest performing at all levels, and yet this position of Hispanic Outreach Coordinator is up for elimination,” Molina told the board.
She pointed out that taxpayers do not pay the costs of the Hispanic Outreach Coordinator, whose job is fully funded by two federal grants, so there would be no reduction of the TPS budget deficit if the post were to be eliminated.
Molina cited the many areas in which Luna has personally made a difference such as the Latino Youth Summit. But unfortunately, several of the members of the board including Vásquez and former Toledo mayor Jack Ford appeared to be inattentive during her presentation. This was the case even when Molina stated that if Luna’s position was eliminated, many Latinos would transfer her children to more “Latino-friendly schools.”
Ana María Ponce electrified the audience with a dramatic plea for Luna’s retention by citing his interaction with her son. She credited Luna with convincing her son not to drop out of school and face a possible life as a gang member, selling drugs, carrying a gun, killing someone and going to prison.
Instead, because of Luna’s intervention, her son is in Hollywood and is an aspiring actor who will be attending acting school in the fall.
“Without the (Hispanic Outreach) Coordinator, my son would not be where he is today,” said Ponce. “He (Luna) is a role model.”
Another speaker concluded her remarks by citing the two bi-lingual signs welcoming “parents and friends” to the board meeting. Pointing to the sign in Spanish, she told the board that if the Hispanic Outreach Coordinator’s position were cut, Latinos would no longer feel they were welcome in the system.
Josh Flores, formerly of Waite High School
Yet it was an action taken by the TPS Administration prior to the meeting that immediately impacted Toledo Latinos.
La Prensa received an e-mail from Angelica González, a student at Waite High School, which informed the newspaper that Josh Flores, a popular member of the faculty since 1999, had received notice about March 22nd that he was being transferred from Waite effective March 28.
Reached by phone, González told La Prensa that she and other students at Waite were “devastated” by the news of the transfer.
“We don’t want him to go,” said González. “He really helps us.”
She listed the numerous activities Flores has created at the school for Latino students including participation in the Youth Summit in May and at the Lourdes College Career Day for Latinos as well as establishing a Spanish Club and planning a Cinco de Mayo celebration.
“What will happen to all these activities now?” asked González. She said that Flores had indicated that Mary Morales would be able to help, “but she is retiring this year.”
La Prensa left a detailed phone message for Morales with the Waite High School office, but Morales did not return the call.
However, Josh Flores did confirm that he was “being displaced” from Waite and had been transferred to two schools where he will divide his time, Jones Junior High and the Martin Luther King Academy.
“This is pretty devastating as well as frustrating,” said Flores. “I’m not even being allowed to finish out the fourth quarter. It is totally unprofessional. I suffer, and the students will ultimately suffer the most” by this action.
Flores said he would “fight for seniority” to prevail in his case.
He said Morales had told him she would “step up and see the projects through for me, but what will happen to them after she leaves?”
“This upheaval defies any explanation,” said Flores, who was notified about March 22 about the transfer.
“This is another example of the Toledo Latino community being considered as third rate citizens. The board needs to consider the damage that is being done to the kids in the long run. They are not thinking about the kids,” said Flores.
Such arbitrary decisions by the Toledo School Board are ironic coming on the heels of the latest United States Census results showing great increases in Latino population in Lucas County.
The 2010 Census shows that the Latino population in Lucas County grew by 4,090.
The ranking Latino educator in the TPS system is Emilio V. Ramirez, the principal of Woodward High School.
The increase was also significant in other Ohio counties including Hancock County where Latinos are now the largest minority in the county.
Significantly, Findlay in Hancock County has a Latino principal, David Alvarado, who oversees Glenwood Middle School.
La Prensa would like to thank Ramón Pérez for sharing his photographs of the TPS meeting with our readers.