Posted at: 09/13/2013 11:14 PM
Updated at: 09/13/2013 11:31 PM
By: Dan Conradt
(ABC 6 News) – It’s a significant challenge for any school district – how to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse community.
Seven years ago, the Austin School District created a program to address these needs.
With the start of a new school year, the program, like the district itself, has been expanded.
“The goals of our success program are to integrate families from all backgrounds into our school system,” Austin Schools Integration Coordinator Kristi Beckman said.
Austin’s newest school is also home to the district’s newest success coach.
“At the end of the day that's what it is … be the voice of those who don't speak the language," Holton Intermediate School Success Coach Rosa Narvaez said.
"Success coaches provide interpretive services within their buildings, but their roll goes far beyond that," Beckman said.
And far beyond the walls of Austin school “they work with parents to start empowerment programs to help give parents the information they need to understand the school system better," Beckman said.
"Reaching out to them so they can understand what's going on, what are the rules, what's happening so they can integrate,” Narvaez said.
As a whole, the Austin school district is now 60 percent white, and there are some individual schools where minorities have become the majority.
"With over 51 different languages being spoken in our schools now," Beckman said.
"Every year we get more diverse," Narvaez said.
"We have two success coaches who are from south sudan that help integrate the refugee community in Austin," Beckman said.
This is the seventh year of a program that is funded through state integration dollars. While it’s hard to quantify, there are signs that it is accomplishing its goals.
"By looking at our conference attendance and we know we are reaching new parents," Beckman said. “We look at how involved and engaged students are in various clubs and activities"
"Choosing Austin to be here and live and buy their homes and have their kids go to school, so that speaks well of us," Narvaez said.
"It really enriches the tapestry of the community to try to weave together all of those experiences and ideas,” Beckman said.
This week the Austin school board approved an updated integration budget to fund the success coach position at the new I.J. Holton Intermediate School.