CHARLOTTE—Members of Charlotte's Latino community say there is more Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools can do to meet Latino students' needs. School leaders are paying close attention to this growing population.
For the first time ever, Latino leaders from across Mecklenburg County banded together to tackle their children's educational challenges. Their work started Saturday with a panel discussion, The State of Latino Education in Mecklenburg County.
"We want to show to the community everything we are doing to support those students," said Cristina Sanchez, who teaches Latino students at Vance High School.
There are 24,000 Latino students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, almost a fifth of the total enrollment. Latinos are the majority on 11 CMS campuses.
School board chair Ericka Ellis-Stewart said it is important for the system to support Latino families.
"From a cultural perspective it's making sure that we as a district understand how parents want to be involved, how they should be involved and making a space for that to happen in a positive way," said Ellis-Stewart.
One of the big challenges is the language barrier some Hispanic parents face at school.
"It is intimidating," said Nhora Gomez-Saxon, a teacher at South Mecklenburg High School. "They come to the main office, they say 'Hola,' nobody answers them, nobody looks at them, they go back home."
Gomez-Saxon said every school needs a bilingual employee in the main office to help parents be involved in their kids' education.
"The involvement of the parents is vital in the education of the kids," said Gomez-Saxon.
The group heard a videotaped message from new CMS Superintendent Heath Morrison, who said he plans to make the district accessible for all students and parents.