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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Rebecca Clayton, December 8, 1988. Interview K-0132. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Efforts to build bridges between school and growing Latino community

Clayton discusses how Eastway Elementary School, where she had worked since 1995, was working to build bridges between the school and the growing Latino community in Durham. Clayton describes how the school had employed a "Hispanic coordinator" who was able to communicate with parents who were unable to speak English. In addition, she describes how the school would hold cultural events to promote understanding among students of different backgrounds.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Rebecca Clayton, December 8, 1988. Interview K-0132. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

What are your general feelings just about the increase in the Latino population here as a whole?
REBECCA CLAYTON:
I don't really have any problem with that. The children that I've had seem to want to learn. Parents are supportive. They've been in. Except for this one case I had but the mother deserted that family. And then the father was working out of town so that made it really difficult for that child. I don't know how I would've felt if I had been in a foreign country; couldn't speak the language; and something like that had happened to me. So I'm sure all the problems we had with him were a lot of it was precipitated by that. Now with my others, if I called the parents in they'd come. They are supportive. I could always count on getting their papers back when I sent them home to be signed. They've been very supportive. And also this school too, we had a Hispanic coordinator here. She's just—
ANGELA HORNSBY:
Rosanna Perez?
REBECCA CLAYTON:
Yeah, Ms. Perez. But she just quit you know and went to work somewhere else with housing. So I don't know exactly the title of where she is working. But I mean that was very good. We did, we had a wonderful fiesta dance last December. And the teachers, the whites, the Spanish, the blacks, all came out and participated with that. A covered dish dinner, the piñatas, the dances, it was really great, really great. I think it was a good education for children who were not really familiar with what the Hispanics did and some of their customs were. It was a wonderful learning thing. And I think everybody really enjoyed it. I think that with Ms. Perez gone, somebody else is really going to have to take that up. Particularly teachers now are overwhelmed with all they have to do. I don't know exactly what is going to be happening in that line. Because, I mean, I'm sure when you were talking with Ms. Wagstaff they were doing language studies where the Hispanics and the blacks came together so they could learn each other's language. I think it's great. That was something that was great.
ANGELA HORNSBY:
So what does it mean now that she's gone? What type of impact does that have on this place in terms of trying to bridge these cultural differences? Not just among the staff but parents as well—
REBECCA CLAYTON:
I don't know. I don't really know what is happening with that because that's just occurred here in the last couple of weeks. But I really think they need somebody to fill that spot. In my opinion that was very beneficial because number one she could speak the language. She could deal with the parents. And again how would you feel if you were in a foreign country and you could not speak the language and here was somebody that could help you with those issues who could speak the language, could tell you what was happening at the school. Because sometimes I have to get one of my little boys to translate for me when I call one of my parents to see why her child is not at school. And so he can translate for me and let her know why I'm calling because usually it's to see why they're not at school. So it's—and but I couldn't call on Perez. See heretofore you could say "Ms. Perez, I need you to call such and so parents and I need to find out why they're not at school today. It could be that he's sick. It could be that he missed the bus. It could be any number of reasons." So I don't know but to me it's going to be a real loss for us because I think we were making real progress there. We had bilingual PTA meetings, said in English and then Ms. Perez or Ms. Shaw translated it.