Janice Kurbjun

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September 1, 2011
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Lt. Gov. Joseph Garcia speaks to learning opportunities in Frisco Wednesday

Frisco - Lt. Gov. Joseph Garcia's got a bit choked up for a moment when he spoke of his mother receiving her college diploma at the age of 63.

Feeling the power of the story, many who were gathered for Wednesday's Summit Education Foundation fundraiser had tears in their eyes as they listened to Garcia's tale of his family bootstrapping his and his siblings' education - which shaped the worlds they entered as adults.

"We were pushed and inspired and motivated," Garcia said, but that wasn't the case for everyone in his northern New Mexico hometown of Espanola. It's largely a Latino, working class town Garcia said hasn't had a lot of educational success. His family descended from Garcia's father, who knew no English, but advanced to New Mexico Military Institute, then Purdue University, then George Washington University with the help of supporting teachers and an interested local store owner. Garcia himself left Espanola, eventually landing at Harvard Law School.

"We always need to be talking to people about the power of education," Garcia said. "Every kid deserves to have a shot at those opportunities."

In honor of Garcia's focus on early childhood literacy, which studies show ensures success in future education, the Wednesday evening fundraiser dedicated half of its proceeds to early childhood literacy. The other half is going to literacy needs throughout the rest of the district. The tally so far for the event is $3,500.

Garcia said he's also focused on supporting Senate Bill 191, or the teacher and principal accountability legislation, as well as remedying the achievement gap and the degree attainment gap where roughly 50 percent of white students earn college degrees compared to about 15 to 17 percent of the Latino community.

Garcia said the approach Summit School District is taking this year in offering high-level curriculum to all students by putting all learning types in the same classroom in the middle school and in some integrated classrooms in the high school has its challenges and strengths, but he believes it's a bold step that could benefit a changing county. The traditional teaching method is to group students according to ability to streamline curriculum content.

"It's challenging for you, a community that's changing demographically ... but it does create an opportunity for all students," he said, later adding, "The demographics are changing, but kids need to be prepared for that."

Strengths of the instructional strategy include mixing students both conceptually and culturally, Garcia said. And it sets a high standard for all children.

"A segmented environment within an integrated environment isn't doing a good job of preparing kids for the world we live in," he said.

The challenge of the system yet to be tested in Summit Schools is the perception that gifted students will be held back by the presence of others in the classroom - a belief held by many parents who voiced concerns about implementing equal access at a Monday forum.

At the same Monday event, Latino parent liaison Teresa Antunez spoke up on behalf of several families in attendance, saying the move is opening up opportunities for students who might not have otherwise had them.

Part of the challenge is also helping families with different cultural backgrounds and views on their role in education understand that "parents are the most effective teacher their child will ever have," Garcia said.

"'We need to have the expectation that every kid can perform in a rigorous classroom and make it happen," Garcia said, adding that in his eyes, Summit Schools is working toward that end and is dedicated to doing so.


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The Summit Daily Updated Sep 1, 2011 05:15PM Published Sep 1, 2011 05:13PM Copyright 2011 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.