12/2002 The Friedman Report: C.A.R.E. of Dallas Shows Parents a “New World”

Published December 1, 2002

Choices and Actions Regarding Education–C.A.R.E.–is a Dallas, Texas-based advocacy group that focuses on Hispanic parents.

C.A.R.E. was founded in September 2001–yes, the same month as the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. Founders Marcela Garcini and Norma Echavarria were concerned that most Hispanic parents did not have the benefit of choices in education, and therefore could not easily take the actions necessary to improve their children’s performance in school.

Meeting with many groups of parents for C.A.R.E. in the weeks following September 11 reinforced Garcini’s reasons for establishing an advocacy organization, particularly in her Oak Cliff neighborhood, where public schools are some of the most dangerous places to be. “After 9/11, everyone wanted to feel safe,” she said.

“Our schools in Dallas are rough; we don’t feel our children are safe in them,” she explained. “Many people in safe areas cannot begin to understand to what degree we do not feel safe in the schools we are given.”

Looking for a Private School?

An easy way to find private schools in your area is to use the U.S. Department of Education’s Private School Locator, which permits searches in a specific geographic area–state, city, or zip code–by program focus and/or religious affiliation. The initial search provides an alphabetized list of schools with address, phone number, number of students, and grades served. Clicking on a specific school provides additional information on student demographics and enrollment by grade.

For example, if you were looking for Montessori and Christian schools in Dallas, Texas, you would quickly discover there are nine Montessori schools, 17 Christian schools, and just one Christian Montessori school: Lakemont Academy on West Northwest Highway, with four teachers and 39 mainly white and Hispanic students in grades K-6.

To use the Private School Locator, go to http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/pss/privateschoolsearch/.

Garcini’s 5-year-old son, Carlos, is enrolled at St. Cecilia Catholic School in Dallas, paid for in full by Garcini and her husband, Carlos Pozo. “We struggle,” she said. “We live in the neighborhood we do so he can go to St. Cecilia, at nearly $400 a month.”

Little Carlos initially attended public school, but his hyperactivity and other problems led school officials to insist he be medicated. Garcini and Pozo resisted and turned to St. Cecilia’s. The private school provides a nurturing, challenging, “family” atmosphere where Carlos can get the attention he needs without being medicated. In fact, his behavioral problems have improved through intensive counseling.

When asked why she is so dedicated to school choice when her own child is obviously not being left behind, Garcini provides a simple answer: “Because we see so many children failing in our neighborhood.”

The Oak Cliff neighborhood is 85 percent Hispanic, and Garcini and Echavarria realized that a lack of information was the largest hurdle to parents seeking better educational options for their children. Ambitiously, they set out to hold monthly informational and training C.A.R.E. workshops.

The workshops inform parents as to their current choices and motivate them to speak out for more, explained Garcini. They are usually held at area private schools and attract an average attendance of 20 to 25 new parents per workshop. However, Garcini expects more like 60 to 65 parents at her next workshop, since she is doing it in coordination with Children First America.

“Every Texas parent must know about school choice,” said Garcini. “It’s a new world to those who come to know about it.”