Maria Guzman: Parent, activist

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Maria Guzman

Maria Guzman

Maria Guzman says isolation and lack of communication between schools has been her biggest challenge in trying to get the best education for her children. “If schools aren’t giving information about getting from elementary to high school, or from high school to college, you don’t know your options,” she says. “My son is an example. He’s going into 7th grade, has a learning disability and was diagnosed with epilepsy. Even though his teacher works very hard with him, she needs more information about how to work with a student with epilepsy. Maybe teachers in other schools have [information] that would help her.” Guzman has two children at North River Elementary and three children who graduated from CPS and are now in college. She is a board member for the Albany Park Neighborhood Council and a parent leader with the Greater Albany Park Education Coalition.

KEEPING KIDS SAFE

A lot of the time [schools] wait for something big to happen. They don’t nip it in the bud. If a kid says, “He’s threatening me,” they say, “Ignore it as long as he doesn’t touch you.” If they actually found out what’s happening and did something about it before anything big happens, that would help.

BOOSTING PARENT INVOLVEMENT

I’ve been at schools where they prefer parents to stay in the background. I say “What are you hiding, that you don’t want parents in there?” It’s good if schools actually let parents come in and to see what the kids are learning and how they’re being taught. Maybe that would help you to help your kids at home.

COMMUNICATING WITH PARENTS

The principal at North River gives out his e-mail so parents can communicate with him on their time and he can answer them when he’s not busy. At Roosevelt, my son’s teachers e-mailed me to tell me how he was doing and show me his grades. If there was a problem, they let me know. So I could go to my son and say, “Okay, look, this is what your teacher told me.” It wasn’t, “Well, I heard…” It was, “Look, this is the e-mail your teacher sent me. Where is that paper you’re missing?”

SCHOOL CHOICE

People shouldn’t have to go out of their neighborhood. Neighborhood schools should be able to offer the same [resources] as any other school.

WHY KIDS DROP OUT

A lot of the time it’s the way the teachers treat kids. They tell them, “If you make it, you make it; if you don’t, you don’t.” They don’t have respect for them. They need to go up to that student and find out why he isn’t learning or doesn’t want to learn. Sometimes these kids need someone to talk to and they don’t have anyone because there are problems at home. So what do they do? They just close up and don’t talk to anybody. If the teachers aren’t there to help them out, who’s going to?