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Parents Empowered By New Center
Assistant Superintendent Christine Facella, left, new Cardozo Middle School parent liaison Karen De La Torre, and RUSD parent liaison Alma Calzada are excited about the upcoming Grand Opening of the new parent networking center at Cardozo on Aug. 30. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS

Bridging the gap between parents, students, and the school system is a new Parent Networking Center that has been staffed with a full time Parent Liaison, Karen De La Torre. The official grand opening will be held Wednesday, Aug. 30 on the grounds of Cardozo Middle School (CMS) along Fifth Street. There will be two opportunities to see the new center; with a morning celebration at 9 a.m. and an evening celebration at 6 p.m., designed to fit into a variety of parent schedules.

“The main focus is to increase parent involvement,” stated Cardozo Middle School Principal Kevin Bizzini. “Really the one thing that I have seen is their ability to make phone calls and reach out to the community has been a big help. My office staff is stressed anyways and then having to make a ton of phone calls has been a burden so it has really been beneficial to turn that duty to someone else.”

The new Parent Center was made possible through a school improvement grant that the school received to expand the support for student success. Parents will be able to gain assistance and resources regarding school events, programs, literacy workshops, educational conferences, and assistance with the Aeries student portal system, among other things. Although the center is technically on the Cardozo campus it is situated on the other side of the fence, so that all parents in the district have access to the resources throughout the day, without actually having to enter the main campus area.

“Karen is a product of Riverbank schools,” added Riverbank Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Christine Facella of De La Torre. “She lived almost her whole life in Riverbank and went to all the schools here and is a graduate of RHS. I think that is really important in this position because she has a strong understanding of the community.”

Part-time Parent Liaison for the Riverbank Unified School District Alma Calzada also began this April and assisted De La Torre in setting up the new center along with other projects and will be assisting in empowering parents as well so they can help students reach their full potential.

“Alma did not go to Riverbank schools all her life but all her children are in the Riverbank schools and she has a good understanding of the community,” said Facella. “I think it takes that to really be able to galvanize people to feel involved and feel included and how to get them to want to be included.”

For several years, Bizzini explained that they have tried to increase the number of kids that attended sixth grade camp but have not been very successful. A project before school began this month, handled through the new Parent Center, was designed to help increase participation in the science camp program.

“I am excited about starting my sixth year here with all the changes that we made to support kids, which has been an exciting thing to look forward to,” said Bizzini. “I think the kids here at Cardozo are going to receive the support they need to become better math students, to become better English students and to succeed.”

The first project for the liaisons was to organize a bus trip to Foothill Horizons science camp for fifth grade students and their families. The duo started making phone calls to the fifth grade student’s families and sending out flyers. They had around 50 participants that filled the bus along with a caravan of families that showed interest in familiarizing themselves with the camp.

With the interest from families that visited Foothill Horizons, they are hopeful that more sixth graders will attend camp this year.

Another task that De La Torre completed was getting information out to students and families about summer school and what shots to have in order to be able to start school.

“I think it is going to do very well and it is going to serve parents because it is a new door opening for them,” said Calzada. “I think it is going to be a great opportunity for them to get more engaged in their kid’s life.”

“I like working with adults and helping the Hispanic community to improve and to succeed more,” stated De La Torre. “I am excited to start this new school year with these amazing programs we are about to start and  hopefully we have a lot of parents come out for the grand opening.”