By Kris Leonhardt/Mike Hollihan
Press Times staff
GREEN BAY – The Northeast Wisconsin Latino Educational Task Force (NEWLET), parents from Leonardo da Vinci for Gifted Learners and Wequiock Elementary Children’s Center for Environmental Science and members of the Hmong and Latinx community gathered at the front entrance of the Green Bay Area Public Schools (GBAPS) Office on June 2 to ask for equitable change in deciding the future of the school district facilities.
Dressed in white in an act of solidarity, the group asked for a pause in voting on determinations presented by the GBAPS facilities task force, so an equitable change could be ensured — delivering statements in both English and Spanish.
“Today is a historic day because we are standing here in solidarity, from all backgrounds from all ages, and we are here to send one message,” stated Steph Guzman, a member of the NEWLET.
“Each of us are standing here in solidarity aligned in stopping the vote on Schema 12.1 requiring that the board of education and the Green Bay Public School District address process transparency and communication concerns and are also requiring the development of a new schema that includes various stakeholders.
“We are wearing white today to represent a unified effort and a similar concern about schools closing without community input. This is your community. And most importantly, we are wearing white today because we come in peace. We come with love and we come full of hope.”
NEWLET Family Connections Chair Dr. Yolo Diaz said that the group acknowledges the budget deficit, but asked for a larger voice in the decision-making process.
“This schema was created through a working committee to which I was not invited to participate despite being the only Hispanic pediatrician in this area and having unique experience regarding the social, economical, cultural and the emotional needs of the Latinx children and youth of the Green Bay city area, youth and children,” she said.
“I stand before you as a member of NEWLET and representing a diverse coalition of voices deeply concerned about the proposal Schema 12.1. We have gathered here together with Leonardo da Vinci for Gifted Learners and Wequiock Elementary Children’s Center for Environmental Science because we agree that Schema 12.1 inadequately represents the interests of all students in the Green Bay Area public schools. I urge the board to reconsider holding the scheduled vote on June 5, as this plan has serious flaws, and it could harm our district and in particular, the students of color.
“One of the key issues I wish to highlight is a systematic underrepresentation of communities of color in the development and outcome of this proposal. With a district enrollment of 61.5% of students of color, their voices and perspectives must be included.”
Mary Lou Yang, who spoke on behalf of the Hmong community, said that much of the Hmong and Latinx communities did not know about the plans due to the language barriers.
“I’ve seen some communication through email. But unfortunately, until I had attended the meeting on May 24, this is when I had found out just like the Hispanic community. A lot of us in the dark, you know, a lot of the Asian communities are coming out and saying, ‘What is this going on? What they’re closing my child’s school? What my child came home and said this?’” Yang said.
“It’s sad, it’s unfortunate and what is worse is most of these are the members that do not speak English, do not read English. So, it’s very disappointing.
“And what is worst here is that you guys forgot about us. We have been in Green Bay for the longest time. We have roots; we have established businesses. We have leaders in the Green Bay area, but yet no one had a Hmong person on the task force, 26 people.
“You forgot about us.”
Other speakers included Lisa Kardish, a Leonardo da Vinci School parent, and Leah Weakley, a Wequiock Elementary School parent.
NEWLET was formed in April 2023 to ensure representation of Latino parents, students and families in have equal access to educational opportunity and decision-making in the Green Bay Public Schools District.
A special school board meeting was scheduled for June 5, where board members were scheduled to discuss and take action on the task force facility’s recommendations.
Editor’s Note: See the GBAPS meeting coverage in this edition for results of the June 5 meeting.