The Other 60 Percent

Using radio to reach Spanish-speaking families

Psychotherapist Frank Clavijo gestured as he spoke about the sometimes-dangerous dynamics of teen dating from a small second-floor radio studio not far from Mile High Stadium. Often, he explained in Spanish, adolescent girls don’t realize they are being emotionally abused by a boyfriend’s cutting comments: “You’re stupid, you’re ugly, you’re fat.”

Dr. Frank Clavijo (in blue) speaks on Educa about teen dating.

While Clavijo, a native of Peru, spoke into the fat black microphone, a Facebook comment appeared from listener Martha Porras. The mother of daughters, she thanked the show for tackling the topic, one she’d proposed a few months before. It was a small moment of affirmation for the architects of Educa Radio, a Spanish-language radio program created by Denver Public Schools to reach Spanish-speaking parents.

“It’s really been humbling to hear back from parents,” said Educa host Salvador Carrera, director of the district’s Multicultural Outreach Office. “We get lots of thank yous.”

Launched in 2009, and reformatted in 2011, the hour-long program features experts like Clavijo who talk about topics such as health, immigration, English-language acquisition, and student services. There are also segments featuring profiles of DPS schools that have both large Hispanic populations and high academic achievement.

Educa Radio broadcasts live shows on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings at 9 a.m. on 1090 AM and repeat shows at 6:30 a.m. on Sundays on 96.5 and 92.1 FM. Starting in August, the show will add repeat Educa broadcasts at 9 a.m. on Mondays and Fridays on 1090 AM.

Using a popular medium

Screen Shot 2013-06-28 at 8.28.43 AMDPS officials decided to launch the show as part of an effort to connect with Spanish-speaking parents, a population underserved by district outreach efforts at the time. According to market research, Latinos listen to the radio around eight hours a day, much more than non-Latinos, said Carrera.  In addition, about 32,000 DPS students, or 39 percent, speak Spanish.

On average, Educa attracts more than 15,000 unique listeners each week. Many of those are mothers in the 28-45 age range, said Jorge Cisneros, the show’s producer.

“In Latino society, mom is the model for the family,” he said.

By reaching mothers, as well as some fathers, district leaders hope to help parents become advocates for their children, learn about school district resources, and gain the tools to navigate American life.

“The value is providing the information in a medium they’re already comfortable with,” said Bridget Beatty, coordinator of health strategies for Denver Public Schools.

Plus, she said it removes many of the barriers — lack of time, transportation or child care — that make other informational forums impractical.

Salvador Carrera, who goes by "Chava" as host of Educa Radio.
Salvador Carrera, who goes by “Chava” as host of Educa Radio. <em>Photo courtesy of Denver Public Schools</em>.

Carrera said few school districts offer Spanish-language radio programming to families. He noted that Alex Sánchez, who was director of the multicultural outreach office when Educa began, now runs a similar radio program for the Austin Independent School District. In addition, leaders of Denver’s Educa have been advising administrators from Philadelphia’s school district as they attempt to start a Spanish-language radio show.

The district pays about $40,000 a year to air the show, but Carrera said that is only a fraction of its true costs in terms of air time and other expenses. Entravision, the Spanish-language media company that hosts the show, gives DPS a good deal, he said. Without that help, the show would cost about $250,000 a year. That number will rise to $350,000 in August when Educa starts its six-day-a-week schedule.

Promoting health

As Clavijo sat in the Educa studio on a recent Tuesday morning, he helped map out the messy world of teenage dating, particularly the scary parts where violence and manipulation take hold. Teenage girls are especially susceptible, he told listeners. While 75 percent of abusers are male in adult relationships, the proportion rises to 95 percent in adolescent relationships.

Sometimes, Clavijo said, abuse stems from domestic violence or other troubles teens witness in their parents’ relationships, and then mirror in their own.

“The generational cycle of abuse can and must be broken,” he said.

Clavijo’s segment on teen dating is just one of many Educa shows that fall into the health and wellness category. One-third or more of its programming revolve around such issues.

“That’s been very intentional,” said Beatty. “It didn’t start out that way.”

Through focus groups and other forms of feedback, Spanish-speaking families have expressed strong interest in health topics. There have been shows on suicide prevention, bullying, drug abuse, health insurance options, school breakfast offerings, underage drinking, mental health and the district’s publicly available fitness centers.

The health emphasis also aligns with DPS Health Agenda 2015, a plan that came out in 2010 outlining eight key health goals, including implementing a culturally sensitive health promotion campaign for families.

To go along with Educa Radio, as well the district’s quarterly Spanish-language newspaper, Periódico Educa, the district created a health and wellness Spanish phone line in 2011. The concept was based on research that Spanish-speaking families were more likely to have cell phones than computers, thus making a phone line more useful than a web site. Parents who call the line can leave messages to ask health-related questions, enroll in health workshops or learn more about joining school wellness teams. Beatty said every call is returned.

Educa’s impact

While there are thousands of listeners who tune into Educa each week, those involved in the show say it can be hard to measure its impact. While it’s aimed at DPS parents, parents from other school districts can and do listen to the show. In fact, said Carrera, some parents from neighboring districts call in to lament that their districts don’t have similar programs.

Often, the day-to-day impacts of the show come in the form of calls, posts on the show’s Facebook page, or comments from Spanish-speaking parents who have begun using a district resource that they learned about on the program. For example, after an Educa campaign to raise awareness about the district’s “Sound Body, Sound Mind” fitness centers, which are open to the public for a small fee, Beatty said there was an increase in enrollment among Spanish-speakers.

Henrietta Pazos, mental health and assessment services support specialist with DPS, has appeared on Educa Radio a number of times and says a couple parent phone calls have stuck with her. One was from a mother who sought out services for her child after listening to a show about suicide prevention. Another thanked her for a show on the rarely addressed issue of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender youth.

“If we were to pull the show off the air, you would hear the public discontent,” said Carrera.

task force

Jeffco takes collaborative approach as it considers later school start times

File photo of Wheat Ridge High School students. (Photo by Nic Garcia/Chalkbeat)

The Jeffco school district is weighing pushing back start times at its middle and high schools, and the community task force set up to offer recommendations is asking for public input.

Nearby school districts, such as those in Cherry Creek and Greeley, have rolled out later start times, and Jeffco — the second largest school district in Colorado — in December announced its decision to study the issue.

Thompson and Brighton’s 27J school districts are pushing back start times at their secondary schools this fall.

The 50-person Jeffco task force has until January to present their recommendations to the district.

Supporters of the idea to start the school day later cite research showing that teenagers benefit from sleeping in and often do better in school as a result.

Jeffco is considering changing start times after parents and community members began pressing superintendent Jason Glass to look at the issue. Middle and high schools in the Jeffco district currently start at around 7:30 a.m.

The task force is inviting community members to offer their feedback this summer on the group’s website, its Facebook page, or the district’s form, and to come to its meetings in the fall.

Katie Winner, a Jeffco parent of two and one of three chairs of the start times task force, said she’s excited about how collaborative the work is this year.

“It’s a little shocking,” Winner said. “It’s really hard to convey to people that Jeffco schools wants your feedback. But I can say [definitively], I don’t believe this is a waste of time.”

The task force is currently split into three committees focusing on reviewing research on school start times, considering outcomes in other districts that have changed start times, and gathering community input. The group as a whole will also consider how schedule changes could affect transportation, sports and other after school activities, student employment, and district budgets.

Members of the task force are not appointed by the district, as has been typical in district decision-making in years past. Instead, as a way to try to generate the most community engagement, everyone who expressed interest was accepted into the group. Meetings are open to the public, and people can still join the task force.

“These groups are short-term work groups, not school board advisory committees. They are targeting some current issues that our families are interested in,” said Diana Wilson, the district’s chief communications officer. “Since the topics likely have a broad range of perspectives, gathering people that (hopefully) represent those perspectives to look at options seems like a good way to find some solutions or ideas for positive/constructive changes.”

How such a large group will reach a consensus remains to be seen. Winner knows the prospect could appear daunting, but “it’s actually a challenge to the group to say: be inclusive.”

For now the group is seeking recommendations that won’t require the district to spend more money. But Winner said the group will keep a close eye on potential tax measures that could give the district new funds after November. If some measure were to pass, it could give the group more flexibility in its recommendations.

Battle of the Bands

How one group unites, provides opportunities for Memphis-area musicians

PHOTO: Rebecca Griesbach
Memphis Mass Band members prepare for Saturday's Independence Showdown Battle of the Bands in Jackson, Mississippi.

A drumline’s cadence filled the corners of Fairley High School’s band room, where 260 band members from across Memphis wrapped up their final practice of the week.

“M-M-B!” the group shouted before lifting their instruments to attention. James Taylor, one of the program’s five directors, signaled one last stand tune before he made his closing remarks.

“It behooves you to be on that bus at that time,” Taylor said to the room of Memphis Mass Band members Thursday night, reminding them to follow his itinerary. Saturday would be a be a big day after all.

That’s when about 260 Memphis Mass Band members will make their way to Jackson, Mississippi, for the event of the season: the Independence Showdown Battle of the Bands. They’ll join mass bands from New Orleans, Detroit, Georgia, Mississippi, and North Carolina to showcase musical performances.

“This is like the Honda of mass bands,” said baritone section leader Marico Ray, referring to the Honda Battle of the Bands, the ultimate competition between bands from historically black colleges and universities

Mass bands are designed to connect young band members to older musicians, many of whom are alumni of college bands and can help them through auditions and scholarship applications.

Created in 2011, Memphis Mass Band is a co-ed organization that’s geared toward unifying middle school, high school, college, and alumni bands across the city. The local group is a product of a merger of a former alumni and all-star band, each then about a decade old.

Ray, who joined what was called the Memphis All Star band in 2001, said the group challenged him in a way that his high school band could not.

“I was taught in high school that band members should be the smartest people, because you have to take in and do so much all at once,” he said, noting that band members have to play, count, read, and keep a tempo at the same time.

But the outside program would put that to the test. Ray laughed as he remembered his first day of practice with other all-star members.

“I was frightened,” he said. “I knew I was good, but I wanted to be how good everybody else was.”

Ray, now 30, credits the group for his mastery of the baritone, for his college degree, and for introducing him to his wife Kamisha. By the time he graduated from Hillcrest High School in 2006 and joined the local alumni band, he was already well-connected with band directors from surrounding colleges, like Jackson State University, where he took courses in music education. After he married Kamisha, an all-star alumna and fellow baritone player, they both came back to Memphis to join the newly formed Memphis Mass Band.

“This music is very important, but what you do after this is what’s gonna make you better in life,” he said. “The goal is to make everyone as good as possible, and if you’re competing with the next person all the time, you’ll never stop trying to get better.”

In a school district that has seen many school closures and mergers in recent years, Ray said a program like MMB is needed for students who’ve had to bounce between school bands. The band is open-admission, meaning it will train anyone willing to put in the work, without requiring an audition.

“[Relocation] actually hurts a lot of our students and children because that takes their mentality away from anything that they wanted to do, versus them being able to continue going and striving,” Ray said. “Some of them lose opportunities and scholarships, college life and careers, because of a change in atmospheres.”

With its unique mix of members, though, school rivalries are common, and MMB occasionally deals with cross-system spars. But Saturday, the members will put all of that aside.

“What school you went to really doesn’t matter,” Ray said. “Everybody out here is going to wear the same uniform.”

Asia Wilson, an upcoming sophomore at the University of Memphis, heard about the group from a friend. Wilson used to play trumpet in the Overton High School band, but she said coming to MMB this year has introduced her to a different style.

Jorge Pena, a sophomore at Central High School, heard about the group on YouTube. It’s also his first year in the mass band, and the tuba player is now gearing up to play alongside members of different ages, like Wilson.

They’re both ready to show what they’ve learned at the big battle.

“It’s gonna be lit,” Wilson said, smiling.

Need weekend plans? Tickets are still selling for Saturday’s 5 p.m. showcase. To purchase, click here.