Similar position has had positive impact on Native American student population.

    Crookston School District leaders are looking into the return of a “Hispanic liaison” position to work in the schools with Hispanic students, and also in their homes with their families when such interventions are deemed necessary, as part of an effort to boost Hispanic students’ proficiency rates on Minnesota’s standardized comprehensive assessments.

    The position was once in place for several years in the district, staffed by people like Carman Leal and Mary Farley. Most recently, Maria Argueta held the position, before transitioning into a full-time English Language Learner (ELL) instructor position.

    The possibility of reinstating the position arose Monday, when, at the Crookston School Board meeting, Highland School Principal Chris Trostad, as part of his overall report on how students in the local public schools did in the latest comprehensive assessments, noted that two subgroups at Highland that didn’t meet state benchmarks for proficiency were Hispanic students and ELL students, which, he noted, are fairly similar student populations. As part of the same discussion, Trostad also noted the major improvement in test scores on the part of Native American students in the local public schools over the past couple of years that has then now scoring well above the state average on the tests. It’s likely no coincidence, Trostad said, that the district a couple years ago began employing an educator/liaison to work with Native American students and their families in the public schools. Dave Emanuel has held the position for a couple years.

    “It’s a small population, our American Indian students, but our liaison does a nice job and our staff are doing a nice job working with him,” Trostad explained. “Staff are looking out, and when things start to go down, he intervenes, goes to the home, whatever needs to be done.”

    At the same time, Hispanic students, which make up a much larger demographic group in the public schools at around 35 percent, while they have ELL instructors in the classroom, have no liaison for similar interventions, Trostad noted.

    “This is probably my biggest concern in the district, our biggest challenge,” Trostad said. “That’s a subgroup we really have to get to, we have to figure out how to get them up in reading and math.”

    While no one in the room seemed to know exactly why the Hispanic liaison position went away, board member Dave Davidson advocated for its return. “We need to get that position back,” he said.

    Trostad said Emanuel is working 26 hours a week and getting results. The local Hispanic student population, larger than in the East Grand Forks and Thief River School districts, would most likely benefit in similar fashion with a similar position in place, Trostad added. Although, when asked by board chair Frank Fee if he was asking directly for a Hispanic liaison to be hired, Trostad deferred, at least for now, saying that a lot of planning would need to be done first. “Without a plan, it’s just a wish,” he said.

    Superintendent Jeremy Olson said it’s a conversation worth engaging in. He said it’s possible that “integration funding” being made available next year through the Minnesota Department of Education could be a possible avenue to not only bring back a Hispanic liaison, but also fund it with state dollars. “As part of that funding, we could prioritize a Hispanic liaison,” Olson said. “We could hold our general fund harmless and get a new person in here that could do some real good.”