By Pablo Jaime Sainz
Judith Castillo wants the best for her children.
Her son attends National City Middle School and her daughter will be attending the same school in a few years.
She said that’s the main reason she’s eagerly trying to get the Sweetwater Union High School District to make the necessary repairs the school needs.
That’s also the reason why Castillo, together with a group of mothers, organized a demonstration in front of National City Middle on Tuesday June 14 through Thursday June 16, to demand the District to provide better school facilities for the students, the majority of which are of Mexican descent.
About 40 people participated at the demonstrations, including students, parents, teachers, and school administrators.
On Tuesday, National City Councilmember Luis Natividad was at the school to show his support.
National City Middle is in terrible condition, when compared to other schools in the District: Leaky roofs, cockroaches, mice excrement, electric cables coming out of the walls, water fountains full of mold, windows and furniture with termites, and classrooms without air conditioning.
The signs held by the demonstrators reflected the situation the school facilities are currently in: “NCMS needs to be fixed, ” “Fix our school,” “Two years of broken promises,” “No more lies!,” “We want a new school!,” “I hate leaky roofs!,” “No more termites,” “¡Alto a la descriminación!,” and “We want an asthma-free school.”
During the demonstration, cars passing by honking in support of the students; Castillo and other parents were trying to get parents and community members to sign a petition in favor of construction of a new school and repairs to current facilities; students became young activists in order to demand what they deserve.
One of those students was 7th grader Stephan Cerrillo.
“Our school needs to be fixed,” he said. “The classrooms are nasty, we have cockroaches, termites eating the floors. This is a fun school, but when I look at other schools, it makes me sad to see how my school looks.”
Stephan said he was participating in the demonstration to create a better environment for younger students.
“I want the school to be better for future children.”
Associated Student Body President Kevin Vargas said he feels the District is not taking into consideration the needs of National City Middle students.
“When students from other schools come to visit, we get embarrassed. We should get remodeled. Why is it that schools like Otay Ranch look great and ours doesn’t?”
The cover of this year’s yearbook serves as a constant reminder to District officials that there’s the need for a new school.
On the cover appears several blue prints of what the new school shoud look like.
At the demonstration, several students were holding they’re yearbooks up.
Teacher Aaron Mendez, who teaches 7th grade math and health, said that even though the school is not in the best conditions, students are doing great academically.
“It’s sad to see that these kids are giving 110% of their effort, and they’re not getting the school they deserve. Kids are aware that the school should be rebuilt,” he said.
National City Middle School Principal Marti Urias-Islas said she supports the cause of the parents and students.
“My call is the same,” said Urias-Islas, whose own daughter is a student at National City Middle.
She said that since she became principal two years ago, she’s been in constant contact with District officials in order to get everything ready for repairs.
“I know that the District knows that school facilities are not up to our expectations,” she said. “It’s always been a money issue. I’m sure that if they [District officials] could, they would give us a new school.”
Urias-Islas added that she’s proud that many parents are getting involved in their children’s education.
“It’s good that parents are being very vocal about the issues they believe are important.”
Lillian Leopold, Grants and Communication director for Sweetwater Union High School District, said the District had originally allocated $9.6 million in funds from Proposition BB, the bond measure approved by voters in 2000 to modernize schools.
She said that the District was able to bring that amount up to $14.9 million thanks to eager fundraising.
Leopold said that the construction, which will include new P.E. facilities, at National City Middle are set to begin on Monday, June 20.
She added that Interim Superintendent Bruce Husson has ordered a repair crew be sent on that same day to do the necessary repairs at the school.
Judith Castillo, the mother who organized the demonstrations, said she wants to see results from District officials.
“I hope the demonstration accomplishes something. It got their attention. It woke them up,” she said. “When Monday comes around we’ll see if they kept their promise. I’ll be here until the last rock is in its place.”
Castillo and a group of mothers will speak at the June 20 School Board meeting, at 7:00 p.m.
They invite the whole community to participate.
For more information, you can contact Judith Castillo at (619) 434-3962.