By Isadora Malon
The parent association at Memorial Pool in Logan Heights is made up of hard-working members of the community who are passionate about keeping their pool, about cheering for their children in swim meets, and about providing a positive environment for the families of Memorial. So when a mandate came from the City Aquatics Director that not only were the children not allowed to speak Spanish during swim meets at Memorial Pool, but that parents must either cheer for their children in English or translate their Spanish cheers, despite the fact that there was no city policy against speaking Spanish.
Julie Valle contacted Dan Coffey, a member of the Park Board and Memorial Recreation Council Chair, Kathy Lopez with her concerns about the policy changes put in place by Ms. Marilyn Stern, City Aquatics Director.
At a Memorial Pool meeting Wednesday, February 23, Dan Coffey and Kathy Lopez sat among concerned parents in the Logan Heights community. What they heard wasn’t new, but was no less disturbing. The parents complained about T-Shirts they paid for with the words, “Hecho en Memorial.” The City Aquatics Director had also forbidden the shirts to be worn at the pool since they weren’t in English. The Aquatics Director eventually back-peddled in her heavy handed approach, but the damage had already been done. Parents at Memorial feel discriminated against. “Here at Memorial, it’s like a family,” said Julie Valle outside by the pool.
Julie Valle is not new to fights surrounding Memorial Pool. Last year when budget cuts threatened to close the pools, Julie Valle and a group of children from Memorial Pool including Julie’s son Juan Manuel, went to the City Council and made a presentation so compelling that the city decided to keep Memorial Pool open year round. Julie Valle is a single parent who volunteers at the pool as President of the parents association. Shortly after the pool-saving performance, Ms. Valle got a donation of $5000 to spend on the swim teams at Memorial
Julie and Juan Manuel, like other families who belong to the Recreation Center, are active in providing a positive environment in which the children in their community can grow and learn. They play water polo and are in swimming leagues where they compete in swim meets against other area pools.
The pool is part of the City of San Diego’s Aquatic Program, and is adjacent to and operates within the Dolores Magdaleno Memorial Recreation Center. Dolores Magdeleno was an active citizen within the Logan Heights neighborhood. She was also Kathy Lopez’s mother-in-law. When asked about Dolores Magdeleno, Kathy Lopez said, “She was deeply committed to the idea of justice, of making the neighborhood a safe place for its children, and for empowering parents.” That’s why Kathy is involved in helping the parents of Memorial Pool.
Dan Coffey acted as a facilitator at the meeting. He listened to parents who felt they weren’t being treated fairly. He asked questions and diffused a couple uncomfortable moments but interjecting with a joke that put parents at ease. After the meeting he said that he had taken the parents concerns to the City Manager’s Office.
Regardless of the challenges facing Memorial Pool, it continues to be a place where there is a sense of community among parents and children. Whether the City Aquatics Director and her reports will face any sort of disciplinary action remains to be seen. One thing is certain, Julie Valle and the parents of Memorial Pool won’t back down.
Isadora Malon is a freelance writer in San Diego.