Interview with Debora Gil Casado, November 7, 2015

Wisconsin Historical Society

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GÓMEZ: Well hi Debora.


GÓMEZ: today is November 30th of 2015 and we are continuing on with the interview that we started, uh let's see when was that? Um, November 11!

GIL CASADO: uh huh

GÓMEZ: or November 7th, so Tess is with us and uh I thank you again. We had a chance to cover quite a bit of ground and we are just using the second interview to um, a continue the last few questions that we had. Um you shared with us that you were born in Ashland Wisconsin, and uh you shared with us about your um experiences, some of your childhood experiences growing up and then we also covered ground as it relates to work um, or um, college, some of your college period and your involvement with MECHA.

GIL CASADO: uh huh

GÓMEZ: uh we we covered some of the efforts uh oh uh in terms of the getting the university to be more responsive to the issues that the students were experiencing. Um and then we had a chance to kind of move on and talk a little bit more of your involvement with uh the school. Uh we talked about the um some of your organizing work that was started earlier on the committee against racism.

GIL CASADO: uh huh

GÓMEZ: Then I think we started moving on to the, um emersion program.


GÓMEZ: There is a foot of some underlying principle as it relates to the kind of work that you were um, you shared with us and I think you made a point around distinguishing um, leadership in a more traditional model format and what you considered to be uh the leadership I think that you have a greater affinity towards which is capacity building.


GÓMEZ: would you like to expand a little bit more on that?

GIL CASADO: well, the tests that I had, and maybe its the way that I sort of look at it is. That you can win individual victories uh, but those victories can be taken away. And so the only thing that you can really do is to try to make long lasting changes within infrastructure and so that I think needs to happen in a couple of ways. One is to try to spread out leadership. And um, the training for future leaders as much as possible because um as we know with many of our national leaders, it wouldn't take very much for someone to take them out. Uh and then what happens with the movement, what happens with the change. And so the more that you can build that kind of capacity and um in terms of the community and um the more you can focus on trying to make systematic changes, uh the longer lasting effect I think as more progress is made in the long run. So I think this is why I kind of focus more on this this sort of community activism um kind of a model instead of simply just uh other kinds of leadership models which are good, um but say being a head of a committee or or that kind of thing, by really trying to build that capacity in the community, building skills etc. Um I think it goes farther and the changes are deeper.

GÓMEZ: It sounds like the distinction is also um, and uh building um the traditional model might be, I'm going to build my skills so that if I'm the chair of a particular subcommittee or chairperson of a group, you know that you know, it's not so much focused on that personal leadership building, but it's when you talk about capacity building its really an emphasis on building the skills of others.

GIL CASADO: Right and you know I think that that both things are needed, um but my particular focus is in, as much as possible to try to build that capacity because it's so very easy to be the named person, you know that, that ends up on these committees and I certainly have said have done a lot of that um but you really really need to you know in my view uh to make these other kinds of changes so that um the the changes are longer lasting.

GÓMEZ: um, share with us, um if you wanted to share with us just the example, maybe its nuestro mundo, um how that sort of comes into play.

GIL CASADO: Ok, well I, I think that the example that I gave last time um was the fight that we lead to get the first bilingual social worker um, in the school, um in which we really tried to get parents, but in that case we also focused on students um in terms of trying to have them learn the process of how do you get how you initiate change in an infrastructure, i.e. the school board, the education board, um how to make a speech, how to organize uh other community members and to bring them you know to the table so I think I talked a little bit about, that's where we ended last time, so I want to kind of pick up sort of from that point because since then there were, you know some smaller kinds of things, um because again I think we focus on getting a position but we really weren't making um bigger kinds of changes and one of the things that we saw as time went on was that there almost seems to be a glass ceiling for our Latino kids, I think that we were as the population grew in the Madison and Dane county area we had increasing number of Latino kids who were doing well in school who were um you know getting grades and things like that but they were then losing their native language, that there was a cost to that.

And so there almost seemed to be um a glass ceiling, and what we found was that many times um, European Americans were getting because they had strong English, they also could take a second language and they would get, you know, the reading and the writing skills uh in Spanish, were perhaps getting, you know, better positions or positions that really should, in my mind, should really go to people who had a cultural infinity and, you know, just simply knowing the language is not always enough and so we, we a number of us in the community, you know, saw this as a problem and so um started talking with people and um the person who worked with me the most was Brian and Hilda Growe - Guzman and uh they had actually had been looking at some things and had been introduced to the idea of a charter school and so um, we kind of got together and said ok , what what is it that we really need for students we're both teachers, um you know from our experience, uh what do we really need and We started holding some community meetings and saying, what do you think that your children need because this was primarily with parents and we spent a good year and a half building up a small committee of people who had um an educational background, um to really do some in-depth research to you know, how to answer these kinds of problems so we were setting the goal that we wanted um students to um we wanted to broaden that base of educational success, um for Latino students, um we wanted students to be able to have um education in Spanish in terms of their reading and writing and we began to look at you know, different kinds of programming that had been done, you know there was bilingual education so we said you know do we push for bilingual education, do we you know have a like the African American community has done, have a Saturday morning academy or an afterschool kind of academy um as we see in some kinds of Asian communities, um and then we began, we hit a time a study that really looked at this concept of Spanish emersion schools and they did a cassette, the first school that I was aware of that used that methodology was actually used in Canada for the French speaking population, um to maintain the French, in an English speaking country and um they showed great success and so there were a ( not sure what word she uses here) of schools and programs in the United States and this group did one of those mega-analysis and found that the program that got the most results, uh were these dual language emersion programs and so we began, organizing and began going to parents and see what they thought about it and building a model of what we would envision would be a community school um we--

GÓMEZ: And Debora, what year was this Debora?

GIL CASADO: We are 10, 7, about 17 years ago, so we are talking, 1997 or so. 96


GIL CASADO: So we started walking down that path, and tried to build the community and as we started talking with people trying to shape, you know what they vision was and very very quickly, one of the things that we realized is that we had to go beyond just a, school based program that we really needed to build a program that was community based, so that it was the community that had control of the school. So we, and I say that to distinguish it from other emersion programs because the school district has I believe 6 or 7 emersion programs, but we're the only one that gained charter, status and it has a community board that sort of runs the school or at least the policies of the school. And so, while we were doing this, we were also trying to figure out, you know, what because we, we kind of talked to the school district and you know they were like, well you know, no we don't want to do that because, you know, we don't believe in that, and we tried, you know did different end rounds you know, with, with the school district and so we saw that the charter process could actually get us quite a lot of um power, they had um actually had several of them in the Milwaukee area, and so we started learning a lot and you know, going to conferences and talking with people and at the same time, holding these community meetings and getting feedback from folks and trying to get other people sort of um, involved through that process once it started taking off a little bit, um there were numerous other people, Latino community members that really helped with the process my friend said yea, this, this makes sense.

So she started, you know, moving her circles in the business community and Juan Lopez got on board and that was really the key that helped push us over because basically the school district said, "absolutely not, we are not going to do this at all," and made things very difficult for us, we had what the community people said, "do you have any skills in accounting, do you, you know, do you have any skills in anything because literally they would not give us any information to help us, um create the budget and to achieve, the school. So basically they said, "ok here is the charter process, and in this application, you have to tell us how much the school is going to cost," and they said, "well, we, we don't know that the school costs," you know, um, I don't know how, I've been teaching for 5 years and I have no idea what it costs to physically set up a new classroom, and so at that time (Chavez? ) had just recently been built and so what we did was, we were able to go through public records and get um, the information on what they did for the budget and literally we said, "ok, how do we estimate?" Well we went through and said ok they have nine classrooms or whatever the number was, and really just divided budgets by that amount. You know, to come up with something to present to the school board. And so we really have this sort of growth of people in the community, people who were not Hispanics, who were starting to support us that could see the sense of what we were talking about.

One of the major fears was that this is only for the university elite and you know we, we made very sure that actually we never , he held no meetings in the, with the University community per say, it was held, you know school based and we talked to all kinds of parents, who would be interested in this and we got a lot of feedback of parents who said, we are very very saddened that here we are raising these kids English and we support that, but then they can't talk to grandma. Or they can't, you know, read or write, or they you know, they had these deficiencies and they really wanted to be able to open that up to the kids. So it started really taking off where we were starting to have meetings with 30, 40, 50 people attending and then came the time that we finally were able to get, you know, all the information that we needed and we presented it to the school board. At that time, (Art rainwater) was the superintendent and he was just adamant that this was just not going to fly, you know, we were even looking like, we were like if we could just get our foot in the door we could, you know, prove that this, that this will work, you know, can we do a program, can we do a school within a school, can we do, you know, all kinds of different things and he basically at some point, told the school board that this is going to cost over a million dollars out of the year and that there was no way that we could implement the school. And you know, several of the school members looked at him and said , "a million dollars a year, how does this work?" and he, exaggerated, and that really pushed the board members to really take, to really doubt, what he was saying. We had, um oh my god, we had like, 8 hours of, you know, testimonies that went on for the school board, several times, to come in and say, we want the school, we had kids, we had parents we had people from the education department of the UW. We had charter school members from you know, from the Milwaukee area that came in to testify. I mean it, it was huge, I mean we had the hallways of the school building were just crowded with people and you know, parents were just so fantastic, you know they, we would bring in treats and you know, the kids would all be sitting in the hallway and we could hunker down, just kept everyone talking and going and you know, help people with speech writing and everything else so it was a great victory to be able to establish this.

So they started with a school within a school, before finally there was a vote. They made things a little more expensive than they needed to, by saying we had to have a full time staff hired to do this process, well that was for 3 classrooms. And they hired a full time principle. We had independent (not sure what this word is) that had done work to come in and make sure that we were, you know, do we follow all the rules, doing everything that we needed to do, throughout the process they were, oversaw us for 3 years. The school district just knew that it was going to fail, and low and behold, the grades went up and the scores went up, um not and so you know, things went well, but in the process we were kind of had, you know, the brave first teachers who, you know, were kind of making it up as they're going, say like ok, so how is the (not sure what this word is) from the bilingual education and you know, what do we need to do differently, and so our kids started, you know, it was a third English speak, speak completely English speaking a third completely Spanish speaking and a third bilingual in between kid.

GÓMEZ: And did you teach, were you a teacher in this

GIL CASADO: Yea, so I teach high school. And so I did this all on the side. Actually both of us were at the time, who were spearheading this, Brian Growne and I were high school teachers, but we had both had, we had actually met at the University through a community against racism, you know, god knows how many years before and so we had a lot of experience of community organizing and you know, we were both there when we were doing the you know, the bilingual education stuff and there had been several, other initiatives in terms of trying to get translators and programming involved and so we knew each other very well, and had some experience in terms of organizing some of these kinds of things.

GÓMEZ: You were doing this, in addition to your full time job?

GIL CASADO: Yup, it was my second full time job. I mean..

GÓMEZ: How, what was that span of time then, you said it started around

GIL CASADO: 7 years.

GÓMEZ: 7, Ok.

GIL CASADO: 7 years to get the school approved.

GÓMEZ: Oh, Ok, so was that the school was in a school?

GIL CASADO: Yup, the first the first kindergarten class, so the, current, I think they are currently 10th graders now, is the kindergarten class that started at nuestro mundo.

GÓMEZ: Mmhmm.

ARENAS: Can you clarify Deb, the current status of Nuestro Mundo? Is it still a program? If it's a school within a school, is it still charter or is it now been folded into Madison public schools?

GIL CASADO: Yes, you know what happened is that we worked, um we went for the full charter, the first charter was 5 years and we were placed in Allis, so we were sort of a school within a school, there were two principals there, and it caused a lot of heartache because we were seen as two things; is that we were taking away the resources and crowding the Allis traditional school out, some teachers were laid off, English speaking teachers because the students who were at Frank Allis got priority to get into the program and then there was a lottery for the rest of the city of people who wanted to get their kids in, and to just to give you an example, we had two parents that sold their house to move into the Allis district to get into the school. That's how strongly they felt about having their kids grow up bilingual and one was Sammy, well the kids spoke Spanish, but couldn't read or write it and the other family that sold their house and moved was a family where they were a European Americans, but the father worked in Peru a lot, he did potatoes or something like that and so they literally sold their house to make sure that they could get in and moved into the Allis school district.

So the first 5 years we did that then the question was, you know do we do charter or are we part of a program now and so we, we very strongly convinced the current board of Nuestro Mundo, that they absolutely had to have Charter, because if they don't have a Charter, they lose the power and so it got to the point of you know, between growth and success of the program, they, what they finally ended up doing was, renting a school building, like a school building in the Monona district which is very close Frank Allis, so we now have our own building, they expanded the Nuestro Mundo program, so they are now on their second charter contract and will probably be going for their third Charter process to continue it. From that, the school district has opened, I want to say four or five different dual language emersion programs in Madison and so, but this is where the Charter becomes important. They just recently are remapping their ELL English language learner program and because it is so hard to find certified teachers, all the non-charter programs have moved from a 90-10 model, so kindergartens start at 7 with 90% Spanish, every year they add on another 10% of the English, so you know, first grade 80-10, by 80-20 etc. until they get to 50-50 and so, but all the school district programs are now going 50-50 which is not as effective because they say that they don't, they can't find enough teachers, and so by doing it 50-50, they can have more English speaking teachers in the program to be able to create that expansion.

So it, it's pretty amazing and people who walk into, the second part, there are two of these components that there were particularly special, I think had an impact in the district, one of the things that we wanted to do in terms of community organizing, was to really make sure that all parents had a voice, and so as we did that you know, in most bilingual programs in the city, you had the traditional model where you know, you had the general meetings and then you have a translator sitting in the back with the Latino parents in the back and you sit here and the translator translates everything that's going on, or you have the translator up in front and the meeting takes twice as long because everything has to be said in English and then everything has to be said in Spanish, and if someone needed to say something in Spanish, then you would you know go with the opposite direction. So you know meetings will take forever and ever and ever and so they attempt to shut people down, you know what we really wanted was for parents to be able to say things to each other, we are really talking about a community, you need to be able to speak to another person with looking them in the eyes. And so one of the things that we did was that we wrote a grant and got an interpreter machine.

GÓMEZ: Oh sure.

GIL CASADO: So that whenever we had parent meetings every parent would walk into the door and get a little headset and so we had two translators, one did the English and one did the Spanish and so we would stand in the back of the room with our little translator equipment and the parents would face each other, right and be able to speak their own language while they, while the other parents would hear what they were saying. So they could talk directly to each other in their own languages and be able to have communications and that was mind blowing just mind blowing that you know and I you know I been to translations all over the place and done the other, the other models and it made such an impact with the friendships that were built in the comfort level that people had to be able to you know, feel that they could communicate directly with another person, it really created all kinds of bonds that go you know, way beyond you know anything that you see, so it's truly interesting that a couple years later when the school district impacted the, started putting other emersion programs they placed one here at Midvale and I got a call from the parent who said well you know nuestro mundo does such a great job of you know, integrating parents in the program and we feel really strongly that we want to do the same for our Hispanic parents and I said, well what are you talking about and they were like oh yes we want to show them the beauty of all the culture that is here and integrate them, and you guys did such a wonderful job of integrating Hispanic parents and you know they come to all the meetings and they go to the schools and all this good stuff, and I said, well no you are not getting the model, the model is a two way model, and yes we show parents who were Spanish speaking you know, lots of things that could be done you know in the community and reading programs and all kinds of things but then they showed us also I mean, one thing for instance we had MP3 recorders and we would have parents record childhood games and then we would have those on tape so then the kids very proudly could say you know, that these are the Latino parents you know, my mom did that to show everybody else, it was a sense of pride, and so that's something that lots of, I don't think the school district quite gets yet that it is not specifically, it doesn't go one direction, it's not like oh we are going to integrate them to the society here, it truly is that both have equal values in the classroom so they can bring equally bring things to the classroom traditionally you know if you are poor or if you don't speak the language it is very hard for you to be able to you know I don't know to help out to be a house mother to do all you know all these kinds of things that you do in elementary school and so for the first time we were able to get participation to really build participation from equally from both sets of parents where we saw that it was a little bit harder was when it came to getting board members so we were equally saying it's not enough to just have our meetings like this, we want leadership to be like this also and that became a little harder because it was harder you know, fund wise and everything else to have that same translation there needed to be a certain amount of reading and writing skills, we had you know all the documentation that happened with the school district was all in English and so we had it was a little harder to get that same level of equity I would say on the board but you know, they kept we've kept you know, plugging away and really trying to make sure that we had that community involvement from all levels in the school.

GÓMEZ: In that process, did you experience any gender barriers or issues either?

GIL CASADO: One moment (blows nose)



GÓMEZ: No, no problem.

GIL CASADO: Um, I would say, yea I would say that we had a harder time getting the males involved. I think that in many respects this was seen as this is education this is you know, women get involved with that kind of thing and so I think that we had a harder time convincing men to get involved, men to come speak, men to do, the Latino men, to do that you know there was a very big sense of division in that respect, but other than that we really didn't have I would say a lot of you know, gender differences or issues you know with that, in fact you know, the majority of the people who were leading the charge were women. Which does make sense, you know in some respect you know, they're the babies you know for many of us, that's kind of where we spend a lot of time and settle on that. But we did have to work harder on getting the men folk involved.

GÓMEZ: How about with the, your work with the administration or those you were interfacing with that relate to the implementation of nuestro mundo, were there gender issues there?

GIL CASADO: I, I really didn't see any and that was probably because both Brian and I knew each other really well and he knew I would kill him, or his wife would. If you know, if it was like the men is going to, the man is going to take charge of a thing. So we really didn't see that because, you know I mean I ended up being the, the first chairperson that's um, and sort of became in some respects the face of nuestro mundo because of the skills and being the Latino and being a woman and we really tried to get a lot to make sure that we were very conscience about making sure that we didn't fall into those traditional kinds of tracks and so you know.

GÓMEZ: Ok, well how about any kind of racial prejudices or discrimination?

GIL CASADO: I think that in terms of the school board they are very definitely, it existed, they didn't think we could pull it off, they didn't think that we were smart enough to pull it off, it's almost like they set up these barriers because I mean, why wouldn't you tell us what it takes to start up a classroom, you know they had all those figures and all those numbers but they were like, oh we'll get rid of them by like setting the bar here and then we would meet it and I go like, no no no no we are going to set the bar here and then we would meet it, and you know it was a constant thing, it took us seven years to go through this process, with the school district. So you know, I think that that was very definitely felt, and I think that it, we needed to make sure that community members all knew that we truly were trying to make this a program for all members of the Latino community and not just the university members in fact, it some of the school board meetings there were some Latinos who spoke out against the program because they kind of felt like we were going to take away from bilingual programs and so that this was really going to benefit people who already had benefits, right, that it wasn't going to benefit the recent immigrants and it was really going to, people were going to really make sure that they could get into these , into the program would be parents who already had you know, skills, money, access in this kind of thing so we really had to work very very hard within the Latino community to say this is not the intention of the school and what's more is not only, not the intention of the school, but we very purposefully made sure that at all times we sort of counterbalance that issue, so I mean the fact of the matter is, that when you are talking about a charter school, it takes apparent who has a certain amount of determination to say, I am going to find out about this program, I'm going to do the special application, I am going to find out you know what s involved, is going to maybe to an analysis, is this right for my child and so lots of times parents who are in poverty or they are working a job and a half or two full time jobs many times we find just don't have the time or the knowledge base to be able to go out and seek those kind of resources for those kids, for their own kids and so we very purposefully would do things like, I mean we went door to door canvasing like all these south side Latino neighborhoods that existed there and we said we go there first and find those people who are interested first, we do phone calls, we went door to door, we (not sure) footed, we did all these different kinds, once we knew where the school was going to be located we very purposefully did not advertise in other communities but all our money and all our efforts and literally we would say, we're going Saturday morning and we would have a team of 20, 30 people that would go canvass and knock on doors and say, you know here we are we want to explain the program to you we want to explain what the benefits are you know here is where we are having organized meetings, you know this kind of thing and so we really had to kind of make sure that we counteracted that and I think that you know, parents had to see themselves on you know equal bases and I think that we do have internally in the Latino community, you know have plenty of biases in terms of money and race and different cultures and ethnicities. So you know, yea we had to be very mindful of that internally in our own community, wasn't just from the outside.

GÓMEZ: Well as you spoke about some of the efforts that were made, talk to us about if there were any personal sacrifices that you felt were involved in your activism.

GIL CASADO: Yea, it was very very tiring, I mean literally it was a full time position so you know for a large number of years I feel like I worked two jobs and it got to the point where it was just not sustainable I mean because we are talking like 10 years in, 10 or 12 years in I was exhausted, and so through that process I you know just started getting sick and not knowing you know what was going on, I just thought it was exhaustion you know but it turns out I now know, you know I developed fibromyalgia, I had thyroid issues, you know things like that and so you know I had to step back from nuestro mundo and to say you know I can't do this anymore and so for a while we tried to find you know five people to sort of take over different aspects of what I was doing and it was hard because you know I kind of had all the institutional memory you know because it wasn't just a time factor it was also the institutional memory, yep and this is how we do this and here is how we got from point A to point B and you know and that kind of thing and so but we you know Brian and I have talked early on that we were very very committed to make sure you know that building capacity that you know we weren't there for life, we were going to move out. mine came a little quicker than his did simply because I got sick and so you know it came to a point where I said I can't, I can't work with the board anymore and we were very lucky that there were people who you know stepped in, but you know a certain point it was like I had to draw a line in the sand and said no, you know part of it was for myself because I was just so used to always being in response mode that sometimes you know, I would forget and say wait a second I'm not supposed to do this you know, you have to leave some when you bring your leadership in you have to let them make their own mistakes you can't always go like oh no you got to do it this way you know because we we truly you know wanted this to be a living, breathing thing not to be just you know my vision or the original for that you know started talking in our living room you know and doing the readings and things like that we didn't want it to be our vision it was originally because we were able we had the skills to be able to layout you know what we needed, but you know times change and things change so for instance one of the things is that as the kids got older we found that the (not sure) wasn't as high as we would like it to be and so you know they had to adjust how much time they spent with the language and things like that and so we wanted to make sure that it truly was a living breathing organism that kind of grew and would continue to grow, grow as the community changed as different people became involved and would probably hopefully be around for many more years to come because it now served as our model and training area for others in terms of how to let a dual language community school.

GÓMEZ: What, um you had talked about some of the support that you received along the way, you mentioned Juan Jose Lopez I think you said Doris [unclear].


GÓMEZ: ..Brian and his wife, what were there any others that you wanted to mention in terms of support that you--

GIL CASADO: Yea I have, I mean the list is so long because once we got you know started there was Mary Lowe and [unclear] and Cynthia Santiago and they were part of the original study group that we went through and you know did and that was the little group that we would get together and really go through and study through you know how do we set this up and those were all the educators that formed the first original core that said ok let's see that this is educationally sound we just don't want to flash in the pants, we want to make sure that if we're going to dedicate countless hours to this that it really is going to make a change, there were so many parents that I couldn't even begin to name them all, one person that actually went on to then work on a second charter school was Sarah Alvarado who, she was one of the people that they actually changed, moved houses to be in the district, she then became involved in how to start a second charter school, (name) rock and that has an environmental focus because they are very into the green building and things like that so you know when you talk about transposing skills or creating that leadership that's an example of through what we did for nuestro mundo, the training some of what that went on to help start another charter school within the district was this totally different focus. So it was just countless, countless, countless number of people who stepped up and spoke and organized and you know did their power seeking thing you know, Juan was always in the background going ok Deb I got like two votes I got two votes we got to keep going, what else do I need to know you know, then he let go and he was (don't know) and dealing, and I go we're up to three we're at three--

ARENAS: I could see him (laughing)

GIL CASADO: Yea half of them are going, how do I answer this question and I would answer back, here you go this is how you're going to do it you know, Dora did a lot of work with rotary and talking to other people that could hopefully you know influence rain water and some of the other board members. I'm trying to think who else, Sylvia was on the board at that time and you know, I remember sitting down and talking with her multiple times, we had a big summoning block with MTI, with the union which is ironic because both Brian and I had been deeply, deeply involved in the union for many, many years. Dane Wisconsin was totally against us because you know that's a Charter schools only serve the purpose of you know of the right wing, you couldn't possibly use it to you know create a more west equitable kind of a situation and you know we never got their support even though we very patiently explained to them that they you know it's just a tool and it depends on how you build it you know that was one of the things that we absolutely insured because we have charter schools that are not given authorization, that they are not covered by the union, in fact that is what happened in Milwaukee a lot and we absolutely insisted you know we would not accept a school that does not have you know Union representation for the teachers that was one of the bottom lines

ARENAS: Wonderful.

GIL CASADO: Absolutely not we're not even talking that way and finally the last time we met with John Mathews, I remember we sat over coffee, Brian and I and John Mathews and he said, now we're talking a couple years now right he finally said, ok I won't oppose you.

ARENAS: I won't endorse but I won't stand in your way.

GIL CASADO: Yep, but that took us a good two or three years.

ARENAS: But it is a victory.

GIL CASADO: We would take what we could get because you know I thought rain water was saying oh well we can't get the union and so we finally you know, we then began to do a lot of heavy policy and you know calling other teachers that we knew, call them Latino teachers association you know had those numbers you know call the union and say I'm a union member and I'm supporting this you know well what are you doing. They had representation and won't accept non-representation of any of their members so--

GÓMEZ: Debora if your kind of look back at many of the milestones and when you think about your role as a woman leader and we talked about what you played both roles, is there anything you would say is specifically that because you're a woman or anything specific because you are Latina?

GIL CASADO: It's specific in terms of cooperation or gender? Just in terms of observation?

GÓMEZ: In terms of your community activist work

GIL CASADO: Ok, I think that you know very definitely even today women who are activists did a double duty in terms of triple duty you know you've got to take care of at home, stay at home working full time and then we're taking this on, in terms of community organizing so it can be very very hard. It can be very, very hard. I think that that's lots of time why we get burned out from people because it's easier to get very overwhelming, I think that it's it could be very hard for when I talk my students now you know I always try to say it is your job not just to lift yourself out but for me to be able to look back and say who else are you going to lift up, be adventurous because not everyone is cut out to make those choices and to me it was important enough and it became a life passion for me to take on a second job that you know we need to we need to give back, having said that you know one of the words of caution that I have is somehow we have greater expectations of our own community because it is such a struggle, right you know lots of times it can be very discouraging because we say, why aren't people signing up, why aren't people donating time, why aren't people going out and organizing and you know we have to remind ourselves that we that we really need to look at human behavior in general.

There is only 10% of the population general white population that actually goes out and volunteers and does all these things, why would we expect somehow or become discouraged that when we only find 10% of our community doing this, that somehow we feel we downgrade ourselves by saying Oh you know nobody cares, right because we see that, I think we forget sometimes that we need to have that understanding for us to be able to organize and to be effective we have to be realistic and not say, oh you know somehow because we're Hispanic or because we have higher levels of poverty that somehow we're going to rise up and you know, spend much more time than any other group of people being active and involved in voting and you know any of these other kinds of things. Because I think it makes a difference to be able to see things realistically it makes a difference to be able to say, we're getting 10% you know, that's unofficial number I don't know the exact percentage is, but if we're getting to 10% we're doing damn good and if we do better than that, that's even better right and to be sort of realistic because I think somehow people give up and say oh you know the Latino community is not involved, they are not getting out and voting, they are not doing this and they're not doing that, well why would we expect that you know we'd have these big, you know big number differences when this is what's going on with the general population, maybe what we need to do is change the media you know message, maybe we need to do things differently in terms of the Latino community if we truly want to do other things like get the vote out etc., so it will be really interesting now to see what is going on with the you know, all these kinds of programs because we have had numerous youth and families who have taken the chance of eventually losing everything by coming out and saying yes I am legal and yes I am here and yes I am signing up for this program so that I can move forward and have taken great risks, so you know if we look at the republicans getting in you know they, at first thing they are going to do is that they are going to get rid of us, I mean we have had the issues with the you know, going to go to the supreme court and trying to get rid of you know the order that Obama had and so you know it's interesting to see how they view activism in their new reality because I think for a long time we haven't seen a lot of upsurge of activism from young people in general and in the Latino community so I think that you know that high hope in seeing you know many of these young people who have stepped forward and hopefully will say it is not just us becoming lawyers and doctors but we are going to become activist and we're going got build that infrastructure and build that change and insure that we maintain our language right because yes English is absolutely necessary but two languages is always better than one, I don't care who you are right and this is why people who have money send their kids to private schools that do multiple languages you see that all over Europe and so you know we really need to make sure that in that melting pot that we're going through that we keep those in mind.

GÓMEZ: Is there anything about your journey meaning your community activism that you would change?

GIL CASADO: Yeah I, I think that early on I probably would should have learned better how to negotiate when I was much younger I made the mistake of saying of being too much of a purest and say see this way or no way, I think I could have impacted and made more change if I had a better understanding of how to negotiate and how to take people part of the way, I think that that's something I would change, I probably would have made sure to take to take the realization that to heart that even if I was not there the world would go on, I mean there would be someone else to carry the torch and I think sometimes we fool ourselves by saying like if I don't do it you know it just won't get done and then that's how you get people who totally burn out. You have to retreat from organizing and if I had had a better realization of that and done a better job of trying to figure out that kind of balance I probably would have spent even more time continuing to organize instead of taking this taking a very long break now of from doing this and I'm itching like oh what can I do next because it's been a while so, yea I think that those would be the three kinds of things that I would really kind of change. Other than that you know, it is what it is, I made the choices and sacrifices that I did, I was not the only one, I had I was in good company with many other people who were willing to share skills and to mentor and you know I learned a lot along the way and you know I think it was especially when you see little kindergarteners coming out never having spoken a word of Spanish in their lives and after 6 months sitting down and be able to have a conversation with you to have our Latino kids again thinking of the little kindergarteners you know have beating pride because they in fact are leaders in the classroom because their language and things they are bringing from home have you know all the other kids are asking them going yea explain this to me you know tell me help me help me out and it really changes the balance of things to be able to see that equality, true equality in the classroom and really breaking those social boundaries was all worth it so.

GÓMEZ: Any other parting words, any words you'd like to share with future generations of Latinos or others about community activism or anything else?

GIL CASADO: Yea, I mean I think that it's not enough to say that you want social justice, you have to build and infrastructure that very purposefully creates social justice and many times we forget that we think that if we gain a thing or a victory that it's enough and I think that, that my experience has been that it's not, that until you begin to change the language and the you know, infrastructures of schools and organizations and things like that, that you are not going to get permanent change it can all very easily slip back and disappear and so I think that it's not enough just to talk the talk, you really need to create the structure and support that talk and you know and that to me is the beauty of the activism part of really trying to build that capacity as you said early on as we started this interview that it really that's the beauty of doing that that it creates permanent change and to not be satisfied to just have you know some of you know the supreme court that's wonderful we should applaud that, that's not enough where is the infrastructure to make sure we have multiple people who can provide for that kind of position because that's what we want we not just want one leader there we want to set up a system that can continuously create leaders that can step into those kinds of positons.

GÓMEZ: Well thank you so much, creating both pathways are so important and its been my privilege to get to know you nothing over the phone , its nothing like the phone but its certainly is inspirational ad I thank you for that dedication and you know your continued work around changes for the long hall.

ARENAS: I conquer, I conquer having you know kids in Madison the past 30 years you really have changed the faith of Madison education for Latino kids and I mean that with the deepest sincerity and gratitude the fact that they spun up seven other emergence schools after your seven years of double and triple duty to get the first one started really is hard to hear you know I mean your program demonstrated positive outcomes and then ride on your success and role up these programs I mean it's just, you've changed Madison so thank you Deb

GIL CASADO: Yea, thank you.

ARENAS: You rock! You just really do

GIL CASADO: Well I say we all rock! Because it wasn't just you know I had the privilege of being the public face but as I said there are so many other people who had the little pieces in there to be able to do that and to build that and you know we forget that its truly was a community effort and that's why we insisted that it not just be nuestro mundo but it'd be nuestro mundo community school.

ARENAS: Yea, I would hope that it beats the recording of the interview with you where you outlined some of the problems for the school is really really valuable because I think the models you used had so many fine-tuned aspects that I've not seen in other organizing and you know you were successful because you used the whole translator thing and the different ways you used translation throughout the process, I mean you have a really outstanding model, so I hope that these two interviews will be able to highlight some of them but you might want to have someone do an oral history on just the process.


ARENAS: Ok I mean seriously and then I need your correct address I have your dvd here It's in an envelope already

GÓMEZ: You can stay on the line but let me just end the recording, I'm sorry one moment


ARENAS: Hello.