Anthracite Unite has taken a firm stance against corruption and institutional racism in the Hazleton Area School District, and we’ll remain committed to protecting working-class students’ right to quality education. Leading up to the May 21 primary elections, we’re running a series of posts profiling four working-class Latina mothers who are running for a seat on the Hazleton Area School Board, challenging the local petty bourgeois establishment.
Anthracite Unite: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Ivelisse Eufracio: My name is Ivelisse Eufracio. I was born in the Dominican Republic. There, I studied accounting and journalism. I also did a diploma in human resources. In 2014, I obtained a bachelor’s degree in Spanish at Lehman College, City University of New York, in the Bronx. I have two children as well as two granddaughters.
I arrived in Hazleton in 2012. Since then, I have worked in a number of jobs: I was an Amazon associate, a bank teller, a loan officer in training, and a translator. Also, from 2012 to 2013 I worked as a paraprofessional in the Hazleton Area School District (HASD), helping a teacher working with English as a Second Language (ESL) students.
I’m also involved in the community in a lot of different ways. I volunteer with the Hazleton Integration Project, I’m a member of the Society of Hispanic Professional of Hazleton, I’m on the
Board of Directors for the Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress, I’m a member of the Hazleton Rotary Club, and I’m on the board of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.
AU: Why are you running for a seat on the school board? Was there a moment when you really committed to doing this?
IE: I am running for a seat on the school board because I think that I can make a difference. I believe that the solution to many of our social and academic problems is to focus on creating a better educational system for our children.
The moment when I really committed to doing this was when I saw that it was not enough to go to the school district meetings and expose the concerns and problems that the community has. Then I understood that the only way I could help my community to solve those problems was by being part of that board.
AU: You’ve been out knocking on a lot of doors, haven’t you? What are you hearing from people? What kind of changes do they think need to be made at the HASD?
IE: Yes, I have been knocking doors. A lot of people agree with me that we need people in the Hazleton Area School District (HASD) who care more about raising the academic and educational level of our children.
They’re in agreement that our schools need more counselors – we have only 16 counselors to help more that 11,000 students! Some of those counselors need be bilingual.
Also, I spoke with young people fresh out of high school and they expressed part of the problem they experienced while studying at Hazleton High School was the lack of after-school programs that allowed young people to develop in different areas and thus be out of any kind of problem.
People are talking about transportation, too. They want HASD to bring back the bus routes that it removed. Now, all students who live within two miles of the school must walk to school, regardless of the student’s age or the weather. Many parents were forced to find a solution such as hiring private buses to take their children to school. Others even lost their jobs because they were late for work having to take their children to school.
AU: You are sort of metaphorically “knocking on doors” here, too, aren’t you? Because if you and/or the other women you’re running with were to win, you’d make history as being the first Latina(s) ever elected to public office in Hazleton.
But many would say there’s also reason for working-class people of all stripes to find your candidacy appealing. The Hazleton Area School Board – and thus our children’s education – has always been controlled by a small group of well-connected local elites. Mostly people who, let’s face it, care more about maintaining their own power than they do about education. Why is it important that these barriers come down?
IE: The school board has been doing the same thing for years – some of them for 15 years – and we haven’t gotten any positive results. We need a change and we need diversity in our school district.
For example, In 1994, HASD was academically at the top among schools in Luzerne County; by 1998 we were in the middle; and by 2000, we were last.The people in power like to blame their mismanagement on student overpopulation, but all of this actually began five or six years before the student population began increasing.
AU: The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission came to Hazleton recently as part of an ongoing investigation into possible discrimination at HASD. At the public hearing they held, we heard some heart-wrenching stories. You were there; what did you take from that? What actions would you take as School Director to take on some of the issues that came up?
IE: We must definitely review the school district’s policies concerning how the concept of discipline and safety in our school should be handled. We must create preventive methods. One of them should be hiring security and cafeteria staff who are bilingual. This way the staff will be able to know what is happening before situations get out of hand.
Also, we can apply for a grant, Preventing Violence and Violence-Related Injury (RFA-CE-19-005). This would help us to be able to give information to students, teachers, and staff about how to handle that kind of situation.
AU: If people want to support your candidacy, what can they do?
IE: The primary is May 21, 2019. You can find your polling place here. You get to vote for five people, regardless of if you’re Democrat or Republican. Even if you are not in my party, you can write me in, or write in whoever you want. It’s simple.