We’ll talk to the new Superintendent of the Pendergast school district, Dr. Lily Matos DeBlieux, about educational issues and her plans for the future for the west valley school district.
José Cárdenas: A new school year we comes a new leader in one west valley school district. Tonight we get to know Dr. Lily Matos Deblieux. Dr. Deblieux, welcome to "Horizonte" and welcome to Arizona. You're most recently from California. Correct?
Dr. Lily Matos Deblieux: Thank you for having me.
José Cárdenas: Puerto Rican by background.
Dr. Lily Matos Deblieux: Yes, I'm very proud of my culture.
José Cárdenas: Where did you grow up?
Dr. Lily Matos Deblieux: Brooklyn, New York. And then we moved to Puerto Rico at and I finished high school and college there and came back to the United States, as a matter of fact, I returned - I came back to Tucson to live, we were stationed at Davis.
José Cárdenas: And I know from our discussion off screen you speak Spanish fluently. How important is that for the district you're in right now. Tell us about that district.
Dr. Lily Matos Deblieux: It's very, very important. I work at the Pendergrass elementary school district and we have approximately 75% Latino population. A lot of our parents do not speak English, so it's wonderful to be able to communicate with them.
José Cárdenas: So give us a sense of where the district is located physically and maybe a little more information about the demographics.
Dr. Lily Matos Deblieux: Sure. We're located on 91st Avenue, north 91st Avenue in Phoenix. We serve students in Glendale, Avondale, and Phoenix. So we have 12 schools in those three areas.
Close to 10,000 students, I understand. K-8 district?
Dr. Lily Matos Deblieux: All of our schools are K-8, and we have six feeder high schools.
José Cárdenas: What brought you to Phoenix? What challenges were you looking for to deal with here? And you were successful until California. What brought you here?
Dr. Lily Matos Deblieux: Thank you. Well first I love working with this population. I'm Puerto Rican, grew up poor, and had many opportunities because of parents and teachers, so that's a population I like to serve. In addition I lived in Phoenix, I lived in Tucson for approximately five years, where my daughter was born, but this opportunity came up and it was perfect timing, I have like I said a daughter in Tucson, and I became a grandmother in July so it was the perfect time to come to a great district and be close to family.
José Cárdenas: As I understand it you just indicated, the district has been relatively well over the years, but every school in Arizona faces challenges. What are the ones that you're facing there in your new job?
Dr. Lily Matos Deblieux: Our school district is doing very well. We're a B district, and so we're very proud of the performance of our students and our staff. The challenges that we face are challenges that all school districts face. Budget, unfortunately education doesn't get the most funding. So currently we know how important it is for a pre-K, K students to receive education, but kindergarten is not funded in the state of Arizona. So that's one of our biggest challenges, how do we get funding so all the students can have the opportunity to get the education they deserve.
José Cárdenas: You're serving Latino population, any sense for how many of those are recent immigrants?
Dr. Lily Matos Deblieux: We don't have that information at this time.
José Cárdenas: What about economically?
Dr. Lily Matos Deblieux: Economically it's low socioeconomic area. I would say we have about seven schools that are all title one, which is free and reduced lunch. So Approximately 85-90% free and reduced lunch. So it's a low socioeconomic area.
José Cárdenas: Let's talk about some of the initiatives that you've already launched. One of them is last week.
Dr. Lily Matos Deblieux: Yes. We just had our kickoff as a matter of fact yesterday. Which is really exciting, all approximately employees we have from custodians to teachers to administrators. One of our students, one of our eighth graders was the keynote speaker who gave a speech on believing, making sure, telling the people to please believe in the students because they are the future. And he was phenomenal. And then we also had Corey Moreno, who just graduated from high school and he's a recording artist, so he performed for us. Letting the teachers and staff know, you're an excellent district, look what you've done for me. One of the initiatives we currently have, we want teachers in the classroom and we want to support them and unfortunately we cannot give them the raises we would like, so we're offering a car to those who have 100% attendance coming to teach. So there's a lot of excitement in the air --
José Cárdenas: A car?
Dr. Lily Matos Deblieux: A free car, brand-new car. We have a couple of sponsors, I reached out to the community who has been extremely supportive, so we launched that yesterday with a kickoff. If you come, if you teach every day, and our students succeed and you have excellence attendance all of those teachers who qualify, their names will go in a drawing and in June we'll be giving out a free car.
José Cárdenas: That's fantastic. I understand you have some other community initiatives that you launched.
Dr. Lily Matos Deblieux: Yes. We're opening up a hope center. The official opening is in October. It's a huge facility, we're going to have a clinic, we'll be offering classes for parents as well as students. We want to include the entire family in educating them in terms of academics, nutrition, sports, etc. So that is a wonderful initiative of coming up, because it's not just about educating a child, but providing resources for the parents as well and we'll be able to provide that.
José Cárdenas: And when were you talking about one of the speeches given at your kickoff event, you mentioned the student talking about believing. As I understand you have a beat philosophy.
Dr. Lily Matos Deblieux: I'm in love with the bee. I love the story behind the bee. Aerodynamically it's been proven it can't fly.
José Cárdenas: I notice you're wearing a pin.
Dr. Lily Matos Deblieux: I have one for every day. I wear a different pin every day. The story is the bee, it's stocky and chubby but its wings are light so aerodynamically it shouldn't be able to fly but nobody has told the bee differently. And therefore it flies. And so the message I bring to my school district and students and parents and staff is, we have to tell children we believe in them and just let them know. Because we know they can succeed. Don't tell them any different limit tell them you're capable of anything; you can reach your goals. And one of the stories I told yesterday in the speech I gave to the staff was a couple of fun facts about bees. One of those facts was that the bee produces honey, and it only needs an ounce of honey in order to fly around the world. And so one of the messages I gave to them is, let's just give an ounce of hope, an ounce much belief, an ounce much love to our children and they'll achieve wonders in our world. So it's just a beautiful statement of believing in the potential of every student, and we know they will succeed. And in our district we believe in that, and we give the students that sense of hope, and we are seeing a lot of success.
José Cárdenas: And what kind of reaction are you getting? How do the students and the parents react to that?
Dr. Lily Matos Deblieux: They absolutely love it. The bee philosophy has just taken over the school district in the short two months I've been here. As a matter of fact the teachers are changing their bulletin boards, they're talking about the bee, the newsletters that go out have the bee emblem. And they're very, very happy and set satisfied because we believe in them as a district. We are customer service and they call central office, we not only believe in you but we're going to service you so you can do the real work of educating our children.
José Cárdenas: Thank you for everything you're doing, welcome to Arizona and we wish you the best of luck.
Dr. Lily Matos Deblieux: Thank you, it's my pleasure. I appreciate it. Have a wonderful day.
José Cárdenas: Thank you.
José Cárdenas: There's an important programming note. Starting September th, "Horizonte" will be moving to new time slots, Thursday nights at and Sunday afternoons at . Please join me at our new times starting in September on eight HD. That's our show for tonight. From all of us here at "Horizonte" and eight I'm José Cárdenas. Have a good night.
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Dr. Lily Matos DeBlieux:Superintendent, Pendergast School District;