RIVERSIDE—School officials last night approved a master plan for bilingual education despite heated opposition from parents, five of them school board candidates, who said the public deserves more time to study and question the proposal.
The plan unveiled by the Riverside Unified School board last month is meant to improve the instruction, programs and activities available to the district’s 4,802 limited English students.
It includes a call to eventually designate several elementary schools as bilingual magnet schools, where the district’s limited English students – and its limited teaching resources – could be concentrated.
Board member Ofelia Valdez-Yeager said the master plan has been more than two years in the making, and was reviewed and revised by teachers, administrators and a 30-member committee that included parents.
She and board members Robert Nava, Maxine Frost and Ardice Bailor said the master plan is a guide for district staff, which will be asked to work out the details for final approval by the school board.
But board member Dana Kruckenberg, who voted against the master plan, said she had concerns about how the program will be paid for, which schools might become bilingual magnets, and how those schools will be selected.
“Frankly, I don’t know if this is detailed enough yet to put it into action,” Kruckenberg said.
She called the plan, and especially the magnet school proposal, a “fascinating concept,” but asked the board to delay approval and schedule a public hearing.
Her concerns were quickly echoed by parents and school board candidates who sharply challenged the board to put the master plan through a thorough public debate.
Candidate William Dettmer said the Sept. 12 study session at which the master plan was unveiled was not well publicized and, while the public was allowed to speak, gave little time for anyone to prepare questions.
“All I have been allowed to see so far is the executive summary of the master plan,” Dettmer said, “all seven and a half pages of that. It was vague, to say the least. And I have 31 questions about that I’d like answered in open session, even before seeing the entire master plan. “
Candidate Gil Navarro said the local Mexican American Political Association, of which he serves as education director, is against the plan, and believes it is a “political ploy to attract Hispanic voters. ” Candidates Michael Bazan, Mary Churchill and Gayle Cloud also urged the board to listen to parents and to delay approval until all questions have been answered.
But the board majority said the plan has been thoroughly revised and reviewed and parents have played a large role in its creation.
Nava, who is seeking re-election, spoke sternly to the candidates who spoke last night, saying they were trying to delay the plan for political gain.
“It is sad to see school board candidates inject their views
into this discussion for political purposes,” Nava said. “We’re
going to do what’s best for the children. “
Churchill later said she was angered by Nava’s remarks.
“Talk about someone using a political ploy,” Churchill said.
“It’s him. I really resented that. “