SACRAMENTO, CA—A top administrator in the Orange Unified School District’s bilingual education program has quit her job in protest over the district’s decision to convert to English-only instruction.
Pam de Loetz, the district’s administrator of special programs, argued against Orange Unified’s position at a state Board of Education hearing on the district’s bilingual policy here Thursday.
The state school board postponed until at least today deciding whether to approve thedistrict’s request to end bilingual instruction for students who speak little or no English.
The issue has triggered strong emotions in Orange, where some parents say the district should stop teaching children in their native languages while others insist that bilingual education helps the children learn to read and write so they can keep up with other subjects while they study English.
De Loetz told the state board that Orange Unified is ignoring the wishes of more than 800 parents who have signed petitions protesting the change. She said those parents want their kindergarten, first-grade and second-grade children kept in a special accelerated-literacy program in their native languages.
Most speak Spanish.
“They are now going to be put into all-English classrooms,” de Loetz said. “They are going to have to learn to read in English while they are learning to speak English. “
De Loetz has worked for the district since 1992. Before that, she said, she did a similar job in Placentia Unified for 25 years.
She said she quit last week because she was frustrated by the district’s failure to listen to the parents. She said top district officials made no attempt to notify the affected parents before the policy was changed.
District officials, however, disputed de Loetz’s claims. They said one board member held several meetings with parents and the full board held two public hearings before the decision.
Superintendent Robert French told the state board that the district would provide after-school tutoring, summer school, prekindergarten programs, parent education and special testing to make sure that the children put in English-only classes do not fall through the cracks.
“We’re not providing less, we’re not taking away,” French said.
“We’re providing more. “
Aides to Delaine Eastin, the state superintendent of public instruction, urged the board to reject Orange Unified’s Eng- lish-only plan on the grounds that it is not academically sound.
If the board does not act today, Orange Unified will not have a decision before five year-round schools with hundreds of limit- ed-English students begin the new academic year July 1.