Officials from Denver Public Schools and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights will meet today in what could be a last-ditch effort to iron out any differences over the school district’s bilingual plan.
While both sides say the other called the meeting, both seemed hopeful that an agreement could be reached and thus avoid having the Department of Justice enforce a plan.
“We’re going to see what we can do to resolve this,” Superintendent Irv Moskowitz said Thursday. “We would like to resolve this. We’re willing to meet as long as it takes.”
Earlier in the week, Roger Murphy, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Education, said that the Office of Civil Rights would work with DPS officials in coming up with a bilingual plan that is acceptable.
“This is not unusual,” he said. “We’re still trying to be as accommodating as we can.” Comments toned down
The comments by DPS and federal government officials were a far cry from what both sides had said a few weeks earlier.
The Office of Civil Rights ruled earlier this month that the district had violated federal law by failing to adequately educate children with limited English skills. DPS, which could stand to lose $ 30 million in federal funding, stood by its plan, saying that the civil rights office overreacted to a summary draft of the district’s plan.
At issue is the education of more than 13,000 Denver students who speak little or no English, and how they should be taught.
The bilingual plan calls for three years of native language instruction, then a gradual transition into mainstream classes. That has been a major sticking point for Hispanic parents and civic organizations, who feel that students should be taught in their native language longer than three years.
DPS’ bilingual program has been under federal jurisdiction since its inception in 1984. Either the Congress of Hispanic Educators, the plaintiffs in the litigation that resulted in federal control, or U.S. District Court Judge Richard Matsch must approve the plan before it can be implemented. Accusations of racism
After the ruling by the Office of Civil Rights this month, Hispanic parents and groups accused the Denver school district of racism for not adequately teaching students who do not speak English.
In other developments at Thursday’s school board meeting, the board agreed to invoke its power of eminent domain to seize a parcel next to the former Mount Carmel High School, on the 3600 block of Zuni Street. The school board had entered into an agreement with the Archdiocese of Denver to purchase the school, but thought that the adjacent lot was included. It is now managed by Amber Investments, who DPS said refused to negotiate a sale to the district.
The board also moved forward with plans to upgrade its health education services.
Some of the changes to the current policy include making some health courses required for graduation or credited in some school curriculum.
DPS admitted that its current health education needed refinement.
“We do not have a good quality-control handle on what schools are doing,” said John Leslie, executive director of student services.