TENAFLY—The board of education thinks it has a better and less expensive
plan for dealing with non-English-speaking children than the one
required by state law. Nonetheless, the board may be forced to comply
with the law, and may have to spend up to $ 50,000 in the process.
The law requires each New Jersey school district to provide a
certified bilingual teacher, fluent in students’ native language,
whenever there are at least 21 students who speak the same native
foreign language. The teacher is assigned to instruct the
foreign-speaking children in all academic subjects.
Tenafly has been providing teacher’s aides who speak Japanese and
Korean, rather than using certified teachers, for children who speak
those languages. However, the district has been under growing pressure
to comply with the letter of the law. Recently, local representatives
had to go to Trenton to discuss the situation with officials of the
state Division on Bilingual Education.
Pressure is being exerted on the county level, as well. “The
district has been notified to implement its bilingual program,” said
Elizabeth McGowan of the Bergen County schools superintendent’s office.
The Tenafly district, she said, is the first in the county to test the
Dr. Walter Wollam, assistant superintendent of schools, said it
would cost the district from $ 30,000 to $ 50,000 to hire two certified
“We have been dodging the bullet for three years,” Wollam
acknowledged, adding: “It’s impractical when you have 21 students
scattered in six buildings. You can’t run a teacher everywhere.”
He said the district is proposing a compromise that would provide
a certified teacher only in the elementary schools.
Wollam said parents of the foreign students have been pleased with
the existing program, involving aides fluent in Japanese and Korean. He
said the parents actually prefer to have their children attend regular
mainstream classes, believing that in this way, the children learn
When the school year ended last month, Tenafly had 28 Japanese
students and 22 Korean children in grades ranging from kindergarten
through high school. In all, there were 85 foreign-speaking children
throughout the system.
Mrs. McGowan said the district has until Sept. 30, when enrollment
for the 1985-86 school year is established, to file its bilingual plan
with the county.
She said it will be up to Tenafly to determine what kind of plan it
will present. “It will be sent to the state if it doesn’t comply with
the law,” she said.
Mrs. McGowan said she understands the problem. “We have been
monitoring the program with aides, and are familiar with what it
does,” she said, adding: “It isn’t so very different.”
The county spokeswoman would not speculate on what might happen if
Tenafly fails to comply with the letter of the law. She said the
district got $ 65,473 in state aid for the bilingual program last year,
based on $ 770.27 per student.
Wollam said state aid paid for two of the three
English-as-a-second-language teachers in the district. These teachers
have been working with the other foreign students. He said that if
bilingual teachers are added, the move won’t be implemented until the
start of the second semester in January.