Bilingual education changes

Newly hired official to oversee program in Randolph schools

RANDOLPH — The school department will not hire a full-time bilingual director to replace Maryellen Cole, who resigned two weeks ago to take a teaching job.

Instead, the responsibility will fall to newly hired Director of Pupil Personnel Services Ken Swanson. His position was created in the spring as part of the school administration reorganization plan.

As of June, state regulations no longer require the position to be full-time or bilingual directors to be certified bilingual instructors, Superintendent Arthur Melia said.

“For now, he will handle it,” Melia said. “It’s a natural placement and he has the ability to work well with diverse groups.”

Melia said Swanson’s role as bilingual director would be evaluated after several months. Cole will continue to work as a consultant for the bilingual and English-as-a-Second Language programs as needed.

Cole, hired in the spring of 1995, had been under fire from minority activists, teachers and parents for nearly a year.

Melia, however, said the program is in better shape than has it been in years. Cole helped turn the program around, he said.

Two years ago, state officials cited 53 problems during an audit of the program. Most of those have been corrected. A similar state audit will take place in the spring.

In an interview with Cole this week, she said one of her biggest reasons for resigning was her desire to make a difference for students and teachers.

And she admitted that on some days, she did not like going to work in the morning.

“It’s important for me to make a difference for students and teachers, and it began to feel as though politically, I couldn’t make a difference no matter what I did,” Cole said.

“It wouldn’t have worked because of political things going on in town. Parents weren’t happy with the reorganization and supervision evaluations, and it got to be difficult to be effective for the teachers and students,” Cole said.

In May, about 75 teachers showed up at a school committee meeting to complain about Cole. The Randolph Education Association, the teachers’ union, has filed 20 grievances by employees against Cole.

Melia said most of these grievances involved Cole’s classroom observations and evaluation process. Several grievances were rejected, he said.

Another major reason Cole decided to leave is because she wanted to return to the classroom.

Cole now works as a bilingual teacher at the Early Learning Center in Chelsea, formerly the Shurtleff Street School. Cole attended the school from kindergarten to sixth grade.

Before coming to Randolph, Cole worked in Haverhill as an assistant principal and as a bilingual teacher in Lawrence for 15 years.

“I saw teachers having a good time teaching and I decided that I wanted to do that. It’s very hard to sit and watch teachers enjoying something you want to do,” Cole said.

Cole said she will miss working with Melia, who tried to persuade her to stay on as full-time director. She also will miss members of the bilingual staff, whom she descibed as excellent.

For now, she is excited to be back in the classroom.

“I took over a difficult program. . . . If I have a regret, it’s not being able to bring people together. Everybody needs to work together for the good of the kids,” Cole said.

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