Bilingual Teaching Positions

Opposed Parents, Educators not heard, they say

Teachers and parents want to know why they didn’t have any say in the creation of a tradition-breaking school district program for limited-English students.

“Some stakeholders have been left out of the discussion,” Scott Barker, president of the Scottsdale Education Association, told the school board at a meeting last week.

The board approved the new districtwide program at a study session — usually a time to discuss, not to vote — two weeks ago. It calls for 35 new bilingual teaching positions and replaces the previous loosely defined policy under which schools decided how to best teach students with no or limited English skills.

The impetus for the overhaul is an increasing number of Spanish- speaking students in the district, a population that grew from 4.9 percent in 1989 to 8.6 percent last year.

But the way the program is being set up has upset many parents and teachers.

“Teachers have concerns about this new program,” said Barker, a teacher at Hohokam Elementary. “It’s about how quickly they plan to implement it and if it would dishonor the current teacher employment.”

Teachers could be transferred to make way for incoming teachers certified in bilingual education or English as a second language.

“We just wanted to plant a seed with the board to tell them the transfer policy may be affected,” said Richard Vernezze, an ESL- certified teacher at Yavapai Elementary. “This could be a real good program if it’s handled the right way.”

Some parents say it’s already been handled the wrong way.

“Obviously, they could care less about what we have to say,” said Debby McKnight, president of the parent-teacher organization at Supai Middle School. “I was expecting a chance to be heard.”

McKnight questioned why the district would spend money on cash incentives to attract outsiders when schools still lack materials.

“Some classrooms don’t have enough textbooks,” she said. “They don’t have art or music classes any more. All the fun stuff for the kids is gone, but they can find $300,000 to bring these people from out of state?”

The district administration insists nothing has been finalized.

“I certainly don’t want to disrupt any teachers,” interim Superintendent Don Enz said. “But the board asked us for a new program, and we came up with a plan that best fits our research.”

Enz also said some community members might have the wrong idea about how bilingual education will be used in schools.”There’s been some misinformation out there. No one is going to be forced to learn Spanish. This is not a dual language program. It’s transitional bilingual education, meaning if kids don’t speak English, their teacher can speak Spanish to them.”

Hernan Rozemberg can be reached at (602) 444-7471 or at hernan.rozemberg

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