Future Bernalillo Public Schools teachers will be required to have their bilingual or English as a second language endorsement within three years of hire, the school board decided this week.
The requirement now added to Bernalillo’s Educational Plan for Student Success is tied to the district’s goal of graduating students who are bilingual.
More than 65 to 70 percent of Bernalillo students come from homes that speak languages other than English, such as Keres or Spanish. The district includes five pueblos, Algodones, Pena Blanca and Placitas.
“Dual-language is not just desirous,” said board member Margaret Palumbo. “It would be (the envy) of any community.”
Such certification requires more than 20 hours of classes, which the district wants to impose as a condition of employment.
“I think new people will see this is a goal we have (for our employees) to work here,” Superintendent Gary Dwyer told the board, “so they will do the work.”
However, some board members said they wanted to toughen the requirements for existing employees, many of whom have begun the process for their endorsement.
“It’s an issue I would like to revisit,” board President Jack Torres said.
Such an issue would likely need to be part of contract negotiations with the employee union.
Jose Cervantes, president of the National Education Association in Bernalillo, said the union supports the requirement.
“Our position is supportive of what is needed in the schools,” Cervantes said Thursday. “Right now, we’re getting all kinds of students that have those needs.”
But if they want to make the same requirement of existing employees, Cervantes said, the district must both pay for the classes and find some way to compensate teachers who already are certified.
Figures on the number of employees with such certification were not available.
“It’s a real need in our district,” Deputy Superintendent Ivan Archibeque said earlier this week. “We’ve talked about it for years and years. We’ve just never put it into policy.”
Teachers who are certified as bilingual must pass tests on Spanish, Archibeque said, while those with English as a second language endorsement also are trained in classroom methods on how to work with such students.
“If we’re going to bring people aboard who can best meet the needs of the population, we need to have some requirements that will ensure that,” Archibeque said.
The district has federal bilingual money available as reimbursement for the classes, Archibeque said.
Also added to the district’s student success plan a state-required listing of focus areas is a daily hour of reading and literacy improvement at each school. Some schools already require 90 minutes through an intense reading program called “Success for All.”
Archibeque said that at the high school, the reading can be worked into content of the class, such as science and math.
The changes also require schools to hold a parent meeting in the spring to assess how the school is meeting its goals.