Chinese parents ask state to reject bilingual plan

RANDOLPH — A group of Chinese parents wants the state Department of Education to reject the school department’s revised plan for transitional bilingual education.

The Chinese parent advisory council refused to sign the three-year plan, saying school officials didn’t consider their suggestions seriously and refused to meet with them before sending the plan to the state last month.

About 15 members of the council protested the plan last night at a school committee meeting as newly elected Selectman Daniel Lam served as a translator.

“School administrators ignore what we consider important. We’ve indicated our concerns many times, verbally and in writing, and the school system continues to exclude us,” said Anliza Mui, president of the Chinese parent council, through Lam.

School officials denied ignoring the Chinese parents’ concerns and said it was a matter of miscommunication.

School committee Chairwoman Barbara Mellon said she spoke with Mui several times about setting up a meeting to discuss the plan, but she said they could not agree on a date.

“It’s always been my intention to meet and to resolve this. We’ve had a lot of correspondence back and forth and I’ve tried many times to communicate with you,” Mellon said.

State rules require a school district to offer instruction in English and another language if at least 20 students or more in a district speak the same non-English language.

Randolph provides native language instruction to 81 Haitian and 67 Chinese students.

The Chinese parent advisory council sent a letter yesterday to Department of Education Commissioner Robert V. Antonucci, asking his department to reject the plan.

The letter included a list of the Chinese parents’ recommendations and asks the state to appoint a person to serve as a mediator between the parent group and school administrators.

Mui said the bilingual plan sent to the state is misleading because the line where the Chinese parent advisory council president was supposed to sign was left out of the final draft.

The Haitian parent advisory president signed the plan, but was told by the director of the school’s bilingual programs, Maryellen Cole, to sign on a line that read “parent advisory council.” It didn’t specify whether he was signing for the Chinese or Haitian parent council.

“It looks like the Haitian president’s signature represents both the Chinese and Haitian parent groups,” Mui said.

School committee member Brian Howard questioned why the signature page was changed in the draft sent to the state.

“This might give the state a different impression and it makes you wonder why this happened. We need to find out if it said anywhere on the document given to the state that the Chinese parents didn’t agree, ” Howard said.

School Superindentent Arthur Melia said he would look into putting together a committee to serve as a liaison between school administrators, the bilingual program director and the Chinese parent advisory council.

Mui said she asked Cole to include the Chinese parent advisory council’s recommendations with the plan, but Cole did not include it with the plan, she said.

Cole did not attend last night’s meeting. Melia said he would ask Cole if she included the Chinese parents’ letter and why the signature page was changed.

If school officials continue to ignore the concerns of the Chinese parent advisory council, Mui said, she would contact a lawyer to review the school administration’s process in putting the plan together.

The Chinese parent advisory council opposes several changes in the revised plan, including clustering several grades at Kennedy Elementary School and eliminating the Chinese bilingual kindergarten program at the Tower Hill School.

Mui said multigrade clusters do not provide a good educational environment for children. The council wants single-grade clusters. She also said Chinese parents are pleased with the kindergarten program, and don’t want it eliminated.

Parents also are concerned the revised plan isolates their children from the mainstream and the process of integration is delayed.

“The bilingual director insists that the main instructional language be Chinese. We disagree. In order to transition a student, English should be taught as much as possible,” Mui said.

But school officials say the Chinese parents repeatedly changed their recommendations while working on the plan during the past year, and some of their suggestions don’t comply with the law.

Melia said the Chinese bilingual kindergarten program is not required by the state. He said the school will provide bilingual classes to kindergarten students, but won’t have a full-scale program.

The Chinese parents don’t want high school teachers to use Chinese native language or material, but Melia said the state requires bilingual classes to be taught using both the native and English language.

Melia said the state Department of Education will send him their recommendations by mid-May. If the state rejects the plan, Melia said, he would work with the Chinese parents to revise it.

“I plan to talk with Ms. Cole, get feedback from the state and try to work with the Chinese parents,” Melia said.

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