D.C. School Superintendent Andrew E. Jenkins, facing criticism about his plans to reshape bilingual education services, began extensive talks yesterday with some leaders in the city’s Hispanic community.
Both sides said they left the three-hour discussion without an agreement, but expressed hope that the dispute would be resolved this week.
“It was a very good meeting,” said Beatriz Otero, a Hispanic community activist serving as group spokeswoman. “I think the superintendent has good intentions and really would like to see this resolved in a positive way.”
Hispanic community leaders and parents have reacted angrily to Jenkins’ move to reorganize the school system’s division of bilingual education, predicting it will severely hamper Hispanic students’ chances of success in the classroom. About 11 percent of the city’s 88,000 public school students require bilingual education.
On Sunday, more than 120 parents met in a church basement in Adams-Morgan to voice their dismay with Jenkins’ plans.
At a public hearing last night on school budget proposals, held after Jenkins’ meeting with the Hispanic group, about 60 Hispanic parents and community leaders pleaded with Jenkins and school board members to keep the program intact.
The superintendent’s meeting focused on three recommendations the group brought to Jenkins: first, that Jenkins delay reorganizing offices for bilingual education staff until a new comprehensive education plan for non-English speaking students is developed. That plan will be presented by a school system task force by next June, Jenkins said. Second, the group asked Jenkins to include a few of them on the task force studying bilingual programs. And third, the group requested that the school system’s 1990 budget, to be released in about two weeks, list specifically how much money will be spent on bilingual education.
Jenkins said he is studying those requests and, in the meantime, has scheduled a special conference Thursday with the District school board to discuss the group’s concerns.
“I told them I take very seriously their recommendations,” Jenkins said, adding that he was pleased with the meeting. “But my decision will have to be based on what’s best for the children.”
Jenkins’ reorganization proposals, which affect every aspect of public education in the District, were unanimously approved by the 11-member school board in August. Regarding bilingual education, Jenkins has said he would divide the existing division and establish separate offices for elementary, junior high and high school students who do not speak English.
Jenkins also has said that diagnostic testing and placement of students requiring bilingual services will be conducted by a central office overseeing special populations in the school system.Staff writer Karlyn Barker contributed to this report.