Students who do not speak English will not be placed in English-only classes when the school year starts, Superintendent Carl Cohn told the Long Beach Unified School Board at a workshop Tuesday morning.
This, however, does not mean the district is defying Proposition 227, Cohn said. The district will be happy to comply when a satisfactory program has been worked out. Until then, however, it will be “business as usual” in area schools.
Prop. 227, also known as the English for the Children initiative, virtually eliminated bilingual education programs in California schools. It won by a landslide in the June election, and requires that students who do not speak English be placed in a one-year English immersion program.
Districts like Los Angeles and Norwalk-La Mirada have already put their immersion programs in place. Others, like ABC and Downey, say they will have them by the time school starts next week. But not in Long Beach, where officials like Cohn say it takes time to design a program that will work.
The way an immersion program’s success should be measured is not by how quickly it is put into place but by its academic quality, Cohn said.
Board members supported Cohn’s stance.
“I am willing to do whatever it takes to get it done,” said Ed Eveland, adding that his suggestion would be for the district to recruit its best bilingual teachers to help design the new program.
Two elementary school administrators have already been taken off their regular duties to fulfill this purpose. Wendy Claflin, vice-principal at Barton Elementary, and Alexis Ruiz-Alessi, principal at Robinson Elementary, were appointed by the board on Aug. 18.
Claflin and Ruiz-Alessi both attended the board’s workshop, which was held Tuesday at the LBUSD nutrition center. They did not attend for the purpose of telling the board about the new program. Instead, they were there to listen to suggestions from the board.
When asked about a month ago whether he was not afraid of getting sued for not having a program in place by the start of school, Cohn said he wasn’t, because he felt the route LBUSD is taking will prove best for its students.
At the workshop, board member Mary Stanton echoed his sentiments, adding that if someone does sue, the district will “deal with it when it happens.”