Oxnard High Schools Will Get Bilingual Departments

Education: The effort at the five campuses is an attempt to address the needs of a growing minority population.

The Oxnard high school district’s five campuses will be the first in Ventura County to establish separate bilingual education departments this fall as part of an effort to meet the needs of its growing Latino population, officials announced Wednesday.

The move will bring all bilingual classes, such as history, literature and math, under a single department with equal status with other departments, including its own chairman and budget, Supt. William G. Studt said.

The district also will introduce four new bilingual classes, including two with an emphasis on Mexican-American culture — a decision applauded by Latino activists who have been lobbying for the changes.

“We have been fighting for this cause for 20 years and we never gave up,” said Bill Terrazas, a bilingual education teacher at Channel Islands High School. “This is an historic moment for this district . . . and I believe we are the vanguard for the rest of Ventura County.”

Creating bilingual departments is just one of several changes in curriculum and policy outlined in a new, far-reaching program aimed at recognizing that minorities, particularly Latinos, make up the majority of students attending the district’s high schools, Studt said.

The district will also add Mexican-American authors to class reading lists, buy textbooks that reflect the academic and social contributions of all cultures and step up minority-hiring goals for teaching and administrative positions.

The recommendations came out of a task force, made up of members of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Ventura County and district officials, who have been meeting since February.

The chamber was concerned that although Latinos make up 53% of the district’s 11,000-student enrollment, minority students learn little about their native culture from textbooks, which focus on the history and achievements of white European civilization, said Ray Rios, chairman of the Hispanic chamber’s education committee.

Minorities hold only a few of the teaching jobs and even fewer administrative positions in the district, Rios said. He said he hopes that the changes in curriculum and policy will move the district toward reflecting the multicultural view of its community.

“I feel it is time that these young Latinos and other minorities feel some sort of pride about who they are,” Rios said. “If we do that, it will make them better citizens and better candidates as future leaders of our country.”

The ethnic makeup of the district’s student body has changed rapidly over the past decade. In 1981, minority enrollment was 49.5%. Last year, the figure had grown to 68.5%, with Latinos making up the largest proportion.

In response to its changing demographics, the district last year experimented with bilingual education departments at Channel Island High and Oxnard High, Studt said. The department was so successful in reaching students who use English as a second language that district officials endorsed the idea of adding bilingual departments at Camarillo High, Rio Mesa High and Hueneme High, Studt said.

Augmenting the salaries of five teachers to double as department chairpersons will cost the district about $10,000 a year, he said. Establishing the departments will give bilingual education teachers leverage to influence lessons, Studt said.

“You’ve got a department chair who goes and basically arm wrestles with other departments for money for budgets and curriculum,” he said.

Another $25,000 will be allocated to buy literature by Mexican-American authors, such as “Chicano” by Richard Vasquez and “Barrio Boy” by Ernesto Galarza. Other changes for the 1992-93 academic year did not involve new costs to the district, Studt said. The district will select textbooks that offer multicultural views when it buys new materials with state funds and will revise social studies and history classes to include topics relating to minorities, he said.

Money for recruitment of minority teachers and administrators is already set aside, he said.

Other aspects of the program include increasing the public’s awareness of minority-outreach programs already in existence, releasing test results on minority students and forming an umbrella committee that will deal with the concerns of Latinos and other minorities across the district.

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