Turnover of teachers in bilingual programs concerns parents

RANDOLPH — A group of 20 Chinese and Haitian parents say they are concerned about the turnover of teachers in the school system’s transitional bilingual education programs.

Oreste Joseph, vice president of the Haitian Parent Advisory Council, believes some teachers were unfairly “dismissed and pushed out.”

Joseph also told the school committee last night that some Haitian students were not offered the same math and science classes this year as other students.

In defending the program, director Maryellen Cole said that all students who have taken prerequisite classes can take math and science classes. She said she worked with her bilingual specialists to make sure students were aware of that and prepared.

Cole said she could not comment on the personnel issue, because of pending litigation between the Randolph public schools and some parents. She did say the Department of Education is auditing the program.

Superintendant Arthur Melia said that “if people aren’t performing, you don’t have to renew their contract.”

Half-way through the school year, Melia dismissed a bilingual Haitian teacher on Cole’s recommendation “for a myriad of reasons, most to do with poor performance, lack of mastery of the subject area, insubordination,” he said. The teacher had started work there in the fall.

In addition, a part-time bilingual teacher resigned in the middle of the year to take another job, Melia said.

Both teachers were replaced.

In reviewing contracts for next year, Melia decided not to ask back the part-time bilingual teacher’s replacement or one of the system’s ESL teachers.

Melia said the schools have had difficulty finding qualified bilingual and ESL teachers, but he hopes to hire six additional teachers under a planned reorganization in the fall.

This year, the program had 11 full-time and two part-time teachers, two bilingual specialists and eight aides.

The schools offered bilingual classes in Chinese, Haitian Creole and Vietnamese. Next year the Vietnamese program will be replaced with Spanish classes because of changes in the school population.

Parent Guerda Cadet has three children in the Randolph school system, and two who participate in the English as a Second Language program and the Transitional Bilingual Education program.

“My kids are very happy,” she said. “Parents are very proud, and you administrators should be proud of your teachers.”

Teacher Steven Vaillencourt, who shared a classroom with one teacher who was dismissed, said he was concerned about the dismissals.

“She is an excellent teacher,” he said of his colleague, Pamela Bullard, the ESL teacher whose contract will not be renewed. She joined the department two years ago.

Joseph raised other concerns he has about the school system, claiming Haitian students do not receive an equal education. He left the meeting after members told him to make a private appointment to discuss the issues.

In other business last night Melia said teachers had ratified a new contract earlier in the day. It provides for a 2 percent retroactive raise for 1995-1996, and a 3 percent raise for both 1997 and 1998.

In other business last night, Barbara Mellon was unanimously elected chairman for a one-year term, replacing Nancy Lee Irwin, and committee member Ron DiGuilio was unanimously elected vice chairman.

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