DEPUE — The DePue School Board seated a new member at Wednesday’s meeting.Before conducting regular business, board members held short interviews with candidates interested in the position. They ultimately selected Liesenia Leon. She replaces the seat of Karen Miranda, who resigned from the position at last month’s meeting.
Many parents are talking about the change happening with DePue Elementary School’s ELL (English Language Learners) Program next year.
The change means kindergarten and first grade will be taught in both the Spanish and English language.
The change was discussed at Wednesday’s school board meeting and how it has raised concerns for many parents.
Board member Nickole Barto explained the state had strongly recommended the school make this change. Without the change, funding for the school’s ESL program might have been cut.
In explaining how the process works, Superintendent Randy Otto said all students in the ELL program take a test that measures the reading comprehension of the English language.
“Depending on how well they do, they are either distinguished by the state as being a full-time ELL student or part-time ELL student,” he said. “If they are a full-time ELL student, that’s where the state says we’re not servicing those students enough. It’s basically anyone who has a reading comprehension level of third grade or below. So that’s why we’re going to really stress this at the lower levels to start teaching them Spanish first.”
Otto said the state’s research shows a student can’t learn a new language until they have mastered their own language.
The school will teach language arts, math, science and social studies in both languages at the kindergarten and first grade levels, and then next year, they will add second grade into the fold. Otto said from there, it will be a matter of seeing how things go and whether or not they will have to add services at the next grade level.
Board member Paul Bosnich said a lot of people in town have expressed concerns with the change and are upset because they believe it was the school board’s decision to make the change.
“They think it’s the school board changing it, and it’s not. It’s the state,” he said.
Barto agreed, saying parents of next year’s kindergarten students and first-graders who received a letter about the changes are misunderstanding the information, and she has fielded calls on the issue.
Otto said parents have the option to opt out of having straight Spanish being taught to their students, so they can stay in the English spoken classroom, but they will receive ESL (English as a Second Language) services anyway. It just won’t be as pronounced.
Otto said he will be available at the kindergarten and first-grade orientation in August to speak with parents about the change and address any concerns they may have at that time.
In other news, the board:
• Announced there will be two meetings held with members of the community who are interested in helping review the district’s mission and vision statement. The meetings will take place at 6:30 p.m. July 7 and 10:30 a.m. July 10.
• Approved the summer bid projects.
• Approved the resignation of James Barto as dean of students and athletic director and Felicia Coster as junior high cheerleading coach.
• Hired Amber Heider as junior high math teacher and Josh Johnson as dean of students and athletic director.
• Approved a 2 percent raise for non-certified personnel for Fiscal Year 2015.
• Set a special meeting at 6 p.m. June 30.
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