Published: May 06, 2012 11:12 AM
Modified: May 07, 2012 07:05 PM
CHAPEL HILL - A controversial staff report on dual-language programs dominated another meeting of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board, even though it was nowhere on the agenda.
Addressing the families, teachers and staff of Frank Porter Graham Elementary School, board member Jamezetta Bedford apologized at the beginning of Thursday’s meeting for fears caused by the report’s release.
“If we had a do-over, like you get at the playground,” Bedford said, “I think we all regret any disrespect and hurt that was caused to them in advance … in releasing that dual-language report.”
The report, released in March, was a staff proposal and has not yet been submitted to the Board of Education. The final draft will reflect community input, said assistant superintendent Todd LoFrese.
Once again, supporters of the Mandarin Chinese dual-language program turned out Thursday to oppose the report’s recommendation that the Chinese program be dismantled at the end of the year.
Parents also addressed the board during public comment session to speak for and against the report’s recommendation to turn Frank Porter Graham into a magnet school for Spanish dual language instruction.
Some raised concerns about Frank Porter Graham’s status as the school district’s most diverse elementary school, with the highest number of students on free or reduced lunch plans. Others pointed to the school’s high percentage of Karen language-speaking immigrants from Myanmar.
Many Karen-speaking families, whose language is outlawed by Myanmar’s government, have settled close to Frank Porter Graham.
Nancy Pekar, who has a first-grader and a fourth-grader who are taught some general subjects in Spanish and others in English under the program, said she agreed with support for a Spanish dual language magnet school.
“I want to thank the board for making dual language a priority this year,” she said. “Whatever the plan ends up being, some people will be unhappy and end up facing difficult changes.”Chinese ‘rocks’
The Glenwood School Improvement Team presented its May 1 vote against supporting the dual language report’s recommendation.
Dianne Jackson, president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Federation of Teachers, after addressing the board to present grievances regarding electronic grading software, added:
“The dual language Chinese program rocks, and it deserves your full support.”
Later, Jackson said that her comments were not on behalf of the Federation of Teachers, but her personal feelings as a librarian at Glenwood Elementary who took part in getting the Chinese program established in 2001.
“I find it ironic that we’re looking to eliminate the Chinese program, when everyone is recognizing the importance of China emerging as a leader internationally. That is why I think that we should not abandon the program at this point,” Jackson said outside the meeting.
The citizen comment session was again plugged with parents who are committed to keeping the Mandarin Chinese dual language program, wearing red “Friends of Chinese DL” T-shirts.
LoFrese met with a group of parents on Friday morning, who presented to him a 15-page draft proposal, with 126 pages of appendices, for remedying some of the difficulties outlined in the staff report released in March.
Christina Benson, one of the parents, said she hoped that some of their suggestions make it into the district’s final report that will be presented to the Board of Education on May 17. That report and its final recommendations will be released online ahead of time, possibly as early as Friday.
LoFrese said their proposal reiterated many suggestions that have been presented at community forums since the report was released.
“We’re listening to those things; we’re considering that information,” he said. “That will help us determine what our final recommendation is.”