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Board urged to keep dual language program : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Board urged to keep dual language program
Crowd packs_meeting; adminstration to present recommendation June 9

by Lyle R. Rolfe


Concerned the Oswego School District may discontinue its dual language program, a crowd of approximately 150 people packed a special school board meeting held at Oswego East High School Tuesday evening.

The crowd heard three concerned parents ask the board to continue the dual language program, which allows Spanish speaking students to learn English and English speaking children to learn Spanish.

None of the board members or School Superintendent Dr. Matthew Wendt would comment on the issue. But Wendt said after the meeting he is working on a proposal related to the dual language program that he plans to present to board members at their June 9 meeting.

He said he does not believe his proposal will be approved by the board at that time but instead will be taken under consideration for study. He would not comment further on what his recommendation will be.

Bill Roller of Oswego told the board that he and his wife are both teachers in Naperville. He said his wife is a high school Spanish teacher and he is a special education teacher.

"This program is the envy of all neighboring districts. I hope that is appreciated by this board. This is a gem that needs to be protected and expanded upon. If we want to be truly a world class district, as a district that is preparing students for the challenges they're going to face, we need to promote this program and promote bilingual learning," Roller said.

He added that their second son was recently admitted into the dual language program but they were unsuccessful in getting their oldest son into the program. However, he said they are hopeful they can one day get their three-year-old daughter into the program.

"I was not sold on dual language at first," he said, adding that his wife knows education languages, systems and programs well.

Roller explained that he has attended all the meetings on dual language and is convinced this is the absolute best way to teach children-not just those who are lucky enough to get in but all children.

"I pray this is not on the chopping block. I understand austerity very well. My class sizes have gotten bigger over the last 10 years,"_he said. "I know how this works and I know tough choices must be made."

Roller said his children can walk to Prairie Point Elementary School in Oswego, but instead he and his wife put them on a bus to attend the dual language program because they know the importance of the program.

"This is a very good program and if we want to be world class we have to protect it," he said.

He asked if the district is considering cutting the program and was told by Board President Bill Walsh that "we cannot answer questions at this time."

When he asked how he could get an answer, Walsh said he can send an email to the board, which is board policy. Such questions are then answered by return email, he said.

When he asked Wendt the same question, Walsh said he would receive the same response.

Another parent, Reina Serrano, said the dual language program means a lot to her and her family and is "very important because as parents that don't speak English properly, it allows us to keep communication and stay in contact with our children.

"It lets us stay involved in an effective manner with what is happening in school because we are capable of providing academic support in the areas where they are learning in Spanish," she said.

Serrano mentioned that she felt she was speaking for all Hispanic residents of the district who are in the same situation when she said the program is definitely positive for their children because " not only allows them to learn and master English but also keep their mother tongue which is Spanish."

She said this is the best program for Hispanics because it closes the gap between English learners and the native English speakers.

She added that she does not believe the administration has the best interest of their children as their highest priority.

"I respectfully ask you to consider the needs of all our children before making any decision because we definitely want and wish for what is best for them. Nationally the districts that adopted a dual language program are not getting rid of it because they know that it works," she said, adding that districts that do not have it are considering establishing it.

Serrano called dual language a world class program that will allow the district to be recognized locally and nationally and let their students have a brighter future.

"Critics of the program should go to the experts and the surrounding districts to investigate what is best for English Language Learning students," she said in conclusion.

Maureen Sanchez of Oswego said she learned from other parents that the dual language program may be discontinued.

"I'm here to ask for transparency. I'm here to ask for the same consideration that was given to our AT (academically talented) students," she said, adding that an enormous effort has been made for the AT students. She said the superintendent told her previously that the dual language program was not well executed, is expensive and took a lot of time.

She said they have a lot of faith in the AT program and she wants to have the same faith in the dual language program so she can see her daughter graduate out of the program.

Sanchez said the tests the dual language students are given are not representative of what the students are capable of.

"I feel we are selling our kids short if we close down this program and don't give it any more time. I'm disappointed that more hasn't been in the news about this situation," she said.

Sanchez noted that another mother in the audience has a daughter who is supposed to start in the dual language program in August.

"When are we going to find out? After making day care and transportation arrangements we were going to be told 'your kids going to be in this program for a year and then go back to the base school or someplace else'. I'm frustrated by this," she said.

Sanchez added that she had a lot of faith in the process used for the AT program and added that "I believe the same process can and should be applied to the dual language program if in fact we want to remain a world class district."

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