By LAUREN VINCENT
• Daily Leader
It was standing room only as concerned parents filled the conference room at Monday evening’s USD No. 480 board meeting.
The agenda was followed as usual through a string of reports and votes as the crowd waited patiently for a chance to voice an opinion on the issue of the Dual Language program.
Laura McComb was the first to take the podium and spoke of the importance of her daughter’s involvement in the DL program.
“From a parent’s perspective, I would really hate to see it go,” McComb said. “I don’t know about the financial aspects but I know it is important to a lot of people. I feel that being bilingual is going to be important for her once she graduates from high school if she comes back to Liberal to get a job here. I know that it’s probably all about numbers but wanted to say that we appreciate it and we hope that you can keep it.”
Robert Burkey, also with a daughter in the program, addressed the board next.
“It has been the best thing for my daughter,” Burkey said. “It pushes those kids because they have double the load, they have to do twice as much. When you have a five year old who is ordering off the menu and telling me things that I don’t know, it is quite impressive.
“It has been a great program, I mean I know the teachers are great down there, but I think the program has a lot to do with it,” he said. “I just hate to see something go away that is so positive people are trying to get in. I would ask that if there is any way, that you try to keep it. If you need anything ask the parents, I’m sure we will all help you out in one way or another – do anything we can – to keep the program around.”
Maria Gomez has a son in the fourth grade who has been in the program since it began. She has seen four years of positive effects in her son and his classmates.
“I feel if the Dual Language program continues, our kids are going to grow up to be fluent bilingual kids and our community benefits from 28 kids a year learning a second language, whether it be English or Spanish,” Gomes said. “It hasn’t hindered any of their learning; they’re learning twice as much. They have learned in two languages since they were in kindergarten.”
Gomez believed reallocating funds from the DL program to the English as a Second Language (ESL) program is not a wise adjustment.
“I guess not having ESL when I was a kid, I see it as an excuse for a lot of kids to not make an effort in the classroom, especially when they get older,” Gomez said. “To them it’s just a way to say ‘I don’t have to work as hard.’”
Also pointed out was the fact that Sunflower’s DL class had 100 percent parental attendance at this year’s open house.
“I don’t think any of the other classes at Sunflower had that except the Dual Language class,” Gomez said. “So even the parent’s involvement is a lot stronger.”
All who brought their concerns before the board were thanked for their time and thoughts.
Before any further discussion could resume on the matter, board member Stacy Johnson suggested the decision should wait until the following meeting.
“As you know, the Legislature comes back into session April 28th, and I believe that one of the first things on their agenda is school funding – what cuts, if any more, are going to be made,” Johnson said. “I think there is a possibility of looking at other funding for this program, but we just need to see what those numbers are so I would like to table this until the May 10th meeting.”
The motion to table the discussion carried seven to zero.
Laura Cano presented a $175,00 ESL curriculum purchase which would be used for approximately five to seven years. The $175,000 would come from funds generated by the program this year.
“We generated additional bilingual dollars this year due to how we were tracking the minutes and plus the additional 35 or so teachers that are taking their ESL classes,” Cano said.
“These are funds that must be spent by June 30th or we have to send them back,” clarified board president Dan Diepenbrock.
“So they cannot be used for Dual Language because we pay for that over time?” asked board member Ried Petty.
“Right, Dual Language is salaries that you pay for over the year,” said Diepenbrock. “You’re not going to hire a teacher today or tomorrow and then they would be done May 26th. So it cannot be used for salaries and cannot account for salaries next year.”
The motion to purchase the ESL materials also passed seven to zero.
A motion was made to amend Board Policy JGCB to remove the TB skin test from the list of immunizations and tests required of students as it is not an initial threat in the area. The motion was carried seven to zero.
Mrs. Lana Evans gave a short statement that Liberal is being considered as the location for a ROTC program.
Teacher recruiting is up from 193 candidates last spring to 396 interviewed this spring, showing a new willingness for those seeking jobs to consider Liberal as an option.
The employment of Janet Rubio, a kindergarten para at Washington, was reported.
The resignations and retirements of Brooke Cedillo, kindergarten para at Washington; Kate Keeton, building para at Southlawn; Karen Malone, vision para for the district; Lesia Seymour, ISS at West; Cherie Southern, aide at McDermott; Maria Quinonez de Ibanez, of the LHS cafeteria; Janet Rubio, kindergarten para at Washington; Susan Sandoval, IRC para at Sunflower; and Chad Thompson, computer tech for the district, were reported.
The transfer of Leah McQuitty, IRC para to ISS at West was reported.
There was a two-hour executive session before the meeting was adjourned.