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Dual Language Parents Continue Fight to Save Program

Aug 12, 2014 08:09PM ● By Steven Jack

Parents supporting Oswego School District 308's Dual Language program crowded a June School Board meeting. (File photo by Todd Andrlik)

Parents of Oswego School District 308 Dual Language students were back before the School Board again Monday night to voice their displeasure over what they see as the continued dismantling of the program.

Those that spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting said administrators have allowed classes within the program to be canceled. They also said the district is delaying the start of an audit of its English Language Learner program that could determine the future of the Dual Language program that is housed within it. That audit is to be completed by October, but the district has yet to hire an outside firm to complete it.

Parent Heather Wood said she believes administrators intentionally delayed the hiring process of three junior high dual language teachers, forcing the cancellation of social studies and language classes.

'Broken promises'

“The administration did not act in good faith,” Wood told board members. “We feel that promises have been broken. We were assured that there would be no changes to Dual Language as we waited for the ELL audit to be completed.”

The effort to save the Dual Language program began in late April after parents say district administrators presented skewed academic performance numbers to the School Board in order to begin to take apart the program because it's politically unpopular among board members. 

The program currently serves about 360 students and often has an annual waiting list to gain entry. The program is housed at both Hunt Club Elementary and Plank Junior High schools. 

ALSO READ: Dual Language Program Continuing for Next Year, Outside Audit Ordered

Audit to be complete on time

Superintendent Dr. Matthew Wendt agreed in June to an outside audit of the entire ELL program and said teachers would be hired to fill the three open spots at the junior high level. So far, only one teacher has been hired with the start of school just days away. 

As for the audit, Wendt said a consultant would be hired within the next week to two weeks and it should be completed on time. The audit will focus on two key issues, Wednt said: whether ELL students have been learning and the program’s true financial costs. 

Walsh: Staff working in best interest of students

In addressing the comments of parents, School Board President Bill Walsh acknowledged “poor leadership” on the issue, but insisted administrators were only working in the best interest of students. 

“Administrators and staff are doing everything they can to ensure our students are getting the best programing possible,” Walsh said to audible groans from the crowd of parents.

Administrators again were criticized Monday night for not engaging in an open dialogue with Dual Language parents. Bilingual Parent Advisory Council Vice President JC Reveles called on the board to conduct a town hall at which parents could engage in a back-and-forth dialogue with board members.

Walsh said he would consider a town hall, but not just on the issue of Dual Language. He said an open forum for all parents could be beneficial.