This is what Ana said to the Board (en Espanol)

Good afternoon Mr. Superintended and Board Members.

My name is Ana Salas and I am a Pleasantdale Elementary parent.

The reason why I am addressing you today is to make you aware of the needs of the Hispanic community in our area. Although the administration team at Pleasantdale is making a great effort bringing programs to our school to help us understand the school system and how to become more engage in our children’s education, we have serious communications problems. Due to the language barrier we have to face these issues on a daily basis. There are not enough translators or bilingual staff, in our schools to help us express our concerns and suggestions. Many of us, even though we are trying to learn English, are not able to effectively communicate. For instance, Pleasantdale has more than 700 Hispanic families, and there is just one person, the Community Liaison, who speaks Spanish. Oftentimes, there are so many people in need of interpretation that even though the school wants to help us they can’t. It is frustrating that we want to talk to the people who are educating our children but we are unable to do so because of the language barrier. This situation doesn’t only happen at Pleasantdale, it happens in all school where there are high percentages of Hispanic students. We want to have a better line of communication with our principal and teachers; however, we are faced with this barrier that we can’t avoid. In many occasions when we have parent teacher conferences we are forced to use our children as interpreters. Our children don’t have the vocabulary needed to interpret a specialized adult conversation.

Another serious problem we have is transportation. In many occasions buses are, either, late or don’t even come to pick up our children. Bus drivers are stressed out and under pressure and don’t take care of our children appropriately. We understand that their salaries and benefits were cut and they are having a difficult time, yet, it doesn’t justify losing their patience with our children constantly.

There is a great need for tutoring services in our community; many Hispanic children are not ready for test and the CRCT exam. Finally, if ESOL classes were provided for parents at the school we will be able to better help our children with their school work.

Thank you very much!

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36 Responses to This is what Ana said to the Board (en Espanol)

  1. hoyts says:

    well said, anna! thanks for posting, DSW!

  2. YourDad says:

    sorry Anna. I have to disagree with you. Providing more resources to non English speakers should not be a burden on me or other taxpayers. The Supreme Court says we have to educate all kids, regardless of language or legal residency or not, but education is in English only. One language, one culture, secure borders. And to consider ESOL for parents? No way. The non English speaking kids already cost more to educate than English speakers – we don’t need to educate the parents as well. What’s next? Free breakfast for parents? Lots of churches provide that now. Check with your local Catholic church. Studies show total immersion is better.

  3. YourDad says:

    in regards to ESOL classes, churches provide that (not free breakfast)

  4. John Dewey III says:

    Federal investigators from the Department of Education Civil Rights Enforcement Division went into the schools last years to ask about translation services, and teachers were briefed by County attorneys and and then responded to a series of questions about translation services. Teachers answered honestly and it became clear that most communications between schools and ESOL homes were not delivered in the parent’s language. Shortly after this federal investigation by the DOE, the translators were fired.

  5. bettyandveronica1 says:

    Do you know the outcome or purpose of this “investigation”?

  6. Concernedmom30329 says:

    The principals were also interviewed off campus as well. The problem is that OCR moves very slowly. They were notified that the translators had been fired.

  7. Concernedmom30329 says:

    And more news from the Office of Civil Rights…

    When will this system ever learn? And yes, while I don’t necessarily agree, the system is ultimately responsible for what happens in start up charter schools that it authorizes.

  8. bettyandveronica1 says:

    looks like they are spending 500K on hiring those interpreters

  9. info says:

    I see why our school’s need interpreters. What I don’t understand is the superintendent’s recognizing that schools lack bilingual staff (stated in the budget’s explanation of the interpreter cost) but ignoring this obvious fix—appoint bilingual administrators.

  10. Tired Mom says:

    @YourDad…It seems to me that facilitating communication between parents and teachers/administration is a good thing, and DeKalb has made that needlessly difficult. Parents cannot encourage their children or offer them assistance if they don’t know what their child’s weaknesses are in language arts or any other subject that requires English comprehension. Offering a location where ESOL classes can happen only improves the educational experiences for the children, and is good for the community, in the long run. Other school systems throughout the country offer these types of classes, and the community benefits.

  11. John Hope says:

    Concernedmom30329, this was just executed today so it is interesting how you got a hold to this so fast. It is also interesting the harassment occurred at Peachtree Charter Middle School.

    In fairness, I don’t blame the school district for this but the individual involved in the bullying. This same type of harassment occurs in private industry also..

  12. dekalbteach says:

    Your Dad said: One language, one culture, secure borders. And to consider ESOL for parents? No way.

    I would hate for this country to eliminate all cultures beyond what some feel is the “American” culture. In fact, the different cultures is something thing that drew me to Dekalb County. Additionally, the county does offer ESOL classes for community members, free of charge, thanks to a grant they applied for. In speaking with the employees that teach these weekly classes, the community members are dedicated, hard-working individuals attempting to learn the English language. Also, there is great turn out for these events. This, in my opinion, is something that DCSD should be proud of- including ALL members of the community to ensure student and, ultimately, adult success.

  13. I don’t know about everyone else, but I’ve noticed a blame game lately. I see a lot of high level DCSS administrators blaming DeKalb’s low scores on ‘English language learners’ and special education. Somehow, these ‘leaders’ think that excuses the low test scores and outcomes for the district – effectively dismissing a good portion of the student population as the ‘reasons’ for our lack of performance. To those I say – please, check out Gwinnett! They make no excuses – all children can learn and sometimes we have to go an extra couple of feet to draw in the families of those who struggle with communication. To lay blame on our poor performance onto a couple of sub-groups and dismiss their needs as something outside of what should be standard practice is pitiful and adds to the denial that in truth, we are not serving any group to their full potential.

  14. dsw2contributor says:

    YourDad @May 7, 2013 at 1:47 PM : “The Supreme Court says we have to educate all kids, regardless of language or legal residency or not, but education is in English only.”

    But that is exactly what is DCS is doing – the kids are being taught by teachers who speak English.

    The issue is that the children learn English much faster than their parents….so the schools need translators for phone calls to the homes, for parent-teacher conferences, for PTA meetings, etc.

  15. bettyandveronica1 says:

    They need to learn English, it’s even part of the new immigration reform bill that may or may not be the law of the land someday. I come back to a friend of mine who moved to Prague. The school didn’t find her an interpreter, she found someone in her neighborhood to help her then she learned czech. That is just the way it is in other countries. I have no problem with hiring interpreters but the point is when you immigrate to another country you have decided that life will be better there. So learn the language.
    ESOL classes are everywhere. Almost every church I know in my area has one. Do the parent resource centers have these services? Are there libraries near these parents? Check the closets in this system, aren’t there is some Rosetta Stones out there? These services are available some at no cost or low cost.
    I applaud the mother for standing up for herself and those in her position, but they need to learn the language. Or she needs to ask a neighbor or someone in her community to attend these meetings with her until she can learn it enough to get through. I understand this may be hard but then why don’t they attend pta functions? Surely this would give these parents a place to network, to find someone willing to help. They would also establish themselves in the schoolhouse as a community. It has not been my experience to see these parents at PTA events.
    We just don’t have the funds to educate the kids and the parents too. They have to be a part of the solution. I am more willing to help those who need help as long as they are doing their part to find a solution to their own problems.

  16. psdad says:

    B&V @ your comment…”I applaud the mother for standing up for herself and those in her position, but they need to learn the language”.

    You lost me at “BUT”. Did you actually read the statement that this poor woman delivered? She wants to learn this language and is trying to learn the language, but her child is falling behind for every second of every day that she spends taking classes to learn our langauge.
    I’m honestly disappointed. I don’t remember your story, but your comment stinks of entitlement.

  17. Kim says:

    YourDad – you’ve nailed it! Thank you for having the courage to speak directly to the problem. I am emboldened by your candor and will go on to say that it is time that we close the 40+ magnet and choice programs in DeKalb County public schools. It’s high time we stopped subsidizing all these “special needs” children that require more resources to educate to their full potential. Same goes for Coralwood and the like – studies show that kids with disabilities have better outcomes when they stay at home. While we’re at it, what is up with buses? Why on earth should we, the hard working tax-payers, have to carry the burden of transportation that should be paid by the lazy parents in DeKalb? If they cared about their kids, they’d walk, right? Now that I think about your suggestion of the Catholic Church I think this is also a good suggestion for food service. There are plenty of “feed the hungry” programs out there! Why on earth are we bearing the costs of running food service in our schools? I say the little creeps should be fed by their own families. When I was in school, everyone brought a Wild West or Barbie lunch box from home and the kids who had no food at home to bring just kept the f*’ing quiet and out of sight. Yep, between you and me, we should go back to 100% private education where all the flotsam and jetsam weren’t a burden at all.

  18. psdad says:

    @ Kim +1 to infinity…..

  19. Kim says:

    Now that I got that off my chest … so, I think we underestimated and over-simplified the problem that Ana has raised. The truth of the matter is that too many of our immigrant parents are not literate … in their native tongue. Go ahead and send home your school messages in whatever language you want – that will not guarantee that it can be read by your parent because they may not be able to read in any language. English, Urdu, doesn’t matter. So then what?

    This isn’t about a “One Language” or any such nonsense. This is about getting results and being successful in the mission of public education. Often we hear the cry for our public schools to make decisions more like businesses. Why is this subject different?

    Every consumer company out there has been racing head-long to out do each other in catering to the Hispanic and other “brown” markets. Remember when you first heard the words, “Para espanol, marquee el number dos.” Why did this start twenty years ago? Because “brown” in general, and “Hispanic,” in particular, is critical to the future of our country and its markets. Us PWF will be a minority very, very soon and it is time we stop acting like there will be divine intervention by our white God or a white president or Jefferson Davis’ ghost. There will not be and the sooner we accept our future minority status the better for everyone.

    Due to intense gerrymandering of attendance lines, our Cross Keys attendance area school have been dealing with this reality for many, many years. Somehow they succeed in educating to a high level. I would argue that it is because they have accepted the challenges and adapted wherever possible. This week saw the release of State CCRPI (new ranking system) for public schools.

    How does the high majority “hispanic” and almost 100% immigrant Sequoyah MS stack up to its much applauded neighbors?

    Chamblee Middle School Middle 90.3
    Peachtree Middle School Middle 86.1
    Sequoyah Middle School Middle 85.8
    Henderson Middle School Middle 85.7
    Tucker Middle School Middle 80.1
    Druid Hills Middle School Middle 72.7

    Yep, we clearly should give up on educating immigrants. It’s too expensive and we can’t turn them as white or as bright or as “english” as they need to be.

  20. Kim says:

    bettyandveronica: I think I’m reading your posts and hearing a sincere attempt to help so I’m not picking on you. I do want to comment on this, though: “It has not been my experience to see these parents at PTA events.”

    My school is 99.5% “Hispanic” and parent conferences are well attended and there is vibrant parents serving the school in many capacities. How is this possible?

    I would have you consider whether or not the immigrant parents in your community truly, and I mean their opinion, not yours, truly feel comfortable in a room full of “other” parents.

    I have heard from our kids and their families that they often do not feel that they are welcome or, at least, they feel uncomfortable in crowds of wealthier and whiter crowds. I just want you to consider this possibility.

    When I go to local restaurants in the Brookhaven area I see a sea of “white” people (mostly) being served by “brown” people (mostly). I often wonder if I’m the only patron that notices the contrast in those serving and those served.

    As per my post above, I think the question of immigrant parents and their impact on student success is being over-simplified if painted as purely a language issue.

  21. From a school with more than 40 languages in DeKalb:

    We are not even close to legally meeting the needs of our students and parents ( office of civil rights, anyone?). DeKalb has taken away so many of our resources, which, to be honest, were not fully utilized before the multi-million dollar cuts. I am so happy to see this parent speak out and hope many of ours, representing 750+ students from around the world, will as well. it is their American given right. I do know of some adult English courses offered in the district, but may be inconvenient for these parents at Pleasantdale to attend (maybe more buses? Locations?).

    I am hopeful the translators will be brought back as I’ve heard they are and also a full access “language line” is restored for certain schools that don’t have all their languages “covered”. Our school now needs to “pay the bill” when we use the language line to communicate with our parents. We have to cover DeKalb’s legal responsibility with our own little money we have. Having worked with students in this county from more than 40 countries it is obvious much needs to be done. I’d take translators any day of the week over a new reading program or Training for the board.

    This is something the county HAS to get right. Don’t sweep it under the rug. Don’t complain that we have to “deal” with so many immigrants and refugees. This is an opportunity to become a shining MODEL for the city, state, country, and world to see. Embrace that challenge and MAKE it happen. Imagine that.

  22. Wow! After I posted for the first time I actually had the chance to read the “diverse” responses. It’s amazing where we are at this time. I can think of a few ways our tax dollars are wasted, but they certainly are NOT wasted on allowing parents from other countries understand what is happening at their child’s school. I, for one, work with students who have come as refugees from war, religious persecution, 10+ years in refugee camps, etc. and for someone to say “just learn English ’cause you’re here” is the most thoughtless thing any privileged elitist might say. Really, Yourdad? Whose dad are you? Not mine.

    Imagine, if you have a moment in your privileged day that you are in a country that does not accept you for your religion, culture, etc. and they are going to kill you (and maybe they’ve already killed your family in front of you). So, you run by foot for weeks until you cross into a new country and you are allowed to live in a tent for 12 years. Luckily many others have had to run with you so at least you have someone to speak your language with. Finally, Japan has opened its doors so you can enter, get some money for rent and food, and offered menial work since your college degrees mean nothing in their country. Your chidren are now going to attend school where they can only learn in Japanese and you go to a parent teacher conference. They tell you (in Japanese) that your children are having difficulties in school, but you don’t understand. All they and everyone else in Japan says is “Learn Japanese”. Good luck with that. I hope their churches are well equipped to help you out.

    I know we can’t even begin to put ourselves in their place. Studies by “smart American English speaking people” say it’ll take between 4-7 years for a person to gain academic level English (not simply conversational English, which comes “quickly” after 2-4 years). I would assume that is the case in any language…but all we can say is “learn English”. I thought that line of thinking was diminishing, but it’s important to see where we are as a nation.

  23. DSW,
    Thank you, by the way, for referencing Gwinnett. They ARE the perfect example of high expectations and action with ALL students. Of course it helps to have the same super for many years and he is certainly proactive, not reactive. I know Mr. Thurmond has asked him to “mentor” him. Hopefully he and DeKalb will learn a thing or two about that success. While much of Gwinnett is not quite as diverse as DeKalb (we are in the front lines and they get our students once they are “established” many times), they do hold incredibly high expectations and utilize their budget to put people in the schools for the kids. It’s actually amazing how many teachers, paras, etc. are in their schools compared to ours, but that’s another topic altogether….

  24. concernedmom30329 says:

    I have a friend who teaches in Gwinnett and they have a totally different approach to ESOL. If I recall, it involves steps. From mostly pull out instruction to learn English to full immersion. At the elementary level, GCSS has mostly large schools which has allowed them to implement programs like their ESOL program without breaking the bank.
    It is possible that Gwinnett has stronger personnel in their central office.

    Yesterday I was told that the head of social work for DCSS, apparently brought in by Atkinson from Charlotte, isn’t a social worker. And is using the discredtited work of Dr. Taylor to set goals.

  25. dekalbite2 says:

    We can spend almost $300,000 for 3 Exhibit Designers and 1 Cabinetmaker at Fernbank Science Center, but can’t afford translators.

    How many translators would $300,000 a year buy? Does anyone know what the translators made?

    IMO – this is why we need to be evaluating the components of every cost center as well as its overall expense.

  26. @dekalbite2: Most often, we have heard that translators make (or made) around $35,000 per year in salary.

    @bettyandveronica1: That may well be how things are done in other countries, but the beauty of the United States is our open arms and compassion for oppressed and struggling people around the world. As difficult as it can be to accommodate – I am proud that we are different in that way.

  27. dekalbite2 says:

    Looking at the budget, Fernbank Science Center got a $200,000 “bump”. How can Mr. Thurmond justify 20 highly paid admin and support personnel for 20 science teachers who are rarely at the center?

  28. Leo says:

    I see both sides of this issue. Is it the government’s responsibility to provide all of these services to parents? No. Absolutely not. But at the same time, it IS the government’s responsibility to educate all of these students. I think most of us (and the research) universally supports that children with families involved in their education perform better. Isn’t this what we want – -our children succeeding academically? If providing some additional assistance to parents who may have barriers (language, transportation, etc) helps them support their kids and our teachers in their efforts to teach children and the cost is reasonable, I’m flabbergasted that someone wouldn’t want to explore that. Over the past few years, our school, through the school’s leadership and PTA, has made a concerted effort to include our Hispanic population (having PTA meetings in Spanish at various times, offering transportation for certain events) and through these little efforts (which have by no means been perfect), we’ve seen substantial participation by this community both at these events and others. And at the same time, we’ve seen improved performance at the school. While I can’t say there’s a direct correlation (there have been a lot of other things going on that could contribute), I don’t think that these efforts hurt and the involvement of more families helps us to achieve better for our school and all of our students. Whatever the county decides, not having translators available in high-ESOL schools is foolish and a guaranteed way to ensure that we’re not successful. If we cannot afford stand-alone translators, then require that people holding other jobs be bi-lingual and ensure that the schools that need it, have a ready translator resource.

  29. Stan Jester says:

    Decisions need to be made closer to the point of delivery. Principals and School Councils are much more equipped to make these decisions than you, me, or the administration. ESOL students receive roughly twice as much QBE funds than the average elementary student. That money should follow the child to the school and the community or principal should decide what their community needs and the best way to deliver those services.

    Thurmond’s Speech To Tucker Parent Council on FactChecker.
    Mr. Thurmond said, “One of the things you will see is that we’re going to decentralize more authority and focus and direction to the regional school level.”

  30. concernedmom30329 says:

    I think DCSS hijacked those funds, so they weren’t there for local schools to spend.

  31. Kim says:

    Regarding the recurring theme of “decentralizing authority” from Mr. Thurmond, I applaud this vision. However, I believe it is only talk as long as budgetary decisions are controlled and massaged at Mountain Industrial. “Authority” is a hollow word if you are free to do whatever you want as long as you ask “us” for the money. There is no “authority” without budgetary authority.

    Here’s an example of what I mean: At Cross Keys HS, they educate kids from Dunwoody, Chamblee, Tucker, Druid Hills, Stone Mountain, and Lakeside as well as attendance area kids. Health Sciences program (CNA certification eligible), for example, is highly leveraged by students from Lakeside. We have 13 students this year graduating with a full HS diploma and CNA certification by the State of Georgia.

    The kicker is that the home schools get the funding credit for these students and CKHS gets zippo towards funding teachers. Literally, CKHS is subsidizing other school communities opportunities at the expense of their own “points.” Does this seem right to you? If a school had “authority” over its own budget, don’t you think they would work out among the schools a more equitable way to fund the teachers that all are benefitting from???

    Again, Mr. Thurmond has said “don’t listen to what I say watch what I do.” Let’s see where budgetary decisions are made like the one described above. As we speak, they are made at Mountain Industrial. I’m listening AND watching …

  32. hopespringseternal says:

    Decentralization is also only as good as the decentralized talent to pull it off.

  33. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    “Decentralization is also only as good as the decentralized talent to pull it off.”. Not so. History confirms that centralized power is rarely equipped to regularly make decisions accurately for others.

    Communism, in theory, is the reallocation of economic resources to the workers. Such an undertaking requires centralized power. Decentralization is anathema to communism, because any decentralization implies inequality.

  34. Regarding communication between Hispanic parents and teachers: No non-English speaking parent can learn English fast enough to be able to adequately communicate with a teacher in English. The next thing that will be suggested is that teachers should spend the summer learning Spanish so we can speak to the parents next year in their language.
    Failure to provide translators and translation services places a huge burden on the teachers who desperately want to be able to work with all the parents for the benefit of all the children. This year every 15 minute block of my every Parent Conference Day was filled by parents wanting to meet with me. I also met with many on other separate occasions.
    Who was my translator? A Special Ed teacher who spoke Spanish and held her meetings on other days. I sat in on her meetings as a representative from General Education. It worked for us, but she spent a lot more time helping me than I did helping her.
    Teachers should not have to solve communication problems. We are already too busy with all the other new things we have to do but are not being paid to do.
    When will people who are on the fronts lines actually be heard and supported?
    And, to those like YourDad, like it or not, Hispanics are here to stay. The children you do not care about will be part of our workforce. Do you want to deny them the education that will enable them to become elitist and selfish like others who were born privileged or have forgotten their roots?

  35. Lala says:

    You know who really suffers at Pleasantdale? The English speaking parents and students. I know because I am one of the few. Our schools administrators and teachers are so tied up dealing with non-english speakers that they have no time to focus on anything else. It’s very frustrating!

  36. Kim says:

    Lala: I’m a Woodward parent. Woodward ES is 95% “Hispanic” and we have no problem whatsoever as English speakers. I respectfully suggest that there is something else causing the disconnect you are experiencing. Does your administration have bilingual capability? Does their support staff? Or is it in the classroom you are experiencing this frustration?

    We heard the same thing about Woodward before we went there. Folks said things like, “I don’t want my kids suffering because they are having to help the other kids with their English.” What we have found is that even in the Kindergarten and first grade this is not a significant issue. While it definitely challenges the classroom teachers, I see more and better individualized instruction going on in the classrooms of Woodward and I see the students helping each other a lot in a positive way.

    Our gifted kids are getting what they need and so are the kids who are still struggling with basic language skills (Who btw, may be gifted themselves and simply do not have the vocabulary in English). I can’t imagine a more positive classroom experience than my child has had with two different teachers.

    An enormous amount of the culture of your school will depend on who is sitting at the Principal’s desk. Our principal is bilingual and has set an incredibly positive and challenging tone for the students and the parents in her first year there. Many were flustered by her disciplines in the beginning but the school and the hallways are more orderly and quiet than other elementary schools I visit in more “desirable” clusters.

    So while I sympathize with your frustrations as a parent I have to say I think there is more going on than simply language barriers.

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