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Green Bay dual language program might get outside look

By Heather Graves

GREEN BAY – The district’s dual language, bilingual program might be evaluated by an outside third party.

At the Monday, Nov. 4, board meeting, administration gave the board an update on the district’s bilingual program and the changes made to the program for the 2019-20 school year.

Administrators said the changes were made to adapt to the current population of students in the program.

Teachers, present at the meeting, disagreed changes were needed, and said they were frustrated with the administration’s lack of transparency throughout the process.

The issue took another turn recently.

School board members confirmed they received an email from district administration proposing the use of an outside entity to conduct an evaluation of the district’s dual language program.

Board member Kristina Shelton said she received the email on Saturday, Nov. 9.

“I don’t believe anyone did anything to intentionally cause distress or harm,” Shelton said. “However, it’s clear that to best meet the needs of our students, families and staff, we need to build consensus, collaborative action-planning and purposeful implementation with all key stakeholders involved.”

Board member Eric Vanden Heuvel said was surprised when he received the email.

“I’m still doing some research into how things have been handled to this point, before making an opinion on next steps,” Vanden Heuvel said. “This is a complicated topic with inconclusive research, so I feel like our next decision needs to be calculated and needs to account for the voice and perspectives of all stakeholders.”

Trustee Rhonda Sitnikau took to social media to share her reservations of any steps toward hiring a third party to evaluate the program before the discussion is brought back to the board table.

“Moving forward without public conversation is not a solution I’m personally comfortable with,” Sitnikau said on socal media.

Board Vice President Andrew Becker said working with a third party to look at the district’s bilingual program was mentioned as a possible topic to explore, but no formal action regarding this has been proposed to the board yet.

“Right now this is just a suggestion, so I don’t have enough information to form an opinion on it,” Becker said. “I would need to know specifics like cost, timing, who would conduct the review and hear from stakeholders before proceeding.”

Shelton said she is concerned with partnering and paying an outside entity to evaluate the program because it doesn’t address her primary concern, “a seemingly lack of teacher and staff support, lack or no teacher participation in the decision making and a lack of understanding of the changes by the district,”

“We have a number of staff and teachers within our district with expertise, degrees and experience in bilingual education,” Shelton said. “I believe we have the skills, know-how and expertise within our own district to identify a path forward that honors the integrity of a dual language, bilingual education program.”

She said she would like to see the district pause any further action on program changes and schedule a bilingual educator/staff retreat.

“I believe this issue goes beyond the advisory committee, as I know of bilingual education teachers and parents who were not able to participate in the committee,” Shelton said. “I am deeply concerned about the success of our bilingual program when there are such significant and deep disagreements on the direction, philosophy and perspective on the program.”

Sarah Pamperin, sixth-grade bilingual teacher at Edison Middle School, said she did not receive the same communication board members received, and was only made aware of it after board members Shelton and Sitnikau reached out.

Lori Blakeslee, director of Communications for the district, confirmed an email was sent out to board members regarding the topic.

She also said at this time nothing is scheduled to be brought to the board on the topic.

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