Vista school board, principals find common goal on bilingual education
NORTH COUNTY TIMES
October 1, 2005
By: ROB O'DELL - Staff
Writer NORTH COUNTY TIMES
VISTA ---- After nearly 12 hours of meetings with principals, Vista Unified
School District trustees said Friday they seemed to have found a common goal:
get kids who speak Spanish to learn English as fast as possible.
"In our district, (bilingual education) has not proven to work," said Trustee
David Hubbard. "It's not an ideological issue. It is about getting kids
The move is a sea change for a district that until recently has strongly
defended the bilingual education program. Hubbard himself said in 2003 that
there was a sacrifice to putting a rush on teaching English because, he said, it
caused kids to lose their native language.
"What kind of student do we want to produce in the end?" he asked at the time.
Vista Unified, which serves the greater Vista area and east Oceanside, was one
of the districts that maintained a bilingual program after the passage in 1998
of a statewide initiative that limits the use of languages other than English in
public-school classrooms. While basically banning bilingual education, the
proposition allowed districts such as Vista Unified with high
non-English-speaking enrollments to offer bilingual classes only if students'
Many parents took the district up on the offer, and it was only this year that
the district created a policy to sharply curb the waivers that allowed children
into the bilingual program.
Trustees met for 30 minutes with each of the district's nearly 30 principals
during the last three days to find out how they planned to boost literacy, teach
more students to speak English, and reduce the number of children taught in
Spanish ---- three of the board's six goals for this year.
The other goals are increasing attendance to 98 percent, cutting down on
expulsions by creating an intervention system for students with a large number
of disciplinary referrals and looking at whether the district gives too much
On Friday, the school board met with principals from Lake Elementary, Casita
Center for Science, Technology and Math and Temple Heights Elementary, among
others, with a central theme of how to get Spanish-speaking students to learn
Board members agreed that the district must wean students off Spanish-language
classes and put them in immersion classes where they are taught primarily in
Trustee Jim Gibson said that the district does not provide "protection" for
students who speak languages other than Spanish.
"(Immersion) has proven to work, bilingual does not work," Gibson said. "My
desire is for Spanish speakers to learn English in one year."
Board members applauded Casita Principal Karen Burke for reducing the number of
kids taught in bilingual classes from 170 to 34, and increasing the number of
kids in immersion classes from zero to 130.
Gibson argued that the district should reduce the number of kids being taught in
Spanish to zero immediately. He said bilingual education is "dead."
Other board members said they should reduce Spanish classes gradually to zero.
But all four board members bought into the immersion program. Trustee Stephen
Guffanti was absent.
Trustee Steve Lilly said the meetings with the principals gave him the
confidence that language arts scores on tests this year will be much improved,
both with Spanish and English speakers.
"After 11 hours of these meetings, I am really optimistic that we will see
language arts scores jump this year, especially at low levels," Lilly said.
Superintendent Dave Cowles the meetings were very constructive and may have
helped find a common ground for a divided school board.
"It bonded the board around some educational issues," Cowles said. "It's been
the best exercise I've seen to bring the board together to focus on
instructional issues in our schools."
He said it was gratifying
to see the board be all on one page, and that is was a good trend for the new
superintendent who will replace him when he retires Dec. 30.
"It may be a way to give the board a common ground to work on as we begin a new
era in the district with a new superintendent," Cowles said.
Contact staff writer Rob O'Dell at (760) 631-6620 or firstname.lastname@example.org.