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Fate of dual immersion pilot rests with DeLiddo
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RIPON - Trustee Jack DeLiddo appears to hold the deciding vote for the fate of the controversial Ripon Unified School District proposal to launch a Dual Immersion Spanish/English language program in kindergarten.

The board split 2-2 on whether to go ahead with the pilot program at a special meeting Wednesday that was packed with parents and teachers. Since DeLiddo was absent, action was continued to the regular Dec. 12 board meeting when a full five-member panel is anticipated.

The voluntary plan would be initiated as a four-year pilot program in one kindergarten at one school within the Ripon district. The calss would be taught 90 percent in Spanish and 10 percent in English. That ratio would change with the years.

A second language class model would offer 50 percent instruction in each language.  It is expected that students’ accomplishments could dip through the third grade before they became elevated compared to other students.   

The 6 p.m. meeting lasted for some three hours with nearly a dozen speakers lining up to voice their objections to the proposal and challenging trustees about what they felt was a lack in public notice for the special meeting.

 “I have a lot of concerns about the program and a lot of the parents brought up valid points,” noted Board President Mike Fisher.

Maria Quesada of the Southern California based California Association of Bi-lingual Education presented a power point overview of the goals of the program. It included Lindholm-Leary research from 2006 that offered the expected multi-culture competency and self-esteem results.

Quesada said the Dual Immersion provides students with an extra edge and allows children to better function in what is expected as a changing world.  She added that parents in many current programs see it positively to such a degree they are willing to purchase the necessary library books.

School officials agreed Wednesday night that there would be no added costs for the pilot with the exception of the books in Spanish. They added those costs could be provided through special funding.

There are 389 such programs in the U.S. including Washington, D.C.   In California alone there are 224 Dual Immersion offerings in 32 districts and in five languages from Spanish to Japanese.

Board member Kit Oase noted his relatives in Europe learn as many as three and four languages while in school.  They are taught the language of their culture and state along with that of the adjacent country, plus English.

Quesada interjected that another way to teach the Dual Immersion program would be to have two teachers working as a team.  One would teach in one language in the morning and the other language in the afternoon.  She noted that it is beneficial for students to have many of their peers fluent in the second language to help them in their understanding.

Parents from Colony Oak, Weston, Ripona, Park View and Ripon Elementary schools were wanting to know what school was being considered for the pilot program with some fearing the “pacing of the curriculum” would lag.

“How am I going to facilitate their education as a parent?” asked Liz Sesser.  “I’m being taken out of the equation.”

Several argued the focus needs to revert back to class size reduction instead of the proposed language program.

Park View Elementary parent Daisy Anderson said it was unfortunate that the school has lost the Readers’ Workshop program. Anderson added she has seen teachers moved out of their areas of expertise.

“I don’t think this is what we should be looking at, at this time,” she said.

Oase emphasized that, “English is not the only language that is going to get us through the changing world.”

Oase said he is willing to pull the plug on the program if it is not working in three years’ time. 

Trustee Ernie Tyhurst said that it concerns him that the district is going to see a dip in test scores at the primary level.

“The budget is not getting better and the program has to have strong community support.  I’m not sure we have that at this time.  I would find it very difficult to implement it,” Tyhurst said.

The final vote had Tyhurst and Fisher voting against the proposal with Donna Parks and Oase voting in favor creating the tie vote.