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Ripon Unified spends $200K for bilingual liaison workers
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RIPON - Ripon Elementary School shot ahead in English Language Arts as well as Math in the spring 2009 Standardized Test and Reporting (STAR) testing.

Ripon Unified Director of Curriculum and Categorical Programs Kathy Coleman told trustees Monday that the staff and students at Ripon Elementary “really dug in” to achieve a growth of 87 percent in English Language Arts in the second to eighth grades and 64 percent in Math testing the second through sixth grades.

Their focus on the Explicit Direct Instruction resulted in the growth in learning, Coleman added.  That program was piloted in the school by Principal Mike Larson resulting in much of the school’s gains.

Also at Ripon Elementary School the Hispanic students posted 52.6 percent of the students as advanced and proficient in Math and 45.8 percent in English Language Arts.  Ripon Elementary has a student population of 438.

Coleman presented the STAR testing results for the other Ripon schools as well for the board’s review pointing out that Ripon Unified is a high scoring district overall, suggesting that the release of the state API scores this morning will further trumpet their successes.

In a related issue, the trustees adopted a new job description for a bilingual family liaison. One would work at the district office and three others would be on staff part-time at three elementary school sites.

The trustees noted that while the district fared well in their scores compared to other nearby school districts, Ripon still lags behind with their English language learners.

“One of the most important things we can do to begin to reverse this trend is to do a better job of engaging parents in their students’ education,” Superintendent Louise Nan noted.

The lack of bilingual staff at the district office and at the individual school sites was further cited by the district’s English Learner Advisory Council as being a barrier to parent participation in their children’s education.

Nan added that the district has an ongoing funding stream of support for the English Language Learners’ needs. The greatest need is for interpreters both personal one- on-one and in letters needing to be sent home to parents.

Trustee Donna Parks questioned spending some $200,000 for the part-time workers in the schools’ offices as well as the district office.  She said she would rather see the program send the bilingual translator-aides into the classrooms.

Principals Lance Morrow from Ripon High, Warren Council from Ripona, Mike Larson, Ripon Elementary and Sylvia Ehler from Colony Oak all supported the need for the bilingual staff additions to the school offices.

They all agreed that their Spanish speaking secretaries are consistently being pulled to other schools and to the district office to speak with parents and to translate letters going to parents. This takes them from the already limited time they have to meet the demands of their own offices.

The schools that are poised to get the additional help are the ones most impacted with Spanish-speaking English language learners.  They are Ripon Elementary, Ripona and Weston elementary schools.

The positions will be funded through the categorical monies only with no expense going to the unrestricted general fund, Nan explained.  

The support of the English language learner families is an important step towards the strategic plan goal, Nan said.