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Spanish Immersion Response

Spanish Immersion Response

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Published by Tad Sooter
A response to Spanish Immersion Pilot Project concerns by Bainbridge Island School District.
A response to Spanish Immersion Pilot Project concerns by Bainbridge Island School District.

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Published by: Tad Sooter on Mar 13, 2013
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BOARD OF DIRECTORSPatty FieldingMary CurtisMike SpenceTim KinkeadMev HobergSUPERINTENDENT
March 13, 2013
8489 Madison Avenue NE * Bainbridge Island, Washington 98110 * (206) 842-4714 * Fax: (206) 842-2928
 An Equal Educational and Employment Opportunity School District
At our February 28
Community Forum on Elementary World Languages, the Bainbridge Island School Board andadministrators heard from approximately 25 parents and community members. Several spoke in favor of theSpanish Immersion Pilot Project or expressed support for the Dis
trict’s efforts to initiate world language instruction
in the elementary grades. Others expressed concerns about the manner in which the pilot project was started and theuse of donated funds for start-up costs.Kim Paulson, a parent who spoke at the Forum, subsequently wrote a widely distributed letter expressing numerousconcerns about the program. While many of her concerns have previously been addressed in documents posted onthe District website and distributed to parents through district listserv prior to the Community Forum, we want torespond to her letter and correct some inaccuracies. We also want to reiterate our offer to personally meet with her todiscuss these issues.
The District Encourages School and Teacher Innovation
The Bainbridge Island School District values innovation. We encourage schools and staff to research new programsand try new methods that have been successful elsewhere. There have been numerous instances over the years whenindividual schools or teachers have initiated new projects, piloted new curricula, or applied for grants to implementnew activities in their classrooms. Recent examples include the piloting at Blakely Elementary School of ST Math,an elementary online supplemental math program, and the piloting of AP Computer Science at EagleHarbor/Bainbridge High School. The Spanish Immersion Pilot Project is another example of a school-initiatedprogram.In the case of Spanish Immersion, there was no violation of District policy. The project was started by a group of parents who worked with the principal and staff of the Mosaic Home Education Partnership Program. The originalintent was to build and expand
on a “Spanish Experience” block of classes that was successfully implemented last
spring. Subsequent discussions among staff and parents led to the development of a small-scale Spanish ImmersionPilot for 2013-14.These types of school innovations have not required Board approval or required a formal review process unless they
are proposed for formal district adoption. The District’s position has been to allow schools latitude to try new
programs or methods to gauge student interest and work through potential problems before they are offered on abroader basis. By definition, pilot projects are usually carried out by a limited number of staff and students. If aschool pilot or program is successful and generates additional interest, the District then considers expansion orreplication of the program. This is what is currently taking place with the Spanish Immersion Project. (See
“Feasibility Study” below.)
The District Focuses on Improvement of Processes
 Although the Spanish Immersion Pilot Project was originally intended for Mosaic families, some families decidednot to participate. Parents of students in other schools learned of the pilot through word-of-mouth and enrolled theirchildren. Their enrollment in this pilot project, and the manner in which it occurred, caused some people to view thisclass as a new District-
adopted program that had been created “under the radar” for a select few.
It is exceedingly unfortunate that the start of an innovative, school-initiated pilot project has been marred by thisperception. It is clear that the process needs to improve. As stated above, the District values innovation and willsupport school and teacher efforts to continuously improve. However, it is equally important that as innovativeprojects move forward, the processes that are utilized are fair and clearly understood.
 An Equal Educational and Employment Opportunity School District
Last fall, the District decided to establish guidelines that would refine the processes used for improvement andinnovation, including the development of school-initiated pilot projects. The District formed a K-6 EducationalPrograms and Innovation Committee which has been charged with the task of reviewing and recommendingprocesses for piloting new ideas or programs. The committee is composed of parents, teachers, classified staff,administrators and school board representatives. It has been meeting since last November and will present itsrecommendations in May.
Donations Preserve Programs, Support Innovation
The District is blessed to be the recipient of community generosity. It receives donations and grants from manydifferent groups such as businesses, community organizations, Parent-Teacher Organizations (PTOs), athletic andmusic boosters, and of course, the Bainbridge Schools Foundation (BSF), which provides invaluable support fordistrict priorities. During the past 5 years, when state funding has been drastically reduced, donations from BSFhave exceeded $4 million dollars, allowing the District to retain staff, maintain class size, train teachers, preserveimportant educational programs and services (e.g. art, music, counseling, educational support), and fund innovation.Many fundraising organizations accept designated grants or donations for specific programs or projects. PTOscollect donations for Outdoor Education, and booster clubs accept donations for specific sports or music programs.BSF receives some donations for specific purposes such as Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)and support for special education. It has also covered start-up costs for innovative programs such as ST Math andZeno Math
two programs for elementary students and families. The use of designated donations to supportSTEM, the WINGS special education program, and the Spanish Immersion Pilot are consistent with past practiceand have ensured that projects such as Spanish Immersion are cost neutral for the District.One of the concerns raised about the Spanish Immersion Pilot relates to district documentation and acceptance of donated funds. All donations over $1,000 are submitted to the Board of Directors for approval through the Consent
Agenda, and BSF donations are no exception. Currently, the District’s forms – 
used for all donations - provide ageneral description of how those funds will be utilized. Both the District and BSF Board members are aware of theconcerns that have been expressed about the level of detail in these forms and are jointly working on revisions toreporting, documentation, and communication processes.
Feasibility Study for Spanish Immersion
The Di
strict is currently conducting a “feasibility study” for the Spanish Immersion Pilot Project. Initial results and
future options will be presented to the School Board on March 14 for approval on March 28. The study willincorporate a great deal of data that will address questions related to student enrollment, staffing, and multi-yearcurricular and instructional implications. A copy of the study is included in the Board packet for the March 14
 meeting and is available online through the District website.
World Languages in Elementary Grades
The Bainbridge Island School District regularly reviews curriculum. In the last two World Language Programreviews, elementary language instruction has been identified as an important goal; however, budget cuts have been abarrier to implementation. This year, the K-6 Educational Programs and Innovation Committee identified worldlanguages as an important innovation to consider, and a brief survey was conducted to gauge parent interest. Thesurvey results indicated that elementary world language instruction is of great interest to Bainbridge Island families,
with moderate interest in immersion programs and significant interest in “Foreign Language in Elementary Schools(FLES)” programs which involve regularly sched
uled classes taught by specialists during the school day. A sub-committee is being formed to research options for providing world language instruction to all of our elementarystudents.
Community Commitment to Excellence in Education
Bainbridge Island has a long-standing tradition of passionate debate, and the topic of Spanish Immersion is noexception. It has been evident from the start that every person who has expressed an opinion on this subject caresdeeply about the quality of education of our children. Our schools are great because our community cares, and wewelcome your comments and suggestions as we work to innovate and improve.Sincerely,Mike Spence, President, Board of DirectorsFaith Chapel, Superintendent
 An Equal Educational and Employment Opportunity School District

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