Madison Metropolitan School District
Madison, Wisconsin

Art Rainwater, Superintendent
BOARD OF EDUCATION
Minutes for Performance and Achievement
November 4, 2002
Doyle Administration Building
545 West Dayton Street, Room 103
Madison, Wisconsin

The Performance and Achievement Committee meeting was called to order by Chair Bill Clingan at 5:34 p.m.

MEMBERS PRESENT: Bill Clingan, Ruth Robarts, Shwaw Vang

MEMBERS ABSENT: None

OTHER BOARD MEMBERS PRESENT: Ray Allen, Carol Carstensen, Bill Keys, José López

STAFF PRESENT: Rita Applebaum, Jane Belmore, Diane Crear, Valencia Douglas, Janna Heiligenstein, Jack Jorgensen, Roger Price, Joe Quick, Art Rainwater, Mary Ramberg, Abe Saloma (Bilingual Resource Specialist), Karen Seno (Principal at Cherokee Middle School), Barbara Lehman - Recording Secretary

  1. Approval of Minutes

    It was moved by Ruth Robarts and seconded by Bill Clingan to approve the minutes of the Performance and Achievement Committee dated October 14, 2002 as distributed. Motion unanimously carried.

  2. Public Appearances

    Defer to item 4 of the agenda - public hearing

  3. Announcements

    There were no announcements.

    Juan José López arrived at 5:35 p.m.

  4. Public Hearing on Latino School Issues

    Jan Sternbach stated that she had sent out a notice about this meeting on some list serves asking people for input. She received calls and various other feedback which she wanted to share. She distributed a copy of written comments from teachers and community service providers (attached to the original of these minutes). She also spoke with some students at La Follette who were frustrated about being asked for their input once again when they felt it had not been acted on the first time around. She added that there were many teacher who wanted to comment who were holding parent/teacher conferences tonight. There was also a bilingual health fair being held tonight at Allis Elementary School keeping some people from coming to this meeting. Her handout was a summary of what she got from people. She has been "blown away" by the amount of ongoing education she has had to with teachers and administrators for her own children. She noted that her children have been the subject of harassing comments and she has had trouble bolstering them back up. She implied that there seems to be a lack of basic cultural awareness among the district staff.

    Discussion: Confirmed that materials are sent home from the Early Childhood program. Responding to a specific student who is not receiving any ESL assistance and will be moving back to Mexico in December. Issues of residence and guardianship for students entering the district. Limitation on questions asked of those students who do not have a VISA to be in this country; leaving some people with the feeling of being tricked into revealing information. Room for interpretation about what is documented and what is not. Coming down to an individual staff situation requiring further training for registering students.

    Next Speaker - Teresa stated that she represented some parents who were not able to attend. She coordinates a group in Sun Prairie and Madison who asked her to speak for them. She stated that these parents feel unwelcome in the schools and are concerned about their children's safety and harassment they experience from other students and teachers who do not respond. Parents do not feel their children are listened to. They do not feel that the papers that are coming home are including them as parents. They are not feeling connected to their children's homework or communications that come from the schools. Some Bilingual Resource Specialists say they are limited in what they can do and are sometimes punished for going the extra mile.

    The speaker responded to a question about how to make the schools more welcoming: change the mind set about reaching families. Sending papers does not work. Outreach has to be where the families are instead of wanting them to come to us. The 40 families she works with have all expressed the need to feel welcome and they want to participate. Personally, the principal has taken the time to talk to her and ask for her service on committees.

    Discussion: Issue of parents not being able to read in their own language. Lack of outreach by Bilingual Resource Specialists in schools where there are a number of minority parents. Getting positive reinforcement from those who feel their children's needs are being met. Creating more flexibility for BRSs to do community outreach and to make schools more welcoming. Missing ownership of individual schools. Impressive turnout at Leopold of Hispanic parents who felt comfortable; combination of ESL teachers, PTO, and principal.

    Next Speaker - Nancy Rodriguez, social worker for the County who works at Southdale, wanted to touch on some points she has personally experienced. Paperwork is not in Spanish; simple forms are not in Spanish; events that happen in school are not in Spanish; BRSs at many schools are overwhelmed (she has been asked for help); Spanish kids get blamed for things and no one is responding at the school. The schools can make families feel welcome by having someone on the telephone who can speak Spanish.

    Next Speaker - Maria Hernandez, four year with Joining Forces for Families at Southdale, has seen the Hispanic population explosion. Her primary concern evolved out of this summer program for children at DPI Levels I and II. There is a need for teachers to be culturally competent and more training. She had a number of examples of people giving the wrong messages from people in the district. Sometimes these things do get home but parents do not know what to do with them. Things are coming along but the district needs to become more culturally competent and hire more people of color.

    Discussion: Board added cultural competence to the hiring process some time ago. Issue is both cultural competence and sensitivity.

    Next Speaker - Pamela Hathaway, also with the Southdale Joining Forces for Families, works with Latino and other ethnic families moving into the area. She hears a lot of things through the summer program and through visiting the schools through teachers and staff. Recently, more Latino families are new arrivals coming from their country of origin. Schools seem to lack resources - not enough books in the library or classroom that are bilingual. Guided reading books are hard to come by. Testing needs to identify who and why and qualifications for what tests to make sure they are relevant. Problem with PLAA is translation is different than a test created in a native language. She wanted to know how testing and retention at certain levels will work and what impact it will have on children. On the issue of parent involvement, she though school should be more welcoming and do more outreach. The notion of people coming to meetings should be changed to going out to them and their meetings.

    Discussion: Special assistance accommodations for Spanish speaking students for test-taking. Meeting the Proficient level using alternative assessments. Projects come directly from instructional programming. Two people assess the work; ESL teacher or bilingual teacher and classroom teacher (state requirement).

    Next Speaker - Joyce came on a personal level based on some frustrations as an elementary school teacher. Teachers are constantly scrambling to find something for the Hispanic students. She was disappointed that the district was not more proactive knowing that the population was going to increase as it has. ESL teachers are overwhelmed and do not get the support they need. She noted a particular situation where a new person was not hired because they did not know the school language (acronyms). The Spanish that was tested surprised her as a class thing. Most of these kids do not speak proper Spanish as it appears on tests. The district needs to hire people that look and speak like the student population. She supported the comments on training and cultural competency. Many teachers are frustrated and it becomes an issue of personal commitment. There are many options in district training but not in Spanish. In response to a question about the district establishing courses or PAC credits on cultural competence, she agreed that at least there should be some for Spanish words and phrases. She felt that cultural competence wouldl come with exposure. She stated that many teachers do not leave their "stuff" at home; very heartbreaking to say. Some people do not know what to do. She agreed that papers should not be sent home; that the parents hate it. District people need to visit families and it should not be determined by a test.

    Discussion: A huge number of people passed in the last round of interviews. There has been no trouble hiring.

    Next Speaker - Sylvia Gomez, parent of three, also agreed that parents are not feeling welcome but feel intimidated. She asked for a transfer to a school closer to their home and the principal was not cooperative. She was very disappointed in the principal, who is still nice, but Ms. Gomez still doesnot like her. She did pass the test this year to qualify for a BRS position in the district but was not called early enough. She had to seek help on the terminology. She is now working in a different field. She felt that one could not know the educaton terminology until one gets into the field. Papers sent home do not work. The school newsletter is confusing. Spanish people like face-to-face contact. BRS teachers are overwhelmed; they believe in outreach but do not have the time. Also, the phone message system regarding high school students does not work; students just answer the phone and do not tell parents. Needs to be a personal thing. Even letters are taken away by the kids. There are many things the district needs to look at to become culturally competent and sensitive. Parents cannot help with homework if their educational level is low. Hispanic population makes it a whole different issue.

    Next Speaker - Patrick Duffy, Youth Program Coordinator for Centro Hispano's Juventud program, asked how this meeting was announced; he did not know anything about it. He noted that this week they started with the testing during school. There is a need to have more people in the schools that can speak the languages. He did not know how the allocations were decided for ESL teachers but noted that there are currently 35 to 40 students to one teacher. For special education it is 15 to 1. He was really impressed with the district. He has seen an increase in the population and many school staff doing the best they can with very, very little. They sometimes rely on a janitor who speaks Spanish. There needs to be more people in the schools that are able to provide those services and a smaller student-to-teacher ratio. He felt that written communications were impossible. Some ESL children end up in special education because they get more services there instead of ESL.

    Next Speaker - Teresa, mother, her son learned a lot of English this summer. If that program did not exist, he would have stayed at home alone because she works. He likes to study a lot. She would like to see more programs like the summer program and wanted information from the schools in Spanish. She feels that the schools are safe and welcoming and meetings go well.

    Next Speaker - Alphonso Zeppeta-Capistran did not have special issues to address but only wished to tell the Board about the growing frustration in the community because issues that have been raised here today have been issues that have been before them for a long time with very little progress being made. He had about 25 people involved in the LUCHA Education Committee working diligently with the administration and the board. He has noticed that every time he tries to bring the same people together he is faced with resistance and reluctance because they do not feel much is happening. Even though some recommendations may not be appropriate, he thought it might be good for the Board to look back at some of those. He applauded the district for its ongoing research in terms of the priorities but thought it could be happening faster. The same frustrations are duplicated many times for the parents. Adequate support for students within the schools is very important, especially at the high school level when they start noticing inappropriate support for academic placement. He disagreed that written material does not work; it does work but maybe not for everyone. Additional effort is needed for those who are not being informed. When asked what could be done about the language that is peculiar to schools, Mr. Zeppeta-Capistran responded that it should be interpreted and that people would be offended to have it taken down to another level.

    Discussion: Should be allowed another session and not be constrained by time limit. Important to give parents an opportunity to be heard; Board should be more flexible. Can take this information and what was passed out and see if the district could cluster these things around issues that make sense and set up a meeting down the road. Everything cannot be translated. Educational Framework needs to be translated and given to every Latino parent. Get advocates to come and work for the district. Parents are just not going to come here. Hope we will learn some from the progress we are having with the three priorities. Want understandable kinds of goals; not how we are going to do it. Need to put some numbers and goals together and annual reports and hold staff accountable. The district knew its population was going this way years ago. Have to be accountable to the community. Hope to be more concrete. Negotiating teacher contracts to talk about teacher training and cultural competence and support. There has been progress but have not done a good job about the drop-out rate and hiring more teachers of color. Would like a report of where we are with those things.

    FOLLOW UP: Set up a meeting in February to follow up with the issues raised during this meeting.

  5. Other Business

    No discussion.

  6. Adjournment

    It was moved by Shwaw Vang and seconded by Ruth Robarts to adjourn the meeting at 7:05 p.m. Motion unanimously carried.

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