Story and photos by Marika Lee
Reporting for West Seattle Blog
One parent said he didn’t learn of changes at his son’s school, Concord International Elementary, from the school or the district, but by asking his son what he did at school in Spanish that day. His son’s reply: “Nothing.”
That was just one of the experiences shared at Tuesday night’s community meeting in South Park to voice concerns about the changes to the Spanish/English dual-language program at Concord.
Another Concord parent, Paulina Lopez, said at the meeting organized by the Concord PTA, “I have always been very strong on bilingualism. That is why I chose Concord. It came to my surprise that there were changes. One reason was because I wasn’t aware of the changes when the year started.”
As reported here last Friday, with the changes, reading and writing are being taught primarily in English.
The school has adopted a STEAM curriculum, and some teachers say this year’s changes have affected the time for dual-language instruction as well as nutrition-based field trips to nearby Marra Farm.
“My biggest desire is for my children to learn to read and write in my mother tongue in a competent
way. The new literacy change took me by surprise. How can the district decide this without talking to the
parents?” Concord parent Gladis Clemente said through an interpreter.
After more than two hours of discussion, Concord principal Dr. Norma Zavala – who had sent this letter to families earlier in the week – said a committee would be created to decide on how to move forward.
“I would like to publicly apologize for not including you and really practicing community engagement. It
takes time. One of the things that I am hearing here is let’s take time and make sure it is done right,”
The committee would be made up of district officials, Concord parents, Concord teachers, and teachers
from Denny International Middle School, which Concord feeds into.
Dr. Zavala said at an earlier meeting that there is one dual language and one “traditional” kindergarten class this year because there wasn’t enough enrollment for two dual-language classes. Concord kindergarten teachers said there are 26 students in the dual-language class and 25 in the traditional. Eleven students are on a wait list for the dual-language class.
Multiple people accused the district of not wanting to hire another kindergarten teacher for Concord,
citing another school that they said received an additional kindergarten teacher after fundraising the necessar amount.
Parents, teachers and community members criticized the district for changing the program and accused it
of using a “one size fits all” approach with the new curriculum.
“The success of our school cannot be measured by standardized tests. These tests are always in English.
Learning a second language is a process that takes time,” Clemente said through an interpreter.
Denny teacher Tracy Gill said having literacy in both languages is more important than test scores and goes with the district’s promise to include ethnic studies at all schools.
“While Spanish is an important part of Hispanic culture, it is not the only part. Literacy is an excellent place for ethnic studies to be taught in a dual language program. Math and science are wonderful in Spanish. There is no real way to teach culture heritage or knowledge in those subject areas,” Gill said.
District officials said they are fully in supposed of the dual language program and ethnic studies. Leslie Harris, the elected school board director for South Park and West Seattle, said the situation has been painful.
“We promise people the moon but we are making promises that our wallets can’t keep. We cannot continue to sustain programs, like dual immersion learning, because of the way we lose folks later on if we do not prop them up at the beginning,” Harris said.
The meeting was described just the start of a long conversation about the changes at Concord. Another meeting will be scheduled for next month.
Get information about the Concord PTA by texting @98888 to 81010 or on Facebook at ConcordElementaryPTA.