Language diversity imageArlington Public Schools are becoming more culturally and linguistically diverse, with some three dozen languages estimated to be spoken in local homes, the Arlington School Committee was told.

English Language Learners Director Carla Bruzzese, an APS employee for nearly a dozen years, said that she and her staff keep “the whole child at the center” when helping students acquire English skills, and that teaching practices follow the APS vision, mission and strategic plans. This was during a presentation made April 13 to the School Committee.

“Our [ELL] enrollment is growing,” she said, and she noted that more ELL students at APS are U.S.-born than not.

The five non-English languages most prevalent in APS homes are Chinese, Haitian Creole, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish, she said.

About 5% ELL

She said that 295 students, or about 5 percent of the total APS enrollment, are considered ELL, and this includes “graduates” who typically are monitored for four years afterward.

School Committee logo
ELL is one of the focal points of the new strategic plan.
-- Len Kardon

The program’s approach is that vocabulary is integral to language development and that oral language is emphasized before written academic English, she said.

The district has hired additional ELL team members serving at Bishop and Peirce elementary schools, and at Arlington High School and Ottoson Middle School; she hopes to get someone to serve in a similar capacity at Menotomy Preschool. Moreover, a recent government grant the district obtained to help Afghani refugees is now providing after-school tutoring to about nine children at Thompson Elementary School.

Bruzzese praised Superintendent Elizabeth Homan and Deputy Superintendent Roderick MacNeal Jr. for their support. Bruzzese looks forward to establishing the long-planned welcome center to assist ELL, immigrant and low-income families; a new curriculum that that includes reexamination of the process of language acquisition; additional professional development for staff; and expansion of the pilot “bridge” program in which teen students give back to the community by tutoring younger ones.

Committee member Len Kardon noted that ELL is one of the focal points of the new strategic plan. Committee member Liz Exton said she was glad to see recognition of the “need to collaborate with teachers in other disciplines and content areas” and especially that more staff had been hired.

See the agenda document for this presentation >> 

In other business April 13:
  • Homan reported that four projects by students at Ottoson had advanced to the national level of the National History Day competition, to take place in June at the University of Maryland. The projects are: PARC v. Pennsylvania: Pioneering the Right to Education for Children with Cognitive Impairments; The Legacy of Chinese Transcontinental Railroad Workers; Destroyer of Worlds: How the Manhattan Project Crossed Frontiers in Warfare and World Politics; and Now I've Got The Pill: Oral Contraceptives and How They Changed The Lives of American Women.

  • Homan added that instructor Shaina Byrne of Gibbs School had won the William Spratt Award for excellence in teaching social studies at the middle-school level.

  • According to an online announcement posted a day after the meeting, Eva Liner will be principal of Bishop Elementary School on a permanent basis, effective July 1. Previously, Liner was interim principal there.

  • Hiring of a principal at Brackett Elementary School is nearly complete, Homan said at the meeting. Recruitment is in earlier stages for two districtwide management positions: director of communication and family engagement and director of research, data and accountability.

  • The budget subcommittee is set to meet at 11 a.m. Monday, April 24, to discuss, among other topics, the cost of the APS strategic plan, Kardon said. Other town bodies, including the Finance Committee, the Long Range Planning Committee and Town Meeting – the latter also starting Monday, April 24 – will have a bearing on this budget, he and new committee Chair Kirsi Allison-Ampe noted.

  • Committee member Jane Morgan said that she and Assistant Superintendent, Finance and Operations Michael Mason had met with state Sen. Cindy Friedman about universal free lunches in schools. Morgan also displayed a recent photograph of a major woodworking project created by AHS students in the “maker space” at that campus and reported that students had been creating structures used elsewhere at AHS and elsewhere in town.

  • Committee member Paul Schlichtman said that the annual advocacy event “on the Hill,” meaning the Massachusetts State House in Boston, was set for 9 a.m. May 4 -- the first since the pandemic began more than three years ago – saying it was a great opportunity to learn more about the state Legislature.

  • The consent agenda passed unanimously.  
  • The vote to adjourn was 7-0 after the 90-minute meeting.

As previously reported, the April 13 meeting included a vote to impose a temporary moratorium on the acceptance of formal complaints while the committee works toward consistency in its policies and procedures regarding this matter.

Watch the April 13 meeting on ACMi:

April 5, 2023: Hayner honored for 12 years on School Committee

This news summary by YourArlington Assistant Editor Judith Pfeffer was published Friday, April 21, 2023.

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