ESL teachers ask Alabaster BOE for support

Published 11:39 am Tuesday, January 15, 2013

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

A pair of Alabaster English-as-a-second-language teachers during a Jan. 14 meeting encouraged members of the Alabaster School Board to strengthen programs for non-native English speakers after the city breaks away from the Shelby County School System.

During the Alabaster School Board meeting, Meadow View Elementary ESL teacher Mandy Heatherly and Creek View Elementary ESL teacher Karen Hill said 23 languages currently are represented among Alabaster students, and said the city serves more than 15 percent of the county’s ESL student population.

“Ninety-four percent of kindergarteners that have a language other than English are U.S.-born citizens,” Hill said.

“We feel it’s important to maintain what we have and exceed what we currently do,” Heatherly said.

Hill and Heatherly said their two schools have exceeded the standards on their ESL access ratings for the past three years, and said they would like to improve access after the schools become part of the Alabaster School System.

Heatherly said she would like to see an ESL student-teacher ratio of about 40-to-1 after Alabaster splits from the county school system. There currently are 15 certified ESL teachers in Alabaster schools, and the ESL student-teacher ratio is about 50-1, she said.

Heatherly encouraged the Alabaster School Board to hire a bilingual aide at each school, maintain transportation offerings for summer and after-school ESL programs, hire a district-wide interpreter and translator to help school staff communicate with non-English-speaking parents and hire a data-entry employee to help prepare ESL students’ lesson plans.

The two teachers also asked the school board members to continue the family literacy program at MVES and possibly expand it to CVES.

“We wanted to put this out there. We have a really good program with Shelby County, and we want to continue that,” Heatherly said.

Alabaster Interim School Superintendent Dr. Phillip Hammonds asked the teachers to help him formulate a job description for an Alabaster ESL director. The Alabaster School Board currently is working with Alabaster teachers and administrators to formulate and approve several central office job descriptions before advertising the job openings statewide.