Pelham BOE voices support for ESL programs

Published 9:00 pm Monday, March 10, 2014

By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer

PELHAM—Pelham’s school board expressed interest in supporting English as a second language services after a faculty presentation during a March 10 Pelham Board of Education Meeting.

Two current ESL specialists, Valley Elementary School’s Amanda Rodriguez and Valley Intermediate School’s Maria Tarry, underscored the importance and need for ESL services in the new Pelham School System and how to achieve success in their presentation to the city’s Board of Education.

According to Tarry, 2,528 students in the Shelby County School System are classified as culturally and linguistically diverse, and are candidates for ESL services. Almost half of these CLD students are from Pelham. Tarry said 28 languages are represented in Pelham alone.

Tarry noted that historically Shelby County has had a strong ESL program, and ESL students “exceed state standards annually.”

“We want to continue the success we have had and even improve upon it as Pelham Schools,” said Rodriguez.

The teachers highlighted the importance of ESL services such as the two-week summer program aimed to help and prepare students for the upcoming school year, as well as the LEAPS family literacy program to help parents learn to speak, read and write in English.

“These programs are a great boost linguistically and academically,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez and Tarry also stressed the importance of proper staffing for ESL services, requesting the Board of Education hire an ESL-certified Program Director, a Spanish-speaking translator and interpreter and hire contracted interpreters and translators on an as-needed basis. They also asked for the staffing of a bilingual aide at each school.

“Bilingual aides build a sense of trust,” said Tarry. “They are vital to connecting families to the services they need.”

The Pelham Board of Education responded positively and enthusiastically to the presentation.

“This program is a model of success for our state,” said Pelham Interim School Superintendent Dr. Tim Alford. “We’ll do whatever it takes to continue the success.”