By Bob Skolnik
Lyons-Brookfield Elementary School District 103 Superintendent Kristopher Rivera is proposing that the district hire an additional central office administrator to oversee the district's bilingual programs and also serve as the district's communications manager.
Rivera made the proposal at the school board's June 11 meeting, saying the way the district currently manages bilingual instruction needed an overhaul.
Last year, George Washington Middle School Assistant Principal Rubi Ortiz received a stipend to supervise the district's bilingual instruction in addition to her duties as a building administrator.
But, Rivera told the school board that the bilingual director job is too big to be handled with a stipend. Rivera noted that most comparable districts have a full-time administrator dedicated to bilingual programs.
About 31 percent of District 103 students are non-native English speakers, and the school district has not been in full compliance with federal guidelines for serving students who are English language learners.
"I think the commitment to this would be a great return on investment," Rivera told the school board.
At Lincoln School in Brookfield, 31 percent of the students are non-native English speakers. The percentage is higher at three other elementary schools in the district. At Edison School in Stickney, the percentage of non-native English speakers is 53 percent while at Robinson School in Lyons and Home School in Stickney, non-native English speakers comprise 48 percent and 47 percent of the enrollment, respectively.
"The goal of the bilingual educator is not to teach Spanish, but to use Spanish to teach English," said Rivera who used to be a bilingual teacher. "Higher achievement is the ultimate outcome."
A bilingual director would be able to devote more time to professional development for the district's bilingual teachers, Rivera told the school board.
While the new position would be mostly devoted to running the district's bilingual program, Rivera said the new hire could devote some time to serving as the district's communications manager.
Rivera said the district needs to do a better job of communicating its strengths and positive accomplishments and counter the negative perception that many have of the district.
That negative perception has been fueled by bickering among two factions on the school board for the past four years. It got worse last year when the district hired a teacher who was facing charges of attempted murder at the time he was hired to teach at GWMS.
The communications manager would stress the positive achievements of the district, Rivera said.
"I don't know how many people in this room know we have a birth to 3-year-old program serving over 50 families," Rivera said. "Let's get that in the paper, let's get that out there, let's celebrate that, let's start sharing what we are doing great in this district."
The person would also manage the district's social media accounts and work to brand the district, highlighting the district's positive accomplishments.