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Educators to Work with Non-English Speaking Parents

Administrators and teachers are aiming to keep the lines of communication open through several different avenues.

Starting next month, non-English speaking parents with children in the Brewster Central Schools system will have the chance to begin learning the language.

Teachers at John F. Kennedy Elementary School told mothers and fathers about the new component of the English as a Second Language (ESL) program at open house sessions held over the last few weeks.

Once a week before school, parents who do not speak English will have the chance to sit down with teachers and learn. During that time, students will also be receiving extra help.

The program will be covered by a state grant, not district funds, according to Principal Dr. Robin Young.

"Your child will be learning, and you will be learning as well," Lorraine Lennon, a teacher at the school, said to parents. 

Lennon and Gabrille Lappe, another ESL teacher, were joined by Young and a few other educators throughout the first-grade session. 

"Please help your children," Young said before Lennon and Lappe took the lead. "Thank you so much for coming tonight. It's so important you're here."

Some parents asked teachers about their child's progress, while others sat and listened, jotting down key information. Cinthia Sauca, a Brewster resident whose first-grade son speaks Spanish as a first language, said the district is "doing a good job."

"The kids have a lot of help," she said. "[My son] is so excited, so I'm excited, too."

Educators addressed several items during the session, including the support ESL students receive in the classroom, testing that goes along with the program and more. The open house was conducted in English because "that's what the children are taught in school," teachers said. Here are some of the topics they discussed with parents:

  • Keeping up with the school calendar. Teachers say it should be hanging on the refrigerator so parents can check it everyday for information on early dismissals, superintendent conference days, special events and more. Parents also need to open student folders each evening. That's where important notices from administrators will be, as well as any teacher correspondence and homework. Items that a parent does not understand may be sent back with a question mark at the top for explanation.
  • Providing an up-to-date email address and phone number. It's imperative that the school has a contact number to reach parents at all times, even if the family is in the midst of moving or staying with relatives temporarily.
  • Sending a child with a snack and lunch. Teachers told parents about the procedure for adding money to a student's food services account (more information here). They also advised that parents may send notes if they want to limit a child's spending on certain items, such as ice cream.
  • Stressing to children that school is important. "You have to tell them now when they're young," Lennon said, "because then, in ninth, tenth, eleventh grade, they're going to be OK." The teachers also urged parents to help their students, even if he or she does not understand an assignment. "Don't get upset," Lennon said. "Ask your child what they think, and let them explain."
  • Teaching by example. Lennon and Lappe told parents their own reading habits will have a "huge impression" on children. They encouraged moms and dads to "read with a purpose" and share what they learned from a newspaper article or other pieces. Both educators said it's "very important" that students read every night. "Even if you don't understand, tell them to show you their reading," Lennon told parents.
bob cullen September 30, 2012 at 01:38 PM
The Brewster School Board had a chance earlier this year to appoint a school board member who speaks Portuguese, Spanish, and English fluently, and also has a MS in education. My wife's family came to the US (legally) in the mid 1960's from Brazil. Her parents were not native English speakers, she struggled to learn English with her parents, who now speak English fluently, and became US Citizens. Wouldn't her appointment to the school board have been a great way to show the district is inclusive? Liz could have been appointed as a liason to the Spanish speaking community, which would have also been a first for Brewster. But since Liz Cullen questioned the high salaries of top adminstrators, (Some who cost over $300,000 each with pension, insurance, FICA added), the board appointed someone who would not rock the boat, or ask questions, or even have the ability to answer questions (see the Patch School board interviews from last May, and make your own mind up.) The school board, under Dr. Steve's leadership, did not even have the decency to contact her and thank her for applying, or telling her someone else was appointed to the board.
bob cullen September 30, 2012 at 10:06 PM
Three school board members even said they voted for liz, before they actually "officially" voted against her, 6-0, because I was told the school board needed to show "unity". You just can't make this stuff up.
bob cullen October 01, 2012 at 01:57 AM
The sadist part of this whole story is how easy it is for certain school board members to change their vote, and how they can not make up their own mind on what they feel is best for Brewster, and stand their ground. It is truly a sad day for our community when elected officials are influnced to change their votes.

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