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Dual language proposal still opposed

By Rose Laudicina
Staff Writer

CHAPEL HILL – There were so many people signed up to speak at last week’s Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education meeting that board Chair Mia Burroughs reduced comment time from three minutes to two minutes per person.

However, the speakers didn’t seem to need the full three minutes to get their point across. They came to the standing-room-only meeting to show their opposition to recommendations to terminate the district’s Mandarin dual-language program and turn Frank Porter Graham Elementary School into a magnet school for the district’s Spanish dual-language program.

Around 40 concerned parents, students and staff members spoke at last Thursday’s meeting to express concerns with the recommendations and criteria used to make them.

“This is such a huge decision, but it seems that this information has been compiled in a small amount of time,” said May Mitchell, a counselor at FPG.
“If Frank Porter Graham is chosen to be the magnet school, I’m afraid it will cut certain families off from their children’s education,” she added.

The dual-language administrative team, formed by the school board, released a report on March 26 with recommendations on how to improve the school district’s dual-language programs. These included expanding the Spanish dual-language program, terminating the K-5 Mandarin program at Glenwood Elementary School and converting Frank Porter Graham Elementary to a Spanish dual-language magnet school for the 2013-14 school year.

“We strongly support dual-language education, but based on the short timeframe and insufficient data we do not believe Frank Porter Graham should be a dual-language magnet school,” said Andrew Davidson, a member of the FPG School Improvement Team.

Many parents and teachers discussed how the large Burmese refugee population at FPG sees it as their neighborhood school and the negative effects converting it to a magnet school could have on that “fragile community.”

“We urge the board of education to recognize the fragile neighborhood situation,” Davidson said.

Proponents of the Mandarin dual-language program also expressed their frustration with the report and the data used to make the recommendation, especially regarding the Chinese population.

Jiarong Fu, vice president of the Chinese-American Friendship Association of North Carolina, told the board he was concerned with stereotypes in the report.
“It says the Chinese students in the program are highly transitional, but only two out of our 60 families are on work visa,” Fu said.

“We feel that the Asian community has been unfairly and incorrectly depicted by your staff, and we request an apology by the board,” he added.

In other action last week, the board voted 6-0 to approve new math pathways for next year’s transition to the Common Core standards. Board member Jamezetta Bedford was absent from the meeting, as she was representing the district at another meeting.

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