SAN ANGELO— San Angelo LIVE! sat down with San Angelo ISD Deputy Superintendent and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Farrah Gomez on Thursday to discuss the Bilingual Program that is being moved from Glenmore Elementary School to Bradford Elementary. A few parents are upset with the change and even call it “segregation” by moving all the bilingual students to one campus.
Parents raise concerns about the move of the bilingual program and voiced their concerns in letters to SAISD.
Scroll to the bottom of the article for Dr. Gomez's answers.
"Dear leaders of San Angelo ISD education,
My name is (Name Redacted) and my child is a student in the first grade in Mrs. Muñoz’s class at Glenmore elementary. He is currently enrolled in the bilingual program which has given my son the opportunity to flourish as he learns to read and write in both languages. I strongly believe that bilingual education is a wonderful aspect of lifelong learning. Research shows that dual language programs where children learn both Spanish and English are especially helpful for Latino English language learners.
The reason I am writing is because I don’t agree with the decision that was made to have the bilingual program only at Bradford elementary. I have talked to several parents from the bilingual program at Glenmore who strongly disagree with the decision also. It was never taken into consideration the parent’s opinions and how this change will affect not only the children but the community.
This new change does not fit with a lot of our schedules. We have other children that have to be taken to different schools. This is one reason most parents have to make the hard decision to remove their children from the program. It also puts our children at risk to fall behind next school year because they were supposed to transition from Spanish to English and now, they will have to be in an all-English class classifying them as ESL at their home campus. Most of these kids don’t know how to read and write English like a regular non bilingual class. This change will definitely have a negative impact on their education.
Having the bilingual program only at one campus for all the San Angelo ISD reduces the options for the parents who do want to have their children be part of the program. When the program first started me, and my husband made the decision to buy our first home near Glenmore elementary so our son had that opportunity to be part of the bilingual program as well for our other two children who are still under the age of three. I was really looking forward for them to develop comprehensive abilities in both languages. Now that has been taken away from them because this change does not work for us. I know there is going to be transportation provided but even with that, it is something that doesn’t work with our schedule because pick up time will have to be earlier and drop off time later than what it currently is. This puts a lot of the parents in the same position.
It has also been proven that changing schools has a negative impact on children. Children crave stability and when they can’t have it, it interferes with their emotional and developmental functioning. Moving to a new school is also stressful for children, they will loss friends and have to adapt to a new schedule and environment. Some of the children are already worried that they won’t be able to be with their friends next school year, the kids in Mrs. Muñoz’s class have been together since preschool.
Making the decision to have the bilingual program only at Bradford elementary also leads me to believe that we continue to have segregated schools. The bilingual program currently only has Hispanics. Bradford already has a higher percentage of Hispanic children compared to Glenmore according to the 2022 school report card. It also has a higher poverty level and a lower overall academic performance compared to Glenmore. Having all the children from the bilingual program move to a school with that kind of report fits into the SEGREGATION term. Numerous studies show how segregating children in schools can negatively impact their academic achievement, especially when they are TRIPLE SEGREGATED like in this case. These children will experience segregation by ethnicity/race, socioeconomic and language because the percentages at Bradford will increase even more. All you have to do is research these types of segregations and the negative affects it has to come to a conclusion that this is what these children are going to experience.
As leaders of education that represent our children we ask to continue to seek ways to ensure that students across all race, ethnicity and socioeconomic backgrounds have equal access to quality education. This requires addressing the role of segregation and the negative impact this will have on the student’s education. This concludes why most of the parents from Glenmore elementary disagree on the change to the bilingual program."
Another letter from a parent voice the same concerns.
"My name is (Name Redacted) I am a parent from the bilingual program at Glenmore Elementary. I am also representing the parents from the program at Glenmore. I want to bring to your attention that on April 27, 2023, I had a meeting with the superintendent along with (Name Redacted) and (Name Redacted) who are LULAC representatives.
During the meeting several issues and concerns were discussed about the situation with the bilingual program being removed from Glenmore and only offering the program at Bradford elementary. A lot of questions were asked about the concerns we have. I want to share with you a few questions and some of the things we discussed in the meeting.
One of the issues was the lack of transparency there has been with us since the beginning. First we received a letter on March 24, 2023 letting us know that “After thoughtful consideration, San Angelo ISD will be transitioning our Transitional Bilingual Program to be housed exclusively at Bradford Elementary” … “This is not a decision we make lightly, but as educators we recognize the many benefits provided to our students when a single program is located within one campus environment”. The bilingual teachers at Glenmore were notified about the changes one day before us. On that same letter we were notified of a parent meeting, on Tuesday April 11 th at Bradford Elementary. We showed up to that meeting and we had a lot of questions about the transitioning. One of the questions several parents asked was why are they making this change to the program? We didn’t get the correct answer. In fact, we expressed a lot of concerns and we’re not given any answers.
On April 25, 2023, (a local news outlet) releases an interview they had at Bradford about the bilingual program with the principal and director of the program. In that Interview the Director of the Bilingual Program said, “As a district we had to do a sustainability plan where we are consolidating lots of special programs, so bilingual is not the only program out there that is being consolidated”… That was the first time we heard why the bilingual program was being “consolidated”, it was never mentioned in the letter or explained to us at the parent meeting, after several parents had asked. We also asked why are we being notified when school is almost out? The Director of the program did tell us that she was notified last minute too. Later we found out from staff at Bradford that they knew about the change weeks before the staff and parents at Glenmore were notified. On that note we also want to ask you the following questions. Why were the parents at Glenmore notified towards the end of school year when it’s time for registrations and parents have to make a quick decision as to whether or not they have to submit a transfer to stay at Glenmore if they choose to? It’s not fair that we were not considered since the beginning.
On April 28, 2023 (a local blog) released an interview that took place at Bradford also about the bilingual program. In that interview “According to Christy Diego, SAISD’s Director of Emergent Bilingual, some parents changed their mind after attending that event. She said that was a great testimony to what Carrasco is doing at Bradford.” With that being said, we feel the situation is trying to be sugar coated to the public. Like I mentioned earlier there was a lot of upset parents at that meeting “event”. We left with a lot of unanswered questions that day. We also feel it’s not fair that Glenmore never got the publicity Bradford is getting now.
Segregation was another important concern I discussed with the superintendent at our meeting. Segregating the Hispanic children into a low performance school affects them in so many ways. We compared the two school report cards and I shared with him two articles on the effects of segregating children in schools, especially children of color. I will share those articles with you too because we think they explain our concerns regarding the affect’s segregation has towards the students.
Another topic we discussed was the concerns we have in leaving the children at their home campus so early in the morning to wait for the bus to be taken to Bradford. Most parents can’t wait for the bus to get there. I asked him the following questions, would you leave your 5,6,7,8-year-old child unattended at about 6:30 am to wait for the bus? This is another reason we don’t agree with this transition.
In the letter I wrote and read at the last school board meeting, I talked about how children crave stability, and the negative impact changing schools has on them. We want to ask you the same question I asked the superintendent, was it taken into consideration the negative affects anxiety levels will have on the bilingual students from Glenmore who are moving to a new school, whether it’s their home campus or Bradford? If the children who are currently in first and second grade right now were to move to Bradford, they will probably only be there one year if they meet reclassification at the end of next school year. The children will start to adapt to a new schedule and environment during the time they are at Bradford, but they will have to move again to their home campus after being reclassified. It’s not fair for the children to be moved around because it interferes with their emotional stability.
As concerned parents from Glenmore Elementary, we are deeply disappointed and frustrated with the change. In this letter we want to urge you to please reconsider the decision of taking the bilingual program away from Glenmore. Not all the children are going to be able to move to Bradford with the bilingual program, how do you feel about the negative affects this change will have on the bilingual students from Glenmore that have to opt-out? We know the great benefits our children will have in the future if they are bilingual. We are Hispanic/ Latinos that also pay our taxes and contribute to this community, we deserve more than just one school in the district offering the bilingual program. With only one school offering the program it reduces the options for a lot of families. As leaders of education who believe students achievement is the highest priority, we rely on you to make equitable decisions, actively engage, communicate with, be transparent and seek input and participation from all stakeholders including parents to cultivate trusting partnerships to support the hopes and dreams of the students.
These are just a few of our concerns. Please reach out if you would like to talk about it more. We want to thank you for your service as board members and we want to let you know we appreciate your time and attention. We hope you take into consideration to reconsider the decision.
*Note, these two letters, or emails, are worded exactly as they were written by the parents who have students involved in the Bilingual Program although names have been redacted to protect anonymity of those parents and spelling has been corrected where necessary.
Several parents raised concerns at the SAISD school board meeting on May 15, 2023, where former school board member Max Parker offered some explanation to the move and why it was happening. The public comments start at about the 1:20:00 mark and end at the 1:49:00 mark.
San Angelo LIVE! asked Dr. Gomez nine questions on Thursday about why the Bilingual Program, and other Magnet Programs are being moved around San Angelo and what this means for the program and the parents and students involved.
Please note, Dr. Gomez answers are worded exactly from Thursday's exclusive audio recorded interview though some of the wording my have been changed for writing purposes.
1. Please tell us about the Bilingual Program?
Dr. Gomez- "There is some clarification that is needed because there’s an overall bilingual program, where students are served through magnet campuses or if they choose to stay on their home campus, where they are served with ESL teachers. There are certifications that are required for a teacher to provide bilingual services. That’s why we have a magnet program where bilingual students and their families elect for them to be in that program. It’s on certain campuses because of the certification requirement. We have ESL teachers, or English as a second language teachers, that are certified at all of our campuses. However, because of the specialization in the certification, we have a bilingual magnet program. That’s the difference in the two."
- Can you explain what a “Magnet Program” is?
Dr. Gomez- "Absolutely, when you have a magnet program, then that’s taking all the resources needed to serve students in that program so that you can do it to great depth and cover the necessary services to meet the needs of that program. Bilingual is one that we're talking about, but we also have GT magnet campuses. Out of all of our elementary campuses, we have teachers that have the required number of professional learning [hours or credits] to provide services to students that are identified as gifted and talented, but we don’t have the magnet program on all campuses and again, it goes back to resources, and how you funnel those resources in the area of education. The staff is your greatest of resources. And staff must have the qualification to provide to that depth."
3. Can you explain why the bilingual program is being moved to just one campus?
Dr. Gomez — "So, we did have to move pretty rapidly in making this decision and we’ve continued to listen to stakeholders since having to do so. It goes back to space and availability for certified staff within the district. So, prior to this, we had Pre-K at eight of our existing 17 elementary campuses. Pre-K is a program that we make based on the criteria for students and families to qualify for the free program. But staff, to staff that number of campuses, and to provide additional services that also are provided from the area of special education, speech, occupational therapy, where you need additional staff to provided services of campuses, we had to make some changes. With that, it went from eight sites to four sites, and it wasn’t just Pre-K alone, but also early childhood special education for our very youngest learners. That again provides the best educational experience for all students, not just pockets of students."
Dr. Gomez- "Going back to Bradford’s campus specifically, number one resource, our staff and certifications but also looking at both programs. One of the automatic qualifiers for Pre-k is [a] military [student population]. Glenmore is right across the street from the base. We’ve always had high needs for staff and students to be in Pre-K at Glenmore. If you have two special programs on a campus, you can outsize a campuses capacity. So, the bilingual program moved from Glenmore to allow additional classes of regular Pre-K to be at Glenmore, which is our highest requested area and Bradford is losing their regular Pre-K and will not remain a regular Pre-K site. So, it comes back to resources that are provided within magnets, certain ages of services for students and again, you always have to keep enough space for your regular attendance zones that you are covering just because of where people reside. Say, [as in] we don’t have enough classroom and you live across the street."
4. How does Bradford’s accountability rating compare to other campuses?
Dr. Gomez — "You have to understand which accountability scores you’re comparing. There are more students that are in a bilingual magnet program prior to four years ago, we didn’t offer a single bilingual magnet program, so that began with a cohort of students who currently are second graders. Those students don’t take, prior to third grade, any STAR assessment, so when parents are comparing STAR scores on campuses, you’re not comparing the actual program itself. Those students all take TELPAS, that’s a state assessment that they are given. But again, you have to compare apples to apples before you look at that. The STAR accountability rating that they’re using to compare is not comparing the students within the magnet program."
5. The word “segregation” has been used several times now. Can you let me know your thoughts on this?
Dr. Gomez — "We are committed to providing the very best services we can to all students. Our district's overall highest student subpopulation is the Hispanic subpopulation. We have more Hispanic students than any other group. Segregation, my definition of segregation, is when you’re not allowing equal access and equal opportunity for all students. The move of the program is not denying access to any group of students. All students have the educational opportunity."
6. In what way will moving the program affect students and parents?
Dr. Gomez — "I think one thing that’s super important is going back to we did have to make this decision very quickly, but we’ve continued to listen. So, what also needs to be captured through this is any existing kindergarten student or first grade student that’s currently in the magnet program at Glenmore has the ability to stay at Glenmore as a first grader or second grader to transition through the program before the full move, if they’ve been in and if they want to stay at Glenmore. So when they’re saying that we’re not providing choices, that’s not an accurate statement. Because those students and families do have the ability to stay as a first grader or a second grader in the bilingual magnet program next year. It’s students coming into the program, or families that have multiple students that they want to continue in the program moving to Bradford. Again, you have to qualify for this program, if the parent declines this program, we have ESL teachers at all of our campuses. A magnet program for bilingual was not intended if they stayed at that elementary all the way through fifth grade, that’s never been a part of the bilingual magnet. Most students by the end of their second-grade year, will have acquired the foundational literacy skills to exit from the program starting in third grade to go back to their home campus."
7. How does a student qualify for the Bilingual Program?
Dr. Gomez — "There are very specific qualifications. The main qualification is the language primarily spoken in the home. We will be happy to go into those qualifications but there’s this misunderstanding, 'I picked the bilingual program,' You have to meet qualifications and a language other than English being the primary language spoken in the home and that first comes from a required enrollment document called the 'Home Language Survey". Others can’t just say ‘I want to be in this program,’ it goes by very specific qualifications."
8. What other programs are going to be moved around?
Dr. Gomez — "There are, it goes back to meeting the needs and providing the resources for all students. So, Pre-K is moving sites, just as I stated, Bradford is no longer going to have regular Pre-K. Glenmore is getting additional sections of regular Pre-K. Then we also provide services to our early childhood special education and those students are placed on campuses where we have space for the Pre-K pods and the early childhood special education classes to be house together, so those programs are also shifting. For example, due to Glenmore’s regular boundary attendance, population in that neighborhood’s school, we did not have space to also put early childhood special education at Glenmore. So, the three other Pre-K sites which are now Belaire, Goliad, and San Jacinto [elementary schools], we needed both Pre-K and early childhood special education so those students could be involved in instruction and activities during the day where your students receiving special education services had opportunities to interact with age-appropriate peers, outside the special education classroom. Program moves were all about space available at campuses and the ability to fully provide adequate services to meet their needs in those specialized programs."
9. Is there anything you want to say to the community to know about the bilingual program transition?
Dr. Gomez — "Specifically for the bilingual program, we are committed to partnering and having conversations. We do not have the resources to have every program that we offer at SAISD at all of our facilities. That’s not just bilingual, that’s also GT, that’s also other specialized extra-curricular activities, also with specialized fine arts programs. We don’t have the space or the ability to offer at 24 sites. So, you combine the resources that are available so you can provide the very best services for parents and students that participate in those specialized settings."
SAISD is also providing bus transportation for the 4.3-mile trek across the San Angelo from Glenmore Elementary to Bradford Elementary. In a letter to parents from SAISD, SAISD wanted to inform parents of the move from Glenmore Elementary to Bradford Elementary of the bilingual program and that change would start beginning in the 2023-2024 school year.