Guest editorial | ParkRecord.com

Guest editorial

Susan Williams, Rockledge, Florida. ,

Park City families and educators:

I am a retired employee of Park City School District. Because I was both a certified ESL teacher and worked in the reading center as well, I have a pretty good perspective about these programs. I spent nine challenging and fulfilling years as an ESL teacher (that required five post-graduate classes), first at McPolin and then at Parley’s Park.

In those years, we helped hundreds of children struggling with language and culture that arrived in our schools. We were able to help by giving them small-group and one-to-one, highly trained, specifically targeted instruction for an hour each day. We partnered with teachers, wore many hats, and gave them a safe place to try out communication skills, as well as the many circumstances they were facing in their lives. We made differences. In lives, in progress. Often not tallied by a test.

With no certified ESL teacher, who is there to support the non-English speakers that arrive in the school — and not all are Spanish speakers? The idea that dual language would fill that gap is not valid. Children with other languages arrive also. Nor is it valid when they need the intense targeted vocabulary and phonics instruction to begin to comprehend some of the world they exist in all day long. I challenge anyone to attend a class where another language is spoken, and see how long you can sit there. Research shows about five minutes for adults before they are no longer "present." Imagine that for a child all day long. For days and weeks. With no specific program, or certified personnel to support this language acquisition.

I also worked for nearly two years in the Reading Center at Parley’s Park. Again, the one-to-one specifically targeted instruction these children received, was both beneficial, needed, and something many classroom teachers, already inundated, would have difficulty working into daily schedules. We also targeted early reading skills with kindergartners and saw very measureable progress there. Parleys Park was named a reward school for Title 1 schools in the state, and much of this success was due to these two programs working together. Many beginning and struggling readers found success due to the reading center.

Obviously, I was beyond stunned, to learn that these two important programs were being discontinued.

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  • That their funding was being funneled into kindergarten full day needs.
  • That classroom teachers, in addition to all other diversities in their classrooms, will now be totally responsible for the children that would have benefited so much from these programs. Somehow working in all the necessary time needed to make a real and positive difference. Very difficult if not Impossible.
  • That a number of highly trained and dedicated classroom aides and paraprofessionals will no longer have jobs.
  • That valuable learning materials were now boxed and shelved.
  • That abandoning these programs will affect many children at all different levels.
  • There is a petition out there requesting that the board take a second look at wiping these two very valuable programs out of the Park City schools. Parents, and educators should let their voices and concerns be heard on this highly questionable decision and the benefits involved for all.