As the school search continues…
When looking for a Kindergarten for our daughter, my husband and I have applied to private schools, all-girl schools, co-ed schools, charter schools, unzoned public schools, Gifted & Talented schools, and Jewish schools.
We have not applied for any dual language public programs because, of the ones currently offered – Spanish, French and Mandarin – I would not be able to support any of them at home.
One dual language program I could support at home would be Russian. Alas, the only such program in New York City is in Brooklyn. And I’m on the Upper West Side.
However, last night, on January 11, 2011, the District Three Community Education Council (CDEC3) Multilingual Committee met to discuss the possibility of a dual language Russian program on the Upper West Side.
The meeting was held at PS 75, which already houses a dual language Spanish program. The principal of PS 75, Robert O’Brien, spoke about the model his school uses, which is English one day, Spanish the next, but mentioned that other schools have taken different approaches, such as alternative weeks, or splitting the day into two.
Robin Sudnik, principal of PS 84, which hosts a Spanish and a French dual language program, talked about how her school had gone about establishing it.
Dr. Esther Klein Friedman, Acting Community Superintendent, stressed that the only way a dual language Russian/English program would be able to go forward was if the community could prove they have enough students to fill a class of 25 incoming Kindergartners, about half of whom spoke only Russian, and half of whom spoke only English.
One mother raised her hand to note that the majority of the children whose parents were represented at the meeting were bilingual. They already spoke both English and Russian.
That seemed to confuse the committee somewhat.
Later, Robin Sudnik explained that in a dual language program, no new students can be accepted after the third grade, since they wouldn’t be able to catch up with the other children in their non-native language.
You could feel the surprise of everyone in the room, most of whom had come to America at a later age than third grade, wondering, “Why not? We did!”
Despite several parents asking over and over again what the next step should be in order to get the ball rolling to start such a program, the answers from the committee were vague.
They asked for a list of interested families. They were immediately handed one.
They said the program would need DOE certified teachers. They were handed the name of two bilingual teachers already interested in participating. Dr. Friedman insisted the teachers would need to be specially certified.
She also mentioned that the Russian language curriculum would need to be identical to the English language one. The parents could not order their own books and materials.
Finally, we were told that the city had done its own internal analysis to determine how many families in District 3 would be interested in such a program. However, their analysis consisted merely of looking at a list of families already registered in the NYC public school system who put down Russian as a language spoken at home.
No outreach was done. I only found out about the program from a single line in my Assemblyman’s newsletter, and when I contacted his office for more information, was directed to this meeting, rather than what I asked for, which was the name of a person to speak to.
Presumably, there might be many more families interested in such a program who went uncounted.
If you are one of them, please contact:
District Family Advocate
phone: 212-678-5857 ext 4
With your name, address, and ages of your children.