Original URL:  http://www.arizonarepublic.com/northeastvalley/articles/0226sr-pvmeeting22sideZ7.html

Dual language in Palomino strategy
Improvement plan presented
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 26, 2003 12:00 AM
Kirsten Sorenson

A request to expand a dual language program is part of Palomino Elementary School's strategy to raise its low rating with the Arizona Department of Education.

Palomino Principal Elyse Minzer presented the school's improvement plan at Thursday's Paradise Valley Unified School District board meeting.

The district made a controversial decision last fall to restrict the program to students fluent in English. Three out of four students at the 1,200-student school speak a language other than English at home. Depending on their English skills, students are placed in one of three programs: dual-language, literacy and immersion.

Minzer presented data detailing how much the students' test scores had improved since the beginning of the school year. But there were differences between the dual-language and the literacy programs.

"Though both language groups showed incredible progress, the dual-language program did demonstrate higher gains," Minzer said.

A few community members attempted to resurrect the debate over the district's decision regarding the dual-language program.

Attorney Suzanne Dallimore, who is working with a number of Spanish-speaking parents, told the district it might have violated the state's open meeting law by deciding behind closed doors.

Minzer has resigned from the school to take a similar position with the Deer Valley Unified School District. When she announced to her staff last week that she would not return as principal, she said the year had been difficult, especially with the last-minute changes to the dual-language program. She told staff members that she hoped the data presented at the board meeting would help the district reconsider its policy on dual-language enrollment.

A number of parents seemed upset by Minzer's decision and demanded to know from board members if the school's new principal would be bilingual. The district has posted the job as a bilingual position.

Palomino's comprehensive plan also included numerous suggestions on how to reach its goal of improving AIMS scores 5 percent in each of the three test areas: reading, writing and math. For example, students work on a math "Problem of the Day" during the school's breakfast program.

The improvement plan also includes English classes for parents and students, on-site preschool programs, and a "welcome center" to acclimate new families and students.

Palomino is one of two district schools to receive an "underperforming" rating last fall. Across the state, there were 275 underperforming schools. If a school receives a low rating two years in a row, it could face a state takeover.

Reporter Kristen Go contributed to this article.