PV school board candidates differ on English learners
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 21, 2004 12:00 AM
Ofelia Madrid

NORTHEAST VALLEY - In a wide-ranging discussion, the four candidates for the Paradise Valley Unified School District governing board talked about closing schools, marketing the district and getting parents involved.

About 50 people attended the 90-minute forum Wednesday at the district office. It was sponsored by the Paradise Valley United Parent Council.

Incumbents Sue Skidmore and Tom Ohmart and candidates Nancy Case and Anne Greenberg are vying for three open seats in the Nov. 2 election.

All four agreed they didn't want to close another school. Besides, Ohmart added, the law requires at least a year to begin the review process of closing a school. In 2003, the board voted to close 500-student Gold Dust Elementary School in an attempt to save money.

Case said the district instead should work on marketing itself and adding different programs, maybe expanding the Core Knowledge curriculum to other schools.

Skidmore suggested that the district look into adding another International Baccalaureate program.

Greenberg said the board should ask parents what type of magnet programs they want their children to attend.

The candidates differed on how to help English language learners in the district. Skidmore said research from Johns Hopkins University showed that a paired bilingual education program, where students are taught to read in their native language and in English at different times during the day, was best. Learning to speak a different language was much different from taking a test in that language, Skidmore said.

"I certainly could learn enough Croatian to go to the bathroom, but I couldn't pass AIMS in Croatian," she said.

Case said that English immersion was state law and that the district had to look at the schools that were teaching the students successfully.

Greenberg said the district needed to look at each student individually and find different ways to make each successful.

Ohmart said there were two issues: First, students have to be immersed in the language; next, parents need to support their children in learning the new language.

The candidates disagreed on whether a registered nurse is needed at every school. The district is considering allowing licensed practical nurses.

"We can't find BSN's (nurses with bachelor degrees) to fill those positions," Skidmore said.

Case agreed and added that the quality of the candidate was more important.

Greenberg said she would prefer to have a nurse with a bachelor's degree in nursing. The person has to be able to do more than just put a bandage on, she said. The nurse is the person who manages the health office.

Ohmart, whose wife is a pediatric emergency room nurse, said he would want someone there who could do the job in its entirety.

Getting parents involved at the middle and high school level is harder than at the elementary level, a parent attending the forum told the candidates. How did they plan on involving them?

Case said an open exchange between parents and teachers was needed.

Greenberg said that parents could be used as tutors.

"All parents have different skills," she said.

Extracurricular activities can hook parents, Ohmart said.

"They'll start to understand they have a role in their child's education," he said.

All the candidates agreed that the Legislature should provide more state funding per student and fund the education mandates it sets forth.


Home Page     Events and Information   Awards&Scholarships   AABE NEWS 2004      News( 2003)       News(2002)       Publications      Board_Information     Board Contact     Goals      Feedback     Research Links     Links