“The goal is two-fold: one is to help recruit Hispanic students
back to TPS; the other is to deal with the many Hispanic
families where we are teaching Spanish and English,” said
Emilio Ramírez, principal-mentor-facilitator at TPS
headquarters. “Together, they could be bilingual. We’d also like
to attract others outside the community to another program we’re
going to offer for the community.”
The concept would start with four classes. The aim is to find a
suitable location close to most of the Spanish-speaking families
who reside in East Toledo and the Old South End. Ramírez stated
the district “has an ambitious goal” to start in August, but
recruiting families will be key over the next eight weeks or so.
“It’s been a long time coming and we’ve reached a critical
mass,” he said. “A bilingual, immersion school, dual language
schools have been across the country for some time.”
“It’s been talked about for a while and right now’s a good time
to implement because we’re in a transformation plan and we’ve
had great success with some of our other specialty schools and
giving more options to our students,” said Bob Vásquez, a
TPS board member who individually supports the idea. “So this is
a great time to start this.” Mr. Vásquez made it clear that he
was at the meeting as an individual and not as a representative
of the TPS board.
“I’m very pleased. I think the need is there with children, one
of the fastest-growing populations in TPS is actually
Spanish-speaking families,” said José Luna, TPS Hispanic
outreach coordinator. “I think this would be a real boost to
help the Spanish-speaking population make the transition to
TPS officials have identified 570 Latino families whose children
currently attend charter schools. There also are 228
Spanish-speaking families living within the school district’s
boundaries. The proposal would still need formal school board
“So we have a pool of 800 families to pull from. Also, if we’re
looking at pulling others who want their children to become
bilingual by second grade, which is our goal, then the numbers
are enormous,” said Ramírez.
TPS is looking to co-locate a Spanish-language Head Start
program alongside the K-2 bilingual school. A national provider
will lay off some 280 Head Start teachers, an indication that
TPS will take over the federal preschool program in the fall.
Some type of formal announcement is expected later this week.
One other potential concern is the state’s third-grade reading
guarantee, which is why TPS leaders will start with a K-2
bilingual program. A third grade program may be added down the
road. One option is to teach language arts in English, then
focus on math, science, and other subjects in Spanish in order
in order to meet the reading guarantee.
“TPS currently does have bilingual teachers, all across
different grade levels and experiences,” said Ramírez. “So we
are compiling a list of who we have and where. I think we have
enough internally to start off.”
“It’s certainly not cost-prohibitive. I think it’s just a matter
of getting our staff and facilities in line with what we want to
do,” said Vásquez.
The Latino leaders in attendance also included: Dr.
executive director of Adelante, Inc.; community organizer
Ramón Pérez of One Village Council; Adelante board members
Dan Briones and David Ybarra; retired educators
Mary Morales and Dr. Manuel Caro; Cindy Geronimo,
executive director of the Lucas County Land Bank; former Toledo
city official Lourdes Santiago; Baldemar Velásquez,
Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) founder and president; Jeffrey
Hanthorn (TPS administration); Tracy Knighton (TPS);
and Rico Neller (former TPS teacher at Jones Junior High
and editor of La Prensa).
Ramírez told the assembled Latino leaders that the idea has been
discussed in the past in one form or another and “have done some
things but never fully accomplished a project.”
Ramírez and Luna first pitched the idea in May to TPS
Superintendent Dr. Romules Durant, who was immediately
supportive of the concept. He was in attendance at Friday’s
meeting as well to lend support.
The superintendent told the group the new school, “if it
generated the right numbers” could prove to be either
“self-sustaining or cost-neutral.” He cited as examples both
Toledo Technology Academy and Toledo Early College High
School, both magnet schools that attract 40 percent of its
student population from outside the school district.
“That 40 percent helps to sustain the program to where it pays
for itself,” said Dr. Durant.
The TPS superintendent stated he has already invited Adelante,
Inc. to move its location to within such a school to build a
community partnership similar to what the school district has
done with the YMCA and Boys and Girls Clubs, which have
facilities within or attached to various TPS schools. He
explained that such “collective work” could lead to more grant
opportunities, which would further sustain and strengthen such
“I think we have an opportunity to do something big on the East
Side,” said Dr. Durant.
“We’ve had some success with some of our specialty schools. The
time is now to move forward,” echoed Vásquez.
Ramírez stated the district has identified 596 Hispanic students
who attend charter and online schools in metro Toledo. Another
861 charter school students identify themselves as
“We need your input to help create this vision to bring them
back to TPS,” said Ramírez.
There are three concepts under consideration for such an
An “immersion school” would involve either completely or
partially teaching courses in Spanish to improve a child’s
proficiency in the language and to acquire an appreciation
and understanding of the culture;
A bilingual school, where half the class is made up of
English speakers and the other half is made up of students
learning Spanish, while class time is split between the two
languages so students encourage each other to become
proficient in their bilingual skills and learn the culture;
A foreign language in elementary school (FLES) is a
content-based school where 15 to 50 percent of the subject
matter would be taught in Spanish with the goal of using
that subject content as a vehicle for acquiring foreign
language skills and appreciation of the culture.
“I think we have the capacity. We have the buildings, we have
the teachers, we have the know-how, and we have the leaders. I
think we can pull this off,” said Ramírez, who pointed out TPS
already has identified 35 teachers with bilingual skills.
TPS administrators also showed a pair of video clips of how
bilingual schools have operated in other cities, including
Dr. Caro expressed concern about how Latino culture would be
taught in such a concept school and whether it would be a
“watered down, benign, sugary kind of thing.”
“That’s why you’re here and Adelante is here—to help us teach
that culture and do it right,” responded Ramírez. “I need you to
help develop that.”
Effective communication with parents and transportation
challenges would be the biggest issues going forward among
Adelante’s client families, stated Ms. Mendoza.
“With any pilot school, you have to do it with quality in mind
and customer service,” she said.
The group seemed to advocate a school for a mix of Latino kids
and the general public in order to encourage diversity,
inclusiveness, as well as an effective educational model.
“The interaction amongst the kids is just as important in the
learning process as the teachers that you have in the classroom
and structuring those interactions between non-native speakers
and native speakers I think will be really important,” said
One of the main reasons the assembled Latino leaders voiced
their support for the idea is because many of them were actively
discouraged by school from speaking anything other than English
while growing up as a means of assimilating into the community.
“Otherwise, we’d have a lot of second-generation Latinos who are
bilingual,” said Ms. Geronimo, who took ESL classes while
attending Westfield Elementary as a child.
“It was a shame,” echoed Vásquez.
Many in the group signed up to work as a smaller committee to
develop the school concept and reach out to Spanish-speaking
families across the community.
“I agree it’s way overdue, it’s past due and I’m glad we’re
going to do it now and not look backwards,” said Pérez.
A follow-up meeting will be held at a later date to inform
parents of the concept and recruit potential students.
Spanish-language ads are planned in order to reach the necessary
families who could populate the school.