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Other Spanish-English schools in the works in Toledo

By Kevin Milliken, La Prensa Correspondent

 

Latino families may have their choice of Spanish-English schools in metro Toledo to send their kids this fall. There may be as many as two other bilingual elementary school programs in the works this summer besides one proposed by Toledo Public Schools.

 

Latino leaders and parents have been invited to a preview Sat., June 28, 2014, 1 p.m., to learn more about a proposed bilingual-bicultural (Spanish-Latino) charter school set to open this fall in the former St. Charles Catholic School, 1842 Airport Hwy, located near the intersection with S. Detroit Ave. Toledo SMART Elementary (TSE) will start with Spanish-speaking children ages kindergarten through second grade (K-2).


Linda Alvarado-Arce

 

“They will be talking to bilingual teachers, administrators and board members. The parents will be exposed to the planned curriculum and see how the school is focused on a bilingual/bicultural atmosphere,” explained Robert Torres, who has been serving as a business consultant to the school’s management company. “The parents will be introduced to taskforce committees formed in order to ensure that the students and their parents receive all the support they need to be successful during the learning process.”

 

Torres stated that Toledo SMART Elementary will serve the needs of Latino children and other students who live in a bilingual environment or would like the benefit of a bilingual learning environment. The school will cater to families in South Toledo, East Toledo, and the “community situated from Cherry Street to Laskey” Road.  School buses will pick up and drop off each student at the front door of their house. 

 

While TSE will start with K-2, long-term plans are to expand at least one grade each year and to add multiple classes for grades as the need arises. The curriculum focus will be studies in math, science, reading, language arts and will include extracurricular activities to broaden the learning experience of the student. 

 

Torres stated a parent and community outreach task force will place “special emphasis” starting this fall to “interact with the parents and their community to ensure all facets of education are being successfully applied to all students.”

 

Charter schools are public, taxpayer-funded schools that can be privately run. State law requires a charter school to have a community-based sponsor, a role being filled by the Buckeye Community Hope Foundation. Mangen and Associates, a Dayton-based financial management company that works with public and charter schools across the state, is providing technical assistance with start-up tasks for the operator of the school.

According to Torres, Mangen and Associates currently sponsors bilingual schools in Columbus and Dayton.

 

“Both have demonstrated a high level of competency and were hand-selected by the Board of Trustees,” said Torres. “The Board of Trustees consists of dedicated men and women of all nationalities that have multiple years of successful oversight of the operation of charter schools in Lucas County.”

 

A similar effort started a little over four years ago, when a group of Latino leaders formed a proposal for a bilingual charter school to serve Spanish-speaking families. The group met at the Sofia Quintero Art and Cultural Center (SQACC) and had substantive discussions, but the idea never went from drawing board to reality.

 

Several months ago, the idea resurfaced, which renewed efforts among a number of Latino activists. According to those involved, this summer’s efforts are the closest anyone’s ever come to a bilingual school coming to fruition.

 

Torres stated he’s been in discussion with several national Latino charter school programs across the country “with the goal of bringing such a program to Ohio’s Latino communities.” He explained that he researched such programs in New York, Colorado, Idaho, and Midwestern states.

 

Torres also hosted a Toledo visit last summer by Dr. Manny Rivera, a former New York Superintendent of the Year and past Deputy Secretary of Education for the state of New York “to discuss a Latino charter school in Toledo, Lorain, and/or Cleveland.” 

 

“My role in the project is that of a business consultant with the management team to ensure Latino inclusion in all facets of the operation,” said Torres. “The attraction of this relationship is that Latinos will make up the majority of the board of directors, administration, educators, and staff.”

 

To that end, Torres stated Latino board members of TSE include Lourdes Santiago and David Ibarra. There are two other board positions to be appointed.

 

Ms. Santiago and Ibarra both attended a meeting held for Latino leaders at Oakdale Elementary last month to discuss a bilingual K-2 school under consideration by Toledo Public Schools [See La Prensa, June 13, 2014, page 13]. That effort is slated for a fall start as well. Either or both schools seem to be welcome among Latino leaders who have called for years for a greater effort to address the Latino achievement gap in education, which has led to high dropout rates.

 

“I definitely think it’s time has come. We’ve tried to start it and tried to start it and I think the momentum is starting to come together, although it’s starting to flare out,” said Linda Alvarado-Arce, director of Toledo’s Board of Community Relations. “But I think all these efforts can work together.”

 

“Further adding to this challenge is the fact that the Latino community continues to be the fastest-growing population,” said Torres. “The dynamics of Toledo’s Latino community has changed as well. We have more influx of Spanish-speaking families from Central and South America today. A bilingual/bicultural school would help to transition these families and their children to their newly adopted home.”
 

But does the Toledo area have the capacity for more than one bilingual school?

 

Torres pointed out that Toledo’s Latino children already attend public, parochial, and charter schools—and each has its own niche in the community.

 

“The answer is that they each serve the need of a particular student profile whether it be religious, cultural, arts, music, and academic,” said Torres. “To date, there is no program in Toledo Public Schools that addresses the need of the bilingual/bicultural student or the educational need of students who come from a monolingual home environment. No, I don't see it as competition: rather, as a school that is filling a void in a changing academic environment.”

 

“If it’s done right, yes, because some may only be preschool,” responded Ms. Alvarado-Arce. “Some may be only birth to three, some may only be three to five, some may be kindergarten to second or elementary school. There may be another that goes through high school, so I really think it may depend on their target (of students).”

 

The Board of Community Relations director hopes all the schools have a similar curriculum, so that if Spanish-speaking families move, their children would have a seamless education. She noted that transportation for the kids will be a big issue for the families involved.

 

“I would hope they share curriculum, because that population that we try to serve doesn’t have money and is very transient,” said Ms. Alvarado-Arce. “I hope we all work together and decide who’s doing what and the curriculum can go across to all of them.”

 

Latino leaders from across Toledo have quietly been asked to support each school concept and serve on committees that will assist their formation. The unspoken fear now is whether the long-standing charter versus public school rivalry will work its way into the discussions taking place behind the scenes.

 

“I think they have the capacity to complement each other,” said Ms. Alvarado-Arce. “My hope is to work together will all of them so that can be for the good of all the people in that would go into a school. I hope it doesn’t divide the community, it doesn’t divide the people in the community. That’s why I’m hoping there’s some communication on the curriculum that stays consistent.”

 

There also is speculation within the Latino community that L. Hollingworth School for the Talented and Gifted in East Toledo may seeking to expand its curriculum to include a bilingual-bicultural component. The charter school has proven popular in recent years with Latino families for its focus and attention to Latino children. According to the K-8 charter school’s annual report, nearly 55 percent of its student population is Latino.

 

Copyright © 1989 to 2014 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 06/24/14 20:28:50 -0700.

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