To the editor:
Certain aspects of the Bainbridge Island School District’s Spanish Immersion pilot program are concerning. They are:
Start-up: Ignoring its own policies on potential new curricula, the school district failed to publicize Spanish Immersion, reach out to “a diverse demographic” for student enrollment, and document “sufficient initial interest and commitment to the proposed program by enough students and parents.”
Funding: Donations designated for Spanish Immersion totaling at least $10,000 from three families were made to the Bainbridge Schools Foundation. The district quietly accepted this money at their June 14, 2012 board meeting hidden in a lump sum $373,743 donation from the Bainbridge Schools Foundation “to support staffing, STEM and teacher training.” The quiet collusion between the foundation and school district raises serious ethical questions. In response, my family plans to discontinue our donations to the foundation until the school district and the foundation formalize transparency of donations.
Staffing: Spanish Immersion donations funded a teacher’s aide in the 28-student classroom. This is an inequity that wouldn’t be allowed elsewhere. Under scrutiny, the district renamed this teacher’s aide a “language consultant” and stated that the position will not be in next year’s program. An obvious reason for this is funding. Another reason could be that the aide is the daughter of the (now retired) Commodore Options School principal who started the Spanish Immersion program and adds a hint of nepotism to the situation.
Planning: The district has not shared a long term plan for the Spanish Immersion program. By contrast, when Bremerton started their program they started with kindergarteners only and a plan to expand up a grade every year to eighth grade.
Future Enrollment: The district skirted gift policy rules by slushing Spanish Immersion donations through the foundation and then placing three children from one donating family in the Spanish Immersion classroom. Are classrooms suddenly for sale? In addition to ceasing the use of the foundation to avoid compliance with the gift policy, the district should start over and have a public lottery for those students interested in next year’s program.
K-4 Foreign Language: The 28 Spanish Immersion students are 2.25 percent of the total K-4 enrollment in the school district. Why were the vast majority of young students provided nothing? Prior to creating in-depth instruction to a few, the district should have publicly reviewed foreign language opportunities for all K-4 students.
Instead of being open about their intentions and avoiding backlash, the district created Spanish Immersion with a lack of communication, financial transparency, and due process. The district and the foundation should be held accountable for these shortcomings and work to earn the public trust once more.