Early last year, OPAL Board Members were told about the possible expansion of the TWI program, and tonight we anticipate the District Board voting to convert Bessie Rhodes (currently a language magnet) into a TWI school.
While OPAL is not opposed to TWI, we have several concerns regarding this proposed expansion and the District's slow progress on the achievement of Black students.
District administrators have made the case that TWI is a program that is beneficial for both native and non-native Spanish speakers. How will the TWI expansion further segregate our District? It is not OPAL's position that staff should launch into a massive Black student recruitment for the TWI program, given our current bused integration model. Black students already bear the burden of diversifying our schools.
The TWI expansion will send the District out seeking qualified bilingual teachers to fill the classes for several years to come. This undertaking will presumably require the District to be creative in its recruitment efforts, while OPAL remains frustrated that efforts to increase Black teachers (a request we have made for over two years) has led to the hiring of only 5 Black teachers. How will the District's Human Resources meet the needs of a diversified work force at Bessie Rhodes when there has been no concrete plan on diversified staff District-wide?
3. Culturally Relevant Curriculum
With the departure of Principal Hunter, OPAL has heard little to no mention of the District's goal to implement culturally relevant curriculum at all schools, which has been requested for years. Despite our request, the work of an organized parent group, and the commitment of administrators, the District has seemingly spent the year working to implement the TWI expansion, while ignoring the need of all students to see and learn the contributions (and life experience) of their ethnicity in the classroom. There has been talk of incorporating African-Latino curriculum into the TWI program, though noteworthy, this is a far from the District-wide integration of true culturally relevant curriculum. In addition, what type of support is the African-Centered Curriculum (ACC) program receiving? Will the District actively recruit students for that resource-starved program as it plans to do for TWI?
To reiterate, OPAL is not opposed to the expansion of TWI.
- Our concerns are with the time and resources that have gone in to this expansion while the achievement gap widens.
- Our concern is that the TWI expansion appears to be moving full steam ahead despite parent and community objection.
- Our concerns center on a District that appears to move with great urgency for some, while sending others to taskforce, consultant, and analysis; often still with no recognizable gains.
Bessie Rhodes parents, we share your frustration and encourage you to continue advocating for your students.