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28414: Hermantin(News)Parents' votes are tallied on language plan (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

Posted on Sun, May. 07, 2006

Parents' votes are tallied on language plan
A community survey showed that parents wanted Spanish and French over Haitian Creole as part of a proposed language program at a Little Haiti elementary school.

A survey seeking input on controversial curriculum changes at a Little Haiti school shows that local parents prefer Spanish and French over Haitian Creole for a proposed language program.

The surveys were publicly tallied Thursday at Morningside Elementary.

As part of an effort to improve the C-ranked school, Miami-Dade school officials sent out surveys to parents who had children enrolled there, as well as to those who lived in the area but didn't have children in the school. Faculty members were also surveyed.

The curriculum proposal has ignited tension and suspicion between a handful of Little Haiti leaders and Upper Eastside parents pushing for changes at Morningside, whose student body is predominantly of Haitian descent. Members of both sides have also questioned whether a full-immersion language program will improve test scores.

''This is what the community has asked for,'' Daniel Tosado, an associate superintendent for Miami-Dade schools, said after the public tallying. ``I think we have the capacity to build an excellent program around these elements.''

About 500 students attend Morningside, at 6620 NE Fifth Ave. Neighborhoods served by the school include Morningside, Little Haiti and Palm Grove.

According to the counted ballots, 167 voters want to see Spanish and French as full-immersion languages during the week, and Creole for a Saturday academy; 114 voters want Creole and Spanish as the languages, and French for Saturday; and 54 requested French and Creole for the curriculum, and Spanish for Saturday.

Fifty-three votes were deemed ''undetermined'' because the directions weren't followed, or it was unclear which of the three languages the voter wanted. A few ballots were not completed.

Now, Tosado said, he hopes the community will reach a consensus on the languages at a forthcoming meeting. If not, he said, the school district will make a recommendation to the school board.

Upper Eastside parents applauded the outcome.

''[French and Spanish] have been taught in schools for years,'' Anne Mensch Raval said after the results were announced, pushing her

10-week-old son in a stroller. ``I hope we can move forward and finish this, because it's been so controversial.''

Gepsie Metellus, a Haitian community leader who has followed the school's efforts, said: ''I think the survey was confusing as evidenced by the 50-plus surveys that were unclear,'' she said. ``All we can do is be cautiously optimistic so that we can proceed with the children's best interests at heart.''

Recently released reading and math scores for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test showed steady improvement at Morningside.

Sixty percent of the third-graders passed the state's reading exam, compared to 37 percent last year and 38 percent in 2004. Twenty-three percent failed the exam this year, compared to 37 percent last year and 48 percent the previous year.

Fifty-eight percent of third-graders passed the math exam this year, compared to 46 percent in 2005 and 37 percent the previous year. Twenty-three percent failed, compared to 27 percent last year and 42 percent in 2004.