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Split U-46 vote expands dual language program


By Seth Hancock
  The Board of Education in School District U-46 approved an expansion of the dual language program to the ninth grade level despite a tacit admission from the administration that they will be using biased resources in the classroom at its meeting on Monday, May 7.
  The board voted 4-2, board members Phil Costello and Jeanette Ward voting no, on the curriculum framework and resources for 10 ninth grade dual language classrooms for the Spanish language.
  The resources include 54 individual titles (essays, biographies, chapter books, novels, short stories) at a cost of $77,811. Other online resources to be used include Study Sync and Newsela (Spanish).
  Ward has opposed the dual language program consistently stating it “prolongs dependence on Spanish,” and she also had issues with the theme of the class which will be “Advocacy and Leadership” according to the presentation which also stated it wants to create students who “lead and advocate for meaningful causes.”
  “First and foremost, it is not the role of public education to create activists as is the stated goal of this curriculum proposal,” Ward said. “Secondly, I’ve spoken about my opposition to the dual language program previously. I have no problem with students learning other languages, but I believe the dual language program prolongs dependence on Spanish.”
  Ward also called the online resources, Study Sync and Newsela, a “treasure trove of biased information,” and she cited examples. She said there are one-sided lessons and articles concerning man-made global warming theories as well as articles that were “decidedly anti-(President Donald) Trump.”
  One lesson also presents a video pushing one-sided views on climate change which has been debunked according to Ward.
  “This does not teach students how to think, it teaches students what to think,” Ward said.
  Costello said “I don’t think this is a surprise to anyone,” referring to Ward’s objections as she has been opposed to resource and curriculum adoptions in the past for their one-sided lessons, and Costello asked the administration to address those concerns and if or how the resources present a “balanced approach.”
  Annette Acevedo, director of English Language Learners, did not deny that the resources were partisan and biased but said students can look for other resources on their own.
  “My response would be that the resources outlined are just exactly that, resources,” Acevedo said. “And when we talk about advocacy and leadership… we want students to have the opportunity to research a broad range of topics and present differing viewpoints.”
  Acevedo said students would “have an opportunity to look at alternate opinions as well,” but that would be done on their own.
  “Unless I’ve missed it in the list of resources, there aren’t resources that present the opposing views,” Ward said.
  “Students will have access to looking at other resources on the internet for instance,” Acevedo responded. “Their job is to research other resources.”
  “Well, it sounds like you’re saying they can research those things on their own, which I agree and I help my own daughters do that, but that opposing views to these types of views is not presented,” Ward replied.
  Acevedo did not respond.
  Board member Melissa Owens asked: “Teachers have the ability to find alternate resources as well, correct?”
  Acevedo said “correct,” and Owens said “exactly.”
  The board also approved, by a 6-0 vote, the purchase of property at 1019 E. Chicago St. in Elgin which will cost around $4 million, coming from the education fund. The district also estimates an additional $4 million in renovation costs.
  The proposal states the district plans to move the “welcome center/testing facility” from the central office to this building, and additional space could be “used for preschool classrooms or other purposes.”
  The proposal also states the district will be able to divert “some of the transportation buses down to that facility” eliminating some of its need to shuttle employees which the administration says will save the district an estimated $1 million a year.
  Prior to the meeting, Ward noted that the property is being sold “as is” and confirmed that the building has been inspected and asked if the district is “aware of any remediation” that will be needed. In a memo to the board, the district replied: “Yes, we have been through the site on multiple occasions and we have a good idea of what to  expect as we proceed with the purchase.”
  Also unanimously approved that evening were seven additional expenditure proposals costing $1.5 million as well as $8.8 million in itemized bills.
  Costello asked prior to the meeting for details concerning several lines in the itemized bills.
  There was a $4,246 expense to the Kane County Regional Office for Educator of the Year tickets. The district said: “This was to purchase 135 tickets for the Educator of the Year event held by the Regional Office of Education.”
  There was a $4,800 expense to Robert J. Gartner. The district responded: “This vendor evaluates our phone bills and has saved us in excess of $100,000 in the past year in phone charges and locating phone lines that could be eliminated in order to save additional funds.”
  There was a $97,753 expense line to Franczek Radelet, the district’s outside legal counsel. The firm worked on several cases concerning general school law, general labor and employment, construction liens, real estate transactions, real estate tax objections and construction easements, according to the administration.

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