The Jefferson Parish School Board on Wednesday unanimously approved granting a $1,000 annual stipend for teachers and support staff members who speak Spanish, Vietnamese or Arabic.
Two months ago, the board approved a signing bonus of $2,000 and an annual stipend of $3,000 for bilingual teachers, but the additional $1,000 stipend approved Wednesday would be for “specific duties … (that) may include translation, attendance at school/community events, etc.”
A list of those duties and other details related to the stipends and bonuses approved in September are yet to be worked out, but the inducements will be extended to qualifying teachers who already work in the district and teach a large number of students who don’t speak English as their first language.
Board member Ella Licciardi, who proposed both measures, has said the system needs to be more competitive at recruiting and hiring bilingual teachers.
Superintendent James Meza told the board in September that the Dallas school system offers a $6,000 annual stipend.
According to a presentation to the board Wednesday by English Language Learners, the system’s program for non-English-speaking students, enrollment in the program has risen 53 percent since the 2008-09 school year, and much of that growth was in the past couple of years.
The program has 5,653 students, and the strain of not having enough bilingual staff members to meet the demand has begun to show: The percentage of its students scoring proficient or higher in English and language arts fell from 41 percent last year to 35 percent this year. Results in math, science and social studies declined as well.
Karina Castillo, the program’s executive director, told the board that ELL is embarking on a restructuring that she hopes will bring participants’ achievement up to the level of English-speaking students by 2018.
In addition to hiring more bilingual teachers, the roughly $1 million initiative would add three bilingual student support specialists, an interpreter and two social workers. The program also would open an immigrant welcome center and work more closely with students’ families.
Castillo said the goal is to have the percentage of non-English-speaking students meeting proficiency standards in state assessment tests jump from 34 percent to 71 percent, in math tests from 48 percent to 75 percent and showing at least one year of progress in English language proficiency from 46 percent to 60 percent.
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