Report addresses needs of ELL students
By David Luessen
The Jamestown Sun
Jamestown Public Schools Superintendent Robert Lech identified English Language Learner (ELL) students as a group whose needs will have to be addressed in the near future in his annual report to the School Board.
In the annual report compiled by Lech, his assistant and the school’s business staff, Lech said he plans to make a formal presentation and recommendation to the board in the coming months. The superintendent said the district is currently meeting the needs of those students, but as the school looks to grow those needs will change.
“We’re able to work with the situation right now because we don’t have very many kids,” Lech said. “As demographics change that’s going to increase and we don’t have the capacity right now to increase our staff or to increase the amount of kids we service, so we either have to add staff or increase efficiency. I want to increase efficiency rather than add staff.”
JPS currently has 11 ELL students — five in three elementary schools, three in middle school and three at the high school — and 20 percent of full-time equivalent staff time (essentially one full-time day of one staff member) is specifically devoted to ELL. In his report, Lech suggested moving the elementary students to one school, and providing training and support for a present staff member at that school to take on the additional responsibility of ELL plan management for those students. The current 20 percent full-time equivalent staff time would then be utilized to focus on students at the middle and high schools.
“With only one staff member and students at multiple levels and schools, our time is spent traveling as much as servicing students. This is a very inefficient system for program delivery,” Lech said in his report.
On Tuesday Lech said students who speak English as a first language may also be categorized as ELL. In families where English is the second language, he said it’s not uncommon for the ELL student to translate for other members of the family.
Stutsman County Social Services Director Sandy Bendewald said those lacking skills in English will often bring their own translator to the social services office, usually in the form of a family or community member. If a client does not have a translator, the agency will contact other agencies, other counties, the University of Jamestown or a special phone service in search of someone who can bridge the communication gap.
“It’s not something you can really prepare for because you don’t know whether it’s going to be today, or tomorrow, or the next day, so you can’t have someone available every moment who speaks all different kinds of languages,” Bendewald said. “We know that we have to provide services and we want to provide services to non-English speaking people, and we know that we are going to have to use our resources to make that happen. ... We’ve talked about it to the county that it may be an issue and it may be an increasing issue.”
The Jamestown Public School Board accepted a recommended calendar for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years on Monday. The 2015-16 calendar has two versions, one based on whether a state ballot initiative calling for a post-Labor Day start is passed by voters this fall.
In his annual report, Lech said the school’s calendar committee did an “excellent job” at looking at all of the factors that go into making an appropriate calendar for the school and community for both school years, and he felt comfortable with what the committee brought forward.
“I think it’s critical when you look at what’s happening in our state right now with a potential initiated measure for a post-Labor Day start. When people look to vote ‘yes’ on the initiated measure they can do that in an educated way,” Lech said.
The calendars can be found online at: http://www.jamestown. k12.nd.us/districtcalendar/jps-2014-2015-calendar-recommended/
Sun reporter David Luessen can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org