Daily Pilot

Tuesday, July 7, 1998

School District Pushes Forward with Revamped Bilingual Program
Board will evaluate current policies and consider changes that comply with Proposition 227.

NEWPORT-MESA -- Local school officials are moving ahead with plans to implement Proposition 227, even though its fate hangs in limbo.
      At its July 14 meeting -- the day before a San Francisco judge will hear arguments against implementing Proposition 227, which abolished bilingual education -- the Newport-Mesa school board will revisit the bilingual debate, evaluating its current policies and determining what changes should be made before September.
      "We were working toward that goal anyway," said school board President Jim Ferryman. "We want to see how we can prepare our teachers for any changes that need to be made."
      Even before the June 2 election, when California voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 227, the Newport-Mesa school board revamped its bilingual programs to accelerate student transition from bilingual to English classes. But the ballot measure's passage will force the district to eliminate a primary-language-instruction component included in the revamped version.
      Ferryman said the school district is increasing the number of mentor teachers to help with the implementation of the new program and help new teachers who will be hired to replace about 100 retiring instructors.
      While other districts in the state are threatening to ignore the initiative, county officials said Orange County school districts are "making a good-faith effort" to comply with Proposition 227 while urging the state Board of Education to grant them leniency in implementing its requirements.
      "The main concern I'm hearing is that districts want a little flexibility for kids who may need more than just one year of English immersion," said Ronald Wenkart, general counsel for the Orange County Department of Education. "All the districts seem to feel a little overwhelmed by having to implement this huge change so soon."
      Wenkart said the state board seems sympathetic to the districts' request for leniency in implementing program changes and could enact emergency regulations granting districts flexibility for students who need more than a year of support in their primary language.
      Barring a successful court challenge, the provisions of Proposition 227 should be enacted by Aug. 1.