Montgomery ISD dual language program consolidation proposal gets parent pushback for 'segregation'

Montgomery ISD is considering consolidating its dual language program to one campus, intended to give more support to the program's teachers, consolidate bus routes and trim from the budget.

The proposal is being considered following MISD's projections for a $4.4 million budget shortfall for the 2019-20 school year—but if the consolidation moves forward, it would begin during the 2020-21 school year, officials said.

"I do believe the move is vital to the continuance of the program [and] looking at a balanced budget," MISD Superintendent Beau Rees said at a June 25 board meeting.

The decision to wait another year comes after pushback from concerned parents who allege the consolidation is similar to segregation.

The district is planning a Sept. 4 public meeting at the MISD Education Support Center building at 20774 Eva St., Montgomery, to hear from parents.

Currently, the kindergarten through fifth grade dual language program is offered at Stewart Creek Elementary and Lincoln Elementary schools. The new proposal would be to offer dual language only at Montgomery Elementary School, busing all the dual language students there.

About one-third of the students in the program are primarily English language speakers who want to learn Spanish, officials said. Officials said it would be a dual language school within a school and would help consolidate bus routes to one point of drop-off and pickup.

Christina Guessagba Sato is a mother of three elementary school students enrolled at Stewart Creek in first, second and fifth grades.

"After relocating back home to Montgomery after many years in Europe, our children have benefited both academically and socially while facing a difficult transition period with both language barriers and sadly, blatant racism," Sato said in an email. "Administrators had decided to move 100% of DLP students, faculty and staff—which constitutes the majority of the already small population of ethnic students and staff at the SCE and LES campuses—creating a relocation that impacts more than 200 families."

She said the way this situation is being handled is disappointing and creates a concern for a lack of transparency between the administration and community members.

"While we realize the district is working at a large deficit and squeezing expenses, this should not come at the cost of racially cleansing two campuses of the minority student and faculty population and relocating them under one roof," Sato said in an email. "This kind of segregation is not acceptable."

Sato wrote a letter to district officials that said students read a letter finding out they would have to leave their schools on the bus ride home, arriving home in tears.

In the letter, Sato said the cultural ramifications of the consolidation would "essentially racially cleans[e] two elementary schools of most of the minority population among students and staff, ... segregat[ing] a majority of Title I and Hispanic students to one campus and creating a significant demographic disparity between MES, SCE and LES for years to come."

MISD board trustees asked the staff about the parents' concerns at the June 25 board meeting.

"All the parents are looking for answers right now, and the general consensus should be—the district is aware of your concerns, and we're going to meet with you in September," board Vice President Adam Simmons said.

MISD Director of Special Programs Jada Mullins on June 25 said Lincoln Elementary has 140 Spanish-speaking students, 68 of whom are enrolled in the dual language program, and Stewart Creek has 200 Spanish-speaking students with 58 enrolled in the program.

"The diversity of Stewart Creek and Lincoln does not lie solely in the dual language program," Mullins said. "I believe wholeheartedly to consolidate and grow it on one campus is going to improve it long-term and for the continuity of the program being used and rolled out consistently and effectively in all the classrooms."

After the meeting, Mullins said in an email the intention of the parent meeting is to provide information, answer questions and consider all aspects before making a change to the program's location.

"I believe having the program consolidated at one campus will result in our program having more fidelity, but I do realize there are many things to consider and decide on how to handle before we move forward with the change," Mullins said in the email. "I truly feel that consolidation will help to strengthen the program and allow teachers and students more support and just more capacity as a dual language family. Any time there is a big change such as this one, there are always growing pains and a lot of logistics to consider."
By Jules Rogers
Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Jules Rogers has been covering community journalism and urban trade news since 2014. She moved to Houston in June 2018 to become an editor with Community Impact Newspaper after four years of reporting for various newspapers affiliated with the Portland Tribune in Oregon, including two years at the Portland Business Tribune. Before that, Jules spent time reporting for the Grants Pass Daily Courier in Southern Oregon. Her favorite beats to cover are business, economic development and urban planning.


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