Woodland, Calif: Staff trying to get important papers to parents who can't read English

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Mon Oct 1 13:23:50 UTC 2007

Spanish records slow in coming
Staff trying to get important papers to parents who can't read English
By JIM SMITH/Democrat Staff Writer
Daily Democrat
09/30/2007 07:53:57 AM PDT

"When 15 percent or more of the student population at the school site
speak a single primary language other than English, all notices,
reports, statements, or records sent to the parent or guardian of any
such pupil by the school or school district are, in addition to being
written in English, written in the primary languages."
So goes the policy of the Woodland Unified School District.

Who is involved

Students speaking Spanish as a second language make up nearly 93
percent of the district's population. However, Punjabi-speaking
students are at 4 percent. The district is trying to work with both
ethnicities to ensure important information reaches parents. But
implementing and carrying out that policy is proving difficult,
according to a presentation made to trustees Thursday. It probably
wouldn't surprise anyone in Woodland that more students speak Spanish
as a second language than any other. District records show that 3,083
students, or 93 percent, speak Spanish as a second language.

Under district policy, if the district learns the parents of those
multi-language students can't speak English, then it needs to make
sure information sent home with students is written so it can be read.
In short, newsletters and notices sent home are translated from
English into the appropriate second language. Making a report to
trustees, Elodia Lampkin, director of English Learner Services,
indicated the district is making strides in serving students and their
parents, but huge challenges remain.

Lampkin said bilingual staff are available at most school sites and
that 11 principals and five vice principals have bilingual speaking
skills. Additionally, translations and translators are provided for
parent meetings and a number of staff receptionists and secretaries
speak Spanish. However, the problems continue primarily due to
insufficient funding and poor quality of service. As Superintendent
Jacki Cottingim said, "It's not just a matter of people who can speak,
but there is a real need for high-quality translation of complicated
documents," such as legal announcements and building specifications.

Lampkin said not every school is consistently following the
translation requirements in the state's education code. Additionally,
there are not enough staff to meet all translation needs and
translations into certain languages are often difficult to come by,
she said.
One such language is Punjabi. Behind Spanish, Punjabi is becoming the
second most common non-English language spoken districtwide,
particularly at Pioneer High School, Lampkin said. Across the
district, 136 students - or around 4 percent - speak Punjabi.
According to the district's annual Language Census, completed earlier
this year, Woodland Prairie has 22 students who speak Punjabi while
Ramon Tafoya Elementary School has 25 students, the same number as
Pioneer High School. Woodland High has seven students who speak
Punjabi. If those numbers continue climbing, then the district will
have to offer more formalized translation services to those students
and their families.

That will be even more of a challenge, Lampkin said, not just in terms
of paperwork but culturally as well. Lampkin said she made a mistake
recently when scheduling a meeting with Punjabi-speaking students and
their parents, unknowingly doing so on a religious holiday those
families observe.

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