By Charly SHELTON
The International Studies Language Academy (ISLA) charter school petition was brought before the Glendale Unified School District last year and met by much debate from the public both in favor of and opposition to the program. Proponents wanted a separate school to expand the existing Foreign Language Academies of Glendale (FLAG) program established at 18 schools around the district, which immerses students in foreign language in elementary, middle and high schools.
Detractors thought it was redundant and would dilute the experience of existing FLAG students by spreading resources across too many separate projects.
The charter petition was ultimately denied by the GUSD Board of Education and the appeal was denied support by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
This monthslong process has been stressful and time consuming for all involved.
But at the recent GUSD Board of Education meeting, there was a message of positivity and gratitude for the FLAG program. Mitsuko Roberts, one of the founding parents of the Japanese dual language program at Verdugo Woodlands Elementary School, addressed the board to express the thanks and support from the parents club of the program.
“Your commitment to and strong advocacy for the children in this growing program is essential and we, the parents, thank every one of you for your dedication to the excellence in this program,” Roberts said. “We have full trust in the competency of the district administrators as well as you, the board of education, to make this plan a reality.”
The plan Roberts referred to is one of opportunity. If the opportunity to hire more qualified teachers is presented, the plan would be to expand the FLAG program to an additional 20 programs throughout the district, pushing more into the middle school and high school levels as well. One of the proposed language immersion program objectives is to teach not only the target language as part of the FLAG but to teach a content area class – a class that all students would take anyway such as history or science – in the target language.
“It was an inspired idea when you first started it and through your continuing support, it has enriched our children and drawn the best and most dedicated families to live, work and study in Glendale,” Roberts said.
GUSD Board of Education President Christine Walters said that the board is very pleased with Roberts’ response to the program. She added, however, that the problem with implementing an expanded plan is finding the teachers who have “both the California credential and the academic language proficiency to teach the content in the target language,” according to the presentation on the FLAG program made at the board meeting.
“We continue to be very excited by the success of the FLAG programs and the ongoing demand for these classes,” Walters said. “The biggest challenge we face is finding teachers who not only are bi-literate but also have the appropriate California teaching credential for the grade or subject they are teaching. So our only plans for expansion currently are to support these language programs as our students progress through middle and high school. Our students are having success in both English and their target language, so we are definitely committed to continuing these programs.”