By Charly SHELTON
At last week’s Glendale Unified School District Board of Education meeting, a hot topic of discussion once again was the adoption of new Spanish textbooks. The much debated book, ¡Qué chévere! by EMC Publishing, was adopted last June, much to the chagrin of Spanish teacher Laura Rivera of Rosemont Middle School and a local parent group that are opposed to the textbook. They have cited concerns over the portrayal of Hispanic life, foods and cultural values, as well as inappropriate material for the age level.
“I’m really happy to hear how qualified our Spanish teachers are and I will tell you that these books are going to betray them,” said Lupe Vancurren, representing a group of parents from La Crescenta and Montrose.
Vancurren then held up two images of a man holding a gun, saying, “These are some of the contents that the kids are going to be checking on the website or going to be viewing. I have protected my kids for so long and I don’t want this book to disturb them or anything.”
Other speakers were in attendance at the meeting to speak in favor of the textbook adoption, agreeing with the GUSD committee that was formed earlier this year to select a textbook for the Spanish curriculum. Upon further review of the book after the issues raised by the dissenters, Victoria Marcucci, AP Spanish teacher at Clark Magnet High, still finds ¡Qué chévere! to be a good choice.
“When [the Spanish teachers] were made aware that some were offended by the textbook, that they felt that there were racist overtures, we took it seriously … We spent our summer vacation addressing these concerns that one teacher and some parents presented in a previous board meeting,” Marcucci said. “We found that the points presented [by the previous group] would definitely appear shallow or offensive the way they were presented to us. We discovered to our shock that these examples were taken out of context or that they were translated incorrectly. Time after time, if one looks at the rest of the page or even the previous page, evidence is there to provide context and meaning where it is clear that it isn’t derogatory.”
The board had scheduled this to be an informational item at the meeting to gather information on the process that had brought ¡Qué chévere! to the approval stage. Dr. Kelley King and Dr. Jacqueline Perez gave a presentation on the current state of textbook approval and adoption, as well as a suggested way to improve it.
Currently, the process begins with an informational item for a committee of teachers to consider, then review how to determine what they’re looking for in selecting a good textbook. Then they develop a rubric to suit those needs, then compare the material with the rubric before the materials are narrowed down for a pilot program to test out with students in the classroom. If the book is for elementary school, the teachers make recommendations to principals and if it’s for secondary, the recommendation is made to a committee which reviews it and does interviews with students before it goes to principals. The principals then take it to GUSD as an informational item, and then it is opened up for public review, and then voted on as an action.
The suggested improvement would be to move the public review phase earlier, before the pilot program. This would include more parents, students and community members in an earlier stage and hopefully prevent an eleventh hour reconsideration like this in the future.
“I think the idea of having community involvement earlier in the process is definitely the direction we need to move into,” said Boardmember Jennifer Freemon.