方案批准: “Program approved.”
A Mandarin Chinese language program will be offered in the next school year at .
The school district's board of trustees Monday voted 6-0 to forge ahead with the program that will teach students the most-spoken language in the world.
It will be the first program of its kind in Orange County, with as much as 80 percent of instruction in Mandarin, and trustees said they would like to see it attract students from outside the district.
“If there was just one skill I could give to my daughters, it would be to speak Mandarin Chinese fluently,” Leland Jay of Seal Beach told the board.
He and other parent supporters later said they would be willing to drive up to an hour to get to a Mandarin Chinese immersion program. About 60 parents attended the meeting to urge support of the program.
The school district already operates an extensive at three elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools.
Currently, most of the state’s Mandarin Chinese immersion programs are in the Bay Area. Los Angeles Unified has a handful, San Diego County has one, and Orange County, despite nearly 80,000 people who identified themselves as Chinese on the 2010 census, has none.
“I’m really excited,” said Thalia Tong Mars of San Clemente, who spearheaded the effort that has already attracted 166 potential students. “It’s all about my kids. It’s all about making them a leader, giving them that competitive edge.”
Mars drives to Irvine every day so that her son can attend a Chinese preschool.
The program is set to start with a kindergarten and maybe a first grade, said Julie Hatchel, assistant superintendent of education services. The curriculum is likely to be one that a Bay Area school district developed and has used for 12 years.
The challenge will be to staff the program, Hatchel said. Currently, the state says, there are only 47 teachers in the entire state who are properly credentialed to teach in Chinese.
Vicki Soderberg, president of the teachers union, the Capistrano Unified Education Association, was the lone speaker from the audience who said she had concerns about the proposal. She said that of the 248 last year, only 120 have been rehired.
“We have loyal teachers who have taught five, six, seven years,” she said. They shouldn’t be bypassed in favor of new teachers.
Additionally, Soderberg said she worries that the school district already has its hands full with new programs for 2012-13, including a , a for students not 5 years old by Nov. 1, and a science, technology, engineering and mathematics curriculum approved at Monday’s meeting in partnership with the National Park Service.
But board members did agree with parents—decked out in red shirts and sweaters—that Mandarin Chinese is an important component to preparing 21st century learners.
Trustee John Alpay said the immersion program has been one of his top priorities since being sworn in last December.
“I’m a little disheartened by the comments of Vicki Soderberg,” Alpay said. “To quote my father-in-law, ‘Can’t never did anything.’ ” He added that one of the teachers waiting to be rehired has a credential to teach Chinese.
Marlon Woolforde, a resident of Trabuco Canyon, said that even before his daughters were born, he created a list of priorities for them. It includes such things as love, security and self-esteem. But after doing so much business in China, he has since added “Chinese literacy” to the list for his now 3-year-old and 1-year-old.
“Mandarin is not only the most prolific, most spoken language in the world, but also one of the fastest growing,” he told the board.
Trustee Anna Bryson said she traveled to China with her husband, Bill Evers, when he was assistant secretary of education in 2007 to 2009. They visited the top-performing elementary, middle and high schools in Beijing.
The competition is palpable, she said, adding that it is a matter of national security, the advancement of education and “international goodwill” that there are Americans fluent in Chinese.
Because the new school could attract students from outside Capo Unified, the district staff recommended a school near the 5 and 73 freeways be selected. The trustees chose .
Alpay and Bryson noted that students from other districts would bring money to the district, as schools are paid by students’ average daily attendance numbers.
Trustee Sue Palazzo was absent from Monday's meeting.
- City News Service contributed to this report.