Two Spanish instructors in District 97’s foreign language program will not return to the classroom this fall because they will not be certified by the time classes start in August.

That was the decision handed down recently by Dist. 97 administration to two instructors in the FLES (Foreign Language in the Elementary Schools) program.

Maria Mejicanos, a Spanish instructor at Longfellow Elementary School, 715 S. Highland, and Patty Garcia, a Spanish instructor at Irving Elementary School, 1125 S. Cuyler, had been seeking full certification.

Instructors in the program who were working toward their degrees, or with a teaching certificate, had until the end of the current school year to receive their full certification, according to the teacher’s three-year contract.

Administrators said the teacher’s union is unwilling to reopen the current contract. The union has also stated that teachers in the classroom must be certified.

At the Feb. 28 Dist. 97 Board of Education meeting, parents in support of both FLES instructors spoke during public comments and asked administration to consider extending the deadline or dropping the certification requirement outright.

Certification requirements are handed down by the state and federal governments.

Arlene Pedraza, a parent of two students at Longfellow, said the district’s decision in not retaining Mejicanos would have a negative impact on the program.

Kim Alomar, an Irving parent and a language arts teacher with the Chicago Public Schools, said the district couldn’t afford to lose good instructors.

“As a teacher, I know how hard it is to bring in good teachers,” she said.

Irving parent Margaret Boyter-Escalona said of Garcia, “Finding a replacement for Ms. Garcia will be difficult.”

When the FLES program began in the 1990s, district officials at the time decided to let instructors teach without being certified, partly because they felt it would be difficult to hire bilingual instructors, according to current administration.

According to language in the current three-year contract, non-certified FLES teachers must have their certification by the 2007-2008 school year. The contract ends at the end of the current school year.

-Terry Dean

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