Advocates for English language learners (ELLs) say they are pleased that the School District has honored a commitment to expand the number of bilingual counseling assistants (BCAs) who provide interpretation services for non-English-speaking parents. Now they are trying to make sure the new staff is used effectively.
Latino parents in South Philadelphia, working through the organization JUNTOS/Casa de los Soles, got a signed agreement from District officials last fall that there would be more bilingual staff placed in schools as well as regular meetings and reports addressing the quality of services to ELL families.
“They [District officials] have partially completed their half of the deal,” Nebinger parent and JUNTOS leader Irma Zamora said. “The BCAs are just starting. We are completing our part as parents by letting the BCAs know what we would like to see.”
JUNTOS parents have been meeting to discuss their expectations for the BCAs and ideas for their professional development. They are expecting the District to convene regional meetings this spring to give families an opportunity to provide input on the District’s services for English language learners.
Hiring by the District this school year brought the total number of BCA positions in the District to over 100, adding more than a dozen new Spanish-speaking staff citywide. Each BCA typically covers two or more schools. The staff expansion means that a number of schools in South Philadelphia with large immigrant populations that used to have Spanish translation services available only one day per week now have BCAs three days per week.