Continuing to campaign for more immigrant-friendly schools in the District, parents from two community organizations, SEAMAAC and JUNTOS, traveled to Baltimore in May to see a multicultural school in action.
Six Southeast Asian and Latino parents made the trip to Wellwood International School, a public school serving students from over 30 countries, hoping to get ideas of what can be replicated in the District.
Led by the school's principal, Tricia Rueter, and the district supervisor of parent support services, parents toured the school for two hours, visiting several classes and observing English as a second language (ESL) instruction.
The ESL session was interactive and communicative, and did not rely on rote memorization, so "it was more like discussion than class," said Catharina Tjioe, a SEAMAAC member.
Parents were impressed by student class participation, teacher quality and creativity in reaching students, the school's efforts to invite parents and students to talk about their cultures and experiences, and parent involvement in the school community.
Baltimore County Public Schools provide the Parent Mobile, a learning space that offers parents information and support about earning their GEDs, improving their English, or learning parenting skills. The District has a similar resource called the Parent University, but many parents on the trip said they have never used it.
While the Parent University is not slated for elimination, impending budget cuts could affect immigrant parents' access to services, including language access programs. Zac Steele, JUNTOS community organizer, says this would be problematic, as the Latino population is the fastest growing demographic in the District.
Parents offered testimony on their visit and recommendations for change at a Family Summit for Immigrant-Friendly Schools, a public session held on May 21 at Jackson Elementary.