care packages

Monica Foster (left), a teacher at St. Joseph’s Villa, and Alberta Richards, a retired Richmond Public Schools teacher, helped compile care packages at the home of Lindsay Scott, who is also a teacher, in Glen Allen on Tuesday. A group of teachers collected various goods for children at the border; they leave Thursday for Texas to drop them off.

Hello from northern New York.

I’m visiting family in Philadelphia, New York (yes, it’s a real place). We’re going to keep this pretty quick, but there’s something I need to say.

The most-talked-about news of last week was the initial feedback to a proposal to “pair” William Fox Elementary School and John B. Cary Elementary School in Richmond. It would make both schools much more diverse (Fox is currently majority white and Cary is majority black). The vast majority of the feedback on an online feedback form in the roughly one month since the proposal’s unveiling has been against the idea.

That resulted in this story.

Since the story was published, I’ve heard from a lot of parents and teachers in the Fox and Cary communities who support the idea. That’s great. I genuinely love talking to people passionate about schools, communities and especially rezoning. I, unfortunately won’t be at a community meeting at Fox this week because, well, I’m in the superior Philadelphia. Mark Robinson will be, though, and I look forward to hearing about the meeting/your thoughts on the idea from anyone who has them.

With that said, I haven’t been able to shake something that's bothering me: a significant Richmond schools story from last week has been overshadowed by the rezoning debate.

It deserves your attention.

Students learning English have been in classrooms with overwhelmed ESL teachers because the district didn’t properly count them. Counting. That error caused the district to miss out on hundreds of thousands of dollars it could have had to hire more teachers trained at helping these students - many of whom are new to the country and our schools.

Instead, they were in classes with as many as 40 students, according to one teacher. Yet we wonder why nearly 3 in 5 ESL students in the city drop out of school. The population’s 41% graduation rate for the class of 2018 was 32 percentage points below the state average for English learners and 51 percentage points below the state average for all students.

We can do better. It shouldn’t sit well with people that these students were getting an inferior education because of an administrative error.

So, let’s talk about that, too.

Question of the week: How can school districts better serve ESL students?

(ABOVE PHOTO BY DANIEL MIN/TIMES-DISPATCH: Monica Foster (left), a teacher at St. Joseph’s Villa, and Alberta Richards, a retired Richmond Public Schools teacher, helped compile care packages at the home of Lindsay Scott, who is also a teacher, in Glen Allen. A group of teachers collected various goods for children at the border; they leave Thursday for Texas to drop them off.)

jmattingly@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6012

Twitter: @jmattingly306

Education Reporter

Justin Mattingly covers K-12 schools and higher education. A northern New York native and a Syracuse University alumnus, he's worked at the RTD since 2017. You can follow him on Twitter at @jmattingly306.

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