Live up to ‘Welcoming City’

On more than one occasion, we have used this space to opine on the problems we see with the Nashua School District’s English Language Learner program.

Quite apparently, we are not the only ones with concerns. The U.S. Department of Justice is now conducting a formal inquiry into whether the school system is failing to meet its obligations to the students and parents the endeavor is supposed to serve.

“We have received reports that the district is failing to take appropriate action by not providing adequate language acquisition services to its English Learner students or meaningful communications to Limited English Proficiency (“LEP“) parents,” states a letter sent from the DOJ to school Superintendent Jahmal Mosley.

“Our Nashua kids have been deprived of the proper faculty and support for a long time,” Mosley told our reporter on Tuesday. “Under my administration, we have been making good strides.”

For anyone unfamiliar with this matter, students whose primary language is not English continue making their way into the Nashua School District. Although Spanish and Portuguese are the most common of their first languages, school officials confirm there are up to 50 languages other than English that students in the district speak as native tongues.

Nashua Director of Student Services and ELL Robert Cioppa said this year, the district has 27.5 teachers dedicated to these students. Last year, there were 1,346 students considered English Language Learners. That equals 49 students for every teacher.

A New Hampshire Department of Education dated May 18, 2018 states the average number of students per teacher in New Hampshire at that time was 12.6.

“We have been very transparent about the needs of our students. We’re short-staffed in terms of giving the students the amount of services they qualify for,” Cioppa told our reporter.

“The 50,000-foot view looking into this is: We need help in the funding of our public schools and this is one snap shot of many of our programs that are in need of additional funding at the state and federal levels,” Mosley added.

We don’t disagree with Mosley that the city’s school system should get more funding from both the state and federal government. However, we also believe this problem is partly the fault of city leaders.

Nearly three years ago, in September 2016, the then-members of the Board of Aldermen voted 8-7 to officially declare Nashua a “Welcoming City.”

“Nashua is committed to continue building a welcoming and neighborly atmosphere in our community, where all people including immigrant newcomers are welcome, accepted and integrated,” a portion of Nashua’s Welcoming City statement reads.

We do not believe placing immigrant children in classrooms where they outnumber their teachers by an average of 49-1 creates a very “welcoming” environment for them.