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How Immigration Has Affected Monett School District (part 1)

(sounds of school hallway) It’s 2:45pm and school is out for the day at Monett Intermediate School, which houses 4th through 6th graders in the Monett, Missouri school district. Principal Peg Bryan is in the hall saying goodbye to the kids, getting them on the busses or to their parents’ cars. It’s not until you really think about it that you’re struck by the sheer diversity of kids running through the halls. And this isn’t some urban school in a big city--this is Monett, Missouri, population 7400 give or take. But this diversity is something the kids--and the faculty and administrators serving them--just take for granted, says Monett School superintendent Dr. John Jungmann.DR. JOHN JUNGMANN: It’s not a new trend in Monett--I want to say, probably 15 years. I’m in my seventh year here, and I know it existed in the early 90s. It’s not new for us; we’ve grown accustomed to it, and it’s just how we do business. We know that we’re going to have those students that come from out of the country, or parents that moved here. And we are challenged by them--but we also see it as a great opportunity to make us better teachers, and for the students that aren’t “English Language Learners” to grow up in a diverse community that will help them perform better in their futures. It’s provided some challenges, but it’s provided some great opportunities. We love having them.RANDY: There is a large Hispanic population in the Monett area, people who have come primarily from Mexico to work in the numerous industries based in Monett. And that’s reflected in the large percentage of students in the Monett school district for whom English is decidedly a second language. They are what Dr. Jungmann calls “English Language Learners.”JUNGMANN: We have about 20% of our student population that has English as a second language. They are at all different levels, whether it’s a preschooler or a 12th grader that may have English as a second language--obviously wide variables of needs when it comes to that. But that equals just over 400 kids, so that’s a lot of kids that have needs to be addressed.RANDY: And, in fact, not just Spanish speakers.JUNGMANN: We do have five other languages spoken in the district--not in near the numbers, but that 440 students that are in the English Language Learner program includes five other languages--probably no more than 10 or 12 kids, but it’s not just Hispanic students.RANDY: The English Language Learners program Dr. Jungmann mentioned is a service the district is required by law to provide for immigrant students. JUNGMANN: By law we’re required to have a program for English language learners, or students that have English as a second language. We do a lot of different things, from hiring teachers… we also get into a lot of other components that we do. But the biggest thing we do is, we just need to have a program to address the needs as they come into school, and don’t have English skills.RANDY: How does that rank with other school districts in the area?JUNGMANN: Probably one of the largest, percentage-wise. We have about 26 to 27 percent of Hispanic students, which is one of the highest percentages. There are a few other small schools that have a larger percentage, but raw numbers-wise, that’s a big number also.RANDY: Just to clarify, that 26 to 27% figure represents all Hispanic students In the Monett district, not just the ones in the English Language Learners program.JUNGMANN: I know right next door, Verona has a higher percentage; it’s a small rural school district, but they have a higher percentage. Carthage and McDonald County both are larger than us and they have similar percentages of English Language Learners, and maybe even higher percentages in some isolated schools.RANDY: You look at Springfield or Nixa, and it’s barely 1 or 2 percent.JUNGMANN: Right. Raw numbers? We may have more raw numbers than those big huge districts, of English Language Learners.RANDY: Now, is that pretty evenly spread from K through 12?JUNGMANN: It’s more at the elementary levels, because as kids gain those skills they can advance out of the program. Once they advance in the secondary levels, if they are proficient then they can move right out and we don’t serve them anymore. There’s just a higher concentration of numbers at the lower levels because of that. RANDY: The Monett school district has had to hire teachers and paraprofessional support staff specifically to work with the English Language Learners.JUNGMANN: When we have students that have those needs, it takes more time and more support. So the biggest thing is, how do we provide that time and support? Extra staff is needed, whether that be a certified teacher of English Language Learners--we always look for teachers that have that background, that can really add to our instructional base basically; also additional paraprofessionals to help with that. It also provides afterschool tutoring--all of those kind of components. We do that for all students, but we also have some very focused things for those students that need specific skills in English.