The Journal first learned that some Cobb district staff were talking about a dual-language program at the Title 1 school in Smyrna from a district executive not too keen on the idea.
News editor Kim Isaza spoke to Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa Wednesday afternoon and he confirmed the rumor, though he was only able to discuss it on the phone for about five minutes, due to his very busy schedule.
“The principal at Belmont Hills is considering dual language. She’s mentioned it to her supervisor, but there’s been no authorization for her to proceed,” Hinojosa said. Terry Floyd has been the principal at Belmont Hills since at least 2007.
The Superintendent couldn’t recall when he had first heard of the idea, though he said it had been since Jan. 1.
What exactly does dual language mean? We heard students would get their lessons in Spanish for half the day, and lessons in English the other half.
“There are different models of dual language,” Hinojosa said. Principal Floyd, he said, was “going to do some research and was supposed to bring something back to the central office.”
Hinojosa does have some experience with dual language schools in Dallas, Texas, where he was previously the superintendent.
Do parents have any say in the matter?
“Oh yes,” he said. “These are schools of choice. I’ve seen it work very well in certain instances. I’ve seen the bilingual program fail, and others fail when they did not learn English and have command of English. English is the language of commerce, and students have to learn English.”
Hinojosa said Belmont Hills was the only Cobb school he knew of that was interested in dual language, though our district executive source said he had reason to believe Hinojosa was interested in expanding it to other schools.
Belmont Hills is a kindergarten through fifth grade school, though it enrolls fewer than 500 students, Hinojosa said. The school has a high number of non-English speaking students, he said.
“It’s 90 percent Hispanic,” Hinojosa said. “The language is up to them, but obviously it would be Spanish. That’s their native language.”
(Incidentally, that’s not exactly what the district reported to state officials just a few months ago. According to student demographic data reported on Oct. 4, Belmont Hills’ student body was 60 percent Hispanic, 30 percent black, 7 percent white and 3 percent “other.”)
And the story changed dramatically by Thursday morning, when the district’s communications director, Jay Dillon, emailed Isaza and said: “After your interview yesterday with Dr. Hinojosa, we talked to Terry Floyd, principal at Belmont Hills, to get an update on the dual language initiative. She said it was something they looked at but have decided not to pursue at this time. She said they do not intend to submit a proposal for a dual language program.”
Isaza tried to pick Floyd’s brain on the idea and her vision for her school, but Floyd emailed her Friday morning to say: “As principal of Belmont Hills Elementary School, it is my job to research instructional programs that may improve student achievement and benefit our diverse community of learners. Dual Language is just one of many programs I have researched. Following my research and considering the transitional state of Belmont Hills due to the recently approved redistricting, I have determined that Dual Language is not a program that we intend to pursue at this time. Thank you.”
AT wonders whether most Cobb residents who pay the taxes that finance the school system would be happy about a program like this, regardless of its merits. We also wonder if this is another issue that the superintendent and school principal could implement without any say from the elected board — which begs the question of why even have a board of education?
Three public elementary schools in Georgia are dual language schools, according to state officials. They are Unidos, in Clayton County; World Languages Academy, in Hall County; and Beulah Elementary, in Douglas County.
Beulah Elementary began the program in 2008, according to information on its website. Parents of incoming kindergarteners choose whether their child is in one of the three English classrooms, or one of the two Spanish classrooms, and the students continue in such through grade five there.
Beulah, like Belmont Hills, is a Title 1 school, which indicates most of its students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.
JUST-RELEASED MINUTES of the January Cobb EMC directors meeting confirm what many had suspected: That the utility co-op didn’t actually plan to build the controversial coal-fired Plant Washington, but instead was working to obtain the potentially lucrative permits for the 850-megawatt plant it in order to sell them.
The minutes of the Jan. 24 meeting have been posted on the co-op’s website for registered members to read — but not copy electronically or print out.
Dean Alford, whose company, Allied Energy, had received a no-bid contract to develop the plant and who also is spokesman for Power4Georgians, updated the board at that meeting.
“Mr. Alford … commented that coal is still the backbone of the country and that it is important to have a diversified portfolio of energy. Power4Georgians owns the permits but he stated that P4G never intended to build Plant Washington. He stated P4G’s goal has always been to obtain the permits needed and then sell them to any interested party that could build the plant.”
Later the directors went into executive session, where they voted on the Power4Georgians 2012 budget. Some details of that were included in the posted minutes, and confirmed that the vote to cut off funding to the coal plant was 7-2, as Around Town had previously reported, and that the two who wanted to continue pouring members’ money into the highly controversial venture were Johnny Gresham and David McGinnis.
“Director (Cheryl) Meadows made a motion, seconded by Director (David) Tennant, not to fund Power4Georgians 2012 budget. All directors voted aye with the exception of Directors McGinnis and Gresham voting nay. The motion was carried.”
Alford’s remarks that “P4G never intended to build Plant Washington” are likely to further infuriate Cobb EMC’s member-owners, who involuntarily committed $13.5 million toward getting those permits. The power plant was the “baby” of now-indicted ex-Cobb EMC head Dwight Brown and his sidekick Alford, who also served as vice chairman of corporate spinoff Cobb Energy.
Meanwhile, two high-placed sources in the electric cooperative world say Alford’s claim is flat-out untrue.
“It’s not correct to say there was never a plan to build it,” said one person who was part of the talks from the very beginning. While talk of possibly selling permits has been heard in the last six months or so, the source said, the plan “all along” was to build the plant. As for the argument that the permits could be sold? “Good luck,” our first industry source said. “Who would buy those, if Cobb and others are saying they don’t need all that power?”
Another source with knowledge of the industry says he finds Alford’s claim “very interesting.”
“I questioned myself if they ever intended to build it, and I’m convinced that if they had pursued that course, it would have driven Cobb EMC into bankruptcy,” he said. “But I think Dean’s a smoke-and-mirrors guy who’ll say anything to keep his business going.”
CONGRATULATIONS to state Rep. Stacey Evans (D-Smyrna) and husband Andrew, who welcomed daughter Ashley Blayne Evans into their lives on Wednesday, Leap Year Day. Little Ashley weighed seven pounds, 11 ounces, and is 19 inches long. Her mom last week enjoyed a baby shower courtesy of the House Democratic Caucus.
“Mr. Speaker, to paraphrase ‘Hello Dolly!,’ it’s so good to have you back where you belong,” Plichta said.
Replied Gingrich to the crowd, “You don’t get that every morning. But I know him. Thankfully he did not sing it.”