Umana School Receives $25,000 Grant

September 18, 2013
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Interim Superintendent John McDonough announced last week that the Mario Umana Academy in East Boston is receiving a $25,000 planning grant to launch a two-way bilingual program next year.

The BPS Dual Language Advisory Board, which includes educators, non-profit leaders, foundations and members of the business community, selected the Umana as part of a review process among BPS schools that wish to launch a dual-language program. The school community will now use the grant to plan and implement a program, which would begin in Kindergarten in the 2014-15 school year.

“This grant will allow us to begin the process of realizing the school’s vision of becoming an academically rigorous STEM-focused dual language learning community,” said Umana Principal Alexandra Montes McNeil. “As the bilingual daughter of Cuban immigrants, and as an MIT graduate, I know firsthand the academic opportunities and future success that this will bring to our students.”

BPS is expanding dual-language opportunities for students across Boston following the model of the successful Rafael Hernández and Hurley K-8 Schools as well as similar programs elsewhere in which English Language Learners and native English speakers are educated in integrated classrooms.

The expansion of this program is part of the District’s ongoing effort to raise school quality and opportunity as we transition to the new Home-Based school choice plan.

“Dual-language education offers students the opportunity to be more than simply bilingual and bicultural, but to engage fully in all levels of learning, which creates an exciting path to excellence for BPS students,” said BPS Deputy Superintendent of Academics Dr. Eileen de los Reyes. “We are proud of the Umana community for embracing this opportunity and developing a strong proposal. The teachers, parents and partners are more than ready to take education to the next level for all their students and we look forward to expanding this type of program to even more schools.”

An internal team from the BPS Office of English Language Learners will provide technical assistance under the direction of Assistant Superintendent Antonieta Bolomey to support the planning and implementation process.

“What is encouraging about well-implemented two-way programs is that they benefit not only English Language Learners but also native English speakers of any socio-economic level,” said Bolomey.

Research supporting this work was provided in part by the Mauricio Gastón Institute for Latino Community Development and Public Policy at UMass-Boston.

“The parents in East Boston and at the East Boston Ecumenical Community Counsel (EBECC) have worked for many years for a bilingual program to come to East Boston Community, and I am thankful for everyone who have helped to make it happen,” said Umana parent Erika Sanchez.

Naeema Hernandez, lead organizer and policy analyst at Massachusetts Advocates for Children also applauded the proposal.

“MAC has supported the advocacy efforts of the EBECC parents for many years, especially around increasing quality educational opportunities for ELLs,” she said. “The designation of a dual language program in the East Boston community is a huge victory.”

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