U46 trial defense ends with auditor’s testimony
By Emily McFarlan Miller email@example.com August 23, 2012 8:04PM
Updated: September 25, 2012 10:48AM
CHICAGO — The defense rested Thursday in the racial discrimination trial against Elgin School District U46 in the U.S. District Court of Northern Illinois in Chicago.
Judge Robert W. Gettleman and attorneys have not yet set dates for the plaintiffs’ rebuttal or closing arguments in the trial, which began in March 2011. In a bench trial, Gettleman is deciding the lawsuit against the state’s second-largest school district.
That suit originally was filed by nine Hispanic students and their parents in February 2005.
It claims U46 against black and Hispanic students in its 2004 school boundary plan by placing them in overcrowded schools.
It also claims that the district did not offer appropriate help to English Language Learner students or access to gifted and academy programs to students who were black and Hispanic.
Previously, former U46 Director of Bilingual Education Dionnes Rivera had testified then-Superintendent Connie Neale directed her during the 2002-03 school year to exit all ELL students after three years in the program.
Dr. Beatriz Arias, who audited the Elgin school district’s bilingual program in 2004 and produced a report about it in 2005, said Thursday she had “heard a rumor to that effect.”
“I think (Rivera) was convinced they were exited before they were ready, but I don’t know what she based that on,” she said.
“That wasn’t quite clear to me — if they were ready or not.”
Regardless of the ELL program model in a district, students still have to meet the required score on a state proficiency exam in order to exit that program, she said.
Arias pointed to professional development presentations made by district staff in 2005 and 2006, and said she has referred other school districts to U46 for their professional development plans.
She pointed to quarterly newsletters for the district’s ELL staff and a 2009 series of curriculum resources available to teachers in the program.
She pointed to the number of teachers with endorsements and certificates qualifying them to teach in the program and its jump from 231 in 2003-04 to 351 in 2008-09.
She pointed to the handbook for parents of students in ELL as “one of the most comprehensive handbooks I’ve ever seen.”
All showed teachers, administrators and parents in the district’s bilingual program had adequate information, resources and certification, she said.
And she said U46 had followed up on “most” of the recommendations in her audit — “those that were appropriate.”
Plaintiffs attorney Stewart Weltman of Futterman Howard Ashley and Weltman quoted reviews of the program by the Illinois State Board of Education. Reviews in both 2007 and 2008 said principals could not remember training about the district’s ELL program.
Arias said she herself had led one of those trainings.
“I guess my training was completely forgettable,” she said.
Afterward, Gettleman asked Arias if she believed the bilingual program in U46 was exceptional.
Yes, she said.
The judge asked if there was anything about it she would change.
No, she said.
“You think this is the ideal system?” he asked.
Arias answered, “I recommend people come visit U46.”