NASHUA — In the midst of a review from the Department of Justice regarding the school district’s English Language Learner program, additional ELL teachers have been hired in the city.
Dana O’Gara, director of Human Resources for the Nashua School District, said last week that four new ELL teachers have been hired since the start of the school year.
Recently, city officials approved $200,000 in contingency funds specifically earmarked for the hiring of four ELL teachers.
Heather Raymond, president of the Board of Education, said she has spoken with Mayor Jim Donchess about the potential release of the $200,000 to the school district since the positions have now been filled.
“He is aware that we are ready for that next step,” said Raymond.
The district is also currently advertising to hire a fifth ELL teacher, according to O’Gara.
Aldermen recently approved escrow requests from the mayor, at which time additional funding originally earmarked for an airport project that never came to fruition was reserved for an extra ELL teacher, if applicable.
O’Gara said the new, unexpected funding will be used to hire the fifth ELL teacher this year; that position will be at Bicentennial Elementary School.
Dotty Oden, board member, explained that the existing ELL teacher at Bicentennial currently has a caseload of about 73 students.
After receiving complaints earlier this year, the Department of Justice opened a review of the school district’s ELL program, a program aimed to assist students whose primary language is not English.
“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 parents,” wrote Attorney Frances Cohen of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division in a letter to Superintendent Jahmal Mosley.
Cohen said the review will look into the allegations reported, and determine whether the district’s ELL program and practices are meeting its general obligations.
There were a total of 23.5 ELL teaching positions in Nashua before the four new employee positions were filled.
Mosley stressed earlier the importance of building an infrastructure of ELL capital and support for Nashua families that will provide a sustainable process for proper ELL staffing.
“We already started to embark on this matter long before this (DOJ review) even showed up. We were very proactive in doing it,” said Mosley, adding he does not disagree with the concerns. “It speaks to the challenges of public schools. We need more funding. We need more adequate, sustainable funding.”
There are currently 1,346 ELL students in the district.