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Clayton Schools to host English learners conference

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Clayton County Public Schools' Office of Second Language Learning will host its second annual Title III International Parent Conference today (Saturday), for parents who speak English as a second language.

The conference, which is open to parents of English Language learners enrolled in Clayton County Public Schools, will last from 9:30 a.m., to noon, at Sequoyah Middle School, which is located at 95 Valley Hill Road, in Riverdale.

Title III is one of the student classifications included in the federal government's No Child Left Behind education law, according to Clayton County Public Schools Director of Second Language Learning Chantal Normil. She said Title III students are pupils for whom English is not their first language.

"We will be providing parents with the resources, during the sessions, to help them help their children succeed in school," Normil said.

There are 4,500 English Language Learner (ELL) students enrolled in the Clayton County Public Schools System, according to the school district's second language learning chief.

Seventy-eight percent of those students speak Spanish, followed by another 12 percent, who speak Vietnamese, Normil said. The other 10 percent of youths in the ELL group is made up of students who speak one of the more than 60 other non-English languages spoken every day by pupils in the school system, she added.

According to the school system's web site, some of the other languages include Afrikaans; Arabic; Bosnian; Chinese; Creole; French; German; Greek; Hindi; Italian; Japanese; Khmer; Korean; Modigo; Persian; Portuguese; Punjabi; Russian; Samoan, and Twi.

"We are a very diverse school system," Normil said.

Normil said the school system employs eight bilingual paraprofessionals to help these students, and six community liaisons who act as translators between school officials and parents who speak little, to no English.

Those paraprofessionals, community liaisons and the district's English to Speakers of Other Languages teachers will be at this weekend's conference, Normil said. "My whole staff will be there, so anyone who comes out will have a chance to meet these people," she said.

During the conference, Normil said there will be 18 sessions offered on topics that include: Understanding the federal No Child Left Behind Act; getting ready for school; understanding the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCTs), and college admissions for ELL students.

The sessions will be offered in English; Spanish; Vietnamese; French; Arabic, and Wolof, a language that is spoken in parts of West Africa, she said. She added that the sessions will begin at 10 a.m., after a registration period, and introductions from Clayton County Public Schools Superintendent Edmond Heatley and Chief Academic Officer Diane Carry.

There will also be transportation for parents who do not have their own way of getting to Sequoyah Middle School, Normil said. There will shuttle buses carrying conference attendees from nine other schools, beginning at 8:30 a.m., she said.

Those schools are: Babb Middle School, as well as Edmonds, Fountain, Hawthorne, Haynie, Lake Ridge, Marshall, Northcutt, and Martin Luther King, Jr., elementary schools.