Bowling Green Ind. board creates post for Swahili/Somali translator to help with large immigrant student population; new superintendent touts academic benefits to high schoolers

Bowling Green Daily News, July 14, 2015

Board approves new translator

Bowling Green Independent School District will soon have a Swahili/Somali translator.

Refugees from Sub-Saharan Africa are among the top five immigrant groups coming to the Bowling Green area right now, so having someone who can serve those students and their families would be an asset, Associate Superintendent Vicki Writsel told the school board Monday night.

“The strongest thing we can do to build a community is to have bilingual staff,” she said.

The district has “made a concerted effort to reach out” to refugee families by visiting their homes and ensuring parents have everything they need to help their children be successful in school, Writsel said.

Hiring the translator will be among those efforts.

In the past, the district hired Swahili and Somali translators on a case-by-case basis for home visits, but “having somebody on staff will allow us to have much more flexibility,” she said. “It will give parents someone they can call who speaks the language. It will empower them.”

In addition to going on home visits, the translator will spend part of the time at Bowling Green High School to assist students during classes, Superintendent Gary Fields said.

“We’ve never had this kind of help at the high school,” he said.

The school board also approved a partnership with University of the Cumberlands that allows principal candidates to visit and train at city schools. The partnership has been ongoing for several years, Fields said.

The university has found the district provides a good training ground for principal candidates, he said.

“It gives them a great snapshot of diversity, and it gives them shadowing opportunities,” Fields said. “They have really started to get a lot of people to be certified this way.”

In another matter, Fields told the board that the district’s facilities plan is ready for final approval. As required by state law, the public was given a chance to comment on the plan during a hearing last week, but no one attended.

The four-year plan outlines $55.7 million in capital construction priorities, including renovations to Potter Gray Elementary School, McNeill Elementary School and Bowling Green High School, as well as an addition to Bowling Green Junior High School.

Those projects will only be funded as the state has money for them, but it’s important to include any projects the district might pursue in the next four years because it’s hard to get approval from the Kentucky Department of Education for any projects not listed in the plan.

The board will have a final reading of the facilities plan at its next meeting Aug. 10, and then it will be submitted to KDE.

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