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Mexican official to give St. Lucie Spanish-language textbooks

By CARA FITZPATRICK
Palm Beach Post

The St. Lucie County School District and the Consulate General of Mexico in Miami plan to announce Monday a plan to distribute free Spanish-language textbooks to five schools, create some sister-schools and, perhaps, expand after-school tutoring options for parents with limited English-speaking abilities.

The partnership was established by the district's Hispanic Advisory Council.

The Consul General of Mexico in Miami, Juan Miguel Gutierrez Tinoco, is scheduled to attend a press conference and ceremony at 5 p.m. Monday at the school district offices in Fort Pierce in which he will deliver the textbooks and discuss the partnership. He also plans to visit Oak Hammock K-8 School in Port St. Lucie.

"We're very excited about this alliance we've created," said Ginger Miranda, chairwoman of the Hispanic Advisory Council. The council, made up of community members, advises the district about issues related to the Hispanic community.

The consulate will give 50 textbooks each to five schools, including Oak Hammock, Forest Grove Middle School, Port St. Lucie High School, C.A. Moore K-8 School and the new Palm Pointe Educational Research School at Tradition.

Several schools were selected because they had a high number of Spanish-speaking students; Port St. Lucie High was selected because students in its new International Baccalaureate program will study Spanish as a second language, she said. Palm Pointe was selected because of its focus on research.

Port St. Lucie High also will correspond with a sister school in Mexico as part of the International Baccalaureate program.

The textbooks cover core subjects like math, science, history, geography and literature, and will be used by both students learning Spanish as a second language and by Spanish-speaking students learning English, Miranda said.

School officials also hope to use materials from a Mexican program, called Plazas Communitarias, for the district's existing after-school tutoring for Spanish-speaking parents. The after-school program, offered by several schools, allows parents to learn or improve their English-language skills alongside their children.

Plazas Communitarias could potentially be used as a supplement in that program - the goal being to improve the English-language abilities of parents who, in turn, can help their children with schoolwork, Miranda said.

"The main point is to have them become literate," she said. "Our aim is to build a bridge between the school system and the parents...the best way to do that is through literacy."

In Mexico, Plazas Communitarias, when completed successfully, can provide the equivalent of a high school diploma.

Today, news reports that the school district would be offering "Mexican diplomas" created a firestorm of controversy, but school officials said they have no plans, or ability, to offer such a certificate.

"The material comes from that program, but we're not going to be giving Mexican diplomas," Miranda said. "We're not the Mexican government."

No agreement is in place yet to use material from the Plazas Communitarias program, Miranda said.

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