BPS’s fifth director of English language learning on vacation, with little explanation

“I’ve lost a number of managers recently,” said Rosan Tung, an independent researcher who focuses on English language learners and immigrant students in Boston. “Leadership instability is a big challenge to meet the needs of English language learners.”

Under the leadership of Superintendent Brenda Cassellius, in less than three years, six people were in charge of teaching English students. And during this period, the district struggled to provide all the services to migrant students under a contract with the Department of Justice. Failure to meet the needs of English language learners in the district is one of the key issues behind the threat of state takeover of public schools in Boston by Massachusetts education officials.

The move had real consequences for students, parents and advocates say. The district has met the demand of parents for more services in the student’s native language, and English language learners are more likely to drop out of school than other BPS demographic groups.

Turnstile directors point out the constant turnover of Casselllius ’leadership team, which he has replaced several times, including a day before February when Mayor Michel Wu announced a“ mutual ”decision that Cassellius would resign at the end of the school year.

The district’s challenges in maintaining leadership for the Office of English Language Learners also point to philosophical differences about the best way to teach immigrants and other English language learners.

Representatives of Boston Public Schools confirmed that Kapoor is not currently working as an assistant director of the Office of English Language Learning, but declined to answer questions about his absence or whether he is on official leave. According to the city’s payroll documents, she had collected more than $ 6,000 in her two-week salary until last month.

Kapoor refused the interview request. Cassellius ’senior adviser, Megan Costello, said“ the district does not comment on staffing issues ”when asked to comment on the office’s turnover.

When his appointment was announced in October by Deputy Academic Director Drew Echelson, he described Kapoor’s teaching experience in a bilingual school, and his philosophy that students ’mother tongues should be valued, not as a responsibility. did.

In his most recent role in the human resources department, Kapoor was credited with developing a bilingual teacher pool that was essential to helping English language learners and their parents.

But he did not say anything in his email to the working group of English learners that Kapoor also coached Cassellius to take state license exams after it became known last year that the superintendent could not get his superintendent’s license for Massachusetts. (She has since received her license.)

Furthermore, Kapoor’s resume does not include the experience of running a school or a large department.

“Some of us were concerned that this was a big leap for Aketa from working at MTEL (teacher’s license) to manage the entire Office of English Language Learners,” said Mudd, a member of the working group of the English Language Learning Committee. “But we worked closely with him and he was clearly willing to give access to English language learners who needed to learn their mother tongue.”

Kapoor also had side projects that might create a conflict of interest in his new role.

According to three current and former school officials who are aware of their relationship, who asked not to be named that he was apparently involved with Telescope Education. Creates a private company and sell educational materials for teachers who want to pass MTEL. The company’s website instructs customers to pick up materials from a BPS employee at the district’s headquarters. Telescope Education does not appear to be registered in Massachusetts and the company’s website does not list any directors, but the 2017 federal trademark proposal is listed. Kapoor’s home address in Massachusetts.

Since Kapoor took a leave of absence, Farah Assiraj, the deputy head of the department, has overseen the Department of English Language Learning and he is the sixth person to head the department. The state requires districts that have 200 or more English language learners to have English language learning principals.

Lawyers watching the office’s last turn wondering if there was a problem in Kapoor’s history, why it wasn’t found before he was hired.

“Obviously, there are internal problems [vetting] the system and the recruitment process, ”said Roxanne Harvey, chairman of the Boston Board of Parents in Special Education, noting that during Cassellius’s tenure, three people were in charge of the district’s special education department.

One factor that may have played a role in the continuing instability of the Office of English Language Learners was Cassellus ’early belief that the office should not exist.

According to Tahiliani, who is now the principal of Everett Public Schools, Cassellius sent the idea of ​​disbanding the department to Priya Tahilani, who had headed Casselllius’s office in the summer of 2019.

In October, Casselius called Tahilani to his office and said that students learning English should be everyone’s responsibility. While Tahiliani agreed, he thought that if there was no special department, the district would not know that English language learners would receive appropriate services and no one would be responsible.

For these reasons, Tahini “began to look for other options” and left Boston in 2020 to become the head of the Everett school system.

When the state conducts the Boston School Broadcasting Exam for the second time in less than three years, the review will focus on meeting the needs of special education students and English students, incl.

As part of the review, the state held a focus group on Zoom last month with parents of English language learners, which the Globe watched. A Portuguese mother called the system of enrolling her children in district schools “a horror to navigate”.

The mother of two Chinese-speaking children in the district, who spoke through an interpreter and introduced herself only as Jenny, said the district should be better off for students who are learning English in special education. She complained that her third-grader, who is studying at Queensy Elementary School in Chinatown, could not help her speak Chinese.

“Why do we speak Spanish? [teacher’s assistant] for Chinese students? ” She asked. “Chinese students want someone who is a native Chinese teacher or an assistant teacher to support them. It would be better for them to learn. ”

The Great Team is studying Academic Inequality in Boston and across the state. Subscribe to receive our newsletterand send ideas and tips to it thegreatdivide@globe.com.

Bianca Vazquez Toness can be reached at bianca.toness@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @biancavtoness.

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