School Board recognizes Hispanic Heritage Month

Itzel Martinez (left) and Yareli Pelayo Ayala (right) wait for their turn to preform for the West Contra Costa Unified School District Board of Education in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Itzel Martinez (left) and Yareli Pelayo Ayala (right) wait for their turn to preform for the West Contra Costa Unified School District Board of Education in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.

The West Contra Costa County School Board recognized Hispanic Heritage Month at its Tuesday meeting with lively music and dance performances that were a stark contrast to the usually formal board proceedings. The month is celebrated nationally as a time to recognize the contributions and culture of Hispanic and Latino Americans.

Each year the board signs a resolution recognizing the month. This year they signed so close to the start of the school year that the celebration was postponed until Tuesday. Hispanic Heritage Month started on Sept. 15 and runs through Oct. 15.

Four third graders from the Transitional Bilingual Education program at Cesar Chavez Elementary performed a dance they worked on for last year’s Cinco De Mayo performance.

“These kids are not timid, they like to perform and they like to dance,” Cesar Chavez Principal Jeannette Ramirez said. “Dance definitely interests them.”

“We’re excited that kids are doing healthy activities,” Board of Education President Charles Ramsey said. “We encourage these kids to continue to have dances and performances.”

Yareli Pelayo Ayala, Itzel Martinez, Octavio Muñoz and Federico McEwen preform The Danza De Los Viejitos (Dance of the Little Old People) for the West Contra Costa Unified School District Board of Education in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. They represented Cesar Chavez Elementary.

The four students giggled and spoke back and forth about how their performance would be shown on TV during the regular Board of Education broadcast.

“We did the dance of the little old people,” 9-year-old Octavio Muñoz said. “I like the part when we all fell down at the end.”

Students in the Transitional Bilingual Education program receive instruction in English as a new language.

“The students start kindergarten speaking little or no English and in the course of the next few years they are taught in both English and Spanish so they don’t fall bellow grade level,” Educational Services Coordinator Susan Dunlap said.

This year these four are transitioning to an all-English instructional program.

The board’s support of non-native English speakers extends beyond English development. Last July the board adopted a Seal of Biliteracy, which goes on high school student’s graduation diploma.

”You have to obtain a level of biliteracy, not just be bilingual,” Dunlap said. “We’re very excited about that.”

The seal is not limited to Spanish speakers and can be awarded in a variety of other languages.

“We want all of the kids to have the ability to be able to communicate in multiple ways,” Ramsey said.

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