Outrage over Bilingual Language and Literacy Academy closure

May 8, 2020

The Rochester Board of Education on Thursday night approved a budget that closes the City School District’s Bilingual Language and Literacy Academy.

Myrna Gonzalez with the Bilingual Education Council said the board’s decision dealt a death blow to the academy. 

“They sign the death sentence for bilingual education in Rochester,” she said. “We’ve been fighting over 10 years for (the) right education for our kids, and we don’t have it.”

The Rochester International Academy and bilingual administrative positions, including the executive director of the Multi-Language Learners department, were also cut from next year’s academic budget.

“Promotions and positions were created in (the) central office in this budget, but money could not be found to continue these life-changing programs," Angelica Perez-Delgado, president and CEO of the Ibero-American Action League, said in a statement. 

“This leaves a huge gap in services for bilingual and multilingual students with no plan to service these children.”

According to Ibero, a dual-language human services agency, Latinos comprise 38 percent of the district's students, and about 14 percent of all students are multi-language learners.

Rudy Rivera, executive director of the Father Laurence Tracy Advocacy Center, said these cuts and closures undo decades of progress.

“What has been happening to the Latino community for a long time is a social epidemic,” Rivera said in a statement. “Our school district has structurally failed us and now is proposing to further denigrate the fabric of the Latino community by eliminating gains we made 50 years ago.” 

Credit Emily Hunt | WXXI News

The district says fewer than 90 students were enrolled in the Bilingual Language and Literacy Academy, which was originally designed to be a transitional program largely for displaced students from Puerto Rico.

School board president Van White said the board doesn’t have the power to instate a bilingual education director. Since the position is a Cabinet-level one, White said only the superintendent has that power.

However, with Superintendent Terry Dade set to resign in July, White said what happens is up to the next superintendent.