One of their possible strategic initiatives is to add Spanish and Mandarin immersion programs. Lake Oswego Superintendent Bill Korach is recommending the following:
Therefore. I recommend that the district concentrate now on the development of a Spanish immersion program and continue our study of the workability and feasibility of a Mandarin immersion program to be implemented sometime in the district’s future. Our initial efforts to venture beyond a language immersion kindergarten must be taken in a staged, focused progression in order for it to be successful.
The public hearing lasted one hour and a half with about thirty speakers each getting three minutes. About half were primarily concerned with a middle school scheduling issue with the other half largely speaking in support of one or both immersion programs.
Then, just a bit later, early in the regular Board meeting, Lake Oswego Mayor John Hoffman, who has visited China numerous times, spoke about what he saw in China and the potential for the Lake Oswego School District to work with the Confucius Institute at Portland State University. He said “China is going to be more important to us” and urged the Lake Oswego School District to be in the forefront (of Mandarin and China related education). Profession Meiru Liu, head of the PSU Confucius Institute, then described the K-12 programs and support offered by the Confucius Institute.
First, one of the ways the Confucius Institute could help the Lake Oswego School District is by providing free Mandarin teachers and Mandarin materials for their immersion program. The Lake Oswego School Board indicated an interest in meeting more with the Confucius Institute. I hope they focus in on getting Mandarin teachers and related issues. It could make the difference between Lake Oswego having a Mandarin immersion program or not.
Second, I have been emailing legislators as an Oregon legislative session is about to begin. I was struck that the really important issues, the rise of China, the changing global economy, and how to respond, were more in play and in discussion at a local school board meeting than is likely to happen at the Oregon Capitol during the legislative session. Given the nest of special educational interests with their set agendas, discussions in Salem of more Mandarin immersion programs or sending high school students to study in China (as I am urging) is unlikely. Governor Kitzhaber has his own educational agenda, and it does not include worrying about China. So it is up to local school districts, and more specifically those groups of parents, my heroes, who for their variety of reasons are calling for the needed educational change. Power to those people!
Update: The Oregonian's Nicole Dungca covered the meetng here.