The N.J. Department of Education has named Linden Public Schools as a model district for the teaching of English as a Second Language for the next two school years, continuing a designation that has been in place for a decade.  Above, ESL teacher Mercedes Fernandez discusses the program for elementary school students. At right are high school ESL students Roselande Thomas, Schnaider Cenelien and Melanie Pastrana Ricardo, who discussed for visitors how much the program has helped them.

ESL supervisor discussing program

Kevin LaMastra, supervisor of world languages/bilingual/ESL, speaking about how the district as a whole supports English-language learners.

By Gary Miller

Linden Public Schools have been chosen by the state Department of Education as a model district for teaching English as a Second Language for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years.

Linden has been an ESL model district for the past decade, and this designation affirms the work of the district’s faculty and staff, said Superintendent Danny A. Robertozzi.

“We are thrilled that Linden has once again been named a model district for ESL,” he said. “The work our teachers do with our students – as well as their families – gives them the essential tools they need to grow and thrive. For the Department of Education to say that we do this as well as can be expected and to hold us up as a model to other districts, shows that we put great value on the success of all of our students.”

About 1,400 students of all grade levels in Linden – about 21 percent of students – speak a primary language at home other than English, chief among them being Spanish, Polish and Haitian Creole, as well as more than 30 others.

Kevin LaMastra, the district supervisor of world languages/bilingual/ESL, said the state gave the district a rigorous examination when it applied to continue as a model district, looking for how students are screened, how families are included, how ESL students are integrated into school culture, classroom teaching methods, and success of students after they leave the ESL program.

“They look at every aspect of what we’re doing in the district,” he said. “Those are formidable obstacles for any district, and the state is looking for good examples of districts that are able to meet the needs of students and families in that situation.

“We’re really happy that the NJDOE is looking at such a complete picture, so many variables, and finding that Linden Public Schools is meeting the definition of a model program in each of those areas.”

LaMastra said the state was particularly interested in seeing long-term growth and innovation.

“To be a model district, you can’t continue to do the same things because the needs of the students and families are always changing,” he said.

He pointed to Spanish classes that the district is offering to staff members as a key innovation “to help teachers to gain expertise and strategies that will help them make science, math, social studies comprehensible to students who are not yet proficient in English.”