At a recent parent-teacher conference conducted at a Salt Lake City elementary school, a student had to serve as interpreter for his own conference.
His mother could not speak English, and the teacher could not speak Spanish."I only hope he told her what was really being said," said Salt Lake Superintendent Darline Robles. While she made light of the predicament, Robles said the incident illustrates the need for a cultural diversity/competency policy and plan in the Salt Lake City School District.
Roughly a third of the students who attend Salt Lake schools are ethnic minorities. The school district has noted growth in its English as a Second Language programs. Only about a 10th of the district's educators are ethnic minorities.
Cultural diversity was one highlight in the district's strategic plan update, approved Tuesday night by the Salt Lake City Board of Education.
The plan also calls on individual schools to develop their own procedures to implement multicultural education.
Robles said educators must work to accommodate the diverse populations they serve. "It can be as simple as `How do I receive parents who don't speak English,' " she said. "The policy will begin for some schools just as awareness, but that's OK."
Robles said a policy on multicultural education and cultural competency should be presented to the school board before the end of the school year.
"The purpose of it (the proposed policy) is to make multicultural education an integral part of the curriculum. We also need edu-cators who are prepared to deal with all students from all backgrounds," said Delores Riley, the district's minority relations specialist.
Riley said she believes that school communities can best deal with diversity issues. "For example, instead of looking to the district to provide translators, they need to look to their own communities," she said.