Spanish alerts, handouts coming to Tupelo schools

By CHRIS KIEFFER / NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The Tupelo Public School District will begin making alert messages and parent handouts available in Spanish.
Superintendent Randy Shaver promised the changes after meeting with Spanish-speaking families Sunday at St. James Catholic Church. It was one is his series of “Conversations with Dr. Shaver.”
Shaver said the district’s current phone-notification system will be updated to allow parents to hear the automated messages in Spanish.
He also told the audience of roughly 40 adults that all handouts the district gives to parents can be made available in Spanish, although he acknowledged that this would a few weeks to implement.
During the question-and-answer session, Shaver acknowledged the importance of having a receptionist with the ability to speak Spanish and noted that the technology department is working to make available a Spanish-language version of the district’s website.
“Cultural diversity is a strength, not a weakness,” he said.
Fourteen questions touched on concerns such as racism in the schools, the safety of school buses, whether non-U.S. citizens can pursue higher education and the possibility of the district adding Spanish-speaking teachers.
A translator translated the participants’ questions into English and Shaver’s responses into Spanish.
“I want to guarantee you if your child experiences racism at the hands of an employee, if you will come to me directly and tell me, I will make sure it stops and it does not happen again,” Shaver said.
Shaver also pledged to personally help families having difficulty pursuing higher education, noting a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that public community colleges and universities cannot bar students because of immigration status.
“You bring much to our community,” Shaver said, “and we are a much stronger community if all of our children are educated at the high school and college level.”
Shaver told the audience that he wants to see more diversity among the district’s teachers and that when positions become open, it will try to fill them with qualified African-American and Hispanic applicants.
He would also like to explore the possible of a Spanish-immersion program that would allow both native Spanish speakers and non-Spanish speakers the opportunity to take all of their classes in Spanish. A similar program in his past school district resulted in improved test scores and greater cultural awareness, he said.
Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@djournal.com.