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Speaker Notes: Wei-Lin Tong

School Board Meeting, October 28, 2015

Dr. Morris and Esteemed Board Members,

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost 5.5 years since my dad, parents, members of the community and I spoke before you in support of the proposal to start the Mandarin Immersion Program in Fremont. Back in 2010, the Board approved the creation of Mandarin Immersion Program in elementary school with the expectation that it would continue to through high school.  It’s really wonderful to see the District now proactively planning for the next step into junior high.  When I look at my children’s work and their positive attitude toward learning another language, I can’t help but feel thankful to the District, teachers, principal Diamond and board members who made the Program a reality for so many children in Fremont.

Since the Board’s approval, the Mandarin Immersion Program has grown tenfold from 25 children in 2010 to ~250 this year and we’re expecting continued growing interest and enrollment.  In the District presentation, you will see that the pioneer class is now at 22 children.  As you consider the proposal before you to expand into junior high, please keep in mind the power of word-of-mouth in recruiting new children into the program and how strongly parents are motivated to make this program a success.  

Since last year, we have actually had three new children successfully test into the pioneer class, and that’s without a concerted effort by parents and the community to recruit more children into the program at the higher grades.  Once the Board confirms the junior high expansion and location, we are confident that we will fill the pioneer class in jr high.  With that said, given that an extra core class does not cost the District more money, I ask that you approve upfront two core classes at the start of jr. high to be taught in Mandarin so that our children can continue to improve their fluency in a truly immersive environment.

You will also see in the District presentation that extra funding is being requested for a zero period to allow the immersion children, like band and other special programs across the District, to be able to take an elective.  While parents would obviously prefer that the District cover the expense of the zero period, we are also willing to help fundraise to defray the costs, similar to when the Mandarin Immersion Program first started and the parents were asked to pay for the Chinese textbooks.  In the past five years, we’ve raised almost $100,000 that has been used for textbooks, library books, start-up costs for new classroom set-ups, recruiting new students and cultural enrichment activities benefiting the entire school.  

In conclusion, I encourage you to approve the District’s recommendation to expand the immersion program into jr. high at Hopkins with two core language classes offered at the outset.  We firmly believe that we will have a full class at junior high with the District’s support in recruiting and that as necessary any additional funds required could be raised.  I would also ask that the District continue to involve the parents in the planning for the jr. high school expansion, as the strength of the current program is very much the result of the collaborative efforts of parents, teachers, principal and the District staff.

Thank you.

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