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California Official Chosen for Bilingual-Ed. Post; Closer Ties With Advocacy Groups Said Likely

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Washington--Rita Esquivel, a California educator, has been tapped to head the office of bilingual education and minority-languages affairs, an Education Department official said last week.

Bill R. Phillips, chief of staff to Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos, said Ms. Esquivel's appointment was to be unveiled in Miami May 12 at a conference of the National Association for Bilingual Education.

Ms. Esquivel is currently assistant to the superintendent of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, performing administrative and supervisory duties.

She began her career as an elementary and secondary teacher in San Antonio, Tex., and later in the Santa Monica district, where she has worked since 1963.

She has taught high-school Spanish as well as English as a second language in an adult-education program. As a teacher curriculum assistant, she helped develop a districtwide reading curriculum and wrote and developed a Spanish reading program.

Ms. Esquivel has served as the principal of an elementary school, as the district's community liaison, and as the administrator of its state and federal programs, including bilingual-education and esl programs.

She has also been "active in Republican politics," according to Mr. Phillips, who added, "She really covers all the bases."

Reopening of Detente

James J. Lyons, legislative counsel for nabe, hailed the appointment, and his organization's involvement, as part of a new, friendlier relationship between the department and the bilingual-education community.

Bilingual-education advocates often criticized the department during the Reagan Administration, which sought to increase the amount of federal funds that could flow to "special alternative" programs that do not use children's native language, an approach advocates generally oppose.

William J. Bennett, Mr. Cavazos' predecessor, has called bilingual education a "failure."

Advocates had hoped for a change of direction under Mr. Cavazos, who has strongly supported bilingual education, but they have criticized the direction of an ongoing grants competition and the announcement of a new competition that critics say favors "alternative" programs. (See Education Week, March 15, 1989.)

Mr. Lyons said the department's decision to announce the appointment at a bilingual-education conference and have Ms. Esquivel address the conference marks "the reopening of detente."

While he did not acknowledge a purposeful attempt to mend fences, Mr. Phillips noted that nabe officials were consulted on the appointment and approved of Mr. Cavazos' choice. He also said that the Secretary would have attended the conference himself, but he had a scheduling conflict. Mr. Cavazos has made a videotape that was to be shown at the meeting.

"This is a very important appointment to him," Mr. Phillips said.--jm

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