St. Paul Picks Former ELL Director as Superintendent

By Mary Ann Zehr — November 24, 2009 1 min read
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The school board of St. Paul public schools has picked Valeria Silva, a native of Chile and former director of ELL programs for the district, as the district’s next superintendent, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. For nearly three years, Silva has been the St. Paul district’s chief academic officer. Before that she was the director of ELL programs for the district. (The Minneapolis Star Tribune also covered the story.)

During Silva’s tenure as director of ELL programs, the Council of the Great City Schools recognized the district as one of the most successful urban school districts in narrowing the achievement gap between ELLs and students who had a command of English. When Silva was still in charge of ELL programs, I journeyed out to St. Paul and wrote an article for Education Week about how the district had experienced success by using a “push-in” model at the elementary school level, where ELL specialists teach alongside mainstream teachers in the regular classroom.

With Heidi Bernal now in charge of programs for ELLs, the St. Paul school district is still getting recognition in Minnesota and nationally for its strong programs for such students. It was one of four school districts singled out for having strong policies and practices for educating ELLs in a recent report by the Council of the Great City Schools.

Also, the Working Group on ELLs, a group of researchers who make recommendations about federal policies for ELLs, featured St. Paul as a model for using federal stimulus funds to benefit ELLs.

St. Paul will be rare among school districts in having someone who is really experienced in designing programs for ELLs at its helm. She also knows what it’s like to arrive in this country without knowing English. The St. Paul Pioneer Press says she didn’t know any English when she moved to Minnesota at age 24.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.