Much of Monday night’s Sag Harbor Board of Education meeting centered around a presentation put together by several staff members to inform the public about the district’s English as a New Language program (commonly known as ENL), breaking down the different terminology and abbreviations used in the program and helping explain the multi-faceted approach to teaching and supporting the ever increasing number of students for whom English is not their native language.
The powerpoint presentation delved into the role and job description of ENL teachers, and went into specifics about the screening, identification, and placement processes within the program, how the district provides continuing and ongoing support for non-native English speakers and their families, and also included information on how the district categorizes those students.
Various three-letter abbreviations are familiar to anyone involved with a school district, but the presentation helpfully broke down exactly what they mean, including the terms ESL (English as a Second Language), ENL (English as a New Language), ELL (English Language Learner), MLL (Multi-Lingual Learner), and SIFE (Student with Interruped or Inconsistent Formal Education). The presentation showcased a noteworthy statistic — the number of students in the SIFE category jumped from five in the 2019/20 school year, and just one in the 2020-21 school year, up to 15 for the current school year. Superintendent Jeff Nichols said he was still unsure why that number had increased so dramatically, saying it was still too early to speculate how much that was due to COVID, and if it was a trend in other area school districts as well.
Other school officials who were part of the presentation spoke about how the district has taken steps over the years to improve communication and outreach methods with ENL students and their families, including using new registration processes and streamlining communication, as well as connecting families with local advocacy groups.
Mr. Nichols also pointed out that it is important to remember that the ENL program isn’t strictly composed of Spanish speaking students. The presentation showed that there is broad representation from a variety of different countries in the district this year, with students from Ecuador, Honduras, Armenia, France, Serbia, and Russia, among others.
“We have languages other than Spanish that we’re dealing with, and cultures that are different even within the Latino community,” he said. “So it’s a multi-faceted opportunity for school personnel to be resourceful and thoughtful in terms of meeting students’ needs.”
Mr. Nichols also pointed out that, with the expanding SIFE population, the district may need to “add additional pieces” to the program to serve that population going forward. He said he would be coming to the Board of Education with recommendations related to that issue prior to the start of the budget season.