District Administration October 2016 - 33

ways to get through to a child who may not be responding," she says. About two hours from Washington, D.C., middle school refugees in Harrisonburg City Schools gather regularly during the day-supervised by a district psychologist-to share their experiences leaving home and their new lives in the U.S. Over the past few years, the district has not only hired more counselors, psychologists and social workers, but has added interpreters who speak Arabic, Eritrean and Congolese, among other languages. The district's regular budget funds these and all other services provided to refugees, which costs about $300,000 to $350,000 a year, Kizner says. Some of the funds come from the district's approximately $7 million budget for language instruction, he adds. The district has also trained high school students from the refugee countries to serve as interpreters. "We want to make sure that when we invite families in, their languages will be spoken," says superintendent Kizner. The 6,000-student district, which receives about 100 new refugees per year, will also conduct home visits when families don't have adequate transportation. For instance, it regularly sends staff to a housing complex where a high number of Kurdish and Arab immigrants live. School personnel will discuss instruction expectations for students, along with extracurricular activities among other issues, Kizner says. In Rochester, translation services extend outside school buildings, and better help parents navigate the world of bills and responsibilities. For instance, parents may not understand bills or letters they receive from utility companies that warn about power or gas being turned off in the middle of winter, says Andrecolich-Diaz, principal of the international academy. "It's so much more than academics," Andrecolich-Diaz says. "If we don't take care of the social-emotional piece, kids will not be able to perform well." www.DistrictAdministration.com International assets: Harrisonburg Superintendent Scott Kizner says American students can develop a better understanding of the world when refugee students talk about their homelands and life experiences. Harrisonburg schools host regular nighttime and weekend events where families from other countries share food, arts, music and other aspects of their cultures. Academic acceleration In some of the countries from which refugees come, girls don't attend the same schools as boys-and in some cases, they don't receive formal education at all. Under the guidance of a bilingual staff member, Arab teenage girls in Harrisonburg, Virginia, meet in a regular support group to talk about transitioning from countries with vastly different customs and laws regarding females. "They are now in a place that's much more open," Kizner says, "where girls and boys are holding hands, and dating." The district already has an EnglishSpanish dual-language program that starts in kindergarten, and school leaders are planning to launch classes that blend English and Arabic. At Rochester International Academy, refugee students learn English at the same time they study math, social studies and other core subjects. When they first arrive, some students have to master a new alphabet and number system-some even have to learn to pronounce the "TH" sound that is absent in some languages, says Andrecolich-Diaz. That requires the academy's teachers to set specific learning goals. For instance, before asking students to write a sentence using adjectives and verbs, teachers will have to show refugees what adjectives and October 2016 33 http://www.DistrictAdministration.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration October 2016

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