BURLINGTON - English Language Learner (ELL) instructors in the school district will now have a coordinator after the School Committee unanimously approved the creation of a new position.

The job is ELL coordinator, and though it is new, the person set to fill the position is expected to be an existing ELL employee in the Burlington Public Schools system. Technically, the position will eliminate an existing Unit A position (187 work days) and create a Unit D position (200 work days).

“This is a not a new position,” confirmed School Supt. Dr. Eric Conti at a recent School Committee meeting. “We are bridging our existing needs in the ELL department.”

Starting in 2012, the Massachusetts Department of Education mandated all teachers in the state to go through a more strict ELL training process, which Burlington teachers have done. Since that time, Burlington and many other communities have continued to see more students who don’t speak English as a first language. In 2013-14, only 2.4 percent of Burlington students were categorized as ELL. That number has jumped to 5 percent in 2018-2019. Those numbers might increase during the 2019-20 year after all the kindergarten students have been screened.

Assistant School Supt. Patrick Larkin detailed the number of ELL instructors in town have increased in the past five years.

“When I started, we had 1 ELL instructor at each elementary school, and 1 lead instructor that went from school to school,” explained Larkin. “To meet the state’s requirements, Pine Glen Elementary School, Francis Wyman Elementary School, and Memorial Elementary School have two ELL lead instructors, while Fox Hill Elementary School and Marshall Simonds Middle School each have 1. Burlington High School has 2.”

Larkin referenced the state’s recommendations for a district to move forward with an ELL coordinator.

“The state recommends when you hit 200 ELL students, it is time to have a full-time coordinator,” Larkin advised. “In an attempt to be proactive, we are starting to provide services at preschool and Burlington High School, where it is needed.”

The state now has a new “accountability system” measuring how each district will be judged.

“Because of this, we need more focused judgement when it comes to the daily analysis of our ELL program,” professed Dr. Conti. “The ELL coordinator classification will have additional days and potentially some additional administrative responsibilities we feel will fulfill the state’s recommendations and requirements.”

Dr. Conti restated the interview process will start and likely end from within the district’s own ELL talent pool.

“We are looking to hire within,” Dr. Conti declared. “We feel we have the talent on our staff.”

The School Committee unanimously approved the creation of the ELL coordinator position.

Expect updates on the hiring process for the position at upcoming School Committee meetings.

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