CENTRAL FALLS – School District officials are sending their administrators back to class. No, they didn’t flunk their courses, but rather the administrators in Central Falls are going to be educated in Spanish to better communicate with students and their families.

A group of Central Falls School District administrators, which includes principals and central office staff, have already signed up to participate in the weekly after-school Spanish lessons. The goal of the class, school officials say, is for administrators to learn basic Spanish, which they will then be able to use when communicating with the families of their students, many of whom speak only Spanish.

According to statistics provided by the district, Central Falls’ student population is 65 percent Hispanic, 15 percent African-American, and 13 percent white. A Spanish teacher was contracted by the district to offer the specialized class to focus on Spanish lessons that can be used daily in the city’s elementary, middle, and high schools.

Troy Silvia, principal at Central Falls High School, expressed interest in learning a second language, which he and other school officials believe will aid in closing the existing language gap.

“I want to learn Spanish to reach my students and their families in their native language,” Silvia said. “I think is important to communicate directly with the parents and also it is a personal goal I’ve had for many years.”

School Superintendent Victor Capellan said the impetus for the program was when Silvia and Ella Risk Elementary School principal Michael Templeton came to him, saying they had always wanted to learn Spanish so they could directly communicate with students’ parents.

Templeton hired a private tutor and Silvia began taking classes at the Providence Public Library, but Capellan said it would be easier for all involved to take these courses together.

“They said ‘Of course!’ and I said this would be great for us,” Capellan said. “There’s a benefit to us personally but also to our families and students.”

The first courses started Thursday and will continue through the end of the school year. Capellan said that in addition to the classes, educators will participate in “tertulia,” or social gatherings, where they will be able to speak with other staff members and practice their Spanish in a comfortable setting.

As the principals go through their classes, they’ll set their own professional goal and at the end of the school year, they could look at taking another level. Additionally, other staff members and teachers who are looking to learn a second language could also take future classes. Capellan, who speaks English and Spanish, said there are a group of already-bilingual staff members who want to learn a third language.

“Especially here in Central Falls, where a large majority of our parents speak Spanish, something as simple as welcoming them in their language sets up a comfort that says ‘I want to welcome you into our school,’” Capellan said. “If you’re able to have that full conversation, then even more of a trust is built, you’re able to problem-solve together. It just adds to what we offer, it doesn’t take away from anybody.”

Follow Jonathan Bissonnette on Twitter @J_Bissonnette

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