Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria smiled and nodded with the beat as he listened to Spanish Immersion School kindergartners sing in their classroom Wednesday afternoon. As they finished, he applauded and praised their singing as stupendous, but he did it in Italian.
“Stupendo!!” he called out. “Stupendo!”
DeMaria visited the Spanish Immersion School on his way back to Columbus from a morning event in Cleveland. He toured classrooms with Principal Gabe Costa, Superintendent Brian Garverick and board of education vice president Renda Cline. Spanish Immersion, 240 Euclid Ave., has an enrollment of 233 in kindergarten through eighth grade.
DeMaria listened to second-graders discuss the life of Martin Luther King Jr., completely in Spanish, then stepped into the hall to describe what he had witnessed. “Sometimes we tend to limit our expectations of students but so many times, as I have seen here, students exceed our expectations,” DeMaria said. “I think learning a foreign language – I speak a little Italian myself – stretches a student’s intellectual firepower. It is a beautiful thing to watch these children extending their abilities.”
DeMaria noted Spanish Immersion students’ success on state tests, which are given in English. Last year the school was recognized as a High Performing School by the Ohio Department of Education and earlier earned ODE’s Ohio School of Promise honor two years in a row.
Recognized by Spain as an International Spanish Academy, the school was one of only 100 in the United States to be named a National Title I Distinguished School in 2016 for reducing the academic achievement gap among students in all subgroups, including low-income, racial/ethnic and those with disabilities.
“We are very proud of the work done at the Spanish Immersion School,” Garverick said. “Earning recognition at the state, national and international levels is quite an achievement.”
DeMaria isn’t the first state official to visit Spanish Immersion. During the school’s first year in 2009, when it had only a dozen kindergarten students, then-Gov. Ted Strickland listened to the children speak and sing in Spanish. “This is very impressive!” he told then-Principal Jody Nash. In May 2013 then-superintendent of public instruction Richard Ross visited the school, telling a Mansfield News Journal reporter, “This is a success story we need to be talking about.”
Source, Photo: Mansfield City Schools