Mexicali educators visit Central, Southwest

January 23, 2002|By JENNIFER RALTON-SMITH, Staff Writer

A group of educators from Mexicali gathered with some northern counterparts at Central Union High School district office in El Centro on Tuesday morning, ready to go on a tour of Central and Southwest high schools.

The visit was organized as part of an ongoing educational outreach between teaching faculties in Mexicali and at Central Union.

In December last year, administrators from CUHSD toured a preparatoria (high school) and a secundaria (intermediate school) in Mexicali.

CUHSD Superintendent Richard Fragale addressed the group briefly before the tour, saying a major aim of the dialogue between the two groups would be to work toward the recognition of students' credits from the Mexican education system for those students who relocate to the U.S. during their high school education. Many such students have been severely disadvantaged by not having their Mexican course credits recognized once they take up residence in the U.S.

Fragale estimated that upward of 100 students from south of the border feed into the CUHSD system each year.


He went on to explain that if such students were to "come through our school district and we accept their credits, then the University of California is required to accept those credits."

Fragale stressed the importance of helping those students who come to the U.S. in achieving their ultimate goal of attending college.

Fragale took time to emphasize how impressed his team had been with the standards of excellence observed in the Mexicali schools visited in December.

Divided into two smaller groups, with each group visiting both high schools, the visitors from Mexicali were soon fully engaged in learning as much as they could about education north of the border.

Listening attentively and asking questions as they went, the first group to visit Central stepped briefly into teacher Lourdes Rueda's sophomore biology classroom. The visitors listened as Rueda spoke proudly of her students' recent successes at the Imperial County Science Fair.

When the group was shown the English language laboratory, the visitors were impressed to learn there are some 10,000 language lessons available to students.

More than once as the tour proceeded, individual group members were hailed by former students from south of the border who would eagerly come up to them and shake hands.

At Southwest, Assistant Principal Manuel Silva greeted the second group as it arrived by school bus to tour his school.

The Mexicali educators seemed awed by the scope and size of Southwest's impressive performing arts center. Visiting the school's technology lab also appeared to have special interest for the group as they walked around the classroom closely examining laboratory equipment.

When Francisco Roman, head counselor at Southwest, explained the intricacies of the huge master schedule board that takes up an entire wall in his office, the group had many questions as to how teachers in the U.S. are scheduled and allotted class time and how many hours a teacher would typically work in a school week.

With the tours completed, it was back to district office for a working lunch and further discussions as to the best way to organize future cross-border contact between the educators of both countries.

With interpreters facilitating the discussions, tentative plans were put forward that would include Mexicali educators in CUHSD workshops and staff development sessions in August. Plans were discussed for a student exchange program.

Fragale offered to share computer software where appropriate as "this is a major part of today's curriculum."

He went on to speak of math being "a common language" and that "math and science would be the two easiest (subjects) for us to exchange communications on."

At the end of the day, Carlos Ruiz spoke on behalf of Professor Alejandro Bahena, secretary for education and social welfare in Baja California, saying "We are very impressed by the facilities here and very impressed by the attention given to the students, especially those coming from Mexico."

Ruiz continued by saying as a representative of the secretary for education, he now has a lot of valuable information to take back to the secretary.

>> Staff Writer Jennifer Ralton-Smith can be reached at 337-3442 or

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