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School's Closing Teaches a Sad Lesson

June 18, 2002

I was profoundly saddened to read that Bellagio Road Newcomer Center would be closing this month ("Special School for Immigrants to Close," June 13). I was on the original committee to develop the Newcomer Center. Over the years I had the opportunity to work with especially caring teachers, counselors and nurses dedicated to giving newly arrived immigrants the right academic start in their adopted country.

Children arrived in September quiet and a little awed by the beautiful American school in the canyon. I saw them progress from practicing shy, halting "Good mornings" to delivering graduating speeches in English in June. There were almost no discipline problems or playground fights. It was the kind of school where children were unhappy to leave on Fridays or for long holidays. Graduates returned to thank their teachers for giving them the confidence and necessary introduction to U.S. schooling.

When will the community realize that immigrant children are not the problem of urban education but the hope? It's too bad that school board member Marlene Canter is catering to a privileged constituency, enticing them back to public school in Bel-Air. It's a shame that more people don't have the social conscience or vision to realize the benefits that could be achieved by sharing the wealth and having charter and Newcomer students learn together.

Lila Silvern

Sherman Oaks

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