Fairfield University wins two federal grants totaling more than $1.6 million for bilingual and special education in Bridgeport, Norwalk and Stamford


At a time when enrollment of immigrant and "limited English proficient" children in Connecticut is growing at four times the rate of overall enrollment, Fairfield University's Graduate School of Education & Allied Professions has garnered two grants totaling $1,644,521 for two programs that foster bilingual education.

Project TELL (Teachers of English Language Learners) will receive $798,832 over four years to prepare 25 in-service teachers to obtain a graduate degree in bilingual education or TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and/or to assist them to meet Initial Educator Certification and endorsement requirements in bilingual education or TESOL.

Project BiSEP (Bilingual Special Education Professionals) will receive $845,689 over five years to prepare 25 bilingual candidates to serve students with limited English proficiency and/or students identified as having exceptional learning needs.

The school districts of Bridgeport, Norwalk and Stamford will recruit educators for both programs, which are being funded by the U.S. Department of Education's National Professional Development Program. Both programs provide tuition reimbursement for all participants.

Enrollment of Norwalk students whose first language is not English, went from 803 in 2000 to 895 in 2001 to 1,005 in the first nine months of 2002, said Eva de Lourdes Diaz-Edwards, Ph.D., supervisor of bilingual and ESL for Norwalk Public Schools.

"We have a growing population and very limited numbers of teachers available," Díaz-Edwards said, noting that the district went to Orlando to recruit educators.

The grant will help the local schools "grow their own" bilingual and ESL teachers, Díaz-Edwards said.

Elda Kluth, special education and student services director for the Norwalk Public School System, said she has worked successfully on similar programs with Fairfield University. "Fairfield University has been instrumental to Norwalk," Kluth said.

In the last two to three years, the Stamford Public School System has also seen big increases in enrollment of immigrants, whose first language is not English, said Lupe Dauplaise, director of programs for English Language Learners. "In order to deal with that influx we need more highly qualified teachers," Dauplaise said.

Carol LaBruno, director of the Stamford Public School System's special education programs, said the system is in need of bilingual special education instructors.

"We've already begun the process of seeing who might be interested in taking applications," LaBruno said.

Project TELL builds on a series of grants awarded to Fairfield University since 1995 to train bilingual teachers, said Sr. M. Julianna Poole, S.S.N.D., Ed.D., project director of the grant. "Project TELL will enable us to continue to support the recruitment and training of teachers in the critical shortage areas of bilingual education and English as a Second Language," Sr. Poole said.

Fairfield University is the only institution of higher education accredited by the Connecticut State Department of Education to offer Initial Educator Certification in Bilingual Education on the graduate level and one of two accredited to provide Initial Educator Certification in TESOL. Fairfield has been offering courses in Bilingual Education and English as a Second Language since 1972.

David Aloyzy Zera, Ph.D., director of Project BiSEP and director of the Program in Special Education, said BiSEP "has the potential to dramatically and positively affect the education of a significant number of persons." Candidates for the program will receive initial certification in Special Education with cross-endorsement in Bilingual Education, as well as a master of arts degree or a certificate of advanced study.

The educators "will be trained to work in a variety of settings to better meet the needs of an under-served population," Dr. Zera said.

Fairfield University's program in psychology and special education has grown tremendously under the guidance of graduate school Dean Margaret Deignan, said Dr. Zera. Fairfield University recently underwent a five-year re-accreditation process and was awarded passing scores in all areas with a large number of commendations and a significant number of high-distinction scores.

Candidates interested in applying for Project BiSEP should contact Dr. Zera at 203-254-4000, ext. 2528. Candidates interested in Project TELL should contact Sr. Poole at 203-254-4000, ext. 2873.

Media inquiries can be made to Dr. Zera and Sr. Poole as well as to Fairfield University's Office of Public Relations at 254-4190. Journalists can also contact Michael Giannotti at 576-7304, for the Bridgeport Public School System; Sheri McCready at 854-4005, for the Norwalk Public School System; and Sarah Arnold at 977-4095, for the Stamford Public School System.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on October 15, 2002

Vol. 35, No. 98