When Laurie Newman was a parent at Edison Language Academy, she was amazed by the school’s dual immersion program and its commitment to teaching students in English and Spanish.

By the time her child had settled in at John Adams Middle School, though, she was left astounded by the lack of continuity in language education.

“And in high school, I hear, it’s a different story,” she said. “A worse story.”

Newman raised her concerns earlier this month as the local Board of Education weighed a proposal to create a new language and literacy coordinator in the Santa Monica-Malibu school district.

The proposed employee would work with district and site staff at all levels to implement language programming while increasing professional development for both language teachers and instructors with English learners in their classrooms.

According to Terry Deloria, the district’s assistant superintendent for educational services, some teachers in non-language classes have had a hard time providing instruction for English language learners.

Deloria noted that the district’s current English language development coordinator, Aida Diaz, has worked for years to help educate students from other linguistic backgrounds. But the alignment of the language and literacy programs in SMMUSD could be improved, Deloria said.

Diaz’s position will be eliminated, district spokeswoman Gail Pinsker said. The district is hoping to create a new parent engagement position as well as a new language coordinator job.

Deloria said the creation of the coordinator position would allow Irene Gonzales-Castillo, the district’s director of elementary curriculum and instruction, to spend more time improving dual immersion offerings in SMMUSD.

“We haven’t been able to give it the attention it deserves,” Deloria said, adding that Edison’s success hasn’t been duplicated. “Once you get to JAMS and Samohi, there isn’t the same level of support and visibility.”

Longtime board member Jose Escarce praised the Edison model, lamenting that more hasn’t been done to extend dual immersion into secondary schools.

“One the one hand, it is truly a tremendous source of pride. It’s untouchable,” he said. “At the same time, it’s really only strong at the elementary school level.”

Newman, the district parent, said the proposed personnel changes brought her concerns to a head. She’s currently the co-chair of Friends of Immersion, a nonprofit group aiming to improve language programming in SMMUSD.

Newman said her attempts two years ago to engage district officials in conversations on the matter were mostly futile.

“The goal of the nonprofit,” she said, “is to support the program financially.”

Fellow co-chair Laurie Craig said the organization has helped to buy Spanish novels for the JAMS library and organize a Spanish-language book fair at the 16th Street middle school.

But she said the teachers there have requested more help.

“They need books, they need supplies, they need translation help, communication help, accurate email lists,” Craig said. “They need leadership and professional development time.

“Dual immersion is often lumped in with [English language development], but it’s a distinct program with distinct needs.”

jeff@www.smdp.com