SDUHSD expands support for bilingual students

Mingming Zhang is the new SDUHSD Bilingual Parent/Community Liaison position for Mandarin and is expected to help ease communication between district personnel and families who do not speak English fluently.

Zhang, a long-time Carmel Valley resident and SDUHSD parent, is the second bilingual liaison hired by the district this school year. Following an initiative announced in August 2022, the district now provides one Mandarin-speaking and one Spanish-speaking liaison to families in an effort to decrease language barriers.

“The district is making a very positive move to embrace [increased diversity] and I am very excited and honored to be part of the new change,” Zhang said. 

The liaisons primarily will communicate with parents, according to district Communications Coordinator Miquel Jacobs. “The liaisons will reach out personally to parents, introducing themselves and sharing the support they can provide to our parent community,” Jacobs said. These supports include translating parent notifications, attending parent-group meetings and collaborating with school counselors, according to Zhang. She will work primarily with the five district schools with the most Mandarin-speaking students: Carmel Valley Middle School, Pacific Trails Middle School, Earl Warren Middle School, Canyon Crest Academy and TPHS.

“It’s my hope to see more students flourish in our district and more parents and families participate in … educational and extracurricular programs,” Zhang said.

Having a bilingual liaison will help parents and families from other countries understand the educational system in the United States.

“By having someone who can be an official bridge between the American education system and immigrant parents, families can better navigate education in America and open up possibilities that they were not even aware of,” Crystal Xu (12) said.

Xu believes the liaisons are necessary to support diversity on campus. “We should strive to have these positions for as many languages as possible,” Xu said.

There are other ways to facilitate translation between Mandarin and English, such as through various digital language apps,

“Digital translators are not always accurate and may lead to misunderstandings in the community,” said Mia Szymanowski (10), who speaks Mandarin and is learning English in an English Language Development class at TPHS.

The bilingual liaisons do not need to be certified translators but must be proficient in both English and in the designated second language, according to Jacobs.

Currently, the district plans to employ three liaisons, Jacobs said. The search for a second Spanish-speaking liaison is ongoing, as of May 24.
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