by Cheryl Ortega
UTLA Director of Bilingual Education
I became acquainted with Mr. Marshall Tuck in 2008, the first year of the rollout out of PLAS. As Director of Bilingual Education for UTLA, I had received a call from some teachers at Ritter Elementary School in Watts concerned that their Dual Language Program would be closed down by order of PLAS’s Tuck. He, Angela Bass and Doc Ervin, all PLAS officials, had determined to close the program because of supposed low test scores. In fact, there was only a single year of test scores to consider. Ritter, a school in historically African-American Watts, was 75% Hispanic. The English-speaking students in the Dual Language Program were all African-American.
The teachers, parents and students of Ritter, supported by UTLA, held at least 2 demonstrations outside of the school in support of the language programs. That led Tuck to bring in police to disperse the crowd, and later some “experts” from San Diego” whose incredible lack of knowledge and expertise in the realm of language learning was astonishing. These experts led a presentation to misinformed parents at a public meeting stating that dual language learning would be detrimental to their children. This was in spite of a huge body of research supporting, as researchers, Viginia Colliers and Wayne Thomas state, “The amazing benefits of dual language education.” The program was closed at the end of the year with Vice Principal, Ricardo Ruiz, under the direction of Marshall Tuck, telling the African-American students that dual language was not for them.
In the following year, we witnessed Spanish language signage on the campus disappear. Bilingual signs for restrooms, parent center, nurses office, and more were all replaced with English-only signs.
Marshall Tuck was equally responsible for removing the renowned Academic English Mastery Program (AEMP) at Ritter, a program with a nation-wide reputation for addressing the needs of Standard English Learners.
At the end of the year a vote was taken at Ritter, along with the other 9 PLAS schools to determine the staff’s willingness to continue as a Mayor’s school. As reported to me by teachers, a ballot box was put in the teachers’ lounge. Teachers cast their ballots with no one supervising the box. At the end of the day, the votes were counted by the principal in private and the results were announced. Ritter voted to stay with PLAS. It was the only one of the then 10, PLAS schools to do so.
So PLAS was responsible for:
- Removing the two most successful language programs in the nation from Ritter Elementary, a chronically underserved elementary school comprised of African-American students and Hispanic students, most of whom were English learners.
- Creating heightened hostility between the Hispanic and the African-American communities, or, at least, failing to diminish that hostility by having children and parents have common language goals.
- Skewing research and misrepresenting it to parents and teachers to justify their own negative goals
- Tampering with the faculty voting process.
The three PLAS administrators, Marshall Tuck, Angela Bass, and Doc Ervin exhibited an incredible lack of knowledge and expertise in second language instruction as well as lack of cultural sensitivity to the community they purported to serve. The harm that they did to the Ritter students was great. But Marshall Tuck, as the Director of PLAS, ultimately bears the responsibility for the harmful decisions that were made.