Around New England

Somerville Early Education School Students Speak 23 Languages (Plus English); Emphasis On ‘Equity,’ ‘Restorative Justice’

February 29, 2024

Students at an early education public school in Somerville speak 23 primary languages, the principal said.

Students come from all 12 countries in South America, all seven countries in Central America, the Dominican Republic, Ukraine, Russia, Greece, Germany, Japan, and China.

“In summary, we have a total of 23 home languages at the Capuano,” said Felix Caraballo, principal of Michael E. Capuano Early Childhood Center, which serves prekindergarten to kindergarten, starting as early as age 3.

The most common foreign languages are Spanish (the language of most of Latin America), Portuguese (the language of Brazil), and Creole (the language of Haiti).

Source: Somerville School Committee meeting video, Somerville, Massachusetts, Monday, February 26, 2024. Screenshot.

Out of 23 homerooms at the school, only eight are for general education, he said.

“The rest of our homerooms are special education,” Caraballo told the Somerville School Committee during its meeting Monday, February 26.

Professional development training for teachers before 2022 centered on “equity,” he said.

“We had a strong emphasis in exploring inequities in the classroom, through professional development. Basically all of our professional development was addressing the equity issues that we identified in our school,” Caraballo said (at 17:39 of the meeting video).

Now, the school is implementing “restorative justice,” he said. Restorative justice in schools is an attempt to replace top-down discipline for poor behavior with peer-mediated small groups of students empowered to resolve conflicts on their own. During the 2022-2023 school year, the first group of teachers at the school were officially trained in restorative justice, according to a slide displayed during the presentation.

Source: Somerville School Committee video, Somerville, Massachusetts, Monday, February 26, 2024. Screenshot.

The school had about 360 students before the coronavirus shutdowns, and only 98 immediately after the school re-opened, he said. It’s now up to 250. The decrease is because certain classes have been moved to other schools in the city, he said.

The school is named for Michael Capuano, 72, a Democrat who served as mayor of Somerville from 1990 to 1999, and as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1999 to 2019.

Caraballo’s presentation on the school begins at 10:30 of the Somerville School Committee meeting video.


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