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April 11, 2018 - 11:43am
posted by Howard B. Owens in immigrants, City Schools, batavia, schools, education, news.


When the children of Claudia Celia Rincon Pico and Loan Trang entered Batavia City Schools a few years ago, neither mother spoke a word of English.

On Tuesday night, both mothers spoke to City School Board members to demonstrate how a special Sunday night English class led by Jenna Mrzywka and Courtney Turner has helped them improve their English.

Mrzywka, an English as a Second Language teacher at Jackson, and Turcer, an ESL teacher at Batavia HS, started the Sunday adult English night class on their own (it's now supported by the district) two and a half years ago.

"They're new to the community and a lot of times when someone is new to a country they feel there are cultural and language barriers so they don't always come into the school," Turcer said. "This is a chance to bring parents into the school building and a chance for kids to help their parents and it's a way for them to make friends and get roots in the community. They know English is important so it's a way for them to help themselves."

Rincon Pico and Trang have been part of the program since its inception, though Trang recently opened a nail salon in Erie County and now lives in the Pembroke Central School District, where her son attends school.

Rincon Pico is from Colombia and Trang is from Vietnam. Turcer said ESL students tend to be predominately Spanish-speaking, though Chinese is often common, but students have come through speaking other languages, including an Indian language and French. When she started with district five years ago there were 13 or 14 ESL students, she said. Today there are 40, including 10 at the high school.

Both Mrzywka and Turcer have built solid relationships with parents in the class, which makes it easier to help them deal with school work for their children.

They also said the parents, despite often coming from different countries and cultures, build lasting friendships among themselves.

The non-English population in Batavia is fluid, Turcer said, so there is some fluctuation in class size. Currently, there are five adults in the class. There have been as many as 10 and as few as two.

Adult students start with the basics, learning their ABCs, and move onto personal identification, food, and household items.

In their presentations, Rincon Pico and Trang shared about their home countries, what their interests are, and their favorite dishes from their homelands. Interestingly, both dishes, though very different, featured pork, rice and peppers.

Trang said she was grateful to the Batavia district for all it had done for her and her family.

"I love to become an American," said Trang at the close of her talk, who also noted one of her favorite holidays is the Fourth of July. "I love it here and I love America."



August 24, 2008 - 12:14pm
posted by Russ Stresing in sheriff, immigrants, teamwork, police work.

      Saturday's edition of Batavia's Daily News front-paged a story of our local law enforcement performing their duties in the full spirit of the oaths they take.  Sheriffs deputies from Livingston, Genesee and Wyoming counties dovetailed their efforts in apprehending a group of robbers that have been victimizing local immigrant workers.  Using the workers' fear of immigration authorities, these thugs forcibly invaded migrant housing, beating and robbing with the confidence that local law enforcement wouldn't be notified.  However, local farmers worked with our law enforcement professionals to convince the victims to come forward.

 '   "Many of the victims felt helpless,  due to the fact many were illegal immigrants in this country, fearful of reporting the crime and being deported," Livingston County Sheriff John York said Friday during a news conference.'   But the local law saw things in black and white.   Later in the article, York says, "....I want to make it clear to everybody that even illegal immigrants or legal immigrants have the right not to be victimized in this country."

    Those sentiments were repeated by many of the fine people who worked in an "intensive, round-the-clock" effort to stop the victimization of some of the most defenseless among us.  To read the story is to be proud that our law enforcement officials take their duty to "serve and protect" to mean they'll serve and protect everybody.

May 12, 2008 - 6:13pm

Gov. David Paterson and Sen. Chuck Schumer visited the Grange at the Genesee County Fairgrounds today for a forum on agriculture. More than 100 farmers from upstate counties came out to attend the Q&A session that kicked off with a brief recap of the federal Farm Bill by Schumer.

About 20 people lined up at the microphone for a chance to ask the governor questions on agricultural policy and the future of upstate farms. In fact, there were so many folks interested in getting their voice heard that the governor didn't have time to address them all — and an event that was expected to last about a half-hour ran well over an hour. Immigrant labor and supporting youth education in agriculture were among the many issues raised by the public.

Paterson was joined by state Labor Commissioner M. Patricia Smith who took up the issue of immigrant labor. From a released statement issued by the governor's office after the event:

Farmers have been increasingly frustrated at their inability to find qualified workers to harvest their crops, hampered in large part by federal regulations requiring them to exhaust all domestic possibilities before being granted waivers to hire non-domestic workers. Farmers insist the supply of farmhands is far outweighed by the demand, and without sufficient federal waivers from the Bush Administration, crops will literally die on the vine.

The governor also discussed a state program to fight the Plum Pox virus that threatens "stone fruit crops" such as peaches. The program will continue to study infected crops and reimburse farmers for their losses from destroyed crops.

UPDATE: The blog Poltics on the Hudson covers Gov. Paterson's visit:

Business leaders in upstate are criticizing the governor’s plans to go back to the old policy, in which a New York City chairperson oversees the state’s entire economic development program.

Right now, Dan Gundersen serves as the upstate chair, based out of Buffalo.

“No one has said that we are taking Mr. Gundersen away from upstate,” Paterson told reporters after a town-hall meeting in Batavia on farm issues with Sen. Charles Schumer.  ...

“And I certainly understand that the economy is reeling, the anxiety is overflowing in upstate New York.”

Paterson went on to say that “I wanted to have an ability of the agency to have a centralized organization” yet he doesn’t plan to diminish any services to upstate.

“If we don’t change something, we’re not going to have improvement around here,” Paterson said.

“And I would invite some of those who said they were irked, to please call me because I let them know since the time I was in office two months ago that if they ever had a problem, they should call me and not one of them have called me in the past few days.”

Also, here's News 10's coverage.  And Associated Press.

Meanwhile, the Albany Watch blog wonders why Paterson has missed four consecutive legislative work days.

His absence is giving rise to speculation that he doesn’t intend to push an aggressive agenda for the rest of the legislative session.

“It’s hard to drive the Albany agenda without being in Albany,’’ said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group. “That’s why the Executive Mansion is in Albany.’‘


Update posted by Howard Owens

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