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Ed. Consultant is Filling the Leadership 'Void' at NABE

The National Association for Bilingual Education, which once had a strong voice in Washington on issues affecting English-language learners, has someone filling in as the interim executive director after four years without a leader. It will be interesting to see if it regains its former stature in the community of ELL advocates. Santiago V. Wood has been interim executive director of the organization since January (OK, it took me a while to figure this out). He is an educational consultant, not a full-time employee of NABE.

Back in March 2006, the executive board of NABE decided not to renew the contract of James Crawford, its executive director. At that time, three board members resigned in protest. The organization hasn't hired a permanent executive director since then.

I met Wood a few weeks ago at a White House summit on Hispanic education. Wood then noted to me that NABE has had a "void in leadership" for four years. The organization has continued to host annual conferences. It will host this year's annual meeting in New Orleans from Feb. 16 to 18.

I think it's noteworthy NABE has even an interim executive director because I haven't been able to get anyone on the phone to speak about ELL issues from that organization for several years, while once upon a time I spoke with someone over there every couple of months.

Since 2004, Wood has been a consultant in urban education. From 2000-04, he was the superintendent of Fresno Unified School District. When we talked at the summit hosted by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, Wood said he realizes he's leading NABE at a time when "bilingual education is under fire."

He said the organization is promoting the value of dual-language programs, in which students who are dominant in English and students who are dominant in another language learn both languages side by side. He said those kinds of programs have been found to be more successful than transitional bilingual education, in which students are separated out into classes where they receive instruction in their native language and don't mix with native speakers of English.

"To be competent and competitive in this society, you have to be fully bilingual and global in your vision," he told me. Wood was born in Panama and is fluent in Spanish, French, Portuguese, and English.

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