Brazilian school administrators share ideas with District 69 officials
Francisca Cunha Lima (right) and Magnolia Segura Dias are two of the award-winning principals from Brazil who have visited the Skokie School District 69 during October. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 11, 2012 10:17AM
SKOKIE —Superintendent Quintin Shepherd considered it an honor for Skokie-Morton Grove School District 69 to host three school administrators from Brazil.
The three, chosen because they have been recognized for their skills in Brazil though a national School Management Award Program, arrived Oct. 13 in Skokie. They left Nov. 1 for Washington, D.C., and were scheduled to return Saturday to Brazil.
During their weeks in the Chicago area, they had a chance to learn about educational methods in the United States while simultaneously sharing their experiences in different areas of Brazil.
The three Portuguese-speaking woman discussed their time in the United States Oct. 29 through an interpreter in the District 69 Maier Administration Center. They visited District 69 under the Brazil USA International Principals’ Exchange Program.
“This experience is important. It’s a learning experience for us,” said Francisca Cunha Lima, the principal of a school in Manaus, the capital of the largest Brazilian state of Amazonas.
She predicted the experience will have a “snowball effect,” with both the Brazilian schools and Skokie and Morton Grove schools benefiting from the exchange of ideas.
“For her and all of them, this is an historic moment,” Shepherd said. “I think the most valuable experience for all of us has been the sharing of perspectives.”
The three principals work in different areas of Brazil and in different types of schools, though all are elementary grade schools.
Lima’s school, in a low-income area, is a pilot school that holds classes eight hours a day, until 5 p.m. Many of her students come from surrounding areas and are brought to school in boats by their parents, who work as merchants in the city.
In addition to providing more time for learning, Lima said the longer days keep the children busy until their parents can pick them up. As part of the pilot program the school also provides free meals during the day for students and teachers.
“The (ability) level of the students has increased enormously,” she said. “It keeps the parents minds at ease because they are at work.”
Aurilene Freitas Santos, principal of a school in the city of Boa Vista in the state of Roraima in northern Brazil, said the emphasis at her school is on core subjects such as math and language though students also can select electives in other areas.
Her school has three shifts and is open from 7:30 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. The first two shifts serve elementary age children and the third is for young adults, she explained.
The third administrator who visited District 69, Magnolia Segura Dias, is principal of a school in a small town, Ilha Solteira in the state of Sao Paulo.
Her school operates two shifts, each lasting five hours and 20 minutes. In addition to spending time in District 69, the administrators visited the Skokie Police Department, Skokie Fire Department and Skokie Village Hall.