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Language Policy: English is not my Mother Tongue.

Our Language Mission Statement

Somers Central School District believes that communication is integral to the development of knowledge, of understanding, and of empathy. Our mission is to ignite a passion in each student by engaging them at a personal level to ensure success in a global society. One way to accomplish this is by offering students opportunities to study multiple languages. Students must participate in our multi-lingual world and develop empathy for global citizens, and we believe that this begins with embracing another language, seeking to understand those whose language in which we are not fluent, and welcoming speakers of all languages. Somers High School strives to maintain a safe, caring space for all, in which all languages and all cultures are nurtured and celebrated. We strive to achieve this with multiple language opportunities for students, extracurricular clubs and activities, and the collaboration of stakeholders.

Our Vision

The vision for SCSD encompasses three fundamental areas, each an important component of the Whole Child —

  • 21st Century Knowledge & Skills
  • Social-Emotional-Physical Wellness
  • Global Citizenship

SCSD believes that learning at least one additional language is an integral component of all three areas.

Language Philosophy

 Recognizing the importance of language in our school vision and goals, Somers High School desires to equip each student to be a literate, articulate, and contributing participant in local and global communities.  Somers High School is comprised of a largely homogenous group of students in terms of language; however, each year we have been seeing an increased enrollment of students whose mother tongue is not English.  It is our philosophy to ensure that this linguistic diversity is celebrated by offering opportunities for students to learn about and share with each other. Our goal is to provide an inclusive environment for all students, families, and community members, with various language backgrounds, by creating multiple ways to access and engage with district content and messaging.

We recognize that learning a language refers to one’s mother tongue, to being fluent in more than one language, and to gaining emerging skills in both new and current languages. We regard our job as one that enhances communication: Each of our teachers, regardless of discipline, is a language teacher who helps students develop their reading, writing, and communication skills in the context of their discipline, whether it is specific vocabulary, style, and/or convention. While English is the language of instruction of most courses at Somers High School, we are a multicultural community with over 8 languages spoken, and we strive to ensure that everyone can participate.

Language Profile for Language A: English 

The mother tongue of Somers High School, as well as for a majority of our students, is English.  As a public school, we have no language proficiency requirement for enrollment; we accept all students, regardless of their English fluency, with appropriate supports in place as required by New York State. Students in grades 9-12 are instructed almost exclusively in English, except when learning another language is the goal of the class.  Students write labs and essays and deliver oral presentations in multiple disciplines. They learn content-specific vocabulary in all their courses (for example the jargon needed in archery or in algebra) and are advised about appropriate style (for example writing in the passive voice is preferred in science courses but not in literature courses). In addition, students take 4 years of English Language Arts class, the goal of which is to hone language, reading, writing, grammatical, articulation, analytical, and vocabulary skills.  Students are required to choose from among the following courses each year:

  • Grade 9: English 9, with an embedded honors option
  • Grade 10: English 10 with an embedded honors option
  • Grade 11: English 11 Regents, the College Board’s Advanced Placement English Language and Composition, or IB Language A: English Language and Literature HL year
  • Grade 12: Search for Self, Philosophy in Literature, the College Board’s Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition, or IB Language A: English Language and Literature Year 2

Practices that Support English Fluency

  • We believe that all teachers, not just English and World Language teachers, are teachers of language.  Students write, read, and deliver oral presentations across curricula and disciplines.
  • We believe that consistency across subjects builds good habits. Our classes and teachers focus on common language in the context of inquiry and research.
  • We believe that MLA is an age-appropriate citation style for high schoolers; Somers students graduate with proficiency in MLA; college-level courses expose students to APA and/or Chicago styles when appropriate.
  • We believe in developing a common language around citation styles. Our library media specialist has created a citation rubric to use across grades and content areas so that students can use the same vocabulary and criteria to give credit to the ideas and words of others.
  • We believe that reading facilitates fluency. Our library’s collection is comprised of high-interest student reading choices, prominently displayed; our teachers encourage independent reading and often require that students select a book on their own to read, rather than one that has been assigned to them.
  • We believe in collaboration. Our library media specialist visits content classes to share lessons about finding and using academic sources, academic integrity, and the vocabulary of note-taking.
  • We believe in modeling. All teachers model speaking, reading, and writing strategies in all languages of instruction.
  • We believe in equal access. All students have received a Personal Learning Device (PLD), free of charge, to use for the duration of their high school experience. This allows students access to digital resources at age-, content-, and discipline-specific levels.
  • We believe in individualized help. We have a dedicated Writing Center, staffed by an English teacher, which all students have access to for assistance with any part of the writing process.

Mother Tongue Philosophy

Somers High School provides support to students and families whose mother tongue is a language other than English.  In our geographic area, the second most common mother tongue, after English, is Spanish.  We also have a large number of families who hail from Albania. We recognize that Somers families have varying levels of fluency in English and invite them to fully participate in our school and in our community, regardless of the language with which they feel most comfortable.  To facilitate this inclusion, we have a number of practices, outlined below, to encourage as much involvement and comfort as possible, whether in English or in their mother tongues. This support includes ENL instruction, translated materials, translation at conferences and parent meetings, an interpreter for phone calls, and many other practices outlined below.

Practices to Support Mother Tongues

  • The Somers Central School District and Somers High School website is available in over 20 languages.
  • Parent-Square, our communication delivery system between the district and families, can translate any communication pushed out from the district into a language spoken at home.
  • We have enabled close-captioned subtitles in the most common languages public presentations and we are making hand-held translators (Langogo, available in 107 languages) available to students to use in class so that they can participate in group work with their peers even when group members do not speak the same language.  Our current goal is to make these more widely available at the school entrance and in the main and counseling offices so that families can communicate with faculty and staff.
  • Students in our Spanish club offer Spanish translation through a transmitter headset for school assemblies, plays, and assemblies. This is advertised directly on the flyer and on the information pushed out to parents, in both English and Spanish.
  • Student work is accessed on Personal Learning Devices, distributed to each student free of charge, via Microsoft Word, which can translate worksheets and assignments written in English into over 70 languages so that students can access content in a language in with which they feel comfortable working.
  • We have directed funding to the support of a district position called the Diversity and Equity Coordinator, who helps to ensure that our practices and supports consider ALL of our students’ and families’ backgrounds, languages, and learning needs. In addition, we have dedicated funding to a stipended, building-level position called the Diversity and Equity Advisor, who organizes activities designed to highlight and celebrate various groups within our school.
  • To determine eligibility for special education services, the district works with providers through our local BOCES who can test students in their mother tongue—most commonly Spanish or Albanian in our district—rather than exclusively in English, to ascertain whether the learning difficulty is related to language or to an underlying learning disability.
  • We have a dedicated ENL teacher, whose job is to support students who have not yet met the New York State criteria for fluency in English.
  • The ENL instructor(s) have ordered translated texts of novels and other instructional materials
  • The DEI Advisor provides monthly exposure to the music of other cultures. One form of linguistic and cultural expression, music helps students become familiar with other peoples and other languages. Some examples:
    • During Hispanic Heritage Month, students and teachers gathered at the entrance to the school and danced the Flamenco to traditional music as students arrived at school.
    • For Italian Heritage Month, teachers demonstrate to students how to perform the Tarantella, in the main corridor of the school during arrival. 
    • The IB Dance Class publicly performs the ChaCha and Salsa, open to the entire student body.
    • During Albanian Heritage Month, our morning announcements featured quotations from famous people of Albanian descent.
    • In December, our Jewish faculty performed the Hora, sharing the Hebrew tradition and songs with the student body. As well, our student band performed traditional Hannukah songs in Hebrew.
    • In the spring, we feature quotations on our morning announcements by famous people of Asian-American Pacific Islanders.
  • Library Media Specialist Support: Because our linguistic needs are diverse and because we believe in preparing our students for the digital age, we have invested in digital methods to support students in their need to maintain and nurture their mother tongues. Our library’s website offers 24-hour access to research, literature, and films in a multitude of languages. Additionally, we subscribe to and/or offer:
    • Access World News—a site which gives students and faculty digital access to newspapers from around the world.
    • Public library cards (Westchester Library System and New York Public Library)—through which students can access digital resources in multiple languages as needed
    • A World Cinema subscription, which gives students and faculty access to international films in a variety of languages.
    • SWANK movie subscription—which has offers access to films available with audio translations or subtitled translations
    • Maintain Britannica Academic and Gale OneFile Databases in Spanish
    • E-book / audio books (Overdrive’s Sora platform) allow fluid and on-demand access to texts in any language needed
    • Spanish and French print collection
  • Students whose mother tongue is not English are encouraged to become IB Diploma candidates. We will make every effort to support a student who wishes to study a Language A that is not English, to write an Extended Essay in a language other than English, to earn a bilingual Diploma, or to take examinations in Groups 3-6 courses in languages other than English.

Language Profile for Language B: Spanish, French, Italian


Somers High School offers three options for students to study a language other than English.  We offer Spanish because there are a number of Spanish speakers in our area and in our state (New York), and because of its close ties with some members of our community: there are many New Yorkers whose mother tongue is Spanish.  We offer French because of New York’s close proximity with Québec, the French-speaking province of Canada, because we live approximately an hour from the United Nations in NYC, because of its close ties with the history of the English language, and also because it is the second most common second language in the world.  We offer Italian because of the rich cultural connection with Italy in our local community.  Many families in Somers are second- and third- generation immigrants from Italy; this language offering affords students an opportunity to connect with parents, grandparents, and the culture from which their families came. All three of these languages are offered to students beginning in grade 6 and continuing through grade 12, if they so choose.  Many students earn college credit through their language studies at Somers High School. We offer classes at the College Level, the College Board’s AP level, and both Spanish and French IB Language B: Language and Literature at both the SL and HL levels, co-seated. Students who have studied Italian through grade 10 may become IB Diploma candidates by taking French, Spanish, or Mandarin at the Ab Initio SL level through Pamoja, at no charge to them, and—schedule permitting—may continue to study Italian at the College-Level as well.


  • We require that all students participate in learning at least one year of an additional language—offering classes in French, Italian, and Spanish beginning in grade 6, with opportunities to study through grade 12.
  • We have an Academic Support Center for students staffed with English, French, Spanish, and Italian teachers, for students seeking extra help with their language courses.
  • Our Library Media Specialist supports students who seek materials in the languages they are learning through access to the Westchester Library System, New York Public Library, and by maintaining content credit with Overdrive, which enables us to purchase eBooks and audiobooks for students as needed.
  • We provide numerous opportunities for students to learn about each other through the full-time district Diversity and Equity Coordinator and the stipended building-level DEI Advisor.
    • Student, Parent, and other Community Representatives on the Somers Educational Equity Advisory Team
    • Student-led policy review committee which looks at language in our school’s Code of Conduct through an equity lens (focus on gender-inclusive language and on increasing restorative practices when students use language to insult another’s race, gender, or identity)
  • We have a French club, a Spanish club, and an Italian club, all of which sponsor activities such as:
    • film viewings
    • sponsored poetry readings and contests
    • cultural celebrations
    • hallway and bulletin board maintenance
    • recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in different languages over the PA system
  • Students may participate in our American Sign Language Club
    • Learn about deaf culture
    • Study American Sign Language
    • Provide sign language translation during our choral concert
  • Field trips for sophomores to the United Nations building in New York City, where students learn about how translation and discussion occur at international meetings.
  • Our Model United Nations Club participates in competitions in which students take the perspective of a leader from a particular country, research their practices, public speeches, and policies. Then they participate in a model UN General Assembly, in which they contribute their comments—adopting a tone, register, and vocabulary appropriate to their assumed position—to a larger discussion on a particular issue.

Language Policy Development and Review

This Language Policy reflects the current practice.  We also acknowledge that as time passes, language practice will change.  Therefore, this document will be subjected to cyclical review, as well as for the 5-Year IB Self Study. Those involved in this Language Policy development and review process will be: the building principal, the English and World Language Department Leaders, the Diversity Equity and Inclusion Coordinator, the Library Media Specialist, the Director of Counseling, the IB DP and MYP Coordinators, and other interested teachers.

Most Recent Update: January 2022
Alison Scanlon, IB DP Coordinator
Erin Stewart, IB MYP Coordinator
Christine Drysdale, Library Media Specialist
Monica Martell, World Language Department Leader
Elizabeth O’Shea, English Department Leader
Brenda O’Shea, Student Life Coordinator
Karin Brill, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coordinator
Pete Rodrigues, Assistant Principal