A 'border' crisis far from the border

For one principal, politics of crisis don't matter

Tens of thousands of children have crossed into the United States this year, fleeing desperate conditions in Central America. The news media have dubbed it a “border crisis,” though none of these kids stays at the border for very long. And in Washington, congressional leaders seem more focused on whom to blame rather than what to do about it.

In this week's podcast, Andrea Seabrook goes straight to the front lines of the crisis. No, not the border but an elementary school only a few miles from the U.S. Capitol.


Susan Holiday, principal of Gladys Noone Spellman Elementary School

Susan Holiday, the principal at Gladys Noone Spellman Elementary School in Cheverly, Md., doesn’t have the luxury of debating the politics of immigration, or playing the blame-game. With a third of her students unable to speak or read English, she and her staff focus on the practicalities: teaching young immigrants in a new language, a new school, and a new home

"On their enrollment it will say, you know, 'Date first entered the United states'," Holiday says. "Let's just say their  first day of school is August 25, it might say August 20. That means they just got here."

Students like this have very different needs from American kids returning to school, she says. Some have just made an arduous trek through the desert, some without an adult. Many new immigrant students at Spellman school don't read or write in their native language, much less in English.


And so Holiday and her staff reorganize classes, pair new students with bilingual ones, and make any accommodation they can to get those kids in class.

In the end, it doesn't matter what the politics are, and it's clear that this is much more than a "border crisis." The way Susan Holiday sees it, it's a practical problem. There's work to do. Now do it.

Print this article Back to Top