Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Show's Cast Truly Multicultural; School's Students Speak 41 Languages

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Show's Cast Truly Multicultural; School's Students Speak 41 Languages

Article excerpt

Byline: SANDY STRICKLAND

In staging her school's holiday gala, Deborah Liles sometimes had to ask for an interpreter.

After all, San Jose Elementary School has students who speak 41 languages.

So, during rehearsals, if she needed to tell a performer to play the autoharp at a slower pace, for example, she would ask, "Who in here speaks Spanish?"

"Someone would raise their hand, and it worked really great," said Liles, the school's music teacher.

The show is being staged for students at 1:30 p.m. today in the cafetorium, 5805 St. Augustine Road. An encore performance for parents and the public is at 7 tonight.

Liles wrote and is directing the show, which she said is a perfect fit for the school. Ironically, she wrote it last year when she was at Annie R. Morgan Elementary School in the Paxon area.

"I love drama," she said. "I wanted it to be educational but also incorporate music and involve as many classes as possible. I also wanted it to be a history lesson for them. I had no idea I would be at this school this year, but I came here, and they wanted to do a holiday gala."

San Jose is a center for students in the English for Speakers of Other Languages program. About 310 of its 700 students hail from 49 foreign countries, including Afghanistan, Bosnia, Vietnam, Russia and countries in Latin America and Africa. Many live in complexes near the school, while others come on special assignment from the Southside and Mandarin.

"It's really amazing that with all the countries killing each other in the world today that they get along so beautifully," said Julia Brannam, a retired principal who is the school's reading coach.

The hourlong shows depicts the holiday traditions of six areas -- the United States, Italy, Germany, Mexico, the Middle East and Africa. In the German segment, for instance, it relates the story of the Christmas tree; in Mexico, the role of the pinata; and in the Middle East, the observance of Ramadan. …

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