DMPS Expands ELL Program with Hiring of Director


Pablo Ortega will serve as the district’s new ELL Director.

As English Language Learners continue to comprise the fastest growing subgroup of students at Des Moines Public Schools, the district is expanding its ELL program with the creation of a new director position and providing increased support for refugee students.

Pablo Ortega will join the district this summer as ELL Director. Ortega comes to DMPS from Chicago, where he is the principal of ASPIRA Haugan Middle School.

Vinh Nguyen remains a supervisor with the district’s ELL program, and his role will evolve to oversee community outreach and focus on increasing support for refugee students and families, one of the school district’s fastest growing populations.

Ortega brings with him experience as a bilingual instructional leader with a deep acumen in instruction for English language learners, having been one himself. Mr. Ortega has a School Administrator endorsement from Lewis University, a Master’s degree in Education focusing on ELL and Secondary Mathematics from Quincy University, and a bachelor’s degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from DePaul University.

He will serve under the Office of Academics to guide the district expansion of services to English language learners, which includes more than 6,000 DMPS students speaking nearly 100 languages and dialects and having arrived from more than 100 different countries. The district is also expected to welcome almost 1,000 new ELL students for 2016-17.

“While our diversity is one of our greatest assets, it does present challenges that we must be prepared to tackle head on,” said Noelle Tichy, Executive Director of Academics. “Mr. Ortega has a track record of successful leadership in an urban setting.”

The district’s ELL population has expanded from 11% of our students in 2003 to more than 20% in 2015. To put that in perspective, ELL students alone would be the 15th largest school district in Iowa.

“We have wonderfully dedicated ELL teachers in our district, but we do not have enough,” said Superintendent Dr. Thomas Ahart. “Mr. Ortega will be vital as we move to equip all teachers in the district with the necessary skills and strategies to service our growing ELL student population.”

Pablo Ortega begins working at DMPS on July 18, 2016.