Proposed Cuts to Foreign Language Classes at Middle School

Here we go again —

Article by Joe O’Connell for Milford Daily News, January 26, 2011:

BELLINGHAM —

Eliminating foreign language classes at Memorial Middle School is just one of a number of cuts principals proposed last night to meet a projected $750,000 deficit in the School Department’s fiscal ’12 budget.

The principals from the five schools presented their budget goals, as well as ways to save money, to the School Committee during a meeting in the high school auditorium.

“These budgets are preliminary,” said School Committee Chairwoman Cheryl Gray. “We are presenting the information now as a way to be transparent throughout the budget process.”

Middle School Principal Michael Lovecchio told the committee that cutting the school’s only foreign language teacher would save about $47,000, which would mean the end of foreign language classes.

That teacher currently teaches honors level Spanish and honors level French to 68 students as an elective.

“Ideally, I want to let every student in eighth grade have access to a foreign language class,” said Lovecchio. “If we are going to have a foreign language department, I want to do it right.”

Earlier in his presentation, Lovecchio said he would rather add a foreign language teacher than cut one. He presented a survey to the committee that showed Memorial Middle School is the only middle school in the region that has just one foreign language teacher.

The loss of foreign language classes in the middle school would also alter the classes students could take in high school. Currently, honors seventh- grade and eighth-grade students take the equivalent of half a year of Spanish I or French I.

They then go to the high school and are placed in Spanish II or French II, which ultimately allows them to take an AP language course later in their high school career.

If students cannot take a language in middle school, they would have to start high school in Spanish I or French I.

“I would be very concerned about it,” said Grace McDonald, the head of the world language department at the high school. “I would personally like you to consider not closing that program.”

At the elementary level, the principals proposed cutting $30,000 from the materials budget, which would force parents to buy school supplies, such as crayons, that are normally provided to students.

“It was a challenge,” said South Elementary Principal Kathryn Wilson. “At this point, we are not happy with the presentation we just gave you.”

Bellingham High School Principal Edward Fleury, who is proposing cutting a math teacher, foreign language teacher and English teacher, said budgeting only continues to get more difficult.

“If we have to go through another year like this, we might as well put names in a fish bowl and pick them from there because things are getting tight,” said Fleury.

Superintendent David Fischer stressed that the budget is still a work in progress, and he won’t have a better understanding of what the School Department’s deficit will be until Gov. Deval Patrick releases his budget, which he is expected to do today.

“We always plan for the worst and hope for the best,” said Fischer. “Everything we do needs to support student learning.”


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