Neshaminy School District Faces Possible Cuts to Middle School Language Program

Article by Nicole Jenet for Lower Southampton Patch, May 15, 2011:

During the April 26 and May 10 Neshaminy School District school board meetings, superintendent Louis Muenker presented various budget cost-saving measures.

Two of those cost-saving measures were the elimination of tenth grade physical education and eighth grade foreign language classes. The elimination of these two programs would save the district more than $380,000.

However, at the May 10 board meeting students and teachers voiced their disapproval of those program cuts.

“We should not allow Neshaminy to move backwards,” said Rebecca Johnson, a Neshaminy High School junior from Langhorne. She said eliminating foreign language at the eighth grade level would also eliminate the fifth level of foreign language classes.

This elimination will “put students at a disadvantage,” Johnson said, noting that Neshimany does not offer German or AP level foreign language classes.

“It will definitely cut the students’ opportunities,” said Yasmin Malik, a sixth-grader at Maple Point Middle School.

“Neshaminy students won’t be able to complete [in the global economy], let alone with other Bucks County students,” she said.

“Don’t cut foreign languages in the middle schools,” Malik said.

Maple Point Middle School seventh grader Alex Guffman said that he and his peers “know it is a privilege to take a foreign language in middle school” and that they want to take a foreign language to prepare them for life. Guffman said that he had about 200 signatures from people opposed to eliminating foreign language in middle schools.

Reducing Neshaminy students’ foreign language exposure “drags them down in world competition,” Neshaminy High School alum Stacy Speese said.

“You may think cutting this will save you a pretty penny, but take a look at the bigger picture for the students,” Speese said.

Neshaminy High School foreign language teacher Nancy Kerr said that the elimination of eighth grade foreign language is “shortsighted and detrimental to the school’s mission.”

Maple Point Middle School physical education teacher Kathleen Kenney told the board that “childhood obesity rates are at an all-time high,” and that some students don’t partake in physical activity outside of gym class.

“It is scientifically proved that physical activity improves academic performance,” Kenney said. She asked the board why they would cut a nationally recognized program.

“These phys. ed. teachers not only teach us to get up and move, they also teach us life long lessons,” Maple Point Middle School student Kira Bradley said. She said putting students in a study hall would mean students sitting in a cafeteria on the cell phones and Ipods and “ironically” eating junk food.

“We don’t want to cut foreign language,” board member William O’Connor said, noting that the board’s hands are tied due to collective bargaining with the teachers’ union.

“Cutting programs is the greatest sin of all. Unfortunately, we have to consider a log of unpopular things,” he said. O’Connor continued that he hopes that a “miracle comes through from the governor’s budget” and he apologized.

“This board does not take lightly any cutbacks in programs, but if the [Neshaminy Federation of Teachers] were to come to the table and pay their fair share if health care and benefits and be reasonable about their salary, most of these cuts would not be made,” board member Mike Morris.

“This board is not doing the cuts because we want to, we’re doing them because we have to,” he said.

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