More Foreign Language Cuts in Public Schools

Article written by Debbie Sullivan for Northport Patch, June 23, 2011:

Both Northport and Elwood school districts are facing cuts in foreign language classes in the 2011-12 school year, and many say they aren’t happy about it.

At Elwood’s most recent Board of Education meeting, frustration and disappointment were expressed by parents and students over the canceling of French as a language choice for seventh graders.

The reason? Only 17 students had enrolled for the 2011-2012 school year, a number which Superintendent Peter Scordo was too low given the probability of some attrition taking place in subsequent years.

Students currently taking French, and even those involved in other languages, made heartfelt pleas for the district to reconsider its decision. Several pointed out that at the United Nations, French is the official language spoken. Others spoke of a lack of competitiveness with other schools if it were to be eliminated.

Julia Badlato, president of the John Glenn High School PTSA, told the board that offering French is a minimum requirement, and to not do so would be an embarrassment to the district.

Northport residents are facing the same issue, except that the language in question is German. At the June 7 Board of Education meeting, many parents spoke in favor of keeping the class, even though only a total of 15 students between the Northport and East Northport Middle Schools had expressed interest.

Robert Dennis, a Spanish teacher at Northport High School, said it was important to not only offer romance languages. He said that if German were not offered, it would “die off,” and asked what would need to be done to offer the program next year.

Board President Stephen Waldenburg said he’d like to find a solution but didn’t know if there was one at this stage. Matt Nelson, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction and Administration noted that Western Suffolk BOCES offers German classes online.

Trustee Andrew Rapiejko asked about the possibility of offering an introductory class in ninth grade.

Nelson replied that if that were the case, students wouldn’t be prepared to take the more challenging International Bacculareate classes in German in eleventh grade. He also noted that the New York State Board of Regents had recently eliminated all language Regents, making testing a challenge.

One solution might be to offer German as a second language option for those students already taking another language. Nelson said the district is considering it.

Ironically, Northport High School sophomore Michael Kavanaugh was recently awarded an all-expenses-paid summer study trip to the Federal Republic of Germany after competing nationally against 23,000 students in a testing program offered by the American Association of Teachers of German.

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