Cuts to French Program Protested

Derek Mclean for The Milford Daily News, June 11, 2012:

MILFORD —

A group consisting of a language teacher, a past student, and parents is pleading with the School Committee not to cut grade 7 French, a decision that was finalized during a May 10 working budget discussion.

But the committee has remained adamant the course would come to an end when summer vacation begins.

Superintendent Robert Tremblay said the committee had to fund a 2 percent budget increase, requiring members to free up around $600,000 in direct cuts.

Tremblay said the course’s low enrollment led to the cut.

Current classes have as little as 10 students and do not exceed 14 students.

The budget cuts eliminated one foreign language teacher, saving the school approximately $50,000, thus ending the grade 7 program.

Grade 8 French was not affected.

“This particular cut impacts not only just one position, but potentially an entire program,” said Fran Olano, the Milford schools foreign language curriculum team leader for grades 7 through 12. “We know that the earlier our students start a foreign language, the longer they continue to study that language, the more proficient they become.”

To retain a quality French language program in Milford schools, Tremblay and the committee agreed, at a future meeting, to look into finding new ways to offer French in some capacity to the grade 7 students. But no solution will retain the cut teaching position.

“I think we need to have language,” said Tremblay.

“There is no intention on my part nor is there on the principal’s part to eliminate French in Milford Public Schools,” he said. “But I think everyone can appreciate that we need to make ends meet budgetarily.”

But members of the four-person group at Thursday night’s school board meeting, including Olano, feared that by ending grade 7 French, students in high school would have trouble reaching the advanced placement class, putting it in jeopardy of ending as well.

School board member Donald Quattrochio shared that concern.

Assumption College student Kristin Clark took grade 7 French while attending Milford schools. She said the subject “deserves its recognition and exposure.”

“I want to see French flourish because it is a beautiful language.”

Clark said French is a gateway language, which helps students learn other languages such as Italian and Spanish.

Quattrochio said the course for next year is not being offered to the current sixth-grade students.

He said that to help guide the committee in finding ways to offer the subject, it is critical that teachers find out how many of the grade 6 students are interested in taking French, before the end of the school year.

Bonnie Bufalo-Derderian taught the grade 7 course at Stacy Middle School. The school consists of students from grades 5, 6 and 7.

She will take a foreign language teaching position in grade 8 Middle School East, currently held by foreign language teacher Megan Berry who was cut from the budget. Tremblay said the decision to cut Berry was based on seniority.

During the budget cuts one other physical education teacher position was eliminated and another teaching position ended by attrition. Two curriculum supervisor positions were also cut.

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