The foreign language program as it currently exists in Three Village schools cannot be sustained, according to school administrators, and so the district is considering a number of changes to the foreign language programs offered.
Kevin Scanlon, assistant superintendent for educational services, and Vincent Vizzo, principal at Murphy Junior High School, broke down the changes that would be made to the program at Tuesday's school board meeting.
The American Sign Language (ASL) program, for which the community fought hard to protect in 2012, is once again the chopping block, as is AP Latin. In the German program, class levels that follow the CERC exam (a "Regents equivalency" exam) would be eliminated.
The junior high schools will continue to offer seventh graders introductory levels of Spanish, but will offer only one introductory section of French, Italian and German – dependent upon the minimum enrollment of 28 students being met. Students select their "first choice" and "second choice" languages and will be randomly placed in those classes based on those choices. Students who start to track into a more advanced level of their foreign language choices will still have their needs met with advanced offerings in the junior high schools.
The school district previously offered Mandarin Chinese and a more robust Latin program. However, Liz Brecht, who chairs the Ward Melville HS foreign language department, said maintaining the Mandarin Chinese program became impossible once its part-time teacher found a full-time job elsewhere, and said student interest in Latin has simply waned.
"It’s about student interest. ... Students are more interested at this point in Italian and Spanish and we have to go with what the students want," Brecht said.
Currently, the district-wide foreign language program consists of 30 teachers, including:
- 17 teachers certified in Spanish only;
- 2 teachers certified in Italian;
- 4 teachers in Spanish and French;
- 2 teachers certified in Spanish and Italian;
- 1 teacher certified in Italian and French;
- 1 teacher certified in Spanish and German;
- 1 teacher certified in Spanish and Latin;
- 1 teacher certified in German and Social Studies;
- 1 teacher certified in ASL.
Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services, said the foreign language proposal takes into account the fact that there may be between 65.1 and 81 full-time equivalent layoffs. So far, a total of 2.4 teaching positions would be eliminated under that layoff proposal.
As part of the presentation, Scanlon and Vizzo displayed a slide that read:
We feel that our students would most benefit from a language program that provides them with the greatest opportunity to develop fluency and cultural understanding needed for success in the 21st century. Exploration of adopting a program that builds depth in our Spanish offerings and introduces an international language of critical need, such as Mandarin Chinese and or a Middle Eastern language should be considered.
Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich said she supports these changes to the foreign language program "especially given the budgetary constraints."
Trustee Jonathan Kornreich said he understands that these hard choices have to be made, but he wanted a clearer picture of the long-term plan. "I would like to understand now what the final product is going to look like and not that we're going to wing it from year to year," he said.