OTHER HEADLINES FROM 2.26.15 BOE MEETING
- Changes to FLES Program
- Trustee Gonzalez Recognized by NYSSBA
- Parent asks about Trustees Facebook Posts Regarding IB Program
TRUSTEE GONZALEZ EARNS NYSSMA RECOGNITION
Dr. Melnick Announced that freshman Trustee Lara Gonzalez received a commendation from the New York State School Board Association's Director of Leadership, Development and Field Services for her frequent attendance at the organization's conferences, workshops, training sessions and other events.
CHANGES TO ELEMENTARY SCHOOL/MIDDLE SCHOOL FOREIGN LANGUAGE PROGRAM
Dr. Melnick announced changes to the District's Elementary Foreign Language as students enter Middle School. Currently students choose to take either Mandarin or Spanish when they enter third grade and then continue with that language through sixth. Entering seventh, they are given the choice of Mandarin, Spanish, French, Italian and Latin. Beginning next year, students will be given those options when they leave their respective elementary schools and enter the sixth grade. He said the changes were being made at the recommendation of the FLES and World Languages teachers.
PARENT ASKS ABOUT TRUSTEE'S POSTS REGARDING IB PROGRAM
A parent attending Thursday night’s Board of Education meeting questioned Schools Superintendent Dr. Edward Melnick about the accuracy of a school board Trustee’s statements regarding the High School’s implementation of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program that had been posted on a Community Facebook group with more than 2500 members, at the start of the 9-day February recess. In the posts, the Trustee, expressing concerns about her child’s program for next year, stated that it appeared that the implementation of IB was causing cuts to arts education; that the new program led to some students not having a lunch period; and, that it prevented students enrolled in IB Biology during their junior year from taking an Advanced Placement level Science course in their senior year. She said she was writing as a parent – not a trustee.
Tim Madden, parent and author of this article, asked Dr. Melnick if arts education was being cut as a result of the implementation of IB. The Superintendent replied that that was not the case. The program in question, Concert Chorale, was moved from zero period (before the official start of the school day) to sixth period at the request of the music teachers, the Choral Director and the Director of Fine and Performing Arts, he said. The change, he continued, would give Concert Chorale the status of a regular course rather than it being viewed as simply an extracurricular activity, and that choral students would now have the opportunity to receive more instruction, as it would meet daily, rather than every other day as it currently does. Students who take both Concert Chorale and either band or orchestra, which also meet sixth period, would be enrolled in the classes on alternating days as is done in other courses with “A-B” scheduling. For most choral students, he said it would lead to more instruction, not less.
Trustee Marianne Russo then responded to the Superintendent’s comments. She expressed skepticism that the schedule change was not due to the IB Program, saying that a new arts course for next year, IB Music Theory, would now be offered during the zero period. She conceded that the Music department did want to make the Concert Chorale a full time course. The Trustee explained that her child would now not be able to take Orchestra every day, but would have to split that time with Concert Chorale. “I’ve suggested to Mr. Cousins, and he’s taking it under advisement, that for students such as my son who will now have to share his time between orchestra and Concert Chorale that we have designated extra help periods in the morning.” She added that she believed the schedule change was not communicated properly. “The problem was that an e-mail was not sent out to the parents explaining exactly how the program was being implemented” and that information parents were receiving was inaccurate. She did not say where the inaccurate information was coming from. Trustee Russo continued that Mr. Cousins would be sending out an e-mail explaining how the new schedule is going to work.
Mr. Madden stated that the author of the Facebook post wrote that IB Biology was a two year course, thus depriving students the opportunity to take Advanced Placement science courses in their senior year without giving up lunch. He said that he read the course handbook, and it appeared to state otherwise, with students being given the choice of taking IB Biology as either a one year or two year course, with the option to take the AP Biology exam at the end of the first year, and taking another AP science course such as Physics or Chemistry in their senior year. Dr. Melnick replied that the explanation in the course handbook was accurate. He added that students in the IB diploma program had to take three “SL” (one year) and two “HL” (two year) courses and that Biology can be taken as either. If a student chooses to take it as an SL course, the HL requirement can be fulfilled with other two-year courses.
Mr. Madden asked the Superintendent if there were students now who did not have a lunch period in their schedule with the current AP course offerings. Dr. Melnick said that unfortunately there were, and that it was an occurrence that the district was trying to minimize. Dr. Berliner stated he would like to get information from the Superintendent regarding how many students currently do not have a lunch period, and what was anticipated to be the case with the IB program. Dr. Melnick stated that he could provide data to the board for this year, but because student scheduling for next year is still being done, figures would not be available until a later time. Trustee Russo said that she believed that IB did not provide as much flexibility as the current programming does, and that it is difficult for parents because “you’re scheduling your child for two years.” Dr. Melnick said that the district was told by IB and other schools that it could expect 15 to 20 students to enroll in the full diploma program in the first year that courses were offered, but that 75 sophomores had elected to do so.
Mr. Madden asked the Superintendent about an assertion made by another resident in the Facebook thread that the implementation of the IB program was costing the district more than $1,000,000. Trustee Russo was the first to respond, saying that the “figure we had last year was about three-quarters of a million dollars, but that I’m not sure that that included all of the expenses.” Mr. Madden replied that the number he remembers being discussed last year was in the mid $300,000 range. Dr. Berliner said he also remembered the number to be in the 300,000’s, but that “we need to be certain and look it up.” The next day, Dr. Melnick provided figures, which had been given to the board last year, showing the itemized costs totaling $522,904 over five years, from 2012-13, when the “exploration” phase began, through the end of 2016-17.
Resident Amy Beyer, who left the Board this past summer after having served for twelve years, spoke a few minutes later during Public Comment. Addressing the board, she said often times community members “hang on every word you say thinking you’re in the know and that you have all the information.” She continued, “I would just caution the board and board members that, when putting things out to the public, you fact-check first because it can create fear and panic sometimes unnecessarily.”
Trustee Russo said that she did fact check beforehand with her child’s guidance counselor, and that she “took offense to the comment.”
Dr. Berliner said that the board would discuss the issue at its retreat that weekend.
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