We had a brief (about 30 minute) Amherst meeting before our Regional Meeting on Thursday -- so this will be a quick update.
First, we elected new officers (given the election of two new SC members to Amherst on Tuesday). I nominated Irv Rhodes as Chair, which was seconded by Steve Rivkin. Then Irv nominated Steve as Vice Chair, which Rob Spence seconded. Both motions passed unanimously.
Second, we discussed new sub-committee assignments. Rob is going to serve (with me) on JCPC and Steve and Rick are going to serve on BCG.
Third, we discussed the next meeting dates/times, which will be Tuesday, April 6th, and Wednesday, April 7th (6:30 pm). It is not clear whether these meetings will take place in the HS library or at Town Hall -- Debbie Westmoreland is going to check on the availability of Town Hall (which then can be shown live).
Finally, we turned to the one item on the agenda, which was a motion I had prepared. This motion was to provide Spanish language instruction in all elementary schools K to 6 starting this fall -- using the model now used for "specials" (e.g., once a week instruction, as we do for music, PE, art, library, computer now). This motion was seconded by Irv, and then was discussed at a fair amount of length. I pointed out that the Amherst SC had voted additional funds at our last meeting precisely because we wanted to have the flexibility to offer this type of new program, and I thought this would be a great use of additional funds. I also noted that this program could help families who may feel less welcome in our schools be more involved, particularly given the ending of the language clustering this fall, and would be in line with our district's commitment to multiculturalism. I also noted that Spanish is by far the language most spoken in this community (other than English), and thus this seems like the logical language to teach K to 6. Other members on the SC also spoke in favor of this motion, although wanting to understand the fiscal costs associated and how else additional funds could be spent.
The superintendent and several principals (Mark Jackson, Mike Hayes, Mike Morris) generally spoke in favor of this idea, but cautioned that it was quite complex to consider for many reasons. Mark Jackson noted that we should consider focusing on languages K to 12, and that languages like Russian/Arabic/Chinese would be more likely to be paid for the government. Mike Hayes pointed out the problems associated with having some kids have Chinese in terms of MS placement. Maria Geryk noted that there were many spending priorities focused on intervention and special education.
The SC then voted unanimously to request for the administration to examine fiscal and educational implications of adding K to 6 Spanish in all elementary schools at the start of the 2010-2011 school year. This information will be presented at the April 6th meeting, and voted on at the April 7th meeting -- so, if you have thoughts about this proposal, please email the SC (email@example.com) and/or the superintendent (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Rob Spence also raised the issue of the costs associated with returning to instrumental music in 3rd and 4th grade as opposed to 4th and 5th grade (as happened this year in response to budget cuts). The SC also agreed that this would be useful information to have, and the superintendent said this could be prepared for the April 6th meeting as well.
My Goal in Blogging
I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.