School officials to reconsider German cutsBy Mike Berger
The School Committee has asked Superintendent Jeff Granatino and Galvin Middle School Principal Dr. William Conard to review the decision to cut the first- and second-year German instructional programs at the middle school and to see if any compromise can be made to restore some of the classes for next year.
Approximately 20 parents, students, CHS alumni, and school staff attended the April 5 committee meeting and spoke about the issue — just hours after parents were informed by their children of the decision to cut the program. A letter from Conard was sent home that day.
School Committee members and Granatino said the decision was not a budgetary one, but a decision based on declining enrollment. Granatino said that Conard, who could not attend the meeting because of a prior commitment, felt that he could no longer support class sizes of 10 or fewer students.
Supporters of the program said the decision means there would be no introductory German classes in grades 7-8 and also no German I at the high school. Alice Earle, who has hosted German exchange students and teachers and whose children all took German in the Canton Public Schools, noted that students taking introductory classes in French and Spanish have a several-year head start on those interested in taking German. She agreed with parent Mike Quinn, who said that the principal should have informed parents much earlier in the process.
(Click here to read a letter to the School Committee by Alice Earle’s daughter, Caroline.)
Veteran German teacher Elsa Nicolovius, the driving force behind the very successful Canton-Bocholt Exchange program, recounted how past superintendents have also made decisions to discontinue the program and it wasn’t fair to stop and then restart the program and still expect to maintain or increase enrollment.
School Committee Chairman John Bonnanzio and committee member Reuki Schutt both noted that the committee has long maintained support for starting language instruction in the earlier grades, including at the elementary level if possible. They urged Granatino and Conard to meet with parents to revisit the decision.
In other news Thursday night, the committee announced that the Finance Committee may recommend another $220,000 in new money for next year’s school budget; however, they wanted to confirm the news with FinCom and selectmen before allocating any of the new spending.
The committee had recently approved a budget goal of $31,700,078 that included $428,000 in new staff and programs. On March 22, the committee approved roughly $214,000 of that new spending for a three-year bus contract and fuel adjustment charges; morning supervision for students at the high school, Kennedy, and Hansen schools; a grade 2 teacher at the Kennedy; and system-wide software renewal licenses. The committee also supported adding a special education teacher at the high school and at the Rodman preschool using state “circuit breaker” funding, which kicks in if enrollment increases in these programs, and a half-time kindergarten position based on registration numbers.
The committee on Thursday approved an additional $214,000 for new programs and staff, including another high school assistant principal, an after-school supervisor at the high school, increased hours for a high school performing arts teacher, a computer teacher at the Galvin, additional hours for health elementary instructors, more money for extended-day tutoring, a new CHS athletic trainer, $11,000 for the music department, and a part-time plumber.
If the additional money from FinCom is approved, the committee plans to select from the remaining supplemental spending requests, which includes increased hours for science and social studies teachers at CHS; more hours for an English teacher at GMS; restoration of extracurricular activities and after-school supervision at GMS; restoration of three technology assistants system wide; increased substitute teacher salaries; more funding for school supplies, textbooks, and library supplies; and restoration of a custodial position at the elementary level.
In other news:
* Granatino reported that work on the Pecunit Street intersection project is underway. The town received government grant money to improve school pedestrian safety by adding sidewalks and also adding storm drains at the intersection of Washington and Pecunit streets. The project will continue through April, stop during May, and pick up in earnest at the end of the school year and into the summer.
* A committee of CHS teachers, staff, school administrators, and students has been formed to screen the first round of applicants who have applied to be the next high school principal. Current principal Dr. Doug Dias has accepted the principal’s position at Medway High School. Granatino said interviews will begin after April vacation with a goal of selecting the new principal by the end of May.
* Granatino said he will send out a survey to parents, staff, and students regarding their opinions on school start times, particularly a later start time for the high school.
* School Business Manager Ken Leon reported that the schools will save a good sum of money in heating costs from the past school year, especially at the Rodman building. Switching to natural gas, in addition to a very mild winter, could result in a 40 percent savings in heating costs compared to the previous year.
* School Committee member Liz Salisbury reported that “Band Together,” a battle of the bands fundraiser for the music department, raised $1,000 on March 30 with great support from CHS students.
* The committee reelected Bonnanzio as its chairman, Cindy Thomas as vice chairman, and also chose Schutt as secretary. This is the ninth year that Schutt and Bonnanzio have served on the committee.
* The committee will next meet on Thursday, April 26.
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