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Letter to the editor: Program cuts diminish greatness of Plum School District

| Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, 4:57 p.m.
Plum School District.
Plum School District.

I am a concerned parent of a senior at Plum High School who has taken French for five years. I have an eighth-grader who is taking French I at Oblock Junior High. My oldest child is a 2016 Plum graduate who had taken French I-IV while in high school. In our family, we balance the study of humanities, in particular the French language, along with STEM. Above all, we've encouraged our children to strive to take challenging courses whenever they have the opportunity. I fear now that my youngest child will not have the same opportunity as my oldest two.

The elimination of the French program at the high school for an online option is unacceptable. The program and teachers are excellent. We have the most-coveted resource to a world language program — a native speaker teaching the class. In addition, there are two near-native speaking teachers who come to the classroom with the knowledge and perspective that an American English-speaker who has learned French can provide. The classes offered now provide for direct, real-time interaction with a teacher and a classroom of peers. The French program is a vibrant program with solid enrollment and interest. I would hate to see the Plum school board eliminate this program for an online option. It is simply not the same. How did it come about that the French program was the “low-hanging fruit” in this round of proposed program cuts?

The following school districts in the eastern suburbs offer French and Spanish, levels I-IV: Riverview, Gateway, Franklin-Regional, Kiski. Gateway offers German in addition to French and Spanish and Kiski offers Chinese. Gateway and Franklin-Regional offer their languages as a fifth year, advance placement, college in high school option. These are not online courses.

I voted to support a school board that is fiscally responsible. But had the school board knocked on my door last summer to inform me that it would be cutting whole programs out of the high school so as not to raise my taxes, I may have slammed that door while proclaiming instead to “Raise my taxes!” I want the best for my child and I'm willing to pay for it.

I have attended recent school board meetings where the budget was discussed. I understand the board is concerned with seniors on a fixed income, and with long-term viability, but you must also be concerned with providing the best educational experience to the growing families in this district. Our neighboring districts offer these courses and we should, too. Will the board stop after cutting the French program this year? Which programs will be cut next year?

We've been through some rough times, with the recent teacher-student sex scandals and lawsuits rocking our district. I've had to endure the scrutiny of colleagues and relatives whenever Plum would hit the news. I would always defend Plum. But now, I'm not so sure. I feel so strongly about the elimination of programs that if a young colleague with a family would ask me advice on where to settle in the eastern suburbs, I may point them down the road a bit. I mean, Plum is a “good enough” school district, but is it really “great?”

Kathleen Hanlon


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