Make World Languages Important in HWRSD

Make World Languages Important in HWRSD

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Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District Concerned Community started this petition to School Committee and

"Learning another language is not only learning different words for the same things, but learning another way to think about things."  Flora Lewis-American Journalist


The Hamilton-Wenham Parent/Teacher Task force respectfully requests that this School Committee restore the World Language programming as it was in school year 2019-2020.


World language literacy has been long identified as an important component of the District mission.  As stated on our own website “The mission of the HWRSD is to educate our children to become young adults who are of good character and demonstrate mastery of the  knowledge and skills needed to be successful members of our global economy and engaged citizens of the 21st Century.”  It is clear that it has been a longstanding aspect of the HWRSD to commit to language learning.  However, what is unique is that for the past 20+ years, our teachers have gone beyond language learning and have had the opportunity to commit to language acquisition.  Ms. Sano presented to us how our students, despite multiple superintendents and their individual perspectives, each had language as a component of the budget.  Ms. Sano and her fellow world language teachers have stood tall and created a unique program so that not only have our students had the opportunity to learn a language but also acquire the language skills to high levels of usage: proficiency and even to receive for some a diploma with a Seal of Biliteracy.  No longer is language class simply about conjugating verbs and learning culturally biased phrases; rather it’s about thinking critically of what you need to learn to have the ability to converse, read and write in that language and as some would say...I might not say it perfectly, but I can get my point across effectively.  


You don’t have to look too far or google too much to know how learning languages as early as possible in life is a benefit to brain development, problem solving, and confidence building. It also deepens our connections to other cultures while understanding our own. As the world becomes increasingly smaller, the ability to converse in a language other than our own helps to make us better global citizens. In the HWRSD, we have swung the pendulum in all directions as time has gone by, but clearly now we all know the benefits of language learning.  That said, we need to revisit how we do the right thing for our community and mostly our students to reach the mission that we have set out for them.  


At the School Committee meeting when Ms. Sano presented regarding languages, she shared hard data that was very helpful.  She informed us not only of the unique teaching for language acquisition, but the institutional history of how world languages programming has changed over her 30 years in the district.  It was obvious that through budget cuts and overrides, it has always been in a precarious position and as former School Committee member Peter said, it was with the slush fund that we looked at languages.    However, this last cut really minimizes our own current mission and likely that of the upcoming Portrait of a Graduate.  We agree and acknowledge budgetary constraints but with the world’s doors open as they are today, how can we deny that not only is learning a language critical in the world for which we are preparing them, but how can we continue to be a stand out district? 


For informational purposes, a short survey was sent to parents with the following:  Do you feel the HWRSD should have a 6th grade language program?  It yielded an overwhelming response of 94% said yes and the remaining amount of responders said maybe.  There were zero responders that said no.  The second question was: Do you feel the HWRSD should provide a language program for our elementary school students?  It yielded nearly 72% saying yes, 21% maybe and the remaining responders indicating no.  This provides just a start to understanding this is a complex issue for this community.  We are happy and will send along the additional comments.


We have ideas about how to revisit our world languages programming dilemma and offer workable solutions.  We propose creating a committee as the SC has suggested with the time to complete a real in depth study of this issue. Giving the committee a full year to collect hard data and community input is crucial in making a truly informed decision about the long term path of world languages learning in the district.  The current outlined goal for this committee as provided in the recent email from the middle and high school administration outlined only a study of this for 2 months.  We are certain that the SC understands that a short 2 month period at the start of the school year could not provide the breadth and depth this matter warrants.  In the interim, we would like to see a restoration of the grade 6 program to the way it was in the 2019-2020 school year.  This also solves the matter of the “6th Grade Academy” that does not have an established curriculum.  The grade 6 language program does.  It also does not add an additional teaching period for all 6th grade teachers.  Next, we are not oblivious to the budgetary challenge.  With the surplus funds we know that no program can be established as those funds are not sustainable.  That is why we propose that funds be used to restore this programming for one year only and allow the newly developed study on world languages committee to acknowledge not only where the community stands on languages but the budgetary component as well.  


While we are aware that there are concerns about revisiting what may already appear to have been voted on but...as members of the community, we were not able to share our concerns and comments about this until AFTER Ms. Sano’s presentation.  We are concerned that it unfairly went to a vote without our elected officials being able to do their due diligence on the matter.

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