Mountain View tweaks course offerings

BY TOM FONTANA
Correspondent

Mt. View has tweaked courses of study available to students, but not as extensively as it had expected.

At a special board meeting on Monday night, March 31, discussion about adjusting the program of studies was moved to the elementary school gym due to the large number of parents and teachers attending to hear what courses faced proposed cuts.

High school principal Robert Presley stated that he was ordered by the board last summer to determine what courses could be removed from the curriculum.

“The word I got was that there are too many electives,” Presley told the crowd. Presley made it clear that he was proposing courses to be cut because that was what he was directed to do, but did not strongly support removing any courses from the curriculum.

Presley revealed that he polled principals of several area schools as to the number of elective courses offered in their classrooms, and the teacher-to-student ratio in regard to class sizes, and found Mountain View fell mid-range.

Board president Thomas Stoddard confirmed that the request to cut courses was made as a cost saving measure for the district.

Presley proposed that for 7th and 8th grade, an English honors class, two honors Social Studies classes and an honors Science class could be taken off the schedule.

“My data doesn’t show that achievement by students in grades 9 to 12 is necessarily enhanced by taking these honors courses in 7th and 8th grade,” Presley added. “But I think the board should consider retaining the English, because there are students at that grade level who might show a proficiency in writing and would benefit from that course.”

On the high school level (grades 9 through 12), Presley listed some business courses that might be eliminated, and physical education classes.

“Actually, the gym class will automatically be limited,” he explained, “because we now only have one teacher, so that restricts the number of classes we can schedule and the number of students who can take phys. ed., unless another teacher is hired.”

During discussion of Presley’s proposals, there was no support from the audience for removing any courses of study from the curriculum.

When some board members cited small class sizes (such as in some cases under 10 students selecting certain electives) as a reason for eliminating a course due to a lack of interest, teachers and parents in attendance strongly defended the need for students to have a choice of studying what interests them, no matter what the class size.

Some parents suggested that the recent upgrade of the security system at district buildings at $375,000 was an expenditure that could have been better used to hire more teachers instead of cutting courses.

Director Roy Twining defended that security upgrade. “If one student in our schools gets hurt (because of poor security),” he stated, “then we’re doing it the wrong way.”

Director Jason Richmond, against removing any courses from the curriculum, shot back, “If one student in our schools isn’t getting the course of study they need, then we’re doing education the wrong way.”

Presley suggested, with a show of support from the crowd and director of curriculum Karen Voigt, that course offerings not be changed, allowing students more choices. “Leave them out there,” he said, “and if there’s not a lot of interest, we can remove the class. There’s always going to be a scheduling crunch. It won’t make that part of my job any easier by not offering certain courses.”

The board voted unanimously to retain the honors English course and remove the honors science and history courses in the lower grades, and rejected eliminating any course offerings in the high school curriculum for the 2014-15 school year.