Parents with children enrolled in Ecole Kenwood, a French immersion Columbus Public School, expressed dismay with the hiring of three teachers that do not speak fluent French at the Columbus School Board meeting Aug. 7.
Nicole Kraft, spokesperson for the parents, emphasized the parents are committed to Columbus Public Schools and thrilled for the opportunity for their children to expand their educational horizons through a French Immersion school, however, they are concerned with the recent hiring of these teachers.
“Many of us had a choice of whether or not to go to Columbus Public Schools. A lot of our friends went to the suburbs when they had kids, but we didn’t because we thought Columbus Public Schools was offering us an opportunity we couldn’t get someplace else, because of the French immersion school,” said Kraft.
An immersion school teaches their students standard academics. The difference is, the classes are taught in a different language. In this case – French.
For Ecole Kenwood, teaches students in kindergarten through eighth grade. In kindergarten and first grade, students are spoken to in French 100 percent of the time. In second grade, they receive 20 percent of their instruction in English and 80 percent in French.By the third grade, they hear English 30 percent of the time, and so on.
Kraft said Ecole Kenwood is celebrating their 20th anniversary and Ecole currently boasts their students come from 20 different countries. Ecole Kenwood is the only French immersion school in Columbus with a waiting list for kindergarten and firstgrade.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that these are great teachers. They’re fine teachers, they’re more than qualified, but they’re not qualified from our perspective because they don’t speak French and we came with that expectation,” said Kraft.
Dr. Gene Harris, Superintendent of Columbus Public Schools said she sympathized with the parents and if they have the opportunity to place a French-speaking teacher there, she and the board will do so.
Harris said Madame Palma, the principal at Ecole Kenwood will see that students are still instructed in the French language in their Social Studies and Language Arts classes. Part of the problem, Harris said, is that teachers not only have to be considered highly qualified by the Ohio Department of Education, but they have to be certified to teach elementary school, in addition to the French-speaking status.
She also explained the board also has to contend with contract requirements and reductions in staffing that make it harder to fill the positions with French speakers.
“We will do everything we can, not only for Ecole Kenwood but for all our students and if there’s a possibility we’re able to make a different placement and bring in a fluent French speaker for third through fifth grade, we’ll do that,” said Harris.
In response, Kraft said, “We recognize they’re in a very difficult position, but we’re talking about the future of our kids, so we’re really hoping that they’ll recognize that although we understand the budget constraints that they’re in, the budget numbers they threw out here certainly didn’t seem as bad as in years past.”
The numbers Kraft referred to was the Treasurer’s report presented by Michael Kinnear, in which the projected fiscal year receipts were $638 million with a projected ending cash balance of $26,360,000.
Actual receipts were $649,483,000, ending with a cash balance of $33,138,000, but Kinnear did advise part of the reason for the increase is he was not taking into account additional funds they are received due to a declining real estate tax.
In the Superintendent’s Report, Harris touched on six target objectives that Columbus Pubic Schools will focus on this school year. The report mentioned the improvements Columbus Public Schools have received on its State of Ohio Report Card, as well as improving the school climate to reduce behavior offenses, increasing attendance, engaging parents and families in the students’ progress, dealing with the issue of Food Services, etc.
Harris says the monitoring report she will present on Sept. 18 will go into greater detail on all these subjects and give the board members a better idea of how to proceed financially.
Harris was reluctant to say whether another levee will be necessary, citing it as a board issue.
“The board always said they would go back to the ballot in 2008. Now whether the board feels the need to decide ‘When, what, how?’ they’ll make that final definitive statement. So understand that we have to seek out some time to provide data, to provide programmatic data, to provide financial data to provide information so the board can make a decision about what to do,” said Harris