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Restore programs in arts, foreign languages and technology

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In this third letter in a series reviewing the GDRSD Needs Assessment Report, the focus is on the second key finding: We need to restore and improve programs to meet the needs of students in the areas of the arts, library science, physical/behavioral health, technology and engineering, and foreign language.

In recent school budget cycles, staffing cuts have occurred in fine and performing arts, library, and foreign language, reducing options and increasing class sizes. Special subject offerings have been scaled back or eliminated, and we don’t have the depth of offerings found in other high performing districts.

Class sizes are above 25 students in many special subject sections.

The data illustrating this need is eye-opening. In FY2009, a total of four certified librarians were and replaced with library specialists, who are not certified teachers. In FY2011, the middle school library staff was further reduced to one paraeducator. As a result, the libraries in the middle school are only open on alternate days.

In FY2012, elementary school physical education was cut from two days a week to one day a week. Foreign Language at the elementary schools was scaled back in FY2009, and cut altogether in FY2010.

There are no Fine Arts and Physical/Behavioral Health coordinators. The foreign language coordination stipend and grade level oversight was reduced from grades 1-12 to only include the secondary level.

Groton-Dunstable is missing programs that most other best in class districts offer to students, such as 3D art and drama. Additionally, the high school has the highest student-to-teacher ratio in music, and the second highest in visual arts, compared to these best in class districts.

At the high school, there are currently nine classes with class sizes over 25, such as physical education, health, art, chorus, and transitions (a college prep class including college essay writing). In the middle school, 33 Integrated Arts classes currently have over 25 students in them.

The verified root cause of these reduced program offerings is staffing cuts. The corrective action is to add staffing, which will allow the district to restore, expand, and strengthen program offerings.

Additional offerings will reduce class sizes. Additional staff will allow the district to enhance elementary specialist offerings. Certified librarians will teach organizational, study, and research skills.

By restoring and improving our program offerings, we can provide our students with a more well-rounded education, and increase their college and career opportunities.

Jeff Kubick

Chair, Groton-Dunstable School Committee