To the Editor:
Recently, a letter appeared in The Brazil Times that stated Clay Community Schools had spent more than $20,000 in teachers' salaries this past school year to teach one student French IV and nine students dance.
The author of the letter questioned why these courses were offered instead of investing the $20,000 to help struggling students earn more cost effective credits in reading, writing and basic math.
I do not know where the writer of the letter obtained his information. I also understand, given the above information, why this taxpayer was concerned. Therefore, I find it necessary to write this letter to assure the gentleman and other members of our community that the information is not correct. During the past school year, Clay Community Schools did not have any students enrolled in French IV nor did we offer a class in dance for only nine students.
Regarding the French IV issue, there have been times when one to four students requested fourth-year French, German and/or Spanish classes. This same problem also frequently occurs in higher level art, business, language arts, math, music, science and social studies courses. When this happens, teachers are asked by administrators if they would be willing to instruct the students at the same time they are teaching another course or if they would be willing to provide instruction during their preparation periods. Teachers that volunteer to accept the responsibility of teaching an additional course for a student or two do not receive additional monetary compensation for providing the additional instruction.
During my 13 years as a member of the student scheduling team, I can recall only two or three times when teachers declined to accommodate us and offer the higher level courses. Regarding the few times when teachers did decline, it was always due to other school commitments that prevented them from having the time needed to best serve students. I want these teachers to know that we sincerely appreciate their willingness to go the extra mile and help us provide higher level courses when enrollment does not justify the cost of hiring a teacher for one to four students.
During the past school year, there were nine students enrolled in a dance performance class. However, this group is comprised of first-year drill team/winter guard students. The first-year dance performance class provides an avenue for students to earn their two fine arts credit that are required for an Academic Honors Diploma. It also permits students pursuing a Core 40 Diploma the opportunity to earn two fine arts credit that can be used to satisfy the 10-12 elective credits requirement that must include courses in world languages, fine arts, computers and/or career interest areas.
I do want to make it clear that the nine dance students received instruction along with the remaining upper class members of the drill team/winter guard. Upper class members of the drill team/winter guard are placed on another class roster because they receive physical education credits that are in line with standards set by the Indiana Department of Education. During the 2007-08 school year, enrollment exceeded 20 students. Additionally, students enrolled in drill team/winter guard courses spend more than triple their class time preparing after school for dance and band performances. I also want to note that this performing arts group brings back to our community state and national honors each and every year.
I will admit that sometimes we are forced to offer low enrollment classes in order to provide courses that small groups of students need to fulfill graduation requirements or to satisfy certain college and university entrance requirements. When situations like this occur, we most often are able to utilize remediation, high ability, special education and vocational education grants to help offset or cover the cost for offering such courses. Additionally, NovaNet and other online courses have helped us provide individualized instruction for a certain population of students in need of credit recovery and credit accrual.
Each year, guidance counselors, principals and other administrators spend several months developing a master schedule and placing students in appropriate courses. It is extremely difficult and most likely impossible to grant every student all of their course requests and maintain balanced numbers in all courses. We try our best to create a schedule that provides the best student instruction possible at the least possible cost to our taxpayers. Please understand that this is a most difficult task to accomplish.
Coordinator, Clay Community Schools