6/16/12 Plan would tweak school offerings

Plan would tweak school offerings
Superintendent aims to create more equal opportunities
By Mike Wilder The Times-News 6/16/12     
Reprinted with permission.

   Superintendent Lillie Cox is moving forward with plans to provide “more equal opportunities” for students in the Alamance-Burlington School System at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

   She projects the plan will also be a money-saver, reducing the prospects that a worst-case budget scenario as a result of less state and local funding and a loss of federal stimulus money would call it into question.

   “In an effort to ensure that all students in our district have equal opportunities, I started looking at what was taught where,” Cox said.

   In broad terms, here’s what the plan would do, starting with the 2012-13 year:

   Elementary schools: All elementary students will be taught art, music and technology, with a remediation teacher for students needing more help in key subjects. Some smaller schools, Cox said, will share a teacher in one or more areas because of having fewer students needing instruction, but the effort will expand offerings in each area among schools.

   Middle schools: Spanish classes as an elective will be expanded from Broadview and Southern middle schools to be offered at each middle school in the system.

   “The opportunity to take a foreign language at a younger age, we’ve had positive comments about that from our students and parents,” she said. Cox mentioned studies indicating younger people find it easier to learn another language.

   High schools: An emphasis on what Cox and school board members describe as “rigor” or “rigorous instruction” will increase with the training of more than 30 educators to teach Advanced Placement courses in the system’s high schools.

   “We have 32 teachers receiving Advance Placement training this summer,” she said.

   Cox projects the changes will save about $250,000 a year through adjustments to teaching positions at high schools and eliminating five positions in the central office’s curriculum division to move more employees into schools.

   In the high schools, she said, restructuring involves eliminating some sections of courses with enrollment in low numbers, some with fewer than 10 students.

   Cox said she believes it is important to preserve offerings that exist at only a few schools, such as Spanish immersion classes at Smith, Elon and South Graham elementary schools. She has said classes of that nature — along with orchestra programs in schools that were part of the former Burlington School System — could be dropped if the system has to reduce what it offers as a result of less funding.

   Even though the programs are not offered at all schools, Cox said, they have value because they give students additional skills and can build their overall interest in academics.

   “I would love to expand those programs” to other schools, Cox said, if it were financially feasible.