2017-07-14 / Community

After Board discussion, College Latin to continue this fall

BY RIKKI N. MASSAND

At the Board of Education’s meeting on Thursday, July 6, two dozen parents and students sat inside the high school library and wondered aloud if a fourth year of Latin studies would be offered to 11 of the dedicated Garden City students. Word had spread through phone calls from the district to the students’ homes that the College Latin course (Latin IV) would be cancelled for 2017- 2018 due to low enrollment, and on the July 6 meeting agenda was a resolution regarding establishment of GCHS classes with enrollment of under 15 students. In response, a students’ petition was presented to the district administration on the last day of school, Friday June 23. At last week’s meeting a student presented a copy of the petition to the board on behalf of those in attendance and all the signees. However, that night the board decided that despite low enrollments, the following four courses will run at Garden City High School: the College Latin course, Video Game Marketing, Conceptual Chemistry, and AP Chemistry.

The high school upperclassmen attended last Thursday’s meeting, the first board of education session where several of them were there to speak to the board instead of being recognized for achievements and regional awards. But the rally in front of the school board was pre-empted by a question and answer initiated by Board Trustee Robert Martin, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Feirsen, and Board President Angela Heineman. Students, alumni and their families listened in carefully before carrying forward their plea to the district administration, speaking about their great Garden City learning experiences involving advanced Latin.

Heineman began by recalling a similar situation with AP Spanish in Garden City years ago, when the district considered eliminating having the AP level class as the culmination of students’ World Languages K through 12 coursework. In that instance the district opted to run both AP Spanish and College Level Spanish for just enrollments of five students apiece, with the AP level class being the favored course, “because our students at that time felt that they had trained themselves for the AP course and they had trained for it, and they felt it was the culminating course they wanted.” The contrast was evident now with College Latin favored as the crowd gathered in front of the board. She looked big picture for Garden City Schools and also the numbers – for 2017-2018, five GCHS students had enrolled in the College Latin (Latin IV) course as their only advanced language class out of College Latin’s 11 prospective students, Heineman explained.

“With the board of education’s efforts in particular for World Languages, a number of years ago the culminating, capstone courses in all our World Language courses was AP. The board made a conscious decision after a lot of deliberation to move away from AP as a capstone course and move towards the College Level – for Spanish, Italian, German, Latin, etc. because we wanted to encourage students to stay with a World Language longer. We didn’t want them to drop it once Level III was finished, we wanted to encourage them to stay with that language for all four years of Garden City High School and pick up a second language if that was their interest. I would not want to limit the students’ opportunity for a capstone experience in Latin next year – within the crux of this maybe there are students who have foregone other opportunities and find themselves in situations where their body of coursework and their studies would be disadvantaged without the opportunity for College Latin, and I do not want to put them in that situation and it is not what we (the school board) are here for,” she said.

Heineman noted school district policy for the audience, as the meeting agenda referenced, that any course with enrollment of under 15 students has to be approved by and would run at the discretion of Garden City’s board of education. She made sure the audience, board members and administrators knew that running courses again with low enrollments are not a guarantee in any particular year. If just five students in all had enrolled in College Latin, she said the answer to run the course may not be the same for another school year. Heineman suggested that the board revisit the policy again later in the 2017-2018 academic year, “to see if attitudes have changed or if we want a different approach.”

“The community should know that before it comes around again this time next year, we should hold a discussion in public about this policy and what it should be. We can put this on the agenda for some discussion in the upcoming school year. If we can give more clarity to students and families and our district staff as they advise students coming up, that would be helpful,” she said.

Martin as well as board members Tom Pinou and William Holub concurred with her solution, saying the board should continue College Latin in 2017-2018 and examine its policy.

Garden City’s students then took to the microphone to encourage a board decision to run College Latin this fall. A recent alum made a case for Latin as a language to open up a person’s entire education.

Anna Schaubeck graduated from GCHS 13 months ago. She attends the University of Miami with a double major in marine science and biology and a minor in chemistry, but she plans to add Classics as another degree major. Schaubeck took Latin for four years at GCHS, along with German which she said was tiring. She is home for summer and she wanted to ensure that her younger sister Elsie will be able to follow a path that has been academically, intellectually and socially rewarding with Latin studies. Elsie will take Latin III this fall and said if she could have, she would have enrolled in College Latin to add numbers to the course. Both young ladies and their mother attended the July 6 meeting and addressed the board of education.

“I’ve always been inspired by the richness of culture and the way Latin fuses languages, the myths and writings are the very foundations of our Western culture. I am surprised more people do not appreciate and recognize this phenomenon because it is so deeply a part of our words and modern society, athletics, militaries, college mottos. Latin is all around us and it is not dead, even though it isn’t continuing to be spoken around the world by future generations. Latin has encouraged me to think so much more deeply about the perspectives of other people,” Anna Schaubeck said.

Liming and Henry Gong, the parents of rising senior Brandon Gong, sat in the front row and were ready to address the board about College Latin. They stayed seated though as students were the ones to speak during public comments last Thursday. Board Vice President Tom Pinou acknowledged that it was a great but rare opportunity for the school board to hear from students during a monthly meeting as they are almost always busy with schoolwork or homework on the board’s meeting nights and the meetings may run too late into the night, even for high schoolers. He thanked the students and alumni for their comments and participation.

Lauren Sikorsky, a member of GCHS Class of 2017 who will attend Fordham starting next month, said she is considering majoring in Classics because of her time studying Latin through the College level course in Garden City.

At the July 6 meeting rising GCHS senior Hope Kelly was joined by her mother Liz and father Gerry Kelly, the president of the Western Property Owners’ Association.

“When I found out about the board’s decision to cut high school classes with less than 15 students and we were told College Latin would not run next year, I was disappointed and shocked. Latin is something I have grown to love over the years. Unlike French, Latin is growing at the high school. This year there were two sections of the Latin I class and next year there will be enough students to have two sections not only of a Latin I course but for Latin II as well. College Latin has historically been a small class as the challenges of this course deters many students from taking it let alone practicing it at the College level. But the class represents an opportunity to excel for some of the strongest students at Garden City High School,” Kelly said.

As noted in the June 16 edition of The Garden City News, in the 2016- 2017 school year 79 students at Garden City High School participated in the National Latin Examination which is sponsored by the American Classical League/National Junior Classical League. In the 2015-2016 year, 70 Garden City High School students sat for the National Latin Exam at Levels 1, 2, 3 and 4 (prose) held March 10, 2016. Garden City’s students are one contingent of nearly 150,000 other participants in the National Latin Exam from the 50 states as well as 19 foreign countries.

Andrew Tang was one of Garden City’s participants for Latin III in the immediate past school year and the Latin II NLE exam in 2016. He addressed the Board of Education at their July meeting, as did Tang’s classmate John O’Hare. He told the school board if the College Latin class did not run in his senior year at GCHS this fall, students “would be punished for committing to Latin.” He elaborated on the high school students studying Latin and told the school board many of them are inducted into the Latin Honors Society and involved with the Latin Club.

“I’d like to state how my peers feel about Latin as a class in Garden City. Many underclassmen who specialize and take Latin often take it alongside another modern World Language course. But in junior and senior year schedules get hectic and it becomes a choice between the two languages. I primarily am interested in Latin and am dropping out of German. One World Language sequence would be missing from my transcript when I start college and College Latin would show continuity for four years, commitment to the classes and a desire to study at the college level. Most importantly we want to be able to take a college-level language because many of us are interested in Linguistics as a whole. Not only would it be unfair to cancel College Latin this fall but it would set a bad precedent for future students,” he said at the meeting adding a thought on how GCHS guidance counselors would have to discourage students pursuing Latin.

In front of the school board Dr. Norman Ernst, a Garden City High School alum who went on to the University of Pennsylvania and teaching at both Yale and the University of Michigan, spoke about the College Latin course his son Harrison will take.

“Back when I was at GCHS, the culminating course was AP Latin. I think it is very imperative for kids who committed to Latin in their first three years of high school and learned its rudiments, several of them have earned gold medals for their rudiments – with

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