Merasi Visit and Concert
15 Sep 2016 13:34:43
Dear Hartsbrook Community,
In the fall of 2015, the Hartsbrook School embarked on an open community input process to review the World Language Program – the final outcome was a recommendation to transition from teaching French to Spanish in the elementary school and accordingly, to phase out French language instruction throughout the school. This decision was announced to the school community last January, and we shared the process and reasons for change via the Bulletin and many parent communications throughout the spring. While Hartsbrook has received overall support for this program change from the school community, we became aware of a petition and an anonymous website voicing disagreement with this decision over the summer. We implore the creators of the website to enter into constructive dialogue with the school and contact members of the Executive Circle directly with their concerns.
It now seems important to once again summarize facts about the school’s decision-making process.
WHY MAKE A CHANGE?
In early 2015, the Faculty Conference formed the World Language Committee (WLC) to address the future of the World Language Program at Hartsbrook. After 18 years of teaching French to Grades 1-8 at Hartsbrook, Marie-Dominique Corbiére had announced to the Faculty Conference that it was her intention to retire. The WLC entered into an extensive process of research and outreach to determine a viable course for the language program at the school, which included the following measures:
The WLC surveyed languages taught at other local schools and in other Waldorf schools, and the reasons for those choices.
They interviewed alumni about their language experience during and after Hartsbrook.
On the evening of October 21, 2015, the WLC held an open forum for parents to come and speak in person about their hopes for the language program. WLC continued to solicit comments and engage parents in one-on-one dialogues during the fall of 2015 to gather more perspectives.
While only a small number of parents attended the October 21st meeting, strong support for Spanish was voiced by the preponderance of parents in attendance. We also found that the majority of Waldorf schools across the country teach Spanish as their Romance language, responding to the predominance of Spanish in Western culture. A majority of respondents to the alumni survey found Spanish to be particularly useful in their professional pursuits, personal encounters, and plans for their future.
In its research, WLC also considered other languages not previously taught at Hartsbrook, such as Arabic, Russian, Chinese, and Japanese, but determined that a transition to these languages would require an investment of time and funds currently out of Hartsbrook’s reach.
The Faculty Conference approved WLC’s recommendation to transition from French to Spanish and made a formal announcement in the January 6, 2016 Bulletin. In this announcement, the WLC offered parents an opportunity to gather for conversation regarding these decisions the following week on January 11th, during which we generally received more positive feedback and support.
The next step was to envision how a gradual, but educationally and economically viable transition from French to Spanish would be implemented. The Faculty Conference considered competing factors such as the likely availability of teachers, scheduling, cost, and class sizes, and developed a sensible plan to start the transition, which is outlined as follows:
Spanish will be taught to Grades 1-6 during the 2016-17 academic year.
For Grades 7 and 8, Mme. Corbiére will continue to teach French for the 2016-17 academic year.
Details on the transition plan for Grade 8 during the 2017-18 academic year are currently being worked out.
German instruction will continue unchanged for all elementary grades.
French, German, and Spanish have been offered in the high school since its inception – students have the option to choose one language for their course of study. However, maintaining the quality of the program with very small class sizes and part-time adjunct faculty has proved to be a persistent challenge; therefore, a transition in the high school was deemed to be necessary and appropriate at this time.
The high school will phase out French starting with Grade 9 for 2016-17. German and Spanish will continue to be language options.
High school students in Grades 10 and 11 who had previously chosen French as their high school language will be taught by Cherrie Latuner for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 academic years, which will provide them with three years of high school credit for entrance at most colleges.
We recognize that some students and their parents are disappointed about the transition from French to Spanish, especially those who have studied French for a number of years and hoped to continue in Grades 7 and 8 and high school. WLC acknowledges that the process could have been clearer for soliciting feedback about language program changes and with respect to French in particular; nonetheless, practical considerations such as budget limitations and retiring faculty were prevailing factors in the final decision. We reaffirm our intention to continually improve communication among parents, students, faculty, and staff – we encourage parents to participate in our efforts to expand the activities and role of the Parent Council.
As we implement this transition, we emphasize that learning two languages from two different streams at the elementary level – Germanic and Romance – fosters inner flexibility and a deep understanding of ‘otherness’. The choice of a single language in high school prepares the students for meaningful engagement in college or on international exchange while at Hartsbrook. Our alumni survey demonstrates that, regardless of the languages they study at Hartsbrook, our students feel well-equipped to learn a new language later in life, such as Russian or Arabic, or to become fluent in a language they previously had exposure to due to their experiences at Hartsbrook.
The process of searching for, selecting, and hiring two new Spanish teachers began in the spring and concluded only a few weeks ago. Please join us in welcoming Lea Chiara in the elementary school and Michelle Huber in the high school. We are excited to commence our offering of Spanish in the elementary school, deepen our commitment to Spanish in the high school, and to continue the vibrant education and language program that Hartsbrook offers.
The Faculty Conference is pleased with the evolution of our World Language Program, and we are confident this transition represents the most pragmatic result of the WLC’s efforts and wishes of the student body and parents. We deeply thank the many faculty, parents, and alumni whose input and efforts helped to develop and solidify the process.
Sincerely, Jan-Kees Saltet, Marie-Dominique Corbiére, and Magdalena Toran
World Language Committee for the Faculty Conference