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Program of studies gets makeover

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English remains the same for next year

By John Barnhart

    Thursday night marked the last county school board meeting of the year, and the last school board meeting for three of its members.

    District 6 school board member Shirley McCabe is the last member of the old appointed school board still serving. McCabe, a retired educator, has served on the Bedford County School board for 16 years and chose not to seek reelection this year. She will be replaced by Kelly Harmony.
    District 1 school board member Joy Wright also chose to step down after eight years on the  board. Also a retired educator, she will be replaced by Richard Downey.    
    School Board Chairman Debbie Hoback was first elected to the District 7 seat in 2004, defeating incumbent Stanley Butler. She, in turn, was defeated in her reelection bid this year by Kevin Willis, who will take the District 7 seat in January.
    Getting down to business, the school board unanimously adopted the 2012-2013 high school program of studies with one exception. The English curriculum will remain as it is during the current school year. Dr. Mac Duis, director of instruction, had recommended reducing the number of levels of English in the high schools to two levels: advanced placement (AP), which carries the potential of qualifying for college credit, and a regular English course.
    During the citizen comment period, Barbara Owen expressed concern that this recommendation left no middle option.
    “Are we saying that, if you are not ready for college level English at 16, maybe you are not ready for college?” Owen asked.
    When the school board began discussing the program of studies, Mickey VanDerwerker, who represents the city of Bedford on the county school board, brought up the English curriculum. She said that she was concerned about losing the third option.
    “The grouping that is going to be in there is so wide that it makes me concerned,” she said. VanDerwerker said that she was worried that some teens could end up struggling.
    Duis said that streamlining the high school English curriculum, which would allow them to streamline staff, was based on an analysis of that program. He said that the English curriculum at the middle school level has two offerings and that was extended, this year, to ninth and 10th grades. He said that there has been a big increase in the number of teens taking pre-AP English — over half of the ninth and 10th grades are enrolled. Ninety-two percent of them make a C or higher.
    “We feel strongly that this is the right thing to do,” he said.
    However, school board members continued to express concern.
    “I do have a serious concern about dropping these courses,” commented District 3 school board member Brad Whorley.
    Hoback said that she was concerned that the regular English course would become more rigorous and suggested waiting another year. Dr. Duis replied that, if there are three course levels, one of them could become inadequate.
    “But that’s your responsibility to make sure it doesn’t,” Hoback replied.
    At the meeting’s end, McCabe made what she termed a final request. She said that she would like the school division to sell 23 acres of land it owns in the Forest area in order to pay for a new gym at Liberty High School. She said that this would make Liberty equal with the other two high schools.
     The land is on Cottontown Road and was purchased back in the 1990s for a northwest elementary school that was never built. District 4 school board member Gary Hostutler noted, however, that even if they could get get $10,000 an acre for the property, it wouldn’t come close to financing the cost of a new gym, which he estimated would cost in excess of $2 million.