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Superintendent holds special parent meeting on foreign language program

RANCHO SANTA FE — A wave of foreign language interest has created a surge at the Rancho Santa Fe School District for grades kindergarten through Five. While much has been said during the course of past board meetings, Superintendent Lindy Delaney felt there should be a different type of platform to address this situation.

The meeting was held in the Performing Arts Center at the campus. Numerous parents were in attendance as well as school board members Tyler Seltzer, Marti Ritto and Todd Buchner.

Delaney began saying how years ago they did implement a foreign language program for elementary school where they had part-time and full-time Spanish teachers who came in and taught the curriculum for about five to six years.

Consistently, she started to hear that students were not retaining the language.

“They would come in the next year and they were having to start pretty much back at ground zero. There wasn’t a lot of carryover, and it just didn’t feel like it was working,” Delaney said. “So at that time I put out a parent survey because I was actually trying to figure out as a new superintendent what our parent community valued as an elective.”

At that time, students were focusing on art, music, computers and Spanish. Roughly, when she added up that time, Delaney discovered that students were spending about 20 percent of their week in non-academic settings.

“At the same time, our test scores were not what I had hoped they would be,” she said. “So we revamped the schedule.”

In this survey, science came out as the number one choice of interest for parents, art was second, music was third, and Spanish was down at the bottom.

According to Delaney, they removed Spanish because it didn’t stick.

While foreign language hasn’t been completely off the radar, she said, they’ve been trying to figure out how they could fit it into the schedule.

Then Delaney turned to the parents who each had a turn to speak.

Many desired to have foreign language in K through 5, while a handful of parents expressed their shock when they discovered that there was no foreign language when they enrolled their child. They had automatically assumed it would have been part of the curriculum.

A few parents expressed the desire to have a committee do the footwork on how a foreign language program could be implemented at the elementary school level.

Many of the parents agreed that they didn’t expect their children to be fluent in a foreign language. What was important to them was the “exposure.”

Chair of the Rancho Santa Fe Education Foundation, Alexia Bregman, was in favor of foreign language. She said the ideas that some parents were presenting was probably workable.

“We should obviously start working towards that,” she said, adding how moving forward to this goal should be a culmination of the administration, Education Foundation and parents.

For Bregman, it was important to work together and see how it could be funded to determine if there was any feasibility to this.

Delaney said she appreciated everyone’s candor and interest because they were all there for the same reason. At this point in time, Delaney felt a parent survey would probably be the next step.

For the upcoming board meeting agenda, she was going to present two professional companies who do school surveys.

Delaney wanted the group to know that what she was probably going to do was contact a couple parents who attended the meeting to ask for input on the survey. Delaney also appreciated the idea of a foreign language committee.

“I do want to get some parent input before we go out on the survey and would like to start working on that with the parents,” she said.