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Letter to the Editor: Parents Express Concerns with French Immersion Cap

Milton parents April and Mike Lamoureux respond to the Milton Public Schools' proposed Grade One Assignment Plan that would cap French Immersion and institute a new lottery system.

The following is a letter to Milton Public Schools Superintendent Mary Gormley and the School Committee regarding the upcoming Grade One Assignment decision from Milton parents April and Mike Lamoureux.

The letter addresses the proposed cap and lottery system for the district’s French Immersion program.

The latest PowerPoint presentation on the Grade One Assignment Plan is available here.

The School Committee is scheduled to discuss the program on Tuesday, October 16, at 7:30 p.m. and a regularly scheduled meeting is set for Wednesday, October 17, at 7 p.m. at Milton High School.

Dear Superintendent Gormley and School Committee Members:

As a parent of two young children who have yet to enter the Milton Public Schools (MPS), we are gravely concerned with the School Committee's plans to vote next week to cap the French Immersion Program and institute a lottery that randomly selects students for access to this valuable resource.

As a community, we face a significant problem in that our English Program is failing to attract a critical mass of students. We understand and respect the concerns of parents with students enrolled in the English Program, and we agree that better attention should be paid to improving the competitiveness and caliber of that program. We fully expect that the Milton School Committee will take action to ensure that all students in Milton have access to excellence in public education, and we strongly support efforts to adopt readily available best practices from other schools that have successfully implemented innovative and attractive programming in their English curriculum.

Regretfully, the Superintendent and School Committee have chosen to pursue a proposal that will diminish participation in French Immersion and reduce family choice, while seemingly doing nothing to improve performance and competitiveness of the English Program. We chose the word "seemingly" because there is very little information to suggest otherwise, but in fairness, there is very little information publicly available on this subject period. The online materials are currently limited to a July 2012 PowerPoint presentation which lacks any significant detail, and an MPS FAQ that defers many answers to the school's own questions until further research is conducted. Neither of these communication vehicles have been particularly effective in helping our family to understand the implications for our children. Since our children are not yet enrolled in the MPS system, we have no reason to attend School Committee meetings and would have no idea that this proposal was even under consideration if it had not been for local media reports and the whispers of neighbors. 

The choice between open access to French Immersion and excellence in English education is a false choice for our community, and in our opinion, the situation has been handled very poorly. We do not feel that the Superintendent or School Committee have done an adequate job of exploring all available options to address this problem, or communicating those alternatives to parents. Similarly, we do not feel as though the Superintendent or Milton School Committee have done an adequate job of educating parents on this specific proposal or collecting their feedback. For a change of such significance, the School Committee should have undertaken a thorough public engagement and consensus-building process that reached current MPS parents as well as those families who will soon have children entering the MPS system and will be most affected by this policy shift.

Our family has not yet had the opportunity to explore whether French Immersion is even a good fit for our children, but we believe that the cap/lottery proposal will do very little to address the lack of competitiveness and innovation in the English Program, and we are very disappointed that this series of events has created such a divisiveness among neighbors that should ordinarily be aligned toward a common objective: the best interests of our children. We respectfully request that the Milton School Committee defer any vote on the cap/lottery proposal until further research is completed and made publicly available, an extensive public outreach campaign is completed, including public question& answer sessions giving families the opportunity to ask specific questions of relevance to them, and alternative proposals are presented to the School Committee for consideration and public comment.  We are pleased to see that Superintendent Gormley has today added a last minute information session for stakeholders scheduled for 10/16, but we feel that this meeting is not enough to justify a binding vote of the School Committee the following evening. 

Thank you,

April & Mike Lamoureux

Milton Parents

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