Schenectady County

Officials present plan for better program

School officials say they are working to find a new coordinator for the International Baccalaureate

School officials say they are working to find a new coordinator for the International Baccalaureate program and are committed to better training for teachers.

Superintendent Eric Ely and Paul Scampini, principal on special assignment for school development, on Wednesday presented the plan for the program, which offers a rigorous international curriculum for juniors and seniors.

About 25 parents from the Friends of IB group attended the meeting at the high school library, following weeks of discord over changes.

Coordinator Rosaline Horowitz is being reassigned and the other coordinator, Greg Wolos, resigned from the program in protest. Parents have been highly critical of Ely’s decisions during the last month, when the changes first became public. They had slammed him at a meeting last month which he did not attend. Then, a few members of the Friends of IB group met with school administration to discuss the program’s future.

Ely said Wednesday he wants to expand advanced educational options for all students — at all grade levels. The district has added languages — Chinese and Arabic — and doubled the number of advanced math sections at the middle school level.

Regarding IB, he said would like to see more students in the program, but it has to be run more effectively.

“Quite frankly, we aren’t preparing enough students at a high enough level to really develop these programs as a viable advanced academic program for all kids,” he said.

He said he has no intention to dilute the program, but rather he wants to raise it to the next level.

Ely said the school is writing a new job description for the position of IB coordinator. The position will first be posted internally. He hopes to fill the job by the end of May.

School officials will sit down with the new coordinator and outline the expectations, Ely said. He declined to state the reasons for deciding to replace Horowitz, citing personnel issues.

“I’m not going to revisit the past. We’re moving forward on how we’re going to make [the program] better,” he said.

Scampini presented data showing that students have struggled in foreign languages and the sciences, particularly in biology. He said among some of the changes planned are not to have combined classes with IB and Advanced Placement students; he said it is too difficult for teachers to teach two different types of material in the same class.

IB parents expressed concern that students who are in the IB program are taking physics as freshmen and then chemistry. When they become upperclassmen and take the more difficult IB biology class, they have not had the fundamentals.

Parent Roger Hull said students are expected to glean this material on their own and still master the new material.

“It’s not fair to have a group of kids feel they have no chance of passing a class,” he said.

Scampini said the administration is considering offering an eighth grade life sciences class that would attempt to close this gap.

Other changes in the works are working with the guidance department to make sure they are flexible in planning student schedules to incorporate IB classes. Also, all new and existing IB teachers will be expected to go through training and proper teaching methods.

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