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Fight For Mandarin Classes Suffers Setback In Scarsdale

Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez says parents will continue to fight to have Mandarin included in language courses taught at the middle school level.
Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez says parents will continue to fight to have Mandarin included in language courses taught at the middle school level. Photo Credit: Provided

SCARSDALE, N.Y. -- There will be no Mandarin classes at the Scarsdale Middle School this fall, district officials say.

In a recent memo to Schools Superintendent Thomas Hagerman, Scarsdale’s curriculum chief, Lynne Shain, said the numbers do not support the hiring of another language teacher.

Shain told the Board of Education on Thursday, Feb. 25, that only 42 incoming sixth-graders had indicated an interest in learning the Chinese dialect, while the minimum required was 48.

She pointed out that the original proposed minimum had been 60.

Therefore, she wrote, the district was withdrawing its request to include funds in the 2016-17 budget for a new teacher.

Parents, who have been pushing for inclusion of Mandarin at the middle school level, say they are not giving up the fight.

Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez, the mother of a preschooler and a student at the Fox Meadow Middle School, has been the voice for those parents.

“It’s not over until it’s over,” said Kirkendall-Rodriguez, pointing out that the school budget isn't finalized, and that the public vote isn’t until May.

Shain said parents were sent “registration information” on language course choices on Feb. 9, and asked to make their choices known by Feb. 12. The district, she said, was peppered with questions and sent a follow-up email to address concerns.

Three days was not enough time for parents to absorb, and make a decision on, the information, Kirkendall-Rodriguez said.

Parents are “upset,” she said, especially about the district’s refusal to consider “leveling.”

“Leveling” means, she said, that children are grouped according to their abilities and not “lumped in all together.”

Shain said that Mandarin classes would be for beginners, and “not necessarily suited for students with extensive prior experience.”

Kirkendall-Rodriguez argued that while some students may speak Mandarin at home, being born here, and growing up speaking English, they still aren’t going to be on the same level as their parents.

Eleven-year-olds shouldn’t be placed in introductory classes where they would be taught such simple things as saying “hello,” Kirkendall-Rodriguez said.

Parents will fight for Mandarin, she said, adding: “They’re taking things into their own hands.”

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