Pro Latina Lingua: Plan to Save Latin Presented at DCS Board Meeting

As frustrating as it is to see all the hard work you have put in taken from you, it is important to fight for the cause itself. I am obviously a big proponent for the teaching of classical languages in schools. I won’t preach the reasons now, but it will suffice to say that I feel strongly that a school should not be eliminating programs of any kind during an economic crunch as we are faced with now. There must be other alternatives explored first before any program becomes the casualty of the dreaded bottom line. Failure to explore these options is a failure of the administration, however, and this can be avoided.

To that end, I presented publicly at the Doctors Charter School Board meeting on March 19th in front of a large gathering of parents, students and other concerned community members. In fact, the meeting is normally held in a smaller venue – the media center – but due to the overwhelming interest, it was held in the cafeteria.

The plan I detailed was more of an economic plan. It called for a reduction of the budget by 13% across the board – which, based on the numbers supplied by the administration would have given us an operating profit for next school year.

I also pointed out that the Latin program could not only meet this demand, but exceed it. Not only would I be able to cut the program’s cost by 13% next year, I would be cutting it by an additional 12.5% as my salary is going to be reduced anyway. The operating cost of the Latin program is estimated to be about $50,000 – which essentially includes my pay, benefits and the Latin budget (which is modest and most of which, about $5,000, was absorbed this year by the general school fund to maintain operating costs).

The school’s main source of revenue – practically its only source – is the FTE funds which is estimated to be about $3.14 million next year. If we break down the contribution of each student, that is 540 students at DCS, then the contribution per student is $5,814. Of the 115 students enrolled in Latin, that is a cost of $447.83 per student for the entire year of Latin. That is only 7.7% of their entire contribution going towards one class. The return on their investment is huge.

The other issue I decided to address was the mis-characterization of the Latin program losing interest. We have 115 students enrolled in 6 classes – of the 540 students total enrolled at DCS the Latin students comprise 21% of the total student body. That is a pretty heavy percentage. Not to mention, we only have 7 Latin III students this year and we could have as many as 49 next year. That is an increase of 600%. It shows that students are taking to Latin and enjoying the classes being offered.

So, eliminating the program on the basis of its cost is refuted easily as Latin is the most efficient program financially at the school and the return on investment, in terms of helping students get accepted into college, is massive. Also, eliminating the program on the basis that it is losing interest and that it will have a minimum effect on students is also completely false.

In addition, the option to offer the program through virtual school is rife with problems. The network at the school cannot currently support its faculty and staff, let alone adding another 100+ students to the network. Will the current infrastructure in place be enough to support this massive undertaking? No – there are not enough computers to suppot this idea not to mention that means by which the students will be taking their courses online is not ideal – they are to be placed in classrooms where other subjects are being taught simultaneously. That is not an ideal solution for education, nor is it even a practical solution.

There have been positive steps towards a compromise, despite the administration’s inability to open itself to more ideas on this topic. The administration did present a possibility that I could teach part time Latin – teaching 3-4 classes next year – and then perform another job for the school, grant writing. The idea was hatched several months ago about possibly finding someone to write for grants for the school, to help insulate it financially, and to pay this individual a commission based on the monies that were secured through grant writing. I actually reminded the administration of this possibility on March 10th, as they were characterizing the faculty was unable to come up with viable solutions to help the school. Interestingly, this position would fall to me in addition to being a part time teacher at the school.

It should also be mentioned that at the board meeting, a donation by the association of doctors who founded the school was made in the amount of $165,000. This would obviously help immensely with the operating cost of the budget for next year – in fact, giving a +$80,000 profit according to the estimates of the administration.

Still, more compromises were being offered. A few days previous I had suggested to the administration that I teach 3-4 classes of Latin and teach an additional 2-3 courses of another subject so that the curriculum could be maintained in light of cutting faculty positions.

Parents were also suggesting a fund raiser be conducted for the Latin program so that we can keep the program. There was strong support for this idea after the board meeting as numerous parents were coming up to me suggesting that this is what they intended to do.

A final plan has yet to emerge, however, the administration is going forward scheduling next year without Latin in the curriculum at this time.