board cuts part of German education program
John P. Hernandez
The Miami-Dade County School Board has cut the German education program at Sunset Elementary from four teachers to three while the phasing out of the language program at G.W. Carver Middle School has the local German delegation concerned.
Sunset is the county's only public elementary school with an international studies program.
"Cutting this teacher is devastating to us whether it was justified or not," said Martin Riedi, president of the German International Parent Association. "Parents are outraged that this teacher is being let go. It sends a really bad message, not only to the parents, but to the German government, which has established a growing presence here in Miami."
Sunset Principal Maria Llerena said the reassignment of the teacher, which will take effect at the end of this school year, was mandated by the board, which allows one teacher per 55 students. She said the foreign language program at Sunset had only 147 students and a fourth teacher was not justified.
"The school board cut the budget for the program because we weren't generating enough students to justify having a fourth teacher, which is unfortunate because the program shows wonderful results," Ms. Llerena said. "The school board is really scrutinizing the magnet programs and taking a really close look at its funding."
Ms. Llerena said the German program will not change. The only difference, she said, will be that some classes would have more students.
Holger Ziegeler, deputy German consul general, said the consul hopes that there is a misunderstanding and that it will be corrected. He said the German consulate is investigating the matter because of the financial support the country gives the program.
"This is a step in the wrong direction and not in agreement with the school board's publicly stated policy," Mr. Ziegeler said. "While top levels of politicians and executives of Miami-Dade Public Schools, the office of the mayor and even the government in Tallahassee pride themselves in speeches about the promotion of international education, the executive level seems to silently be nibbling at the foundations of the program, not just at Sunset, but at Carver as well."
At Carver Middle School, Mr. Riedi said the school board is cutting the entire German program for new students, which means for the 2002 year only students already studying the language will be allowed to continue in the program. Carver is the district's only middle school with the international studies program.
"The school board is slowly choking us to death," Mr. Riedi said. "We are going to lose about 60% of the students enrolled in the entire German program."
The international studies magnet program at Sunset Elementary, 5120 SW 72nd St., is just one part of the school's curriculum. The program is intensive in foreign language studies for grades 1-5 in French, German and Spanish. The programs are officially recognized by each of those countries, according to Miami-Dade Public Schools.
The German program at Sunset was established in 1987 and provides 21/2 hours of language instruction each school day. Students study language, literature, science, social studies, history, geography and music in German. In 5th grade, students take a two-week visit to Germany where they stay with a host family and attend school.
The Spanish program at Sunset has 384 students, with seven teachers, while the French program has 310 students with five teachers.
"I am meeting with district officials, as well as Mr. Riedi today (5-24) to discuss this situation," Ms. Llerena said. "But I always hate to lose a good teacher."
Five months ago the German government signed a memo of understanding with Miami-Dade Public Schools saying there will be financial investments from German businesses and taxpayers to pay for another teacher for Sunset's German program.
"At the same time that the memorandum of understanding has been under review for five months now concerning German financial support, it is hard to accept that the German taxpayer's money can be spent if the American side doesn't live up to their own standards," Mr. Ziegeler said.
"We are just shocked with disbelief, especially considering all the years of work that has gone into this program. It is just very hard to accept."