Cutting Chinese Immersion program causing friction between parents

June 13, 2014

Dear Editor:

It’s not hard to see the vision Farwell Schools had for their students from just a few years ago.  Dave Peterson’s plan was to do the absolute best for each student starting right now.  The middle and high schools’ students were given the opportunity for early college. The preschool and elementary student’s big break was the Chinese program.  Appreciative parents and students involved in Dave’s plan are proof the vision was working.

The decision to cut the Chinese Immersion Program is causing a lot of friction between different groups of parents. Why is it so hard to see and even support another parent’s point of view?  Maybe because it involves alternative learning methods as opposed to sports?  I’m definitely a sports guy too.

Here’s an analogy…  With the goal of being state champs and producing some of the best basketball players Michigan has ever known, Farwell decides to introduce a basketball immersion program.  Instead of traditional classes, students study statistics, theory, percentages and the science of swish.  Administration demands total commitment. If at any point you quit, you’re out.  Nonnegotiable.

Great progress is being made; better than expected.   Year 4 of this program is coming to a close and with little warning all basketball activities are cancelled. Broken futures for students should be unacceptable to each and every parent. Hell or high water administration better be applying for 1000 grants, asking for investment from Michigan businesses, requesting a meeting with the Governor or screaming to every newspaper and TV station in this state about the injustice. We’re talking about 194 kids entire K-12 years of education as outlined by administration.  You just don’t break promises like this to children.

There have been arguments for Rosetta stone and online classes; again relatable to sports.  It’s like saying cut football. You can learn it from playing the Madden video game. The problem with that solution, whether Chinese immersion or sports, is it’s one dimensional and it’s too late by the time college rolls around.

As an upside down homeowner and a former business owner who survived the economic downturn, I completely understand budgets and the issues that come with them.  My problem with the Chinese Immersion situation is the budget explanation doesn’t pass the smell test for me.  It looks like a want issue too. As in, nobody wanted to deal with Chinese Immersion anymore.  The red flag is the lack of options. There were no offers for an after school program, pay to play or maybe both; Any reasonable offer or suggestion besides take it and too bad.

This program was sold with the understanding that it would get worse before it got better. (paraphrasing)  It was cancelled before the “get better” part had a chance. If you or I went to a doctor and he recommended treatment with the same scenario and quit for the same reasons; we would call that malpractice.

To be honest, the Tim Moore situation is still in the back of my mind too.  I have no clue what happened but it was awful goofy. The former politician misplayed his hand or he was forced out.  Either way, it’s another budget issue and another flag. Clearly there is a leadership void.  Courage, Conviction, Communication and/or Creativity is lacking.

Educating children is fickle. You make one mistake; entire lifetimes of the students involved will never reach their potential. What kind of a world is possible for these children with this program in their lives now and what are the consequences if it isn’t reinstated? A good majority of children in this program will graduate high school and college somewhere around 2030.  The world is advancing at the quickest rate ever known to mankind.  How different will that world be then ours?  The deck is stacked against a lot of these kids. This visionary program is a tool to play from another deck of cards.

From a business point of view, approximately 194 (13.9%) of your customers next year will not receive the services promised to them.  They represent approximately $1,300,000 of the budget.  While not ideal to run a school or a business at a deficit; it’s not unheard of or uncommon.  The cardinal rule of business is don’t lie to your customers because they won’t come back to you.  Without customers a business is dead.

Many immersion parents are mentioning Clare as a possible solution. This is because the message Clare Schools sends their community is we are committed. The proof is in the football field.  Hypothetically, if Clare Schools committed to this program it would be a devastating blow to the Farwell business of educating children.  It makes sound business sense for Clare.  Most parents involved with this program would transfer their children.  Clare would gain around $1,300,000 dollars in funding for a $200k program…. How about another football field or soccer complex?

Many of us hope leadership at Farwell Schools finds the courage to reexamine our priorities, values and this issue.  Our future depends on them inspiring tomorrow’s leaders.

Gary Bussell

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