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April 9, 2012
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Eagle County School District drops some language programs

EAGLE, Colorado - The school district cut its French and German teachers, so students who want to take a foreign language besides Spanish will pay up to $150 per semester for online classes.

Nancy Bujnowski has been with Eagle Valley High School her entire career, 21 years - four years from retirement - teaching French, German, English, Chinese and ESL. Hers was one of the 70 jobs the school district cut, even though a petition signed by 98 of her students was presented to district officials.

"Who'll be hurt? The kids," Bujnowski said.

Bujnowski earned her master's degree in English language acquisition.

Superintendent Sandra Smyser and school district human resources director Brian Childress gave Bujnowski their final decision, Bujnowski said.

She says she plans to appeal it to the school board. The hearing is set for 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

She can also appeal the district's decision to a third party arbitrator. The district splits the cost of a third party arbiter with the teacher, Childress said.

The school district also cut Battle Mountain's French teacher Lindsay Kiehn.

The district's Spanish courses will remain intact.

Students who want to take French or any foreign language besides Spanish or Battle Mountain's Chinese program will have to pay $150 for an online language instruction program.

Battle Mountain's Chinese program is funded largely by the Chinese national government and an anonymous local donor. Eagle Valley students are taking Chinese online. Bujnowski is teaching Eagle Valley's Chinese classes.

The district is buying its online German and French courses through Aventa Learning, a vendor that supplies online materials and teachers, said Brooke Macke, the school district's communications director.

"Eagle County Schools encourages students to take foreign language classes, as it supports the notion that students should have specials and electives opportunities alongside of the core content subjects," Macke said.

An online language course costs roughly $250, Macke said. Previous to budget cuts, the school district covered almost all the cost.

Now, though, students will have to pay $150 to take a single language class as an elective. The school district will still pick up the tab for the other $100, Macke said.

Ironically, the school district's decision to eliminate some of its foreign language offerings comes as a new national report decries the education industry's failure to produce enough foreign-language speakers to fill key positions in the Foreign Service, in intelligence agencies, and in America's increasingly global companies.

"We are the most monolingual major society on Earth," said former secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who co-chaired the task force that produced the report.

America's failure to prepare its young people for a globalized world is now so grave that it poses a national security threat, their report says.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Apr 9, 2012 10:22PM Published Apr 9, 2012 10:19PM Copyright 2012 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.