Columbia parents concerned about dual credit - Republic-Times | News

Columbia parents concerned about dual credit

By on June 21, 2017 at 1:03 pm

A few Columbia High School parents expressed disappointment with the suspension of a dual credit course during Thursday’s school board meeting.

The public outcry began when CHS sent out a letter to parents stating the school’s English III honors course would not carry the dual credit option for the 2017-18 school year. For a time, the high school had a partnership with Saint Louis University to give students both high school and college credit for completion of the course.

The letter sent to parents explained that the offering would be suspended “due to credentials.”

Columbia school superintendent Dr. Gina Segobiano later told the Republic-Times the district could not find a candidate qualified under SLU’s standards.

“Although the class will no longer be available for SLU credit, we still feel confident about the learning and testing opportunities your son or daughter will experience in English III Honors,” the letter shares.

“As a parent, this is very disappointing,” parent Cress Morr told the Republic-Times upon receiving the letter.

During the school board meeting, Morr addressed the board about the hardship involved in eliminating the dual credit program. Morr added that she put two other kids through the school district, who graduated with almost 20 college credits.

“Because our school offers so many college credits, it enables students to graduate college early, save money on their tuition, and it gets them out into the work force earlier to earn an income. Eliminating this class for even one year puts a burden on students and their parents,” she said.

A second letter went out to parents when it became clear there was “some misunderstanding surrounding this issue.” The letter addresses that, though the district attempted to work with SLU to keep the dual credit offering, the decision to suspend such a program was out of the district’s control.

“Conversations and meetings occurred with numerous university and college representatives in order to maintain this English dual credit opportunity,” according to the letter. “Unfortunately, our requests were denied.”

According to Segobiano, SLU’s English department requires the person teaching the class have a master’s degree in English. She said struggling to find someone with such qualifications is not uncommon.

“It has always been very difficult to find an English teacher applicant who has completed the Master’s of English and is looking for a teaching position, so this is not a new problem that the district has faced,” she said.

Segobiano added SLU previously allowed for a high school to offer the dual credit option if the teacher is enrolled for his master’s degree in English while teaching the course, but the university now requires the completion of this degree.

Teacher Katie Prange met the qualifications needed for the dual credit option but resigned in March. The board then posted the vacancy in March and filled the position in April.

“I think people feel you could’ve spent more time on (hiring someone),” parent Karen Proctor told the board.

Prange’s replacement, Jamie Rakers, does not hold the necessary credentials. Segobiano said the district chose not to leave the position open for longer because of the potential of losing the best candidates.

“Normally, school districts hire personnel in March and April for known vacancies in order to attract the best candidates,” she explained. “Waiting to employ during summer months is possible, but the candidate pool diminishes and the most qualified who are looking for a job already have accepted teaching positions.”

Segobiano said the district is looking at getting a teacher currently employed at the high school to obtain a master’s degree in English.

With the suspension of dual credit for the English course, CHS continues to offer an additional 69 credit hours of dual credit through SLU and Southwestern Illinois College, as well as six AP classes.

Some SLU dual credit courses include AP Calculus, Physics and Spanish III Honors, while AP classes range from AP English and Composition to AP Spanish and AP Chemistry. Students who complete English III Honors can also earn college credit by being recommended for AP English, the original letter includes.

To earn college credit — which is dependent on a college’s standards — through the AP course, students must complete the course and earn a 3 or better on their AP exam.

“Despite the different way to obtain college credit for this class, we have every confidence that your son or daughter will have a positive experience in English this fall,” the letter reads.

The board also approved an amended 2016-17 school year budget based on HVAC expenses increasing by 10 percent from what the district originally budgeted. The change, Segobiano said, revolves around the summer Parkview Elementary HVAC project.

Segobiano also said that of the three major operating funds of the district budget — transportation, education, and operations and maintenance — the transportation fund would be the only one with a deficit. She explained the $28,000 deficit happened because the state owes $150,000 for transportation.

The board also approved a lease levy purchase agreement with Columbia National Bank to use lease levy funds to help pay for the new concession stand at the high school’s multipurpose field.

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Sean McGowan

Sean is a die-hard Cubs fan, despite the relentless peer pressure coming from the rest of the Republic-Times staff. He and his wife, Jacqui, have been married for two years. Originally from the west suburbs of Chicago, Sean and his wife moved down to Normal to attend Illinois State University and stayed central Illinois residents for the past four years.