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Sep 16, 2009 3:19 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach parents angry over new math requirement

Sep 16, 2009 3:19 PM

Some parents of freshmen attending Westhampton Beach High School are angry that they were never notified of the School Board’s plans to increase math requirements for graduation.

During the board’s meeting on Monday, a small group of parents had a heated exchange with board members for nearly an hour over a proposed resolution that will add an extra year of high school math—starting with members of the class of 2013.

“There was no notice sent to us,” said Maria O’Rourke, whose child is a freshman at the high school. “I would like to respectfully request that the board members reevaluate their decision.”

“I’m livid,” said Tim Murphy, a Westhampton Beach resident whose child is also a freshman. “These are parents’ decisions, not School Board decisions. And if it is a board decision, the parents need to be involved.”

About a half dozen parents addressed the board on Monday. Later that night, after most of the parents who had addressed the board had left the meeting, board members approved the curriculum change by a 4-2 margin. School Board President Aram Terchunian, Vice President Jim Hulme, and board members Beecher Halsey and Dr. Gregory Frost voted in favor of the resolution. Members Bryan Dean and Halsey C. Stevens voted no. Clint Greenbaum abstained.

The parents who addressed the board said they were blindsided by the board’s action, many complaining that they first heard about the curriculum change by reading a story published in mid-August on The Press’s website, 27east.com.

Stephanie Shea, who has a child in this year’s freshman class, said she wished that the school district had notified parents of the change ahead of time. “Of all the people who spoke tonight, not one person knew about it,” she said, noting that there were more parents who couldn’t make it to the meeting on Monday.

Mr. Terchunian said the board changes the education curriculum all the time, and that the agenda for every meeting is posted on the school district’s website.

Ms. Shea said that upping the math requirements for graduation was not a minor change to the curriculum, and should have warranted prior notification. “This is a major thing,” she said.

Members of the class of 2013, who are freshmen this year, will finish their math requirement by tenth grade because the algebra Regents exams, which were previously taken in ninth grade, are now taken in eighth grade. The geometry Regents exams are now taken in ninth grade, and the final math Regents exam, algebra II and trigonometry, are taken in 10th grade.

According to New York State standards, students have to take three Regents exams in math to receive an advanced Regents diploma.

School Board members are in favor of the latest change because they want Westhampton Beach students to exceed New York State regents requirements, so they can better compete with others after high school.

Students will be able to choose from five or six courses, like calculus, Advanced Placement statistics or applied mathematics, to fulfill the new third-year math requirement, said Westhampton Beach Schools Superintendant Lynn Schwartz.

The parents were also worried that their children’s GPA would fall if they had to take an extra year of math, which might not be their child’s strongest subject.

Mr. Hulme said colleges look at several factors, including the difficulty of courses taken, when reviewing applications. He argued that requiring an extra year of math will help students and will give them a competitive edge when they apply to universities. “I’m sorry some see it as a penalty or a burden,” Mr. Hulme said.

Ms. O’Rourke said the curriculum change is upsetting because, back in January, school officials told parents that a student’s high school math requirements would be finished by his or her sophomore year, suggesting that they would have the opportunity to take non-math electives during their junior and senior years.

“This was repeated more than once as a dangling carrot to make us feel better,” she said. “Our students will be at a detriment if forced to take an extra math class when it is not their best subject.”

Ms. O’Rourke asked why her child couldn’t take another subject, like advanced English or journalism, in lieu of math.

“Kids need more math,” Mr. Terchunian said. “It’s not about choice, it’s about establishing rigor.”

Mr. Greenbaum said the New York State Regents requirements set the lowest bar. And while math might be a “hard pill to swallow” for some, it is a subject that cannot be avoided.

“Not a lot of people are jumping up and down and saying, ‘Yay math!’” he said. “It’s like you don’t see people jumping up and down and saying, ‘Yay broccoli!’”

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I am amazed that some parents complain that their children should not have the best education. It is bad enough that standards of public education have slipped in the last several decades, enough for the last President to pass the "No child left behind" legislation.
Now it is time to raise that bar so this generation will be competitive in an ever more educated and competitive world. Don't sell your children short. Give them the best.

By Bob Whyte (48), Hampton Bays on Sep 16, 09 7:33 PM
The comment from Mr. Whyte shows that he has completely missed the point and obviously has not done his research by attending all these meetings. The complaint from parents has to do with accountability on the part of the school board for informing the parents about curriculum changes that profoundly affect our children. In addition, they should be held accountable for promises made during these meetings. I hope it is a given that we all want the best possible education for our children, but ...more
By Dina (1), Westhampton Beach on Sep 17, 09 4:33 PM
1 member liked this comment
In America we start school to late. In poverty stricken Countries I've seen children 8 years old do college math with ease.
By let'stryagain (21), WestHampton Beach on Sep 18, 09 11:17 AM
"Clint Greenbaum abstained." Was any reason given why Mr. Greenbaum abstained. Was there some conflict? Does he have no position on what should be taught in school?

I agree with Dina in part. The foundation of a math education begins in the elementary school and you just can't pass a rule on the top end saying "students perform" There must be groundwork on the front end. It is well past time for more transparency.

Even with respecting children's privacy test grades, ...more
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Sep 18, 09 2:57 PM
I am for the increased math requirement. I said so at the BOE meeting. I abstained because I wanted the public debate to continue, since there was no reason why the issue affecting the class of 2013 had to be voted on 9/14/09. I felt that the benefit of continuing the debate was that it would help convince parents that the change was positive. Despite the vote being taken, the debate continues - see the "Viewpoint" columns of the 9/24 issue of the SHP.
By Clint Greenbaum (10), Westhampton Beach on Sep 24, 09 9:57 AM
Mr. Greenbaum, glad to hear that there is one more vote in favor of actually educating students in our high school.

In order to increase the math requirement the Board needed 4 affirmative votes. An abstention was as good as a "no" vote. An abstention could not pass that motion.

If your position was that more public discussion was needed to get the public on board, then you could have moved to table the vote for that reason. If such a motion to table passed you would have ...more
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Sep 26, 09 7:38 AM