BCSD Board of Ed Votes Down School of Choice

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By Erin Maher

The Bedford Board of Education narrowly rejected the School of Choice option for Mount Kisco Elementary School’s Dual Language Bilingual Education (DLBE) program last week forcing the district to maintain the current guidelines with modifications.

School of Choice was one of two alternatives proposed by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Christopher Manno to address how the district would deal with questions concerning the program. Under the School of Choice alternative, parents of Mount Kisco Elementary School students who didn’t want to have their child in a bilingual English-Spanish program starting in first grade would have been moved to West Patent Elementary School.

The split 4-3 vote saw Board President Brian Sheerin, Vice President Michelle Brooks and trustees Pam Harney and William Canavan vote against School of Choice while trustees Ed Reder, Beth Starpoli and Collette Dow voted in favor.

After the vote BOE members continued the discussion.
“I think there needs to be some soul searching in Mount Kisco if you have 54 families in your community that are feeling ostracized, feeling like outsiders. That’s horrible. So I think you all need to point the fingers at yourselves and say, what are we going to do to address this?” said Canavan.

Harney, who voted with Canavan said, “I think there’s more to be fixed that we need to address.” “We made a choice tonight to keep in place, an unfair, unbalanced incomparable elementary school experience in one elementary school. It’s not fair for those students,” said Reder, who voted for the program.

As the post vote discussion became heated Sheerin shut down the conversation quickly. “I just want to point out we voted. The processing of this issue is important, but we voted and it is a business meeting, we’re supposed to move on.”

Since 2015, Mount Kisco Elementary, which has a large population of students from Spanish speaking families, has offered parents of children in grades 1-4 who attend the school the choice of a single-language curriculum or to enroll in the DLBE program after their child finishes kindergarten.

In April 2016, the district reviewed the program amid complaints from parents of children in the single-language classroom about being segregated from their peers and failing to receive an equal elementary school experience.

The second alternative largely continues the current policy of allowing families to decide whether their children are enrolled in the DLBE program or be educated in the traditional single-language classroom. For children in the single-language class, there would now be enhanced efforts to provide additional experiences for them.

Before the board voted, Manno recommended that the district maintain the current system with enhancements because there was less risk associated with that option.

“From a leadership perspective, an educational perspective, I encourage you to choose choice number two,” Manno said.

Mount Kisco Elementary School Principal Inas Morsi-Hagans gave a presentation outlining new procedures to be implemented in January to promote greater opportunities for inclusion between DLBE and traditional students. These protocols include a fully integrated 25-minute recess every day, have students both within and outside the bilingual program take math together twice a week and being assigned a lunch buddy that they would spend the lunch period with.

After the vote for School of Choice was turned down, Reder warned the board that this would not be the last time the issue would arise. He said previous enhancements were included in the program for traditional classroom students and there was still dissatisfaction.

“My opinion, sitting on this board four or five years, the enhancement has not seen any of the changes that these had promised,” he said.

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