Foothills plan for Spanish gaining favor
Arizona Daily Star
4/15/ 2006

By Jeff Commings
Tucson, Arizona | Published:
A proposal to teach Spanish in every elementary grade in the Catalina Foothills School District is moving along, and authorities say the support far outweighs the dissent.
The issue has been discussed at all schools and the only thing officials are waiting for now is governing-board approval, which they hope will come by the end of the school year.
The board still has questions on where the program's $439,000 will come from, though. Pending state legislation could mean the district's private foundation might not have to raise as much money for the curriculum.
"We'll be ready to roll once that decision's made," said Assistant Superintendent Mary Jo Conery, who is heading a team of educators in constructing the curriculum.
Conery and Superintendent Mary Kamerzell talked with parents at all four elementary schools in the district, as well as at the two middle schools and the high school, as they will be affected in the coming years by the plan. Staff members and parents who attended had mostly positive comments about the proposal, Conery said.
But parents who opposed the idea made their voices heard. At a meeting at Sunrise Drive Elementary in March, for example, some parents believed physical education and art needed higher priority than learning Spanish, while others wanted the money to be used to reduce class sizes to under 20 students.
"I don't see the benefit of Spanish over P.E. or art," said Dana Milne, the mother of two at Sunrise Drive.
Those who support the program said the increasingly global society demands that students start learning a second language very early.
"We can't be like the stupid Americans anymore and bury our heads in the sand," said Terry Shapiro, who has two children at Sunrise Drive.
The program, if approved, would make Catalina Foothills the only district in Tucson to require foreign-language instruction below the high school level. Presently, Catalina Foothills and Flowing Wells are the only districts to require at least a year of foreign-language instruction in high school.
The district previously had Spanish instruction in its elementary school but phased it out for budgetary reasons in 2000.
Catalina Foothills' elementary Spanish program would require school schedules to shift to allow for the daily 30 minutes of Spanish instruction, and eight teachers would need to be hired.
Conery said many potential teachers have applied to teach Spanish at the schools after meeting officials at job fairs.
● Contact reporter Jeff Commings at 573-4191 or at