Questions bedevil Chinese Mandarin Program in Lake Forest School Districts #67 and #115

June 15, 2011

When attending a District 115 School Board meeting this spring, I heard Mrs. Basil Facone inquire in her pubic comments as to why there is another contingent of people going to China to find teachers to fill the new Chinese Immersion Program spots.

Falcone then related how several years ago a group of administrators, board members and a few teachers flew to China to visit Dr. Griffith’s son and to find Chinese teachers to teach Mandarin in our school districts (kindergartners and first-graders will be able to take the Mandarin Chinese Immersion program this fall). The successful search resulted in Lake Forest taxpayers paying for two apartments near Market Square, cable service, phone cards and transportation for these Chinese teachers.

Mrs. Falcone further related how in 2010 the school administration determined that teachers hired directly from China were not the best fit for the district and that getting the Mandarin teachers from a Master’s program at Michigan State University would work out better for the children. This resulted in a fee being paid to Michigan State by the Lake Forest School Districts for recruitment of qualified Mandarin language teacher.

During her presentation Falcone raised questions about the Mandarin program and was told by the Board of Education president to “leave your questions on the table and we will call you back.” As Mrs. Falcone related to me, “As a taxpayer and long standing community member, I would like some comfort in knowing how more than one half of my taxes are being spent and responding to my questions publicly is precisely why we have board of education meetings.” As Leone didn’t wish to be called at home, she didn’t leave her questions.

Following are a number of Leone’s questions which never became part of the record that April evening:

• If we are paying for two apartments plus utilities for the Chinese teachers, including two leased cars plus gas, why are there only four students in the Mandarin 1 class at the high school level?

• Was this same program introduced for Spanish? Did the administration and board fly to Spain to hire Spanish teachers?

• Have certified American teachers been let go in order to support the Chinese program? Mr. Griffith has said that “these teachers are being supplied by the Chinese government and we pay far less for them than our American teachers.” But when I asked how the cost was equated when all the extras were added in, Griffith said that “it was about that of a regular teacher.”

• Why is there a contingent going to China when one percent of the American population is Chinese? Surely the School Board could find a few American women or men out of the 3 million Chinese in America who could teach Mandarin and have them work in our districts daily and then go home to their families at night?

Further comments as related below, and recently shared with me by Mrs. Falcone, prompted me to bring to the attention of Lake Forester readers the concerns expressed by Leone, which have become my concerns, and which should concern all taxpayers — Lake Bluff for District 115 and Lake Forest for Districts 67 and 115.

“Although my questions were not answered that evening, I was asked an interesting question. One high school board member stopped by to say hello and asked why my husband and I were attending the meeting as we have no children at the High School. My response to that question was ‘On the contrary, I apparently have 1,600 children.”

At the present time many school parents are too afraid to speak out in fear of retribution against their children. It is time for taxpaying private school parents and other taxpayers in the community to attend the Lake Forest School Board meetings to discover how their taxes are being spent.

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