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Revised Irvington Budget Adds Sixth Grade Language

IRVINGTON, N.Y. – Dozens of Irvington students and parents came out Tuesday night to the Irvington Board of Education meeting to protest proposed language cuts in the 2012-13 budget.

“We want more instruction, not less,” Jesse Ewing said. Ewing has served on the district's world language committee.

Irvington school officials presented a revised 2012-13 budget to an overflowing room during their Tuesday meeting. It includes the sixth grade language program. Residents pushed for the fifth grade program also to be reinstated into the budget.

School officials originally presented a $51.2 million budget that would eliminate fifth and sixth grade language programs. Officials were also considering whether to drop AP French because not enough students are enrolling in the class. However, the district was able to reinstate its sixth grade language program, as well as a guidance counselor and other needed costs, by reducing funds for athletics, arts, professional development and transportation. The revised budget came in $718 under the tax cap.

Currently, fifth grade students receive one period a week of language instruction, spending half a year studying French and half a year Spanish. Sixth grade students take French or Spanish every other day.

Irvington High School senior and class valedictorian Melissa Kuriloff told school officials that she has benefited greatly from language classes. Kuriloff said language classes have given her many opportunities and helped improve her English language skills. “You put Irvington students at a serious disadvantage if you cut fifth grade language,” she said.

Some community members pushed for the addition of an assistant superintendent for personnel and curriculum to next year's budget, noting that new Superintendent Kristopher Harrison will not take office until July. Other residents questioned the need for the position and its high salary. “Am I a lunatic for thinking $180,000 is a lot of money for the position?” Linda Leary asked, noting that the salary would exceed the amount set under New Jersey's superintendent salary limits.

School officials said they believe the position is needed to help the district implement state educational changes, such as new teacher evaluations and the Common Core Learning standards. School Board Member Robert Grados noted that the salary earmark was consistent with other salaries in the county.

School board members indicated Tuesday that they would not try to overturn the tax cap this year, although Grados said he couldn't see how the district could maintain its commitment to excellence by staying within the tax cap for the 2013-14 budget.

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