UNION — A number of concerns were expressed by a student and a parent at Monday’s meeting of the Union County Board of School Trustees.
Morgan Morris — a senior at Union County High School who is presently ranked No. 4 in the Class of 2013 — spoke to the board regarding a lack of opportunities for advanced students. Morris said she wanted to share concerns not only for herself and her fellow classmates, but also for her sister who is in the Class of 2015.
Morris shared her personal experience of selecting courses with her guidance counselor last year to prepare for her senior year. She selected courses including AP (Advanced Placement) Statistics, AP U.S. History, AP Chemistry and Spanish III Honors. Morris said she was shocked, however, when she received her schedule in the mail because neither AP Chemistry nor Spanish III Honors was on it.
Morris provided board members with handouts showing the AP courses available at UCHS and the times at which they are offered. The handout also listed all 31 AP courses that are recognized by the College Board.
The courses were missing from Morris’ schedule because of scheduling conflicts — AP Statistics and AP U.S. History are scheduled at the same time as AP Chemistry.
To fill the gap in her schedule, Morris was placed into AP Art.
“Not being an art person, I explored other options and the idea was presented for me to peer tutor during that time,” Morris said.
Morris also provided board members with handouts showing the benefits of peer tutoring for students, tutors and educational institutions.
She said she presented the idea to Principal Floyd Lyles, who was excited about it. Several days later, she was told that she had to be enrolled in a class and tutoring would not be possible during that time. She came up with a solution of taking a study hall and tutoring from there, but she was told that study hall was only available for juniors.
These events raised concerns for the UCHS senior, the first of which being the quality of education being offered to students at UCHS in order to be competitive.
Out of 31 AP classes recognized by the College Board, UCHS offers six.
“While this may appear to be an adequate number, it is important to point out that many of these classes are being offered at the same time,” Morris said as she directed board members to her handouts. “For example, If you opt to take AP Chemistry this year, you will not be able to take AP U.S. History or AP Statistics.”
Morris said one student was offered options that were not presented to others.
“The student in question is being allowed to take both GT Drama and GT Music,” Morris said. “Remember, both of these classes are taught during fourth period. This student was given the option to take the fourth period GT Drama, then a regular music class during first period, but receive the GT credit. While I am sure the student is capable of GT work, it seems unethical to make this special provision.”
She pointed out that the students who opted to take AP Calculus were not able to have GT Art and were not given the opportunity to take it at another time — this year or in years past.
“I — like many of my classmates — have worked very hard these last four years to achieve my class ranking,” Morris said. “The competition is tight with only a few tenths of a point separating the top students. GT classes are weighted more heavily, much like AP classes. By being given this special provision to fit the two classes in, this student is given an unfair advantage over the others.”
The last issue Morris addressed was that of foreign languages courses offered at UCHS. She said UCHS students are not being offered at least three years of foreign language, which is required by many colleges and universities.
“We have a teacher certified in both AP Spanish language and Spanish literature and culture, yet neither are being offered,” Morris said. “We also have teachers certified in AP Macroeconomics and AP Government which are not being offered. I don’t understand that if your true interest is to put out competitive students.”
Morris closed by expressing appreciation to Lyles and her guidance counselor, Jim Palmer, saying they have tried everything within their power and she believes they have students’ best interests at heart.
“Students always live up or down to their expectations,” she said to the board. “I hope you will always hold the students of Union County to the highest of expectations.”
Michael Fowler — a parent of students in the Union County School District — also spoke to the board with similar concerns, mentioning the student who is being allowed to take two GT classes that are offered at the same time.
“I asked for the same consideration for my son and I was told my son could not handle the load,” Fowler said. “My son and other seniors are spending one hour and thirty minutes a day — four days a week — after 12 o’clock in academic studies. Several top students dropped the GT classes for AP academic classes and were not given the same opportunity as the one student who is taking two classes which are offered in the same time period.”
Fowler said that students with more AP classes but lower GPAs are given more consideration from colleges and universities, and he mentioned that he has a daughter who is in seventh grade.
“I do not want to have the same situations arise,” he said. “I would like for the board to see to it that opportunities for the top students are as present as our attempts to graduate the bottom students.”