In an effort to save Saugus High School’s four-year Chinese language program, parents of students in the program are joining together to write letters and attend school board and city council meetings to demand that the program continues for several years to come.
“We think that canceling a program that is so critical to our daughters’ success and has over a decade of experience building a bridge of understanding between our countries is shortsighted and irresponsible,” said Erwin Hermann, the father of two daughters currently in the Saugus High Chinese language program.
In late-January, an email to parents informed them that the Chinese language program, which includes four levels of instruction, would end in the following school year. William S. Hart Union High School District officials said this decision was due to “low interest” in the 14-year-old program.
The choice has frustrated and upset parents, who say they want the program to continue and know there is an interest in the language and the partnership with Saugus’ sister school Gaoxin No. 1 High School in Xi’an China.
“If it were budget issues then that would have already been voiced. If it is enrollment numbers then last semester we should have been notified of the possibility of the program being cancelled. Either way, it’s not right for administrators to behave this way,” Saugus High parent Vera Peterson said. “The school is not a dictatorship. It should be students, parents and community input as well as the administration.”
At the most recent Hart Governing Board meeting on Feb. 28, 14 parents and students submitted comment cards to speak to the board and administration about their concerns.
Six speakers, including Hermann and Peterson, spoke before Board President Steve Sturgeon addressed the public and said the board would work with the Hart district administration to “figure how we can make this continue.”
“The district will take action and direction to determine how we can continue this program and we will get back to you on that, and we will discuss with Mr. Ferry at Saugus High School as how we can make this happen,” Sturgeon said to the parents and students at the Feb. 28 meeting.
On Friday, Sturgeon said the board is planning to continue the program for all students currently enrolled in Chinese language classes.
“We know that we’re going to continue it for all the students who are currently in the program. What we’re looking at right now is our availability to offer it up for freshmen and we probably won’t know that until June,” Sturgeon said. “But we have committed to Chinese II, Chinese III and the AP classes.”
In addition, Sturgeon said the Hart district is “looking at the possibility of offering it at another campus as well.”
Parents, however, want the program at Saugus High School to continue for many years to come so other students can benefit from the program’s offerings.
Because they are still uncertain of what the future of the program will be, parents are holding informal meetings and finalizing a letter to present at the upcoming Santa Clarita City Council meeting March 13 and Hart Board meeting March 14.
“Now the School Board, instead of following through on their promise to us, are talking about presenting us with ‘options.’ We don’t want ‘options.’ We want a future for our children,” read the letter, which had 15 signatures as of Wednesday. “Schools are not about shiny buildings. They are about giving our children the brightest and most secure future they can. They are about teaching them the skills to accomplish that goal.”
The letter also argues that the Chinese language program helped students enroll in college, bolster their resumes, secure jobs and become the next generation of leaders and thinkers.
“We, as parents, do not want to pick fights with the school board or the new principal at Saugus High,” the letter read. “We would prefer that the Hart District and the principal just do the job that we as taxpayers are already paying them for.”