A group of parents unhappy with curriculum changes in store next year at Westlake Middle School in Lombard Elementary District 44 now is working with administrators to improve communication.
Several administrators met with 10 parents last week to exchange thoughts about curriculum changes that double the foreign language class slots and provide two years of algebra instead of one, but scuttle general music classes and eliminate the full-time instructor who taught music and chorus. Chorus will continue as an after-school activity with a part-time instructor.
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Parents and administrators both say communication about the planned changes could have been better.
"We have supportive parents and we want them to feel in the loop," Superintendent Jim Blanche said. "With this decision, clearly they felt left out."
Parent Wendy Peca said her daughter, Emma, a seventh-grader at Westlake, began hearing rumors in mid-March that music classes were being cut and the chorus teacher was losing her job. The district sent a letter explaining the curriculum changes to all middle school parents, but it was dated April 10.
"We won't be getting the general music part of humanities back for next year. I understand that," Peca said. "If they had been honest with us back in March when we started finding out instead of waiting weeks, I think this would have been a different situation."
Curriculum changes are administrative decisions, Blanche said. In the past, when an administrative decision didn't cost the district any additional resources, it was shared with the school board, but not made public.
Peca said parents would have appreciated a heads-up, however informal, that the humanities classes were changing.
"You can have informal things come out to your parents just so we're in touch with what's going on with our kids," Peca said. "We depend on the district's professionalism and their knowledge in what's going on. But we also depend on them to communicate with us extremely openly."
Blanche said in the past few years he's worked with Westlake Middle School Principal Phil Wieczorek to improve information sharing with parents. Wieczorek sends out email alerts to parents, including the school's daily announcements. But Blanche said the curriculum changes could have been shared sooner.
"In the future, we need to find a way to communicate these changes before they are done deals so the parents know what's coming and can respond," Blanche said.
As the district prepares to implement the curriculum changes, the search is under way for a new part-time chorus teacher. The district has received more than 20 applications and is in the process of conducting interviews for the new teacher, who would begin next school year.