Olentangy Valley News

Board OKs new requirements over teacher's protest

Speech teacher says students need, value class that no longer will be required for graduation


The Olentangy school board went ahead with tweaks to the district's graduation requirements, despite pleas from one affected teacher.

At a meeting Jan. 31, the board voted 4-1 to approve changes to the district's graduation requirements that will be phased in. The new requirements will affect current sophomores.

A first reading of the plan was heard during the Jan. 10 meeting of the school board.

The board's vote will eliminate the personal finance/post-secondary planning course and a class on public speaking as requirements, though they'll remain as electives if student interest is high enough.

It also adds economics as a required class.

Officials said the changes free up schedules for ambitious juniors and seniors to take more Advanced Placement or post-secondary courses to earn college credit early.

Despite the elimination of some required courses, Olentangy students still will be required to earn 22 credits to graduate.

Board member Adam White voted against the plan, saying personal finance should remain mandatory.

That's despite claims from administrators who said the content of the two eliminated courses is covered elsewhere.

"These aren't required courses; they're required standards," Executive Director of Academics Mark Raiff said. "We're only required to teach them somewhere in our curriculum."

Raiff said the content covered in the personal finance course will be covered in economics, and lessons on public speaking are part of the English curriculum.

But Liberty High School speech teacher Audrey Ervin said the elimination of speech as a requirement will be to the detriment of students. She addressed the board at the Jan. 31 meeting, pleading for the course to be retained in its current form.

"With the explosion of text messaging, kids bury their heads more than not. Speech class helps kids recognize the importance of interpersonal communication," she said.

Ervin said the course also teaches students to deal with stress and anxiety, and said students consistently rank speech as among the most practical of their high school classes. She said English class won't adequately cover the material.

Board members were unmoved, promptly approving the new graduation requirements.

The changes will be phased in as follows:

* Starting in 2015, the district will eliminate the personal finance/post-secondary planning course as a requirement for all students. It will remain as an elective.

* Also in 2015, social studies requirements will be lowered from 3.5 credits to 3 credits. U.S. history, U.S. government and economics all will be required courses. Economics currently is an elective course.

* Starting in 2016, students no longer will be required to take a one-semester public-speaking course.