Chatham Superintendent Michael LaSusa began the meeting Monday with a statement meant to dispel "a rumor that I had single-handedly made a decision to eliminate classes at the high school."
"There is no such proposal on the table at the present time," LaSusa said. "Any notions of that realm in terms of [the] high school [are] ill-founded."
The administration has tried in past years to make class levels consistent in each subject and at each grade level in the high school, LaSusa said. The idea is to have three course levels to choose from in each subject and in each year:
- A concepts course for students who have difficulty grasping a subject
- A regular-level course for students who do not have difficulty in a class but are not ready for a higher challenge;
- and either an honors or Advanced Placement (AP) course for students who excel in the subject.
Over the last two years, has expanded the number of subjects in which they offer AP or honors classes. At the same time, some honors classes have been dropped in favor of an AP class in that subject. This happened in Physics as part of the 2012-13 school budget: For the current school year, Honors Physics was dropped from the curriculum and AP Physics was added.
Parents said AP was not an alternative to honors for all students. A student earning Bs and Cs at the honors level would not do well in an AP class, but taking a regular-level class could hurt chances of getting accepted to top colleges.
One high school student who identified herself as Gianna Mackery said she knew of fellow students who had already opted for regular-level courses instead of AP courses when the honors option was taken away.
"The AP class is so much more work than the honors," she said, but "teachers teach down to regular students. There's going to be a lot more kids challenged less if they take regular classes when they could take honors."
LaSusa stated several times that no decision had been made regarding future changes to the curriculum at this time. Board Member Jill Weber said when the decision was made to change the science sequence and drop Honors Physics in favor of of AP Physics, "it was a five-year thing" to bring the plan to fruition.
Board Member Richard Connors said residents should "rest assured, this is not something we're going to do at midnight or over the summer." Any serious discussion would be made known to the public in advance and with time for the public to weigh in.
Tracey Tango said the 50 who gathered for Monday's meeting were able to come together with only a couple of hours' notice on this issue. She asked the board to consider how many parents would come if the parents had days to prepare.