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Group Suspects ‘Lack of Urgency’ in District's Computer Science Curricula

Concerns raised during board meeting's public comments section.

Nabil Mouline speaks to the Board at a meeting held on Wednesday. Credit: Dan Gunderman.
Nabil Mouline speaks to the Board at a meeting held on Wednesday. Credit: Dan Gunderman.
Local resident Nabil Mouline claimed last week that the science and mathematics curriculum in Chatham is lagging behind demographically similar districts.

Mouline is the head of the Education Counts and Chatham Stem groups. He told the Board of Education that the latter group, an aggregation of parents who get together to review curriculum, found that Chatham is not offering enough computer-related components in their curriculum. 

“We look at all of the districts around,” said Mouline. “And they seem to be emphasizing computer science education (more), offering more classes than we do.”

According to Mouline, only 24 students are taking computer science classes, and it’s not offered on a continual basis.

“There’s a real lack of a sense of urgency regarding that one particular topic,” said Mouline. “We’re lagging behind competing schools and schools around us.”

Calling the comments moderately ‘judgmental,’ board President Thomas Belding said, “We’re open to opinion, but professionals are involved in these decisions.”

Also, Belding maintained that a majority of a student’s computer science exposure comes at the college level, hinting that the curriculum in place is adequate.

“I don’t want this being interpreted as us being behind,” said Belding. “(Especially) without review of the entire curriculum.”

Mouline carried the conversation forward, saying that specifically in terms of education involving algorithms, artificial intelligence and programming, the district is staggering forward, at best.

“This is good, we’re made aware of potential weaknesses,” said board member Al Burgunder. “We can understand how other districts are handling oversight of their computer science technology programs.”

Elaborating on his group’s findings, Mouline said, “What we found amongst 24 J-District schools, was that, in most cases, the curriculum is not too different, but they’re just offering more classes, and have more kids.”

“In our program there’s 19-20 kids whom are all boys, which is unique to Chatham,” he added. “The consensus was that we need to prepare kids early on, to allow them to have a fair shot. The teachers are great, but it might be too little too late.”

He explained that many students wish they are exposed to the computer science programs early, but that most do not do so until twelfth grade.

Superintendent Michael LaSusa (relaying that there are Computer Applications one and two classes, along with an AP Computer Science class that’s not offered every year), said, “Kids get pulled off of taking introductory courses for a year or two, and don't keep going in the progression. So there’s no population that could then move up.”

“I’m not dismissing the problem,” LaSusa added. “But there is a process used to evaluate these things. But I welcome the feedback…”

In the final comments of the night, Chatham Township Committeewoman Kathy Abbott came to the microphone to express a bit of concern over the gender dissimilarity present within the computer science classes.

“There are no girls taking computer science classes…it is for girls too,” she said.

Ron Swanson August 02, 2013 at 09:07 PM
And so it begins. Mr. Mouline and "Education Counts" have found their next pet "second question" to put on the school budget ballot next year: Let's blow past the 2% cap to provide a beefed up computer science curriculum. After all, it's for the kids and will amount to just pennies a day, right? Here's a suggestion: enroll your kids in an extra-curricular computer science program and write a check.
chathamette August 03, 2013 at 11:21 AM
Having approved several hundred thousand dollars for security guards in Chatham, I think we've already established the point that we will vote for anything that is For The Children. It's just a question of what. Last year it was security guards. This year, maybe computer science. At no point, apparently, is it: hmm. As between security guards and computer science, which is the best use of limited, existing, resources?
Voice of Reason August 04, 2013 at 06:54 PM
I wonder if Kathy Abbott is just as concerned about the girls only self defense class at CHS (which violates Title IX), the jewelry design art class with only girls in it, or the fact that most of the programs at CMS/CHS seem to be girl focused? Yeah, I thought not. If these are the "professionals" that Belding is referring to, then I can see Mr. Mouline's concern.
Lefty August 05, 2013 at 04:25 PM
Speaking of school security, will any portable radios be functional within the school's interior? Last I heard PD and FD radios did not function unless next to a window. Yeah, good stuff. Can't make this stuff up. How did we ever survive without school security...? Guess we needed to find a job for retired POs where we can pay then and they can collect their pensions. All good. It's for the kids. It's for the kids. Oh, and our property values. I think real estate prices jumped 10% last week on the news our school system has security officers. Or maybe it dropped 10% on the same news as we live in a crime area.

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