UNION CITY, Pa. — Students and parents showed up to the Union City Area School District’s board meeting in large numbers Thursday with some standing in the hallway.
They voiced concerns over changes the curriculum and the furlough of a teacher.
“My main concerns are the communication that we have not received from our school board members. We were kept in the dark about a lot of the new policies,” said high school senior Alexis Webster.
“I think there’s obviously a frustration with transparency and things sprung on in the last minute and not knowing the real reasons behind things,” said John Fee, the stepfather of two students.
The Mass Customized Learning Program (MCL), which is at the center of debate, will include hybrid and online classes. The changes will condense and reduce the number of traditional, in-class history courses for high school students.
That led to the elimination of history teacher Tim Becker’s position for the 2017-18 school year.
The district declined interviews, but issued the following statement:
“It has been reported that Social Studies has been reduced to 1.5 credits for graduation. This is not true; there are three credits for Social Studies in our newly revised Graduation Policy and this is in accordance with the Pennsylvania School Code.”
Social Studies curriculum includes history and several other courses. According to the district’s statement, Becker was identified for furlough, because he had least seniority among teachers.
Students took to the podium expressing their appreciation and respect for Becker.
“Not just a good teacher. He’s a great guy. Every single person who has ever had him goes back to see him,” said senior Allyson Jaquith.
Allyson and hundreds of fellow schoolmates demonstrated outside of the administration building on Monday. The next day, a letter was allegedly distributed to faculty mandating that teachers not allow students with unexcused absences to make up missed work.
Thursday, The Union City Area Education Association filed a formal grievance.
“Many faculty members are concerned that this may be an attempt by the administration to employ teachers in an effort to seek retribution against those students who participated,” said UCAE president Wendy Mangol.
But students also took other actions to get their voices heard.
Allyson and senior Riley Cross teamed up to collect 200 signatures from residents in support of their cause.
He said, “I would hope they respond professionally and reconsider, because an overwhelming amount of our community wants them to reconsider this and wants them to reinstate Tim Becker.”
“You can’t take cuts at that expense… you just can’t,” added Allyson.