School Board President Takes Issue with Coverage of Cuts to Chinese Language Classes

Letter to the Editor / Jon Primuth

Letter to the Editor:

I’m writing to protest last week’s extremely one-sided front page article reporting on the two parents who stood up at the school board meeting to criticize the school board’s decision to reduce the number of Chinese language classes at the high school. The article relies on one parent as its main source, giving him a platform to speak as a parent “for our children.” He is given space to make repeated, critical comments and false statements about the district’s action and its response to parent criticisms.  Astonishingly, the Review never mentions that this person — their main source — is actually the spouse of the teacher affected [by] the lay off decision.  The Review missed this key fact because their reporter left before the end of the board meeting, and did not contact the district for a response before filing the story.  Had the reporter stuck around, he would have learned a number of other facts.  First, contrary to the assertions of the article’s main and self-interested source, the district has listened to the concerned parents.  The district has had extensive discussion with the parents by email.  I have scheduled a meeting with them to hear their concerns on this issue.  Second, lost among the barbs thrown at the district is the fact that the high school continues to offer the full program sequence of Chinese classes, from beginning through advanced Chinese.  Although we have tentatively reduced staffing due to too many empty seats (i.e., 8 classes down to 5 classes), due to declining enrollment in the program, the same full course sequence is being offered.  I could go on, but my main point is that some perspective and context are sorely needed on this issue.  As Board Member Julie Giulioni said at the meeting, let’s all just “take a breath” because the administration is still looking at enrollment figures for the Fall and things could change.  Uncritically reporting one side’s story is just bad journalism.  All the above journalistic errors could have been avoided if the Review had simply waited until the end of the board meeting to ask questions.

Respectfully submitted,   

Jon Primuth

President, South Pasadena Unified Board of Education

“Parents of Mandarin Language Students Protest Cuts at Meeting” appeared in the April 6 issue of The Review. The updated version is online.