2016-05-13 / Community

News Briefs


Ranked third, fifth and second nationally in the annual Le Grand Concours test of French comprehension are, from left, Middle School of the Kennebunks eighth-graders Ryan Connors, Tia Stockwell and Julia Connolly. (Courtesy photo) Ranked third, fifth and second nationally in the annual Le Grand Concours test of French comprehension are, from left, Middle School of the Kennebunks eighth-graders Ryan Connors, Tia Stockwell and Julia Connolly. (Courtesy photo) Middle school students excel in national contest

Students at the Middle School of the Kennebunks have captured eight of the Top 10 spots in Le Grand Concours, a national French contest that garners participation from more than 85,000 students in all 50 states.

Awarded gold medals based on testing done in March were Julia Connolly (ranked 2nd place nationally), Ryan Connors (3rd), and Tia Stockwell (5th). Silver medals went to William Keene (6th), Ellen Neale (7th), Michaela Machulis (8th), Miranda Durcan (9th), and Rory Sheehan (10th).

In addition, Nichole Bilodeau, Emily Hogue, Bella Hammond and Dylan Johnston all won bronze medals.

In all, 34 MSK students achieved national ranking in the Level 1A division in the 81st annual event, sponsored by the American Association of Teachers of French, which evaluates students for their written, oral and listening comprehension skills in French.

“These eighth-graders have worked very hard this year,” said MSK French teacher Tad Williams. “I am so impressed by what they have accomplished.”

Adjustments made to foreign language program

While MSK students are excelling at French, there has been some struggle at RSU 21 elementary schools with foreign language skills, particularly Spanish, the most popular among students.

At a recent school board meeting, one director, Mike Mosher of Kennebunk, had referred to it as a “failing program,” and intimated he would move to cut funding when the final vote on the coming school budget came around.

According to Assistant Superintendent Phillip Potenziano, an in-house task force determined that the blocks of time allotted for foreign language are simply not long enough, allowing for an “awareness” level of understanding only, and not the full immersion needed to develop full, practical skills.

For that, he said, at least a 90-minute block of time is needed. At its May 2 meeting, the school board voted 10-2 to fund that time, pulling $26,000 from a $180,000 line item set aside to help fund transportation of Arundel middle schoolers to Thornton Academy Middle School and using it to move a part-time Spanish teacher to full-time.

That gives the district three full-time Spanish teachers, enough to cover the needed time blocks.

Elementary principals now need to decide how and where to find that time during the school day.

Compiled by Staff Writer Wm. Duke Harrington.

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