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Wellness requirements generate concern

By David Han
Published: May 2009

Due to budgetary constraints, the School Committee voted to lower South’s Wellness graduation requirements from seven credits to five, entailing possible class reductions and a 3.25 reduction in Wellness Department teaching positions from the current eight. To meet state Wellness requirements, the required five semesters of Wellness will extend across all four years of high school, including two core classes for the freshman class, one core class for sophomores, and one obligatory semester each for juniors and seniors.

Additional classes aside from the mandatory five will be offered as electives; however, some may be cut because of low enrollment. According to Wellness teacher Michelle Coppola, the Yoga/Pilates and Centered Self classes are most likely to be cut from the Wellness curriculum.

To preserve already existing courses, the Wellness Department has asked students to encourage underclassmen to enroll in the courses.

The purpose of the reduction of graduation requirements was to give students “the option to take other electives in their schedule in place of the extra Wellness courses, School Committee Vice Chair Claire Sokoloff said.
“It gives [students] more flexibility. It allows them to take as much Wellness as they are taking now, if that’s what they want to do”, Sokoloff said.

Wellness teacher Todd Elwell, in his 11th year at South, feels that the students choosing to take Wellness electives are those that need them the least.

“I’m concerned about the whole student body, not just the whole student”, Elwell said.

School Committee Chair Marc Laredo believes that the Wellness program will continue to succeed as it has in the past. Laredo maintains that the primary difference in the curriculum will be that students will not be required to take as many Wellness classes.

“In any budget, particularly in difficult financial times, you need to constantly be looking at your programs and requirements to see if you need to modify any changes”, he said.

Upon reviewing possible alternative cuts before the vote, the School Committee realized that programs such as Close-Up would have to be cut if the Wellness graduation requirement remained at seven credits.

“When you weighed the list of cuts, the five-credit Wellness requirement seemed like the logical choice”, School Committee member Reenie Murphy said.

15 years ago, the South Wellness Department had eight teachers for 1000 students. Next year, the department will have 4.75 teachers instructing 1700 students.

Coppola finds the 40% reduction in staff concerning, especially since the department must accommodate national and state requirements.

“It’s a huge cut for any department”, Coppola said. “It changes entirely what we teach, and we have a solid curriculum, a nationally renowned curriculum”.

Elwell likewise feels that Southís Wellness program has been eroding over the past four or five years and will no longer be able to compare to those of other schools.

Murphy believes that the lowered graduation requirement will bring the curriculum down from an “extremely high” standard of Wellness.

“It sounds like we have had, until now, a much stronger commitment on Wellness than [many] towns have,” Murphy said.

It’s completely backwards to the philosophy. “We have always considered and held ourselves with pride about being different and being ahead of everybody else”, Wellness teacher Alan Rotatori said.

Attributing stress as the primary problem of South students, Rotatori, who has worked at South for 20 years, believes cutting stress management courses such as Yoga/Pilates and Centered Self may lead to an increase in dangerous decisions, such as drinking and driving, relationship abuse, and pregnancies.
ÒThose are all signs of stress,” he said, “and we have the ability to offer courses and opportunities to help them deal with that.”

Coppola, who teaches both the Yoga/Pilates and Centered Self classes, understands the importance of stress management and is dismayed by the loss of the courses. Over her six years at South, many of her students have mentioned how useful the classes were to them.

“It’s emotionally hard knowing that [these classes] might not be here next year. You have to know some stress management for any situation that you’re in,” Coppola said.

Sokoloff hopes that stress management classes will continue to be offered in the revised curriculum and supports the idea of having students encourage their peers to enroll in Wellness courses next year.

“I hope that younger kids take classes like Yoga/Pilates so that they take full advantage of these Wellness electives,” she said. “It’s great if kids are promoting classes to other kids because they found them valuable.”

Girls Varsity Tennis Team member and junior Katherine Man believes that the Centered Self class has helped her over the season. “It’s a valuable class,” she said. “[Coppola has] given really helpful messages to help deal with stressful situations.”

Although Man is unsure about how much she can influence her peers’ decisions, she has spoken to some underclassmen about the issue.

Boys Varsity Track Team member and junior Xhulio Uruci, who is currently enrolled in the Global Games class, likes the option of having free blocks next year instead of another semester of Wellness. “After sophomore year, there really isn’t much you learn in Wellness,” Uruci said.

Uruci believes, however, that the graduation requirement should not be any lower than five credits.
Elwell hopes that students will appreciate the Wellness program offered at South and that their support will affect future administrative decisions towards the department.

ÒIf the students decide this is important, and the parents support the students, then [the situation] will swing the other way. As a former personal trainer who made a living off of Newton parents who didn’t have the education that they needed, it’s a shame that their students [may not choose to get] the education they deserve,” Elwell said. The School Committee voted to lower South’s Wellness graduation requirements from seven credits to five, entailing possible class reductions and a 3.25 reduction in Wellness Department teaching positions from the current eight.

To meet state Wellness requirements, the required five semesters of Wellness will extend across all four years of high school and include two core classes for the freshman class, one core class for sophomores, and one obligatory semester each for juniors and seniors.

Additional classes, aside from the mandatory five, will be offered as electives; however, some may be cut because of low enrollment. According to Wellness teacher Michelle Coppola, the Yoga/Pilates and Centered Self classes are most likely to be cut.

To preserve already existing courses, the Wellness Department has asked students to encourage underclassmen to enroll in the courses.

The purpose of the reduction of graduation requirements was to give students “the option to take other electives in their schedule in place of the extra Wellness courses,” School Committee Vice Chair Claire Sokoloff said.

“It gives [students] more flexibility. It allows them to take as much Wellness as they are taking now, if thatís what they want to do, Sokoloff said.

Wellness teacher Todd Elwell, in his 11th year at South, feels that the students choosing to take Wellness electives are those that need them the least.

“I’m concerned about the whole student body, not just the whole student,” Elwell said.

School Committee Chair Marc Laredo believes that the Wellness program will continue to succeed as it has in the past. Laredo maintains that the primary difference in the curriculum will be that students will not be required to take as many Wellness classes.

“In any budget, particularly in difficult financial times, you need to constantly be looking at your programs and requirements to see if you need to modify any changes,” he said.

Upon reviewing possible alternative cuts before the vote, the School Committee realized that programs such as Close-Up would have to be cut if the Wellness graduation requirement remained at seven credits.
ÒWhen you weighed the list of cuts, the five-credit Wellness requirement seemed like the logical choice,î School Committee member Reenie Murphy said.

15 years ago, the South Wellness Department had eight teachers for 1000 students. Next year, the department will have 4.75 teachers instructing 1700 students.

Coppola finds the 40% reduction in staff concerning, especially since the department must accommodate national and state requirements.

ÒItís a huge cut for any department,” Coppola said. ÒIt changes entirely what we teach, and we have a solid curriculum, a nationally renowned curriculum.”
Elwell likewise feels that South’s Wellness program has been eroding over the past four or five years and will no longer be able to compare to those of other schools.

Murphy believes that the lowered graduation requirement will bring the curriculum down from an “extremely high standard of Wellness.”

“It sounds like we have had, until now, a much stronger commitment on Wellness than [many] towns have,” Murphy said.

“It’s completely backwards to the philosophy. We have always considered and held ourselves with pride about being different and being ahead of everybody else,” Wellness teacher Alan Rotatori said.

Attributing stress as the primary problem of South students, Rotatori, who has worked at South for 20 years, believes cutting stress management courses such as Yoga/Pilates and Centered Self may lead to an increase in dangerous decisions, such as drinking and driving, relationship abuse, and pregnancies.

“Those are all signs of stress,” he said, “and we have the ability to offer courses and opportunities to help them deal with that.”

Coppola, who teaches both the Yoga/Pilates and Centered Self classes, understands the importance of stress management and is dismayed by the loss of the courses. Over her six years at South, many of her students have mentioned how useful the classes were to them.

“It’s emotionally hard knowing that [these classes] might not be here next year. You have to know some stress management for any situation that you’re in,” Coppola said.

Sokoloff hopes that stress management classes will continue to be offered in the revised curriculum and supports the idea of having students encourage their peers to enroll in Wellness courses next year.

“I hope that younger kids take classes like Yoga/Pilates so that they take full advantage of these Wellness electives,” she said. “It’s great if kids are promoting classes to other kids because they found them valuable.”

Girls Varsity Tennis Team member and junior Katherine Man believes that the Centered Self class has helped her over the season. “It’s a valuable class,” she said. “[Coppola has] given really helpful messages to help deal with stressful situations.”

Although Man is unsure about how much she can influence her peers’ decisions, she has spoken to some underclassmen about the issue.

Boys Varsity Track Team member and junior Xhulio Uruci, who is currently enrolled in the Global Games class, likes the option of having free blocks next year instead of another semester of Wellness. “After sophomore year, there really isn’t much you learn in Wellness,” Uruci said.

Uruci believes, however, that the graduation requirement should not be any lower than five credits.

Elwell hopes that students will appreciate the Wellness program offered at South and that their support will affect future administrative decisions towards the department.

“If the students decide this is important, and the parents support the students, then [the situation] will swing the other way. As a former personal trainer who made a living off of Newton parents who didn’t have the education that they needed, it’s a shame that their students [may not choose to get] the education they deserve,” Elwell said.

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