Unique Course Cut from Curriculum, Collab Affected by Budget Cuts


collabGrace Shay ’10 and Mike Schneider ’09
Managing Editor and Staff Writer

Social studies department chair James D’Amico announced the cut of the English 2/U.S. History Honors Collaborative, an interdisciplinary sophomore English and United States history course, on April 9, citing what he called a “tough budget season.”

D’Amico said that Principal John Dodig, Assistant Principal James Farnen and he made the decision after much discussion.

“I’m very disappointed that it to be cut,” said D’Amico of the course, affectionately known as “Collab” by students and teachers. The class is currently co-taught by social studies teacher Cathy Schager and English teacher Michael Fulton.

“It’s a good course and Ms. Schager and Mr. Fulton have done a very good job teaching it this year,” D’Amico said. However, “we have to look at the big picture, especially in a tough budget season like this one. I don’t like having to cut it, but looking at the options it is one that had to be employed,” he said.

D’Amico said that in the past two years, having two teachers teaching a single course would not have been an issue. Next year, however, D’Amico said that enrollment is up in all courses without the addition of any teaching positions. Part of Collab’s discontinuation is to achieve the “goal of benefiting the maximum number of students.”

D’Amico said that another factor in the decision was that honors English and social studies classes already exist, even though the two courses follow a different curriculum from Collab.

Fulton and Schager were notified of Collab’s discontinuation in a meeting on Thursday with D’Amico and English department chair Lis Comm during Period 4, said Fulton, who said he is “very disappointed” in the decision.

The class was designed and created 10 to 15 years ago by former social studies teacher Jackie Whiting, said D’Amico.

Former Collab student Mikey McGovern ’09, who took the class when it was taught by former English teacher John Chiappetta and Whiting in 2007, said that he “learned a lot” during his time in Collab. “I learned a lot. I can’t even explain how much I changed. I found who I was,” he said. “Basically everything I know about learning, I learned in that class.”

McGovern said that he is disappointed that Collab will no longer be offered. “Collab is the embodiment of Staples’ Mission Statement, and not having the class will severly demote the quality of the school.” McGovern especially praised the current form of the course.

“Schager and Fulton have taken the class in a new direction,” McGovern said. “Because the class is now more fact and history based,” by cutting the course, “it’s almost like penalizing [Fulton and Schager] for getting better.”

Current Collab student Lauren Hodes ’11 said she was “shocked” when she heard the news.

“I didn’t understand why the class was cut,” she said. “When I found out [the reason] was budget cuts, I thought it was a bad excuse.”

The class, Hodes said, is “very rewarding. I feel like other students should be able to get the same experience” next year.

Riley Andrews ’09, who also took Collab in 2007, said that the course helped her learn about “intrinsic motivation. A lot of students fail at it, but [Collab] taught us how to work for ourselves,” she said, adding that classes like Collab make Staples the #1 school in Connecticut.

Collab, however, is not the only Social Studies course cut for the 2009-2010 school year. Sections of the semester elective course “Current Issues were cut, as well as the Latin American area study and women in American History [which didn’t run this year, either],” said D’Amico.

“It’s absolutely my goal to have Collab run in the future,” said D’Amico. “It’s a great course.”