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Watertown High continues to enhance Armenian language program

Friday, August 26, 2005

After meeting with representatives of the local Armenian-American community this past summer, the superintendent of schools and principal of Watertown Public High School have agreed that maintaining two Armenian-language courses in the high school would better accommodate the educational needs of the student population, reported the Armenian National Committee of Eastern Massachusetts.

While students were off enjoying their summer vacation, local ANC activists learned that the Watertown Public High School was considering combining three levels of Armenian-language students into one class with one teacher for the upcoming school year.

After investigating the issue, the ANC learned from parents and students that there were more than 20 students of at least three levels of Armenian language skills enrolled in the Armenian language classes, which would have resulted in an inferior learning environment if the classes were combined.

Since this was understandably a major concern for parents and students, the ANC of Eastern Massachusetts raised the issue at a School Committee meeting in June, and the Watertown TAB ran a front-page story on the issue the following week, citing the concern of parents with children enrolled in the classes.

The ANC met with Principal Michael Noftsker of Watertown High School, a strong advocate of enriching programs which enhance Watertown’s ethnic diversity. Noftsker shared the community’s concerns, but was not sure a solution would be reached by the 2005-2006 school year.

In a subsequent meeting with Watertown Superintendent of Schools Steven Hiersche last month, ANC representatives again outlined the issue and asked that the matter be reconsidered. The superintendent assured the ANC that the decision to make the change was not related to budget restrictions nor intended to diminish the Armenian language program, agreeing that combining three language levels did not offer an ideal learning environment for Watertown students, and he pledged to work with Noftsker toward a solution.

The ANC of Eastern Massachusetts was pleased to learn soon after that meeting that the Armenian-language courses would continue to be taught as originally intended with at least two separate classes in September 2005 addressing the different levels of students.

“We would like to thank Superintendent Hiersche and Principal Noftsker for their commitment to the diverse educational needs of Watertown students and for their deep understanding as we presented the concerns of parents and students,” said Sharistan Ardhaldjian of the ANC.

“We are proud that Watertown students are learning in the hands of such committed leaders. We applaud the town of Watertown and particularly the school system. Watertown High School is the only area school that offers Armenian as one of its language courses, in recognition of the diversity of local cultures, and we are glad that students of all nationalities will continue to be able to learn Armenian in the best possible environment in the public school system,” said Ardhaldjian.

The Armenian National Committee is the largest Armenian-American grassroots political organization in Massachusetts and nationwide. The ANC actively advances a broad range of issues of concern to the Armenian-American community.

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