Parents, Students Criticize Hannibal French Class Taught by Internet

Hannibal High School’s last French class ever is not going well.

Students and parents complained to the Board of Education Wednesday night that the way the class is being taught is endangering the excellent grades of students in their critical junior year.

Hannibal is ending French in favor of Spanish. It stopped taking new students a few years ago. As a result, this year’s 11th grade French class is the only one. There are 9 students in the class. The class is not required for graduation, but students who complete the course successfully can graduate with what the state calls “advanced distinction”.

The woman who taught French for many years is a teacher who is also certified as a music teacher. Superintendent of Schools Mike DiFabio said the teacher chose to return to the music department because teaching just one section of French would have cost her her seniority and exposed her to a layoff if there are future job cuts.

Instead of hiring a teacher to teach one class a day, the district opted to use its distance learning laboratory to have the class taught by a teacher from the APW school district. The arrangement cost the cash-strapped district nothing.

“It’s just not working,” said one of four students to address the board.

“We haven’t seen a grade, their grades have all dropped 6 to 7 points,” said parent Margaret Shepard, who alleged the teacher did not return 5 week reports on the class and has not returned a single homework assignment. “I don’t want to hear that the teacher from the other school has a pile of paperwork. Wrong answer.”

She said that the Hannibal students use a different textbook from the students in APW and said students don’t speak French in class for practice.

Another parent said he sat through a recent class and agreed that “there is no back and forth in French. I don’t speak French but I had no problem understanding what was going on.”

“Don’t experiment with my son in his junior year, the most critical year he has,” the man said.

High school Principal Brian Schmitt told the parents “we are well aware of what’s going on in the class.” He said he has been in constant contct with APW to try to fix the problems. Schmitt said APW has agreed to drive the teacher to Hannibal for in-person meetings and perhaps to teach the class from here. “I’m not going to defend the actions of the teacher,” he said.

One parent said his son has a difficult choice to make: Either drop the class to keep his grades up but lose the advanced designation on his diploma or stay with the class and risk lower grades in a year when colleges begin to look at top-performing students.