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Scarsdale Parents Fight To Expand Language Options In Schools

Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez, a Scarsdale parent and bank regulatory consultant, says her group is fighting to expand language choices -- specifically Mandarin -- in local schools.
Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez, a Scarsdale parent and bank regulatory consultant, says her group is fighting to expand language choices -- specifically Mandarin -- in local schools. Photo Credit: Provided

SCARSDALE, N.Y. – Parents advocating for the expansion of Mandarin classes plan to ask Scarsdale school officials to reveal the details of the district’s new world language committee.

Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez, the mother of a preschooler and a student at the Fox Meadow Elementary School, said Friday the team of parents is pushing to have the Chinese dialect taught at the middle school level.

Mandarin is a language option for high-schoolers, she said, but the school board recently voted not to extend it to middle-schoolers this coming fall.

Instead, it promised to form a world languages committee to explore the issue, she said.

The group wants the board to tell the public several things, specifically who will serve on the board, what their expertise is and what the board’s objectives will be.

Recent surveys of parents, Kirkendall-Rodriguez said, show that most parents have Spanish on their list of important languages to learn, followed by Mandarin, then French.

Kirkendall-Rodriguez said learning Mandarin is important for a number of reasons, the first of which is that China is the United States’ second-largest trading partner after Canada.

Second, she said, both the State Department and the Department of Education have determined that Mandarin is important for national security and diplomacy.

Kirkendall-Rodriguez, who is a bank regulatory consultant and trainer, added that there are reasons to learn Mandarin even if “you never leave the country.”

There are many jobs going unfilled right here in the United States, she said, that are crying out for folks who speak Mandarin, namely translators in many areas, such as business, science and health care.

Kirkendall-Rodriguez pointed out that a student from Scarsdale recently won a prestigious scholarship to study in China. In addition to English, he studied, and became fluent in, Mandarin and Spanish. But he acquired those language skills in a private Catholic school, she said.

The parents’ group is “thrilled that the board is taking us seriously,” she said, but it is still urging the public to attend a school board meeting Monday to press the “transparency” issue with regard to the new language committee.

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