San Mateo schools tout concurrent enrollment

Officials from the community college school district are negotiating with high school district administrators to expand concurrent enrollment and provide free college-level courses on high school campuses to students, though teachers unions at both levels have expressed reservations.

San Mateo Community College District officials have sat down with teacher representatives from the San Mateo Union High and Jefferson Union High school districts for early stages of discussions. Some ideas include sending community college teachers to high school campuses or high school teachers teaching advanced placement classes at a college-level standard.

“I’ve talked to parents and they’ve gone nuts over this,” college district Chancellor Ron Galatolo said. “Let’s say you want to be a nurse. Why not learn the prerequisites as a junior or senior in high school? The difference is providing it in high school instead of making them take night courses here when they should be studying.”

It would be at least a year before it could be implemented, said Pat Kurtz, director of curriculum at the San Mateo Union High School District, who called the idea a “win-win for students.”

Officials from teachers unions, however, are worried that the college district’s motives are not solely centered on the students. Ernie Rodriguez, president of the college district’s teachers federation, said the college district wants to “certify these students as their own and then claim more income from the state.

“If we can respect union contracts and the high school teachers’ contract as well, and the integrity of these courses is met, then it can be a respectable program. But I have serious doubts about hiring high school teachers to teach college courses.”

Also with reservations, Craig Childress, San Mateo Union High School District’s teachers association president, said high school teachers would have to be monitored by community college supervisors.

“We have pledged to continue the discussions but there are too many sticky issues right now,” he said.

High school students concurrently enrolled usually travel to community colleges to take courses. Some instructors from College of San Mateo go to Hillsdale High School to teach art classes. Also, San Mateo Middle College has an alternative concurrent program for bright high school students.

Betsy Sachs, 17, of Menlo Park, is graduating next week with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree. She will be entering UC Santa Cruz as a junior in the fall.

“It’s the best middle ground for someone who’s not wasting their time in high school,” she said. “And what can I say? I’m saving $40,000.”

bfoley@examiner.com

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