A Denfeld High School student staged a protest even a principal could appreciate.
During the school’s annual talent show Wednesday, Maria Puglisi sang her song, “Let It Go,” from the film “Frozen,” entirely in Spanish.
She did so, the junior said, as a protest for the school not offering a section of Spanish 5 in the coming 2014-15 school year.
“I wanted to get my point across in a beautiful way.” said Puglisi, who was the eighth performer and drew a standing ovation from more than half the crowd, some of whom held placards that read “Save Spanish 5.”
Puglisi acquired all of her Spanish fluency within the district, beginning in middle school.
Principal Tonya Sconiers is the one who makes the sometimes-difficult curriculum decisions for Denfeld. Sconiers admitted to letting Spanish 5 go next year, along with German 5 and Civil and Criminal Law, because “the numbers aren’t there.” All three of the classes are “College in the Schools” courses that allow students to earn college credits.
The principal appreciated Puglisi’s effort, calling Puglisi’s an “amazing, amazing voice.”
“It’s a wonderful illustration of the talent this young lady has been given by the Duluth school district and Denfeld High School,” Sconiers said. “I like when kids advocate for themselves. This is a good thing that she’s highlighting the want and desire for us to have Spanish 5.”
Puglisi cannot elect to take the course at East, because commuting between the schools is only afforded for “two-hour blocks of time” and not for single classes, Sconiers said.
“I do not believe they can call it the Duluth school district and offer Spanish 5 at East and not here,” Puglisi said. “It’s not fair in any sense of the word. We had the same amount of people (22) signed up for next year as we do this year (in Spanish 4).”
Sconiers verified those numbers and empathized with Puglisi’s plight.
“We offer a number of higher-level courses,” Sconiers said, “but as our enrollment has declined in Duluth and at Denfeld, it has become more and more difficult to offer certain classes.”
She said the school didn’t offer Advanced Placement World History this year and won’t again next year. Sconiers said it boils down to the fact she cannot afford to allocate teaching staff to courses that reach niche audiences.
Conversely, she said the Career in Technology program is operating well, with students traveling between both Denfeld and East as both schools offer different portions of that popular curriculum.
Puglisi said she’s an AP student with honors who has “signed up for all the hardest classes I can possibly take.”
Unfortunately, Spanish 5 won’t be one of them, and Puglisi still isn’t satisfied as to why not.
“I do not see the argument here,” she said, wondering aloud why she couldn’t take the course in a televised manner.
Sconiers said such a solution was out of her depth and under the purview of the director of curriculum. She did offer that “(interactive television) or Skype are educationally not the best way to deliver curriculum, especially in a world language.”
Puglisi’s brother, Anthony, went on before her in the talent show. He sang Paul Anka’s “My Way.” And then his sister, Maria, went out and did just that - after agreeing with Sconiers to avoid any spoken-word protesting.
Puglisi said she needed three days to learn the song in Spanish.
“I figured I might as well express myself through music, because music affects people in different ways.”