By JACQUELINE DURETT
SAYREVILLE — Will the French Honor Society go to the United Nations?
It is a question that has gotten the attention of the United Nations (U.N.) itself, as a borough resident who is an employee of the U.N. contacted the Sayreville Board of Education about the issue, which came up again during the Feb. 7 school board meeting.
Last month, the denial of the Sayreville War Memorial High School’s French Honor Society’s New York trip was brought up at the meeting through Student Council liaison Zachary Corby, who advocated on behalf of the students, some of whom were also in attendance.
However, during that Jan. 24 meeting, there was some confusion as to whether the trip was to the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the U.N., although the students maintained that their preference is to go to the U.N. They told the board that their intention was to secure a French-speaking tour guide at the U.N.
However, Superintendent Richard Labbe said he had concerns about the trip, foremost among them the safety of the students at the U.N. He also had concerns about whether the trip aligned with the curriculum.
The board discussed the issue, but ultimately decided to have the Student Achievement Committee evaluate it and make a recommendation at the Feb. 7 meeting.
Last week, board member Beth DePinto confirmed the committee did meet and found that the request submitted by the teacher did not have sufficient documentation demonstrating alignment to the curriculum.
DePinto clarified that the trip request the committee reviewed was not to the U.N., but to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and to the French Culinary Institute, and the committee also had concerns that the institute is not open at the time the students want to go.
DePinto said the teacher has been asked to resubmit the trip request with additional information.
Assistant Superintendent Marilyn Shediack recommended an alternative trip that she said the French Honor Society has taken in the past: French Day at Montclair State University, which is designed for French students and their teachers.
The discussion, however, took a turn when board member Phyllis Batko said she was contacted by an employee of the U.N. who lives in Sayreville. She said the employee had read about Labbe’s concerns about the safety of the U.N.
“They were not happy,” Batko said. “They felt that the U.N. was a safe place to go to.”
Batko said the person who contacted her was disappointed that the students were denied and wanted to speak with officials about the issue. She also said the U.N. employee told her that a French-speaking tour guide could definitely be secured for the trip.
“They want to work with us,” she said.
Batko asked the board if they felt that this changed things. However, the board ultimately left the issue to the teacher who submitted the trip request to submit a new one.
However, what did not come up during the discussion was the safety of traveling to New York, an issue that dominated the original discussion. School officials did not indicate whether a New York trip would be approved if the alignment with the curriculum were demonstrated to officials’ satisfaction.
When asked if he still had concerns about students traveling to New York, Labbe reiterated that the district always looks “to see if the educational benefit of the trip outweighs the potential risk to our students.”