Ridgely Latin program in jeopardy

Lily Hemmeter, Staff Writer

In recent years, schools around Baltimore County have been forced to lay off teachers due to budgetary constraints. Unfortunately, these cuts tend to hit arts and foreign language departments the hardest. A few weeks ago, Seth Barish, principal of Ridgely Middle School, decided to eliminate the Latin program that has been a staple of the school for over 30 years.

Barish has not commented on his decision, and it is unclear at this time why he feels the Latin program should be terminated.

Dawn Mitchell, a Latin teacher at Dulaney High School, said, “I do think that Latin has always been on the chopping block. That’s what we sign up for as Latin teachers. We sign up for the fact that we could always lose our job.”

While recognizing this unfortunate reality, Mitchell was still shocked by the decision to let Elyse Fiorito, Ridgely’s only Latin teacher, go.

“I’m gobsmacked because Ms. Fiorito is a beloved teacher there. Everyone loves her,” said Mitchell.

This decision will not only alter the essence of the school, but it will be a logistical nightmare as well. The students who have already signed up to take Latin next year at Ridgely will now be forced to choose a different language. This will be especially disruptive for the current sixth and seventh graders who had planned to take Latin all three years of middle school and into high school.

Ridgely is Dulaney’s only feeder school with a Latin program, so removing it would make Latin 4 the highest level available at Dulaney. Therefore, Barish’s decision to cut his own school’s program will permanently stunt the program here by eliminating the Advanced Placement (AP) levels of Latin 5 and 6. 

Mitchell said, “This is not just a well-established program in the county. This is a well-established program in the state. This is a well-established program in the nation. Not that many counties have Latin 6.”

There has been pushback from parents, students and educators in the community for Barish to reconsider his decision. 

Mitchell concluded with a powerful question:  “We say we want to be a multicultural county, and the thing that goes is languages? Hard to imagine.”