Parents Speak Out Against Possible Larger Class Sizes

OSWEGO, NY – The current school year isn’t officially over yet, and several parents of elementary school children are already concerned with a potential problem in the 2014-15 school year.

Four parents stated their concerns Tuesday at the public session of the school board meeting.

Garrett Turtura told the board members “about the rumor not to add an additional fourth grade classroom to Leighton Elementary School.”

“This would leave our two fourth grade teachers teaching classes of roughly 25 students per classroom,” he said. “We are already identified as a focus school and I don’t think we need to make that challenge any more difficult than it already is. We need to stand up for our youth and support our educators as a community so that every child has access to a safe place to foster life-long learners who believe in themselves.”

One teacher faced with 25 youth is faced with an impossible feat, he added.

Eliza St. Onge’s daughter is also a Leighton student.

She told the board she has the same concerns.

Her daughter currently has 16 kids in her class and comes home often talking about some of the behavioral problems she witnessed in class that day, St. Onge said.

“It’s very hard to control the kids that have a lot of behavior issues,” she said. “My concern is that (my daughter) is doing well right now but what’s going to happen next year when she is shoved into such a big class.”

Behavioral issues will be a bigger problem since the teacher will have so many students to contend with all at once, she noted.

“I am here also tonight because I am concerned about my daughter going into fourth grade next year at Leighton,” said Candace Baker. “She has to work harder to accomplish the same things everyone else does. She does things at a little bit of a slower pace. My concern is that with already 18 to a close right now, making it a class of upwards of 25 or 27 (will make things difficult). She is already struggling to maintain good grades, not excellent, but good.”

She said she’s afraid her daughter won’t be able to maintain those good grades in a larger class “because the focus of the teacher is going to be split too much.”

Pam Cloonan expressed similar concerns.

Considering the tough budget process the district just went through, it might seem unreasonable for parents to come and ask you to consider a way to re-examine and squeeze out, she said, adding, “But that is exactly what I’m here for tonight – to ask you to re-examine the class sizes, specifically as it relates to Leighton Elementary School and the projections for the 2014-15 school year.”

Superintendent Ben Halsey described the budget as “tight.”

“Your feelings on this issue will be listened to. We will do the best we can in finding balance in our buildings,” Halsey replied to the parents. “I will tell you it is a difficult process. You need to look at all aspects of finding a balance in our class sizes in all our buildings.”

They have been looking a variety of possibilities that might help balance the class size in buildings across the district, he explained.

“Quite honestly, to this point it has proven to be unproductive for generating the kind of shift in population that we’re looking for,” he said. “As soon as we start adding more streets and more neighborhoods (to one building), it starts to affect all of the other buildings.  So that process is going to take a lot more time.”

There has been a lot of discussion about the positions that have been reduced across the district and one thing that they have to remain focused on is “we built this budget very specifically and very tightly,” he said.

“If we are going to need to make adjustments to what we were going to reduce, it’s going to have to come from someplace else,” the superintendent cautioned. “That is going to be the most difficult part of the conversation going forward. If we decide as a board and as an administrative team to add something back, we have to find a place that hasn’t been touched to get that from. But we will look and will try to find ways to make it work. With every difficult decision, there’s some complications and if you try to adjust that complication, even more difficult decisions are going to have to be made. Something else is going to have to give.”