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POLL: Parents Speak Against Overcrowded Classes in Westport

41 classes at Staples High School have more than 26 students, according to Superintendent of Schools Dr. Elliot Landon.

 

While parents ridiculed Westport's large class sizes during a Board of Education meeting that ran until after midnight Tuesday, one board member’s motion to adjust the class size break points failed and .

Though the Westporters who spoke Monday night were predominately elementary parents, Board of Education Chair Don O’Day said there are bigger issues at , where class sizes are ‘tremendous.’

“If we are going to address class sizes, we are going to address class sizes throughout the system, not just in elementary schools,” O’Day said.

Board of Education member Michael Gordon made the motion to return Westport schools to ‘pre-financial-crisis break points.’

“This won’t cure our class size issue. It will work with the most crowded classes,” Gordon said. “That is the policy change that I am looking to make.”

, though, and the board would either have to cut funds from other areas or go to the Board of Finance in order to increase the school budget.

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“,” Landon said. “From my perspective, leave it intact, we will deal with the situation as it arises.”

Currently Westport classes are nearing their maximum, but remain in line with the standards that the board has set.

“The one thing we can do is focus all of our efforts on what we want to do with the 2013-2014 year when we are first putting together a budget. I am not opposed to changing the guidelines,” said.

Board member Mark Mathias said the board has received "hundreds of emails from parents who believe the numbers are too high. They believe their children are not getting the best education.”

He suggested class splitting or class interns to help mitigate some of the concerns parents have. Board member Michael McGovern disagreed and said adding uncertified staff to an already overcrowded classroom would be unnecessary and not cost effective.

More than a dozen parents spoke out against class sizes that they believe are too large. They feel elementary schools should have around 17 or 18 students, while they currently have closer to 22 or 23 students on average in Westport.

Westport mom Lori Redmer said, “. Gifted children need that extra time in the classroom.”

John Fatteross, who has a child in third grade, said he and his wife moved to Westport in 1997 to take advantage of the town’s elite school system.

“When class sizes increase by 20 percent year to year... elementary education is diminished,” he said. “Rectify the situation. Make the Westport school system the pride and joy of this town for all Westport parents.”

O’Day said major changes would have to be made in order to appease everybody. The town would need to spend more money and add more teachers to its staff.

“,” he said. “If we are going to change, whether we go to the funding bodies or we slash programs, I want to do it with all schools.”

According to McGovern, if the board intends to do what is needed at Staples and what is recommended throughout the school district, the spending increase would be close to $1 million.

Landon said that in order to make a guideline change the board needs to have information that they can 'assemble in a meaningful way.'

"I don’t think we can do that until some time into the next fiscal year,” said Landon, who advocated for approving the budget as it stood and to change the classroom guidelines in the future.

Gordon’s motion to alter Westport's breakpoints failed 1-6 and, before the end of the four hour and 37 minute meeting, the board voted unanimously to pass the $100,226,554 school budget for the 2012-2013 year.

vincent Petrecca May 22, 2012 at 10:49 AM
We have 540 teachers in our school system and 5,600 students...that is 10 students per teacher !!! We need to review class offerings and get the list under control...Staples just offers to many varied classes and is caught up with trying to do everything..A bit of discipline is what is necessary and this issue goes away.... Mr. Landon knows this..He is not the Mr. Perfect that is portrayed.
Chris Rueli (Editor) May 22, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Vincent, Which curriculum would you recommend eliminating in order to make the core classes smaller at Staples?
vincent Petrecca May 22, 2012 at 09:32 PM
Chris, Go to Staples High School web site and look at 2012 Course Catalog...It rivals a college program offering... Examples: 2 Dim Studio....offerings from Watercolor to Advanced Dark Room.. 3 Dim Studio....offerings from pottery to advanced jewelry making.. World Lit...The Caribbean.. Culinary arts Forensics.. German ?? There are just too many offerings that take up our teaching staff..... Again, we have 540 teachers for 5,600 students.... The special interest groups that now control the Town's large budgets are evident in the school system..the Board of Ed could clean this up in a weekend...
Susan Smithe May 23, 2012 at 02:18 AM
Exactly Vincent. Where is the leadership on the Board of Education. What could possibly be more important than hiring more teachers now. Mr O' Day was handed a petition with over 400 signatures, requesting class size solutions, NOW!! This is not new information. Its just come to the breaking point.
vincent Petrecca May 23, 2012 at 02:44 AM
Susan, A bit of action and discipline and the class size issue disappears..... If we add in the "contract kitchen staff" we have over 1,000 employees in the school system.....Difficult to really identify the Admin number but in most schools it is out of sight...We even have 13 psychologists........
Susan Smithe May 23, 2012 at 12:42 PM
The B of E has no ability to lead. You are right, "a bit of discipline and action..." I will however do a shout our for the school psychologists. They are needed, they do an awesome job.

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