Abby came home from school last Friday and told me that her class (which started at 25 kids) got 3 new students that day. I asked where they had come from and she said they had moved from other classes. What? So not having any more details than this, I sent the following letter to the school principal:
My daughter came home from Mrs. Ibach’s first-grade class on Friday and said that they’d gotten 3 new students (in addition to the 25 they already had!) that were moving from another first grade class.
Firstly, 25 students is far too many for a first-grade class. These kids are developing skills that they’ll need for a lifetime and having so many in one room without assistants is compromising their futures. And now you’ve added 3 more!
Secondly, what about the upset to those kids that have been moved? It’s hard to go to a new class with a new teacher and new kids each year, and after 3 weeks of instruction they’ve got to do it all over again. Did anyone think about this? Some kids can go with the flow, but there are far more than could be really upset by such a move.
Thirdly, I know that funds are tight and the budget needs to be balanced, but these kids didn’t mess up our budget over the last several years and they shouldn’t have to pay the price in their education. The district needs to find a way to balance the budget without compromising the futures of our children.
And lastly, the district cannot rely on the generosity of parent volunteers to fill in such huge gaps in the classroom. I love to volunteer in school and I feel very privileged to be a part of my daughter’s classroom and education, but many families have 2 parents that work full-time and aren’t able to give that time to the classroom. Do the classes that can’t muster enough volunteer support have to suffer?
I know that these problems are district wide and not specific to Parkwood, but as our principal, we need you to fight for the rights of our children and go to the board and tell them that we won’t stand for this kind of treatment. Our children deserve better.
I completely understand the basis for your concerns. I share them, frankly, and have done the very best advocacy that I could to avoid this situation as I worked with the district leadership team. We have been granted a 0.2 FTE certificated staff member (the equivalent of 8 hours) by the district in an attempt to off-set the overload in Ms. Ibach’s class. I am very hopeful that our staff will agree to ADD to that support staffing allocation through the use of another fund that is contractually negotiated (called High Impact). I will know more about this possibility later this week. With a total of 0.3 FTE additional staffing, Ms. Ibach and the first grade team could use this staff member to reduce numbers during a daily portion of core instruction. I believe the first grade team also felt that the support staff members that are part of our Blended Program would also help to off-set the overload challenge. You are welcome to contact Brian Schultz, Executive Director for Student Learning and Schools for more information about the district’s decision to handle overload in this way. I will be working with staff here to the do the best we can to preserve an outstanding instructional experience in spite of this challenge. Again, thank you Michelle for sharing your concerns with me.
To which I had to reply:
I appreciate your swift response, but I disagree that adding a 0.3 FTE to Mrs. Ibach’s team is going to be adequate. The noise and the commotion increase exponentially with the addition of each new child when there are that many kids in the room. And when 10/13 is blended, there will be 36 kids in that classroom! Yes, Mrs. Ward comes with 2 assistants, but they aren’t exactly showing up unencumbered. They have 8 special needs children that require a lot of attention. Please don’t get me wrong. I am certainly in favor of the blended classroom, but not when it brings the total to 36 children. It is outrageous that any child should be expected to learn in those conditions.
It appears that the board has decided to sacrifice the education of 1/3 of its students to keep the parents of the other 2/3 happy. Is that what they think it will take to get themselves voted back into these seats come the next election? Where is the district going to be when the children’s WASL scores start dropping and we get sanctioned because the children are not getting the attention they need in the classroom?
How does this plan look over the next 5 years? Will the same 1/3 of the students get sacrificed each year? Or will they take turns, rotating through the overloaded classrooms from year to year? Has the board done a thoughtful analysis of how each scenario will impact their precious WASLs over the long run?
You haven’t addressed the upset to the children of moving them after 3 weeks of school. That was irresponsible. If this was such a good plan, why didn’t the district lay it out before we started the term, before the threat of striking teachers and staff was seemingly over? What the district did here was cheating.
All in all, I think the quality of education in the Shoreline School District has taken a nose-dive this year. In the past people have moved to this district to be a part of the wonderful things going on here, but in the future, they’re going to remember the threat of strike and the underhandedness of the district.
My husband I have always worked very hard to educate our own children through the activities and events we participate in at home as a family and I think we’ve done very well in that. My children will be successful in life regardless of bad policies put into place in their schools (though they should not have to be subjected to them). But that will not be the reality facing the majority of the students in the district. We must take the entire continuum into account when these policies are being hatched. If we do not, we will be responsible for widening the gap between the “haves” and the “have nots” in our society. We owe it to these children to give them every opportunity that we can, and sacrificing them in these overloaded classes is not socially responsible.
Basically what is going on here is that the teachers have negotiated into their contract that any classes of more than 24 students will get additional help (0.2 FTE of certified staff) to help with the overloaded classes. In the history of the Shoreline school district, if there were 75 kids in a grade and 3 classrooms, the classes would be balanced with 25 kids each, and each class would get the overload support. But what the district has implemented 3 weeks into the school year is a restructuring that moved children out of 2 of the classes to acheive 24 students and put them into the 3rd class, giving them 27 or more students so that they only have to pay to give additional support in 1 classroom instead of 3.
The teachers and the staff are protesting this underhanded move by the school board and will not be teaching on Thursday. Please show them and our children your support by writing to the superintendent, assistant superintendent, and the all the school board members (see next post) to let them know that we will not tolerate their sacrificing of 1/3 of our students so that they can be fiscally responsible.
It may be that your child is not affected this year, and it may be that they are benefitting from the moving of children by getting a smaller class size. But please remember that if the district is allowed to continue in this manner, your child will be affected in the years to come. And we must fight for all of our children because they don’t get a voice in any of this.