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Eden parents and school board debate class sizes at G.L. Preiss Primary School

BY: Steven Brachmann | November 28, 2012

An early meeting fire drill only delayed a flaring debate from building over classroom sizes at the Grover L. Preiss Primary School during the Nov. 19 meeting of the Eden Central School District Board.

Loran Carter, principal of GLP Primary, was conducting a presentation on ways to deal with high student-to-teacher ratios at the school, especially in the first grade, when the fire drill began and delayed the meeting for 15 minutes. Carter had been asked by the board to work with teachers and parents to find a solution, and was told that the district could fund the hiring of an additional teacher or other educational resources that would alleviate the problem. On Monday night, she told the board that the current faculty supported the hiring of a new teacher to provide instructional support. However, a survey letter sent to first-grade parents asking if they would allow their children to be transferred to a new teacher only received eight positive responses for a class of 100 students. “Teacher aides have too much planning to do already,” said Carter, discussing other possible solutions. “We want a new teacher, but the parents don’t.”

Following her remarks, Board President Steven Cerne told the few dozen people attending the meeting that he was disappointed by a recent ad published in the Eden Pennysaver for what he saw as its intent to rouse divisive attitudes. “These kinds of situations are difficult to find solutions for,” said Cerne, speaking about the first-grade class size. “Things like that [advertisement] don’t lead to working together.”

Tina Powell, a parent of two students at GLP Primary, told the board during a public comment session that she felt parents weren’t given enough information about the situation. “If the funding is there for that position, there has to be a way to make that happen,” she said. “We do this every year. Now it’s the end of November… You failed my son last year, and you’ve failed him again this year.”

A group of 12 faculty members from the GLP Primary School approached the board and reinforced Carter’s earlier statements about their desire to see a new staff teacher hired. “The tenor of the times is encapsulated by the word ‘achievement,’” said Carol King, a first-grade teacher speaking on behalf of the group. Increasing aide staff wouldn’t be effective, she said, because they help in assessment and are not certified or trained to provide quality instruction. “It’s best to hire a teacher who belongs,” she said.

Large class sizes seem to be an issue solely for the first-grade class, according to research provided by Carter. A survey of class sizes at schools ranked above GLP Primary in terms of achievement showed that kindergarten and second-grade class sizes were very similar. The current average class size at GLP Primary for first-grade is approximately 20 students. “We asked the parents because it’s the middle of the school year and the board wanted the parents to have a survey opportunity,” Carter said. “We don’t feel it’s fair to force parents to take kids out of their classroom at this point of the year.”

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