A Petition To: Superintendent Rick Bagley

Here is another example of how our school board and superintendent DO NOT foster parental inclusion and openness in solving the problems that face our school district. The parents at Hidden Valley had to make a formal petition to the superintendent and board to have their input heard. The petition is from 2 years ago and garnered 161 supporters. Like Manhattan Beach, like a proposed daycare program, like re-forming The Round Table, like overage money from the Round Table going to Children for Change, like Expeditionary Learning at Manor, like the Charter, like changing the residency form…
 
 
“In fact, in contrast to when this issue was raised in 2013, there has been no effort at school-based community meetings. In 2013, over 100 parents participated in a meeting with the Vice Superintendent and Superintendent and voiced unanimous objection to a similar proposal. A two-line notice in a Board agenda regarding such a critical and historically controversial issue is patently insufficient. Such an important decision affecting our kids and teachers clearly deserves more parent notice and input.” 
The parents of Hidden Valley Elementary school understand that enrollment and financial issues within the District fluctuate annually. This is particularly true now with the approval of the Multi-Age Charter School. Money is tighter than ever.

However, the purported reason for instituting classroom minimums and split classrooms would be to create a financial reserve in the event the money is needed to offset funding losses due to the approved Multi-Age Charter. Such drastic and harmful action is unnecessary. Although the Charter School was approved, this hypothetical “school” does not even have a facility, and is therefore very unlikely to open next year.

The present-tense, concrete harm to our kids and teachers from class size minimums and split classrooms is not worth the creation of what amounts to a rainy day fund to offset yet undetermined funding reductions due to a Charter School that shows no plans of opening any time in the near future.

I. A “Split” Classroom is Distinct from a Thoughtful “Blended” Classroom, Such as Exists in Multi-Age Specific Programs

First, it is important to note that a “blended” classroom is not being proposed here. Blended classrooms, with two dedicated teachers and an integrated and cooperative learning environment, can represent a compelling vision of progressive education. In stark contrast, a “split” classroom does not involve any educational policy shift, but rather is simply an easy vehicle to save the District money in situations where student numbers do not provide for the allowable maximum 30 students in each class.

There is no reason for a split classroom, other than an easy out to save money at the expense of our kids and teachers. A slap-dash split classroom, as distinct from a dedicated multi-age learning environment, is simply not conducive to student learning, effective teaching, and is (and always has been) strongly opposed by the Hidden Valley community.

II. A Split Classroom Is Bad For Students And Teachers

As noted above, a split classroom is not a blended classroom. In split classrooms, students have substantially less teacher one-on-one time. Additionally, only the high-achieving and self-motivated students are typically selected for a split classroom, otherwise the teacher would not be able to teach such a large group of children two sets of curriculum. This leaves the remaining classrooms unbalanced with the kids who need more attention and teacher assistance.

Finally, teachers are against split. Teachers are already giving 110% every day our kids, at one of the lowest rates of pay among all the teachers in Marin County. Asking them to simultaneously teach two grades, without support or blended classroom training defies logic and will exacerbate the flight of quality teachers from our school to schools that pay more and require less stress, time, and work.

III. Purported Rationale to Build Budget Reserve Not Worth Children’s and Teachers’ Harm

Again, as stated above, it is beyond dispute that the District faces, and will continue to face, financial hardships. However, without a concrete site or plan, it is near inconceivable that the approved Charter School will open next year. Therefore, it is simply unnecessary to take such drastic actions as minimum class sizes and split classrooms to prepare for an event that may, or may not happen.

IV. Absence of Direct Community Outreach

As with previous years, this decision is being proposed and considered without any direct community involvement prior to Board consideration.

Of course, the item could be found in a Board Agenda notice. While notice of this proposal is legally sufficient, it is markedly inadequate given the strong, historical objection to split classrooms and increased class sizes at Hidden Valley.

In fact, in contrast to when this issue was raised in 2013, there has been no effort at school-based community meetings. In 2013, over 100 parents participated in a meeting with the Vice Superintendent and Superintendent and voiced unanimous objection to a similar proposal.

A two-line notice in a Board agenda regarding such a critical and historically controversial issue is patently insufficient. Such an important decision affecting our kids and teachers clearly deserves more parent notice and input.

V. Conclusion

Do not institute class-size minimums and split classes. Any benefit to a providing a funding cushion in the unlikely event the Charter School opens next year is significantly outweighed by the harm to our kids and teachers.

 

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