As the Three Village Central School District copes with losses in state aid combined with unfunded mandates and rising costs, administrators have proposed eliminating nine full-time equivalent teaching positions at the elementary level in order to meet the reductions still necessary in a budget that would increase the tax levy by 4.5 percent.
Some of those proposed cuts can be attributed to a decline in enrollment and would have been made anyway, according to Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services.
But should the school board choose a school budget that increases the tax levy by the – or if the community votes down the budget in two tries, which would mean the district goes to a contingency budget of no tax levy increase – the current full-day kindergarten program would be relegated to a half-day program, and more teachers would likely be let go, thus increasing class sizes in grades one through six.
In a recent interview with Patch, Carlson explained that each full-time equivalent position eliminated would save the district about $70,000. Thus, eliminating 9 elementary positions across the five elementary schools – which is what the 4.5 percent budget proposal calls for – would save the district about $630,000 in personnel costs.
A half-day kindergarten program would leave teachers with two hours and 50 minutes of class time for each section.
At the March 20 school budget meeting, two of the district's principals – Kathryn White, principal of , and Gail Casciano, principal of , lobbied to preserve the full-day kindergarten program, saying the move would do the following:
- Threaten teachers' ability to cover every subject and activity typically taught at the kindergarten level, as the district complies with state curriculum mandates (also known as common core standards);
- Decimate teachers' ability to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of the students' various levels of learning abilties;
- Prevent teachers from being able to facilitate deep social and emotional learning alongside the main subject areas;
- Adversely affect teachers' ability to prepare students for first grade;
- Cut music, art, and physical education from the students' daily activities.
During past board meetings, administrators and school board trustees pointed out that the fallout could also mean added costs for working parents who would need to find child care solutions for the "other half" of their children's school day.
"We all believe the negative impact this would have would be felt for years to come," White said.
Discussing the possible elimination of the district's sole elementary reading specialist, White said children who fall behind the standards in their ability to read would eventually require more reading specialists to help them catch up later. "A cost savings now could result in an expense later," White said.
Casciano cited multiple studies during the presentation. "Generally speaking, the research seems to favor full day or extended day programs," she said. "... To go to a half-day model, we feel that would be moving backwards."
Carlson told Patch that increased average class sizes would amount to the addition of one to two students, depending on the number of students in each grade and in each of the five schools.
Current Average Elementary Class Sizes in Three VillageGrade Class Size Kindergarten 19.1 Grade 1 20.4 Grade 2 22.5 Grade 3 22 Grade 4 20.5 Grade 5 21.4 Grade 6 22.1
Casciano said increased class sizes would put further crowd classrooms; cause teachers to spend more time overtly managing the classroom; lessen teachers' ability to promote social and emotion learning and develop a connection with each child; and, like half-day kindergarten, decrease teachers' ability to differentiate instruction to the students' various levels of learning in a class.
"Most if not all teachers feel strongly about the benefits of smaller class sizes," she said. "...There is also research to support the relationship between smaller class size and greater academic achievement."