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October 25, 2012

Was part-time hire best option?

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Cooperstown Crier

---- — Cooperstown Central School was advertising for an elementary teacher before the board of education approved the creation of the position. 

The decision to create the position was made at last week’s board of education meeting to address the needs that have been recognized with the increased size of the first-grade class.  

The class is made up of 71 students. According to Superintendent C.J. Hebert, Elementary Principal Teresa Gorman and the first-grade teachers are working on a proposal for the use of the person who is hired. He said the goal is to divide the students into smaller groups, particularly during English language arts and math lessons so that the teacher student ratio is much more favorable. 

Before the start of the year, school officials said there were 67 students enrolled in first grade with a possibility of two more joining the group. So there are essentially two more students than anticipated. 

CCS hired a full-time 10-month kindergarten teacher before the start of the school year to accommodate a larger than anticipated class.

At that time, board member Theresa Russo said she feared parents of first-grade students might want to see smaller class sizes for their children because numbers were tight there as well. 

Her fear came true. Parents of first-graders came to board meetings and wrote letters expressing there concerns. They were obviously heard, because something is being done to address those concerns. 

There are still questions to be answered such as what alternative solutions were looked at, how will this impact the taxpayers and how did the board members were swayed into hiring a new teacher during these hard economic times? We are not saying smaller class sizes are not more favorable, but wonder if all it takes to get the board to make such a decision is a group of unhappy parents? 

Gorman once suggested flexible grouping of students for delivering instruction. She said it would be easier to do this with the kindergarten and first-grade classes because their classrooms are in the same hall and teachers use the same math and reading series. Was this looked into? 

All of this is in the beginning stages and details of how the person hired will be used are yet to come. However, school officials must have looked at how this will affect the budget. It would only make sense to look at that before going ahead with actions to hire someone. 

When the kindergarten teacher was hired, Hebert said the plan was to modify the proposed material and supply, equipment and potentially professional development expenditures to cover the personnel cost. It would not change the total budget for the school year.  

Is there room in the budget to make adjustments again so that there are no increases in the total spending plan for the school year? One would think so since no discussion of budget changes was brought up.