UPDATE: The meeting scheduled for Monday, January 26th will start at 7:00 PM. I had previously posted an incorrect time.
The Northgate School District is investigating the possibility of reorganizing its two elementary schools, so that one building is used for K-3 students while the other would be used to teach students in grades 4-6. This Monday, January 26th, at 7:00 there will be a meeting at the high school to discuss the feasibility of such an idea. I would like to briefly discuss my thoughts on the matter.
First it seems to me that moving to a K-3, 4-6 model makes a lot of educational sense. Some teachers and administrators have noted that having all teachers of a particular grade teaching together in the same building would enable more collaboration and help with curriculum alignment. Some people have also mentioned that such a move could bring greater unity as a district. Another educational benefit would be the possibility of having smaller class sizes due to being able to evenly distribute students in each grade level. I think this is not only the greatest benefit, but for me, it is the reason why the district needs to continue to pursue this option. For the past two years, elementary class sizes of been considerately higher than many would prefer, and in both years, the district made the decision to hire additional elementary school teachers months into the school year. Several students have had to move back and forth between elementary schools, on occasion more than once, so that class sizes could be made somewhat manageable. I feel that it is imperative that we stop moving children back and forth between elementary schools in such fashion.
Some people have also noted some cons to such a move. The biggest one that comes to mind is that some students that walk to school may now have to walk a greater distance. Families with multiple elementary school aged children could have added complexity in getting there kids to school if they attend two different schools. Safety patrols are comprised of fifth and sixth grade students so they would only exist at one school. Also there would likely be some cost in preparing the buildings for such a transition. I think these issues are significantly outweighed by the education benefits previously discussed. I also think many of them can be solved or worked around.
It is possible that there are other benefits\problems that I did not discuss. If you would like learn more or would like to add to the conversation, please consider attending the meeting this Monday. As I have said, it is my belief that reorganizing the schools would be very beneficial. I would take that a step further and would say the district MUST proceed with such a move unless doing so presents a far greater problem that has not yet been discovered. It is imperative that we stop shuffling students between schools and do what is best for all the elementary school students.
Below are the 2015 committee assignments and meeting dates. Please note that as of this posting this information is correct to the best of my knowledge however, it is possible that this information could change at some point in the future and if so, it may not get updated on this blog.
(note that the Athletic Committee meeting time is different from last year)
The Northgate School District took a step in the right direction at their board meeting on Monday, September 16, 2013 when they voted to recall a teacher and add a fifth kindergarten class to the district. At recent board meetings there have been a large number of concerned parents that have spoken regarding the large kindergarten class sizes, citing not only research regarding the benefits of smaller class sizes, but various safety and educational concerns that they had personally witnessed while volunteering in the classrooms. It was surely a difficult decision for the school board to make, but fortunately for our kindergarten students they voted in favor of education, going against superintendent Joseph Pasquerilla’s recommendation of adding two aides to assist in four already overcrowded classrooms. School board members Timothy Makatura, Daniel Klicker, Shannon Smithey, Gary Paladin and Dan O’Keefe all voted in favor of adding a fifth kindergarten classroom. Board members Brigitte Jackson and Marita Bartholomew voted against it. Board members Tony Barbarino and Shirl Reinhart were absent as usual.
Although this was a step in the right direction, recent furloughs have the school district currently understaffed. Northgate teacher Tom Michalow presented to the board his class size analysis at the middle school / high school level, stating that the Math and Social Studies departments have been hit the hardest. Below are some of the “highlights” of his analysis.
||% of students in classes of 25 or more
||Largest class size
Mr. Michalow also pointed out that these numbers won’t mean much to you if you think that 25 or more students in a class is appropriate. I haven’t heard any teacher, administrator or board member say that 25 is an appropriate number for class size, however I have heard a couple board members say things such as
“Back when I was in school, I had XX amount of kids in my class”
“My child had large class sizes and turned out ok”.
As a parent it’s frustrating to hear that type of response, because as Mr. Michalow puts it, “this isn’t 1985”. The classroom environment is different today. All students are expected to learn and the stakes are higher.
To continue moving in the right direction, our school district must place education as its top priority and our parents need to make sure they follow through and help them when\where possible. We need to stay informed with what is happening in our district, and also with what is happening at the state and national levels. Here are a few places to start:
Here are a few notes I took down from the last school board meeting. There were a lot of things covered at the meeting, the few points I have below are just some things that stuck out to me personally.
- A few Bellevue parents gave concerns regarding their children having to go to Avalon. They said they knew children from North Ave, Orchard Ave and Shave Ave that had to switch schools but weren’t sure about Means Ave (Means Ave is parallel to all of those streets and is between Orchard Ave and North Ave). I hadn’t planned on speaking but to settle my own curiosity I asked if in fact any children from Means had to go to Avalon. Dr. Pasquerilla said at this time no children from Means Ave have to go to Avalon.
- Another parent stated that Dr. Pasquerilla said to her a while ago that no honors classes would be cut. She then asked Dr. Pasquerilla if middle school honors classes would now be cut. He said not yet but wouldn’t rule it out. School board member Dr. Smithey asked if Dr. Pasquerilla meant that there would be scheduling conflicts which may mean some students won’t be able to take honors classes if they conflicted with other classes offerings. He said yes, although personally, I feel that is a bit different than what Dr. Pasquerilla’s had just previously stated about the possibility of cutting honors classes.
- The proposed budget amount is $20,516,496 and the millage rate is set at 22.9206 mils (tentatively). As of this Friday, May 17, 2013, the budget will be available in each of the school buildings for those that want to review it. The finalized budget is due by June 17, 2013.
- Near the end of the meeting, school board member Gary Paladin remarked that thinking that taxes aren’t going to increase is an unrealistic thought.