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Schools Trim Budget Further, Will Study Princeton Plan Busing

The school budget is still a work in progress.  That was the message at the April 6 meeting of the Mamaroneck School Board, where Superintendent Dr. Paul Fried briefly described additional cuts and additions.  His revised recommended budget of $122 million represents a 1.22% increase over last year’s budget and would result in a 2.08% tax increase.

A prior version of the budget presented on March 20 would have resulted in a 2.81% tax increase.

The budget can be adjusted between now and April 20, when the school board must adopt a final proposal for community vote on May 18.

Take the poll:

If the vote were today, how would you vote on Mamaroneck’s school budget? As of April 7, the budget is $122M, up 1.22% from last year; the tax increase is 2.08%.

  • Yes (48%, 206 Votes)
  • No (47%, 202 Votes)
  • Undecided (5%, 19 Votes)
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What’s Changed?

Since March 20, Dr. Fried has cut another $492,500 from the budget, much of it by looking to last year’s actual expenditures to help estimate those for next year in categories like teacher aides and tutors.  In addition, $5K was cut from the Mamaroneck High School Leadership line item.

The newest rendition of the budget restores $50K of the $65K previously cut for elementary field trips.  Also reinstated is the elementary Constitution Works program ($11K) and half of the funding for Lincoln Center ($20K of $40K).  In addition, the new proposal includes $115K for an additional English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher, to be shared by the elementary and middle schools.

These additional expenditures are offset by new revenue projections that include an additional $485,695 in state aid beyond the district’s initial estimates.

Will the Teachers’ Union Impact the Budget?

Still unknown is whether there might be concessions from the teachers that could impact the budget.  Dr. Fried acknowledged that the Mamaroneck Teachers’ Union recently made an offer but he said the board had not yet had the opportunity to consider it.   Both he and MTA president Ann Borsellino declined to comment further.

Additional Support for Central School?

With three grades at Central School approaching maximum enrollment, Alexandra Leach and other Central parents asked the board to consider how the district will support classes that may have up to five additional students who are mainstreamed in from self-contained special education classes for special classes in music, art, library and gym.

Currently, mainstreamed students are not counted in determining class size.  Because most of the district’s self-contained classes are at Central School, regardless of the students’ “home” district, some parents feel that Central students are disproportionately impacted when their class size reaches the maximum, because additional students can still be added.

The board asked Dr. Fried to explore possible ways to address the large class size that results when students are mainstreamed.  He noted that it would be expensive to add another teacher at each impacted grade level to address what is essentially a problem for the 45 minutes each day that the expanded classes participate in specials.  A more feasible option might be to explore adding part time specialists and splitting the class into two groups for art, for example.

Anat Nambier, Central’s board member liaison, noted that the issues that need to be addressed are quality of learning, space in the classrooms, and materials (such as keyboards for music instruction, for example).

These matters will be considered at a meeting of Central School administrators, teachers and parents to be help on Tuesday, April 13 at 8:00 am in the Central faculty lounge.

What Else Might be Added?

Another issue that the board asked Dr. Fried to explore is whether to add funds to support the assistant superintendent for business operations, to aid in budget preparation and/or long-term strategic planning.

In addition, board member Harriet Barish asked whether additional teachers, or anything else, should be added back into the budget in light of the newest reductions and lower resulting tax rate.

The board also heard from Karen Fletcher, the district art curriculum specialist for grades K through 8, who opposed the proposed cut of a 0.5 art teacher at the elementary level.  This would be accomplished by reducing art for kindergartners and first graders from 45 minutes to 30 minutes.  In addition to sending the wrong message about the importance of artistic thinking and creativity, Ms. Fletcher said, 30-minute art periods simply are not long enough from a practical standpoint.

“Art may be an easy target,” she concluded, “but it’s not the right one.”

Next Steps on Budget & Princeton Plan Study

These issues will be addressed at an additional meeting or meetings before the April 20 board meeting for the adoption of a budget.  Check the district website for information on further hearings.

Although the budget discussion was brief on April 6, the meeting went almost to midnight, largely because of the numerous community members who addressed the board in support of MHS English teacher Jennifer Rosenzweig, who has not been recommended for tenure.

The board also authorized a study into the costs of transportation that would be incurred if the district were to implement a Princeton Plan model at the elementary level. This would entail pairing schools (Mamaroneck Avenue with Murray; Central with Chatsworth),with lower grades at two schools and upper grades at the others. The plan has the potential to reduce some expenses and to decrease demographic differences between the schools due to neighborhood characteristics.

In addition, the board heard a presentation about the district’s budget reserves from Assistant Superintendent Meryl Rubinstein.  The PowerPoint is available on the district website on the Budget Communications page.

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29 comments to Schools Trim Budget Further, Will Study Princeton Plan Busing

  • hoardingcash

    The presentation on the reserves is crystal-clear : the District has been hoarding more and more funds thanks to over-conservative tax rates. It is unbelievable and unconscionable that in year 08/09, in the midst of the Great Recession, the district has been hiking its unreserved fund balance from 2% to 4%. If they need cash flow, they can use the certoriari fund which accrues by millions every year and only pays hundreds of thousands. The Tax certiorari reserve is now at about FOUR times the annual outgoing. The Reserve history shows that in 4 years, the District has hoarded SEVEN MILLION DOLLARS. They ought to use them now, and decrease the tax rate. Thanks to all the efforts of the community, the figures are getting out. Let’s continue the effort and vote any increase down.

  • Helping all kids/schools

    The board should look to put into place a policy on keeping class sizes within district limits during mainstreaming. This would help all of the children involved and is something that would not only benefit children at Central but at any of the schools in the District that house mainstreaming classes.

  • Isn’t it possible to have the teachers to accept a pay freeze for just six months or half a year instead of one full year. This alone would save approximately $ 1. 7 million. This way in the future they would get a pay increase after 18 months of service and not annually.

  • Jean Marie Stein

    The Central School Community (which hosts the vast majority of the district’s elementary special education students) has advocated on behalf of counting self-contained special education children during mainstreaming times for many years. This is the first time an offer of a long-term solution has been floated. This is a wonderful opportunity for all elementary education children in the district, potentially allowing general education and special education children to enjoy the same maximum class size guidelines as all the children in our district. This would alleviate overcrowding, lack of equipment, and poor teacher to student ratios. It will also create a much more appropriate environment to mainstream into for SE children. If you are a part of the Central community or if this is an issue you are interested in, please feel free to join the Central Community as we discuss our concerns with Board members on Tuesday, April 13th from 8am to 9am.

  • Jean Marie Stein

    The meeting is in the faculty lounge at Central School.

  • Scratching my head

    What does this term “self-contained” mean in local Mamaroneck speak? When I was in elementary school, they had “Team” teaching and “self-contained” classes. But Self Contained did not infer “Special Ed” classes back then.

    Many of the students in the Self Contained classes were very bright, extremely intelligent and went on to be some of the highest academic achievers in High School and beyond.

    For example, at Murray Ave. School, Rick Redniss’s classes were categorized as “self-contained” as they were not included in the 6th grade team teaching. Most of the kids in his class were the smartest students in the school. But I never understood how they decided whether a 6th grader would benefit from a Team Teaching or Self Contained class – probably because I still don’t understand the concept. It just doesn’t seem to make any sense to me in terms of the way it’s employed in the Mamaroneck School District.

    Gee, I’d sure like to have someone try to unravel the mystery for me after all these years. Self Contained classes seemed to be the norm at all the other schools.

  • Jean Marie Stein

    The best person to answer your question would be a district administrator. I will offer a much less informed answer, it might be accurate enought to help you! At the elementary education level, the district offers three types of classes: 1. A General Education Class that is deemed the least restrictive environment. It has one teacher and 22-27 students. These students could represent a wide diversity of learning styles and some may need help from professionals in addition to the teacher (ie. a handicap child may have an aide to help with any physical challenges while a child with an occupational issue may spend some time with an occupational therapist.) 2. A Co-Teach Class- the second least restrictive environment has two teachers, including one who has a certification in Special Education, to 22-27 students (same size as gen ed class). The students are typically 3/5 gen ed students (although generally not students with any additional needs such at OT or an aide) and 2/5 special education students. 3. A self-contained class – the most restrictive environment. These classes are smaller than general education classes and co-teach classes. They have roughly 6-11 children and are taught by one special-education teacher. They are placed in a self-contained special education class because (for the time)their needs can’t be met in the other two environments. The ultimate goal is to teach all children in the least restrictive environment. One way to facilitate that end is to mainstream children from the self-contained classes to the general education classes during specials (gym, art, music, and library) and during other school events (assemblies, field trips, DARE, Building Bridges, etc.) Sometimes the entire class mainstreams in together (assemblies, etc), but for most specials, only half the class mainstreams (3 – 6 children). The issue being discussed above concerns overcrowding that occurs during the unfortunate years when the “host” class is already at district maximum guidelines. Thus, during mainstreaming classes become very large. This creates a difficult environment for the children and the teachers.

    I hope that helps unravel this for you. I looked up the term self-contained and realized that it also means having one teacher for all of your subjects. I never hear that term used in that way in our district. We have an excellent special education department and have many self-contained special education classes….it seems that it has become common to drop the words special education and just refer to these classes as “self-contained.”

    • Scratching my head

      Thanks for taking the time to write your explanation. I appreciate it. Evidently, the school district’s teaching mechanisms are very different today than they were back in the 1970s for example. While “Self -Contained” classes were indeed more restrictive in that they only had 1 teacher (there was no co- teaching in self contained classes back then) they were DEFINITELY NOT considered Special Ed classes nor were they for Special Ed students. These were every day students that may have been in a team teaching environment before but were not getting enough individual attention perhaps?? But not special ed as we know it today.

      I presume you are using the term Special Ed as in physically, emotionally or intellectually challenged? None of the Self Contained classes back when I was at Murray were “Special Ed”. Not to say that there were not some slower learning students in those classrooms but there were some of the brightest and most accelerated students too. So it was a mixed bag.

      This was also true of the Team Teaching back then. Many bright students and many with learning difficulties including dyslexia. There was a reading specialist back then who would tutor these students in her private classroom for an hour a day. But then the students would return to either their Team Teaching or Self Contained classrooms. So it was not as segregated back then I suppose as it is today.

      I was in the Team Classes and always felt they were ridiculously unsupervised, poorly managed and with way too much free time on our hands. LOL – I suppose that enabled my independent free wheeling personality which probably didn’t need any more enabling :-) In fact, I prob. could have used a bit of academic “restrictiveness” as most of my peers would have also benefited from themselves. Somethings need to be harnessed; early on education is one of them.

  • Murray Mom

    As a mother of a two children at Murray Avenue, I am dismayed that the district is considering the Princeton Plan and it seems like a waste of funds to pursue a study of this plan. Needless to say, one of the big reasons we chose to live in the Town of Mamaroneck (Larchmont p.o.) was the fact that there was no busing and that families walked to school. It is my strong belief that a tremendous amount of bullying occurs during bus rides to and from school. In addition, I love the fact that, weather permitting, my children walk to school. I feel that this walk provides my children with exercise and a sense of community and also protects the environment. Moreover, as a working mother, I greatly enjoy walking my children to school and still being able to catch the 9:01 train. I consider the Princeton Plan to impose huge inconveniences on parents and children alike. Children, who would have to be introduced to new schools twice in their early education years; would not have the same sense of neighborhood; and school spirit. Parents, who would feel less of a connection to their neighborhood schools and have to travel further for meetings and conferences. This just seems like a terrible idea.

  • mrewisdom

    http://wcbstv.com/local/nj.school.cuts.2.1610108.html

    Superintendent retiring and coming back interim at 25pc salary. Compare and contrast with our retiring Super and his successor.

  • Jeff

    The district has focused on the Princeton Plan for almost two years and won’t stop until they get it passed. Please be prepared for relentless meetings about how it is the only solution to our budgetary woes. Housing values will inevitably plummet since as was mentioned by the Murray parent about the appeal of neighborhood schools will be lost. The enormous costs (logistical and insurance) and inconvenience of busing will be obscured by the board and the new superintendent.

    The savings of cutting a bloated administrative staff, a more assertive stance with all of the unions and a re-examination of the exorbitant cost of educating the special education students (and the powerful SEPTA lobby which fuels these costs) will be neglected.

    Meanwhile, focus on the quality of the education to our students will be ignored while these initiatives will be front and center.

    Those parents who genuinely don’t believe that the Princeton Plan will never be passed, think again.

    • parent

      The first presentation had the savings associated with a paired school princeton plan at $1,380,000. This did not factor in any transportation costs. Seems to me that the overall savings would be minimal and not worth disrupting the neighborhood schools. Common sense says you still have the same number of schools to maintain and the same number of kids to teach.

  • interesting

    I would be interested to see if school walkers, which I took to be a minority, given the number of cars picking up and dropping off students, are numerous enough to make an argument against busing. I would be even more interested if the MAJORITY of non-special Ed students parents (after all, we ONLY have 20% of our enrollment in Special Ed) would be ready to shed political correctness and ask the Special Ed lobby (parents, admin, para-medical staff and teachers) for some drilldown data on the real needs. And take action from there.

  • Children second

    Did you notice the subtle change in priorities in the budget presentations ? A positive one, at that. The empty “Children first”, veiling for “unionized staff first”, and the insane “excellence for all” have been replaced by the “preservation of a framework for excellence”. Not sure who is supposed to be excelled ? Janitorial staff working conditions ? anyway, good change-adaptiveness. Next we will rejuvenate this framework. And add “cost effectiveness” at par with diversity and support for special needs (let’s combine those two, there is a large overlap) in the community values. Way to go, Board !

  • Anon E Mous

    Our schools will be considered very good as long as a high socioeconomic community is maintained.

    Measure education, not just students. Expect K-12 to be a part of education, just a part, and not fully responsible for all needs of those not yet in college.

    As taxes continue to increase, and as people move to the community only for the ‘school-years’ and then move to CT, our property values will be threatened and taxes will increase even more.

    Fight Change vs. Embrace Change.
    Me-Me-Me vs. We-We-We.
    The battles of E-Gen.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/12/education/12faculty.html?th&emc=th
    - ‘Study Finds a 1.2 Percent Increase in Faculty Pay, the Smallest in 50 Years’ (NYT, 4/12/10).

    • Maria Antoinetta

      Nice post Anon E! You’re on top of your game again ;-)

      Love the CT dig – reminds me of the “Flight or Fright” stages of an adrenaline “rush”.

  • Anon E Mous

    It’s so simple …

    ‘Oblivious to the pain inflicted on taxpayers less well off than they are, the state teachers union is sticking to its predictions of doomsday if education spending is touched.

    This is hooey, a ritualistic scaremongering that calls into question the ability of teachers to actually teach if they have no regard for facts.

    Here’s a novel thought: How about unions do right by our kids? If they care about New York students, they’ll step up to the plate and help minimize the impact of sensible reductions.’

    - Michael Goodwin

  • Disappointed

    Anon E Mous- I, too, am sorry to see that the teachers never made it to the table. The raises, step-ups, pension plan, and small contribution to health care seem so out of step with today’s economy. I would be surprised if many of them are not embarrassed at the insensitivity of the union and urge those teachers who care about this community and recognize the good jobs they have to speak up to their Board Representatives.

  • Groundhog Day

    I believe prior Board materials indicated that the Princeton Plan would result in a “savings” of 8 teaching position salaries and would effectively make all classes in the same grade have the same target class size (currently MAS has smaller target class sizes than the other 3 elementary schools). Adopting the Princeton Plan would also require paying for a study of the plan and paying for district-wide busing for the elementary schools, at a minimum. Simply equalizing the class sizes in all 4 elementary schools (which would happen, in any case, under the Princeton Plan) would immediately “save” us 5 to 6 teacher salaries (from MAS, which currently has smaller target class sizes than the other 3 elementary schools) and not require the expense of busing.

    The Board does not currently support equalizing the class sizes among the 4 elementary schools to save 5 to 6 teacher salaries (which would not require the additional busing expense), but supports looking at a Princeton Plan that would equalize the class sizes and only save 2 to 3 additional salaries, while costing the district, at a minimum, busing expenses (which I imagine would, at a minimum, consume the savings realized by the 2 or 3 additional teachers’ salaries that were saved). How are these positions consistent?

    If the Board is opposed to equalizing the elementary class sizes, then spending money on analyzing a Princeton Plan is a complete waste of time, effort, and money, because the Princeton Plan would effectively equalize the class sizes (which the Board is opposed to doing). If the Board is supportive of equalizing the class sizes and the main purpose of the Princeton Plan analysis is to save money, why wouldn’t the Board equalize class sizes in the current neighborhood school format, immediately save 5 to 6 salaries, and save the expense of a study, busing, and, undoubtedly, expenses associated with moving furniture and other resources among the buildings?

    I am very grateful to all of the Board members for volunteering their time and efforts, but I do not believe there has been sufficient and consistent thought given to this and do not support spending time, effort, and funds studying a program that is inconsistent with the Board’s long-standing position of maintaining smaller class sizes at MAS to support the portion of that student body (35%) that is economically disadvantaged.

    I think the Board should analyze the long-term benefits of the smaller target class sizes, first. If there have been significant long-term benefits that the Board wants to maintain, then I am not sure why we would spend time, effort, and money analyzing a Princeton Plan. If there have not been long-term benefits, then I am not sure why we are still maintaining this program.

    Have the students had long-term educational benefits from this? I hope so, but have not heard or read of any evidence supporting this. Can the Board supply that to us? Is this the best way to help these students, or would more direct assistance (help with supplies, homework, tutoring) be more beneficial to them (and possibly, less costly)?

    I do not have enough information to fully analyze whether to support or oppose the smaller class sizes at MAS, but it should be incumbent upon the Board to track the long-term progress of the students that it is attempting to help to ensure that it is, in fact doing so, and to ensure tha thte hundreds of thousands of dollars a year that is allocated to this endeavor is providing positive results. Thos results should be sharee with the community.

    The only long-term data I have been able to obtain on this point is that the 2009 4-year MAS graduation rate for economically disadvantaged students was 59% and for limited English proficient students 20%; this is not, in my opinion, reflective of a program/approach that is working.

    In summary, it seems most of the “savings” of a Princeton Plan would result from there no longer being smaller target class sizes at MAS (which, again, the Board has, to date, been opposed to), and that part of the program could be implemented, with no expense of a study or busing, immediately. Perhaps some of those funds could be redirected to programs and services that would result in increased graduation rates for the economically disadvantaged and limited English proficient students that the smaller targeted class sizes were intended to help (but, based upon the limited information I have been able to gather, are not helping on a long-term basis).

    If anyone has any additional information on this, I hope you will share.

  • Is it REALLY that bad?

    Maybe we should be asking how much it costs to explore the Princeton Plan in more depth before rejecting the entire idea of a study. I would truly like to hear more about Mamk Ave and its successes and failures, but I do know that since the district began to provide more support there, the students test performance has steadily increased. Maybe less support is needed at the school now that Carrie Amon has a full handle on the situation and more support is needed to help these students transition to the HMX? Class sizes at MAS were raised last year along with the other three elementary school- how has that gone? Can we get a report? Can they give up some of their support personnel? Can they undergo any cuts at all this year? (While each elem. school is scheduled to lose support in teaching assistants and teaching aides, MAS is not.) At any rate, I agree with Anon E Mous (who usually doesn’t actually give a plan for action…so that was refreshing!!)…you can think me, me, me or we, we, we…
    _ The district should explore the Princeton Plan in more depth. Our long term issues are not going away overnight, or for many years, even if the teachers’ pay increases lessen and they contribute more to their benefit package. More needs to be done to streamline the way we provide education in our district. Using our 50 year old model might no longer be appropriate. The population has changed, special-education has changed, and the cost of education has increased dramatically. A Princeton Plan would be an intelligent way to bring our community into the 21st century. First, it would provide educational parity across the district, something many feel does not currently exist (For example: Murray Ave is so overcrowded that they are unable to host even one of the districts 7 self-contained special education classes.) Secondly, it would save much more than the $1.4-$1.6 mm proposed. Option D did not include the cuts of 1 instructional coach, 5 special ed. aides and 5 special ed teaching assistants that were included in every other option. Why not? These cuts have a value of $408,000! And there are more savings to be had: if there were two K-2 schools and two 3-5 schools, perhaps two principals could be cut. (Keep one AP at each school and 1 Principal overseeing K-2 education and 3-5 education.) Our principals salaries and benefits press the $200k number. Hence, an additional $400k could be saved. Plus each principal has their own secretary, so another 2 clerical positions could be eliminated. Lastly, option D only listed the teachers cuts that would result…there was no accounting for the reduction in aides and assistants that would naturally occur with the reduction of 12-14 classrooms. Additional cuts in support staff could add up to hundreds of thousands of additional dollars. Thus the savings in Option D. Grand total: $2.5-2.9mm,(less busing, which will probably be minimal as the limit is 3 miles…draw a few 3 mile circles around each of the elementary schools and you will quickly see that if Murray Ave and MAS are joined and Chats and Central are joined only the farthest of streets will fall outside of the 3 miles). Those types of savings are meaningful…equally nearly 27 teachers, enough to cut class sizes across the entire district and alleviate the difficult educational environment our grade school children are currently in. … Let’s find out what the busing costs will be and explore this option further.

  • Groundhog Day

    Points taken, “Is it really that bad?”, but my overall point is that we currently deploy money to various programs (including the smaller target class sizes in MAS) based upon studies of other students in other districts with other demographics and then do not seem to track the results and impact of these programs in our schools or re-visit them. While I am always supportive of getting as much information as possible and exploring any reasonable possibility of improving education and reducing costs, I fear that if we do not first analyze what we have (Is it working for our students in our district? What are the long-term benefits that have been realized? Are we deploying the budget in the most efficient way possible?), that we will just be spending more money on a study of another program and how it works in other districts — and then, we will not track it.

    We first need some fiscal discipline and analysis of what we have. Then, we will know what alternatives to study (there may be other/additional options); and, finally, we can analyze the alternatives against what we already have.

    I do believe that there have been increases in the 4th and 5th grade standardized test scores of MAS students (although it is unclear to me why, if the program has been in place for 10 years, those increases have only been realized recently — which leads me to the conclusion that it does not have anything to do with the smaller class sizes — as you pointed out, those target class sizes, while still smaller than the other 3 elementary schools, were actually raised last year — when I believe the increase in scores occurred!). Moreover, it appears that our 59% 2009 4 year HS graduation rate for these students (which, in my opinion, is a more significant measure of long-term success) is below that of economically disadvantaged students in schools in New Rochelle, Mount Vernon, and Yonkers. To move forward with spending the time, effort, and money to analyze a Princeton Plan at this time without a complete analysis of our current programs and there effectiveness would just be more waste – especially when the Board has indicated that they believe it would only save 8 teachers salaries and increasing the target class sizes at MAS (which does not even appear to be getting analyzed) would save 5 to 6 teachers salaries, be immediate, and not cause us to incur the expense or time needed to analyze and implement a Princeton Plan. Moreover, if the Board continues to be unwilling to even consider equalizing the class sizes across the 4 schools (which, I understand, is the case), why spend the money to analyze a plan that requires such equalization when the Board will never approve it?

    Once again, I do not know whether equalizing the 4 elementary school target class sizes does make sense — but that is the point — I do not believe anyone has the information to make this decision. If, in fact, one of the most significant increases in 4th and 5th grade test scores were realized by MAS last year (when their target class sizes were increased, but still not equalized) and the HS graduation rate for economically disadvantaged students at our high school was 59% (Note: the smaller target class size program was implemented 10 years ago, so, in theory, these students should have “benefited” from it), I believe there is a good chance that, upon analysis, we would find that the lower target class sizes at MAS are not producing the result they should for the hundreds of thousands of dollars they cost per year and we may find a different/better way to deploy those funds, both to assist these and other students and to reduce the budget.

    In summary, as one would with any business endeavor, we need to analyze what we have in order to determine what we need — not the other way around.

  • parent

    Study away, just don’t spend a lot of money doing it. You will find the savings to be roughly what was described in Option D which was $1.38 mil. The reason Option D did not include the other cuts you describe is because those cuts will happen next year regardless of the option chosen. They stated that the Princeton Plan will not be implemented next year, so if and when a Princeton Plan is implemented those cuts will have already occurred. I doubt the administration will recommend the reductions in Principals you suggest. It will still be the same number of children across all 4 schools so if they can make those reductions under the Princeton Plan, they can make them with the current system. They describe the number of class reductions as 8 classes, not 12-14. The support staff will still be needed as the majority of support staff is based on individual student needs not the total number of classes. The busing is needed if children live within 2 miles according to the budget FAQ page, not 3 miles as you suggest. So I say, study away, but I doubt you will find the administration recommending cutting much more under a Princeton Plan than they have already suggested in the first presentation.

  • Is it REALLY that bad?

    Ground Hog Day:
    Your argument is well made. It is not unreasonable to request supporting data after 10 years of a very costly program and it is appropriate for the Board to review this program after 10 years and publicly report their findings. I applaud your efforts in looking at this rarely talked about issue and hope that the Board will respond to your requests. AND, I endorse responding to you before spending money on a study concerning the Princeton Plan.

    Honestly, I don’t think the Princeton Plan will ever pass in this district…but it is worth discussing once in a awhile so that schools that never deal with district added diversity (through the busing of children in self-contained classes) can understand the issues the schools that house these programs face. Additionally, what is the plan if Murray Avenue continues its current growth rate? Evidently, the school is at capacity…what happens next? Can an addition make financial sense when there is room in other schools, some only blocks away? I don’t think so.

    Only one part of your reasoning isn’t well thought out. The district maintains lower class sizes at MAS because of its large population of minority students and children who are economically disadvantaged. The school was scoring substantially below the others when the increased district support was added. If that school combined with Murray Avenue school (a non-diverse school with 150 more grade school children) the combination would represent a level of diversity more similar to Central School…deemed by the board as not needing smaller class sizes. You can assume that they would raise class sizes to one standard across the district under the Princeton Plan.

    You are correct on the 2 miles…I was looking at the grade 9-12. Even at 2 miles, you would be surprised at how few children would need a bus.

  • No Apprentice

    TWO MILES to walk to school each day????? Are we talking about America’s Children here???!!!! Now this I’d like to see….

    Nevertheless, this would be a sure fire way to cure childhood obesity in America. Jamie Oliver would be proud of the healthy “skinny” and fit teens in Larch/Mam’k!!!

    • Is it really that bad?

      >>>you are funny! I meant very few children, according to the New York State Law, would receive transportation via a paid school bus. (“need” was not an accurate word! Forget about being fit, who has the time to walk 2 miles to school in the morning!)

      NYS requires that buses be provided for children in k-8 who live more than 2 miles and less than 15 miles from their school and for children 9-12 who live more than 3 miles and less than 15 miles. (same policy applies for public and private…) I believe this law does not apply to cities (this is why Rye does not bus their private school children but we do).

  • Groundhog Day

    Thank you for your thoughtful response, “[i]s it REALLY that bad?”

    One clarification to the portion of my analysis that you did not agree with. My understanding is that the Board’s position has consistently been that, based upon studies that were conducted a number of years ago, in other schools, with other populations and demographics, economically disadvantaged students benefit from smaller class sizes to a greater extent than children who are not economically disadvantaged (no matter how many economically disadvantaged students are in that class). We will have the same economically disadvantaged students, even in a Princeton Plan/coupled schools scenario, they will simply be distributed across a larger population – thus, perhaps 2-4 economically disadvantaged students per class versus 5-7. I would be surprised if these students suddenly needed less help (note: assuming you think the smaller target class sizes are helping them in the first place) because there are fewer of them in each class – however, not being an expert in this field and not receiving any analysis of this from the Board on this matter, I can’t say, for sure.

    All that I know about the long-term results of this program is that, according to Lohud.com, the economically disadvantaged students at Mamaroneck High School had a 59% 4-year graduation rate in 2009; if high school graduation rates are intended to be a measure of success, then I would submit it does not appear to be a successful long-term program. Whether the smaller target class sizes at MAS should be continued or not, I do not claim to know, but as to whether the program (and any other programs that we earmark significant funds to) should be analyzed – absolutely.

    In summary, I fail to understand why the Board would consider spending time, effort, and money on analyzing a Princeton Plan (a portion of which requires equalized class sizes that the Board has, to date, been opposed to), when it does not appear anyone has a clear view/analysis of the existing plan(s) we have in place. I am simply suggesting that we first spend some time, effort, and (if necessary) money on analyzing what we have before we try to figure out other alternatives.

    I encourage all community members to attend and participate in this evening’s meeting and any meetings that follow – in particular if the budget is voted down.

    Thank you, again, “[i]s it REALLY that bad?” and to all of the Board members who volunteer their time and efforts. My commentary is intended to be constructive and I hope that it is received in that manner.

  • Is it REALLY that bad?

    I based the class size assumption on the fact that there is no special allowances once the children come together at the Hommocks. The district must feel that a certain mix of children is optimal and does not need smaller classes. the mix at MAS seems to be deemed sub-optimal (evidenced by the small class sizes) while the mix at Central seems to be fine. If you combined MAS and Murray, the school would look a lot more like Central than MAS and would be deemed not needing smaller class sizes for the teachers to give each child the time they needed. If they are not thinking this, then there is no reason to discuss the Princeton Plan at all.

    Do you know what the graduation rates are for children living at or below the poverty line?

  • Groundhog Day

    I understand what you are saying “[i]s it REALLY that bad?”, but to my knowledge the Board has never indicated that a certain mix of children is optimal and does not need smaller classes — they have said that studies show that economically disadvantaged students benefit from smaller class sizes to a greater extent than do children who are not economically disadvantaged. My understanding is that these studies have only been performed on children through grade 3 and that the reason this is implemented in MAS and not the other schools is not because economically disadvantaged students in other schools would not also benefit from smaller class sizes, but rather that there is a critical mass of such students at MAS. These same students would still be attending school, even if there are fewer of them in each class. They would still be economically disadvantaged.

    If the studies they are relying on do, in fact, indicate that economically disadvantaged students perform better when there are fewer of them in a given class, then I agree with you.

    I do not have an answer to your question regarding children living below the poverty level (it is unclear to me whether that definition is consistent with “economically disadvantaged” or not), but if you go to Lohud.com and search for “Westchester graduation rates” you will be able to input any Westchester public high school and get the graduation rate by sub-group (e.g. economically disadvantaged, not Enlish languaga proficient, etc.)

    Thanks, again, for your thoughtful responses.