As class sizes rise, Shelton educators seek solutions
Administrators are studying solutions to the recent hike in class sizes in three Shelton elementary schools.
School Superintendent Dr. Chris Clouet told the Board of Education, at its regular meeting Sept. 25, at as many as five different classes - two classes at both Sunnyside and Booth Hill schools and one at Mohegan School have more than 25 students in a section - well above the district’s class size goal of 25.
Two parents with first graders at Sunnyside School spoke during the meeting’s public session, asking that the Board of Education and administration look to expand from two to three first-grade sections to help alleviate the class size crunch.
“We are looking at options,” said Clouet, who was also asked by board member Kate Kutash for an update on the class size problem. “But our budget constraints are serious.”
Clouet said that, unlike in years past, the district does not have any extra funds that could be moved to assist in hiring any additional instructors.
“Our budget, ever since I have been here, has been cut year after year,” said Clouet. “"In spite of what you hear, we do not have boatloads of money and special line items from which we can shift money. The budget has been cut year after year, and this year with the zero-percent increase, or flat funded, we just do not have money to add staff members like in the past.”
Clouet said that one solution may come from looking at classes that have lower enrollments and maybe consolidating some of those classes.
“But that does not come without disruption, and that is a problem, too,” added Clouet.
Clouet said that the district will also have to prioritize all positions, meaning that, in order to bring in a teacher to lower class sizes in these elementary grades, another instructor, such as a math specialist, for example, may have to be eliminated.
“We may have to prioritize,” said Clouet, adding that while one of the Board of Education’s stated goals is pushing for higher test scores, another objective is keeping class sizes in the elementary schools below 25 students a class. “With the lack of funding, do we cut specialists in order to lower class sizes? I’m not proposing that tonight, but these are the kind of discussions we are having.”
“Small classes yield better results,” said assistant Superintendent Ken Saranich, “That’s the bottom line.”
Saranich said that the smaller the class, the more individual attention the teacher can give a student, especially those in the younger grades. He said elementary-age students demand more attention with learning, and smaller classes allow teachers to have that time to address those needs.
“We are hoping to make a decision and present it to board by end of the month, if not sooner,” said Saranich. “Our plan is to solidify the numbers, work with our administrative teams on possible solutions and then make recommendations on how proceed based on those suggestions.”
The Board of Education recognized several teachers who earned tenure. Clouet called the tenure recognition a “badge of honor. Getting tenure in Shelton is something very special.”
The teachers who earned tenure are Lindsey Acampora (Shelton Intermediate School), Tammy Zerella (Long Hill School), Alicia Fernandez (Perry Hill School), Elisabeth Bartl (Mohegan School), Meghan Aylward (Elizabeth Shelton), Bree Murphy (Elizabeth Shelton), Nicole Sebes (Elizabeth Shelton), Jessica Young (Long Hill School), Kimberly Nappo (Long Hill School), Jenielle Bagdasarian (Long Hill School), Isabella Costagliola (Long Hill School), Erin McGowan (Long Hill School), Nicole Dick (Sunnyside School), Leota Fawcett (Perry Hill School), Edward Hilser (Shelton High School), Lisa Huber (Shelton High School), Dr. Seth Stevens (Long Hill School), Adam Rudman (Shelton Intermediate School), Rebekah Kershaw (Elizabeth Shelton) and Michael Merati (Shelton High School).
The Board of Education also approved:
* A request from Sunnyside School PTO to seek sponsorships from local businesses to help fund a new playground.
* Acceptance of a $1,000 grant donation from Walmart to help cover the purchase of new Shelton High School boys basketball uniforms.