For the second straight year, parents’ requests for more teachers and smaller classes in Rockville Centre’s elementary schools have been denied by the Board of Education.
At a budget hearing on March 26, at which staffing was also discussed, the board opted to employ 77 elementary school teachers next year — the same number as this year. That means that some classes will have more than 25 students, but will also have teaching assistants and aides. Parents petitioned the board instead for more teachers instead of assistants.
“I think all of the T.A.s are wonderful, but the students benefit from having consistency in the classroom,” said parent Susan Bella. “From a teacher, with a smaller class size.”
It was a sentiment echoed by many of the parents who got up to speak — the T.A.s were good, but they paled in comparison to full-time teachers.
Parents’ concerns were focused mainly on the schools that tend to be more crowded, like Watson and Wilson, where many classes have 25 or 26 students. They said they were worried about the effect larger classes would have on the happiness and performance of their students.
Having anticipated parents’ worries, district officials offered data on elementary students’ performance on the Northwest Evaluation Association exams, broken down by class size. The data, they said, showed no difference in performance between children in a class of 15 and a class of 26.
“I think we can live right now with 77 teachers,” said Dr. William Johnson, the district superintendent.
For the past few years, the district has had a policy of adding another teacher’s aide or assistant to a room once a class reaches 25 students. When the district has to hire more teachers, it will often turn to its pool of T.A.s first, many of whom are certified teachers.
“The teaching assistants make a big difference,” said Darren Raymar, principal of Covert. “And that extra support is wonderful.” The other elementary principals agreed with him, saying that they had spoken to many parents with children in large classes, and all were happy with both their children’s performance and the T.A.s.
Parents who attended the hearing also asked the board to approve funding for an “extra” teacher, in case one class has to be split into two sections — something the current budget doesn’t account for.
The district’s discussion of the budget will continue at its upcoming meetings, the first on April 9, at 7:30 p.m., in the board room of the administration building. The second will be held on April 24, at 7:30 p.m., in Room 112 of the high school.