13 Years of Good News and Bad News

Here are some topics that came up in last night's board meeting that I believe are important to parents and I plan to address over the coming days:

* Kindergarten class size

* Fast For Word - a new program for special education

* Lack of board oversight for district projects

I'd like to begin with kindergarten class size.

Last night we learned the district had problems monitoring class size last year. I know to most of us this comes as no surprise. Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, Mays Kakish, reported that due to a "formula error" the district violated state caps on kindergarten class sizes. She told us last night that there are two caps the district must follow to qualify for class size reduction funds, 1) Average class size - 31 students per class and 2) Maximum class size - 33 students in every class. She told us she had developed a spreadsheet to monitor the average class size but a "formula error" in her spreadsheet resulted in the district not maintaining individual class size per the state requirements. It was difficult to decipher from her comments if this will result in any lost revenue from the state.

When asked if she has fixed the errors that led to the problem and if it will be a problem again this year, Kakish said she couldn't guarantee there wouldn't be any problems with spreadsheet formulas in the future. When we are paying Mrs. Kakish $129,061 a year and picking up her personal retirement contribution, we should be able to expect there to be no more problems with her spreadsheets. I think this is more than a spreadsheet formula error and that Mrs. Kakish has some explaining to do.

In a board meeting during the first week of school last year, I questioned the board and administration on the size of their classes. There were some kindergarten classes with 34-37 students and one fifth grade class with 40. Mrs. Kakish told us that they were on top of the situation and would be re-assigning students in the first few weeks once they had a solid count. I asked her, and the board, what the largest class size they would allow. Mrs. Kakish responded that they only needed to meet the class size average requirement. I then asked her if there was maximum number of students that would be allowed per class. She reiterated that they only needed to monitor averages. Last night, BTA President, Trina Brown, reported that last year the teachers went to Mrs. Kakish to warn her of the individual class size cap violation.

Now Mrs. Kakish is reporting that they were aware of an individual class size cap and they were properly monitoring the situation but the spreadsheet formula error caused the problem. The two stories don't jive. Last year she said she wasn't aware of any cap for individual classes but this year she says she knew of the cap but a clerical error is her excuse for not adhering to the cap. Which is it? We deserve a better explanation.

My son begins kindergarten this year which is good news and bad news for the district. The good news, the board and administration will only have to put up with me for another 13 years. The bad news, I will be watching them closely for those 13 years. This year I will be watching kindergarten class sizes very closely.