After I resigned from the Budget Review Committee this week over the district's request that all BRC members approve or reject the Special Waiver Request they are sending to the state, I have heard from some people who want a little more clarification of my position.
It is my belief that the administration did not discover a clerical error on a spreadsheet that resulted in their mis-reporting to the state after they had filed their end of the year report. I believed the administration either mis-understood the class size restrictions or they knowingly violated them with the intention of asking the state to waive any penalties. Mrs. Kakish explained to us last month that they were monitoring class size averages to meet the state's requirement of 31:1. She said the tool they were using, a spreadsheet, had an error in the formulas calculating totals and averages.
I reviewed the minutes from last year and I found it is clear that the district's target was 33:1 class ratios. Mrs. Kakish and Shawn Mitchell both indicated to the board that the goal was to maintain an average of 33:1. I also have found a report dated 1-12-10, another spreadsheet, indicating the administration was accurately monitoring class size. I reviewed the spreadsheet and found no calculation errors. Below I've provided a link to the report and excerpts from the district's board meetings regarding class sizes.
I understand people make errors and I acknowledge that balancing class size averages across the district can be a challenge. My problem is not with the district's failure to meet the restrictions but with how they are dealing with the problem. Instead of accepting the responsibility for their mistake and failure to meet the class size restrictions, they want the state to go back and raise the restrictions and waive the penalty. They are also not being truthful in their reporting to the board and the state. The spreadsheet error was omitted from their request and they are leading us all to believe their target was 31:1 when the facts indicate they were targeting 33:1.
When they come to the Budget Review Committee and ask us to approve the request under false pretenses, I have to draw the line. What is the message they are sending to our kids? It is alright to knowingly break the rules because in the end, you can make up a story and all will be forgiven? This is not what I am trying to teach my kids. The bigger issue is what is best for the kids. Wouldn't it have been better to hire more teachers and have slightly smaller classes? And how much do we really save by eliminating class sizes after the penalty?
Here is a link to the January 12th spreadsheet: Class Size Projections 1/19/10
And here are the excerpts from the board meetings:
I something came to my attention that made me a little bit a concerned. Last year you, you guys, because of budget concerns, voted to increase the kindergarten class sizes to 33, I think was gonna be the limit or the goal. And I found out that there’s quite a few kindergarten classes that are pushing 36, 39 students. And I just had a, a couple questions. Is there an upper limit to how high, how big you’ll let those kindergarten classes get? And will there be, will there, will anything be done to correct the fact that there are overcrowding right now. I understand it’s also happening a little bit in the third grades as well. And I’m just concerned because last year I brought to your attention that there were some kindergarten classes that were, at that time, four or five students over the goal of 21 and didn’t seem to be any concern. So I just wanted to bring that up tonight. Thank you.
Okay, you know I remember one of the questions actually. Is, is there a limit on, on, on how high the class sizes can go. For kindergarten it’s, it’s Ed Code to have an average of 33 per class for the P2 period, which is the whole year start, beginning of the day, the beginning of the school year until sometime in April that you have an average of 33. We will adhere to Ed Code and we will stay within those limits. For the other classes it’s, it’s an average of 31 for that class for the whole, the whole year. And we‘ve been adhering to that in other grades that did not have class size reduction before. So yea there….
Mr. White: You don’t have an upper limit?
Mrs. Lara: Do we have an upper limit?
Mrs. Kakish: We…
Mr. Sanchez: There’s a penalty if we go above a certain average.
Mrs. Kakish: Right, the 33 for K.
Mr. Shawn Mitchell provided an enrollment update using a PowerPoint presentation. He provided an overview of the enrollment process and explained cumulative versus registered enrollment. The data presented provided evidence for leveling the class sizes and indicated challenges at Anna Hause Elementary School and Sundance Elementary School. Mr. Mitchell’s report focused on the kindergarten classes, primarily because of the enrollment challenges at that level. The target of staff is to adjust enrollment to a 33:1 ratio in kindergarten classes. Mr. Mitchell explained the direction the District is taking to ensure this method is accomplished.
Mrs. Daryl Randall, kindergarten teacher at Sundance, spoke on kindergarten class size. She provided information from the Association of California School Administrators regarding kindergarten class size and California Ed. Code Section 41376 and 41378, penalties on revenue limit. Mrs. Randall feels the District needs to prioritize the expenditures.