We Need To Know What Happened With Kindergarten Class Size Last Year

Tonight I asked the board to consider an item for the agenda of a future board meeting to address my concerns over the administration's handling of the kindergarten class size reporting for last year. When I was finished, Mrs. Kakish agreed to put together a report. Following is my address to the board.

Here is what I know as fact:

On August 25, 2009, I came before the Board to question you about the overcrowded kindergarten classes. Mrs. Kakish stated that the state education code required a district wide class average of 33 students from the beginning to the end of the school year. Mrs. Kakish also said that the district would adhere to ED code limits. She also stated that there was not a maximum class size limit; Mr. Sanchez confirmed this.

We now know there is a maximum limit, 33 students per class; and the class size average limited by Ed Code is 31 students not 33 as stated by Mrs. Kakish.

On September 9, 2009, Mr. Mitchell presented a follow up report to the board and said, “The target of staff is to adjust enrollment to a 33:1 ratio in kindergarten classes.”

On January 26th, 2010 you were presented a Class Size Loading Report. This report indicated 17 kindergarten classes were at or above the maximum average allowed by Ed Code and only 3 classes had less than 31 students.
One week earlier the district completed a projected class size report that projected the class sizes would remain constant through the end of the year.

At the end of the summer Mrs. Kakish reported to you that a recently discovered spreadsheet formula error resulted in an invalid end-of-the-year report to the State. She indicated the report would need to be amended.

Mrs. Kakish also asked you to authorize a special waiver request to waive a penalty for exceeding class size limits that could cost the district $140,263. The waiver request application requires an explanation to why “the waiver is necessary to achieve improved student performance and/or streamline or facilitate local agency operations.” The district’s justification was the following:

In light of the current statewide budget crisis and the reduced revenue to our district, the potential to increase our kindergarten class size to 33 for the 09/10 fiscal year, we will not incur a penalty.

How does this, after the fact request, improve student performance? If the accurate numbers were reported in the year-end report, there would have been no need for a waiver request and there would be no reason to reveal a spreadsheet formula error.

The district could have acted in the best interest of the students back in January by hiring the additional teachers necessary to bring class sizes in line with Ed Code limits. This would have done more to improve student performance rather than ignoring limits hoping to fix it after the fact. Mrs. Kakish may feel justified if the waiver request is granted and the district avoids the penalty; but this is a year that almost 600 kindergartners will never get back.

In my opinion one of two things happened. Either the administration knowingly exceeded the state requirements with the intention of filing a special waiver request; or the administration made a mistake and was monitoring the wrong class size limits. Once they realized their mistake, they tried to cover it up with the spreadsheet error explanation. Either scenario is unacceptable.

You were elected to be the stewards of our children’s money and educational future. Being a good steward of our kids’ future requires you to oversee the business strategy and operations of this administration. I don’t believe anything has been done to look into the spreadsheet error or the misrepresentation of the facts to which I alerted you a month ago. 

You have a responsibility to our community to review the administration’s questionable activities and report what you find. You have a duty to find out if the administration has misled you, the community, or the state department of education with false or misleading reports or statements. I believe you are then required to clear the administration of any wrong doing or take corrective action.

I am requesting an item to be placed on a future board meeting agenda asking you to provide a complete report to the community. If you decide to ignore my request and refuse to at least open a discussion, you will be letting down not only your constituents but more importantly, our kids. I understand that after my last agenda item request, you changed your bylaws to allow at least 3 weeks for processing an agenda item request. If you decide to reject this request, I believe you owe it to your constituents to make an announcement as soon as possible to allow voters to consider your actions before the election.

If you decide to fulfill your duty and provide a report, the report should include a copy of the year-end report filed with the state, a copy of the spreadsheet with the formula error, and at least it should answer the following questions.

  1. When did the administration start monitoring maximum class sizes last year? Before or after you told me there were no limits on maximum class size?
  2. How much did we actually save by eliminating class size reduction after the penalty?
  3. What are the maximum class sizes you are willing to accept this year for each and every grade?
  4.  How much did we actually save by eliminating class size reduction after the penalty?
  5. What are the maximum class sizes you are willing to accept this year for each and every grade?