The Parsippany-Troy Hills Board of Education unanimously authorized Thursday night an additional third-grade section at Troy Hills Elementary School. The board approved pushing back the cutoff date for any newly-enrolled students to prompt classroom changes to Oct. 1.
The school board's decision resolved a controversy stemming from a third-grade student enrolling three days after the previous deadline--the second Friday after the opening of school--which moved the size of one section up to 26. The other third-grade section remained at 25 students, the maximum class size in the district for grades kindergarten through fifth grade.
The board, in a 9-0 vote, approved the Oct. 1 deadline and okayed adding one more third-grade section at Troy Hills. To fill the position, the board voted to hire a new teacher to be paid a $48,230 annual salary, pro-rated to begin next Monday.
Board President Frank Calabria, at the conclusion of the 7 p.m. meeting, said the 51 students would be split among the three sections.
Calabria had directed the board's Policy Committee to review the issue after several parents complained about classroom overcrowding at a board meeting two weeks ago.
Troy Hills parent Lisa Kaiser praised the decision.
"On behalf of the third-grade students and parents, I want to express my sincere appreciation to the board," Kaiser said.
Another parent, Sandy Giercyk, said she appreciated the board's responsiveness but noted that the solution might not please everyone. She suggested that some parents might not be happy to find their children transferred into the classroom of a less-experienced teacher. The faculty member hired by the board is a 2010 graduate of Montclair State University.
"While people are thrilled that the class sizes are going down, no one wants their kid to go in with the new teacher," she said.
Giercyk said that under the amended Oct. 1 deadline, "a whole month of school" could go by before students would be transferred to a different teacher.
"There's a good side to the policy and a bad side to the policy," she said.
Superintendent LeRoy Seitz was asked about a similar situation involving the fifth grade at Mount Tabor Elementary School, where one class similarly has 26 students, one above the maximum class size.
Seitz said hiring a new fifth-grade teacher Mount Tabor lacks the additional space needed to house a new class. The superintendent said the situation will be handled by giving the two fifth-grade sections a "shared instructional aide" to assist the teachers.
In response to a question from township resident Monica Sclafani, Seitz said it is much too early to know whether an additional fourth-grade section at Troy Hills will be needed next year as the students move up. Under the district's policy, the "initial decision" on the number of sections per grade per school is made by June 30 of the previous school year.
Thursday's meeting also included several light moments, such as when Calabria playfully asked audience members to keep their remarks short during the public portion because several colleagues were eager to watch the New York Yankees' playoff game on television.
Amid laughter, Calabria said he wasn't asking for himself and admitted that he is, in fact, a Chicago Cubs fan.
"Do you know what it's like to be a Cubs fan?" asked Calabria, whose team last won the World Series in 1908.
On a more somber note, resident Roy Messmer asked the board to seek a suitable public tribute to well-liked former board member Alan Gordon, who died over the summer.