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Parents Speak Out on Class Sizes, Education Quality

BOE president tries to reassure Troy Hills School parents that the board is listening.

Angry parents took the spotlight at Thursday evening's Parsippany Board of Education meeting. The audience at the session included a number of third-grade parents from Troy Hills Elementary School dissatisfied with what they call "overcrowding" in the classroom.

During the public comment section of the meeting, one third-grade mom or dad after another appeared to make a statement.

At present, there are two third-grade sections at Troy Hills School: one class has 25 students, the other 26. According to the  school district policy 2312, which deals with class size, 25 students is the maximum size permissible for kindergarten through fifth grade. If there are more than 25 kids in the class, a new section in the same grade is opened--unless the class exceeds the maximum size allowed after the second Friday after the first day of school.

That is precisely the situation at Troy Hills. Three days after the deadline passed, a new student arrived, pushing one third-grade roster count to 26.

Jeffrey Kreitman praised the work of teacher Pauline Spiegel, but said he was concerned about the size of his son's class. 

"I jus want the best education possible for my child. That's why I'm here," he said. "Class size does matter."

Kreitman said overstuffed classrooms overheat quickly; can increase the odds of picking up colds, flu and other communicable diseases and negatively impact children's educational experiences.

Board President Frank Calabria said the text of Policy 2312would be referred to the Policy Committee, which meets next on Oct. 5. He said that the panel, led by chairperson Fran Orthwein, would work to balance the interests of finance, facilities, students and staff. 

Third-grade mom Alison Cogan was worried as well.

"What happens when a new third grader joins the class later in the year?" she asked.

"That's part of what the policy committee will review," Calabria explained.

Orthwein reassured the audience that her committee will listen and take their concerns seriously.

If the decision is made to create a new third-grade section, Calabria said, it will take about a week to make preparations.

Kreitman said he was not satisfied with being told to wait.

"The children are already falling behind," he said.

"Democracy is a process," Calabria said. "We'll try to move as quickly as possible."

Superintendent LeRoy Seitz gave "as quickly as possible" a specific date, saying a decision on how to deal with the 26-member third-grade class would come Oct. 6.

gina s. September 23, 2011 at 10:47 AM
My daughter is in second grade at Troy hills and has 27 kids in her class. Troy hills educators are excellent but this school is so hot and overcrowded that these teachers can only do so much. Dr seitz needs to sit in this school for one day to understand how uncomfortable it is. It is literally stifling with all these children. Action needs to be taken now and not just the usual "we'll look into it".
G. Rubin September 23, 2011 at 11:26 AM
You should remove the quotes in this article from around the word "overcrowding". The numbers you are citing are not taking into account the special needs students present in both classrooms so they are even more crowded than is being presented here. The board is already choosing to ignore these extra students, and their hiding behind the technicality that the new student was added 3 days past the deadline unfortunately shows how little they are thinking of our children's welfare.
Tina DeMottie September 23, 2011 at 11:31 AM
There are 30 children in my daughter's 5th grade class at Lake Parsippany School. Clearly the Board is not enforcing the rules regarding class size. Special needs students should not be excluded when considering class size. Those students are part of the class whether they are there for the entire day or not. What's next - excluding GRO students in the count??
Jessica September 23, 2011 at 12:42 PM
I think what everyone is failing to recognize is that this overcrowding is a result of Christie's cuts. When you cut district funding, you lose teachers which means you lose the standard, effective class size. While I support the parent's right to air their complaints to the Board (and they are legitimate complaints), what you really need to consider is taking a stand and not voting this clown in for a second term.
Sharon Maroldi September 23, 2011 at 01:05 PM
Our district has created much of its own problems. Christie didn't issue raises while a recession was ongoing, nor did he determine the benefits packages. When so many of our friends and neighbors are out of work (and the taxes are increasingly cumbersome), we need to think of creative ways to better utilize the money we do have. This doesn't mean we should have too many kids in a classroom, but perhaps there are other areas where savings can be realized.
Lani Duffy September 23, 2011 at 01:34 PM
I hear ya, but honestly- 25 or 26 is nothing compared to what other schools have and I understand that other grades in that school have very low class sizes. i.e. Mt Tabor has regularly had 27, 28 + and most others are at the 25 and we are now out of classrooms. The kids have to take art class in the media room since that too has been converted to a classroom - no painting, clay, etc! Part of the problem is the overcrowding in the apts where they were zoned for 125 students but now have 500+. Perhaps Parisppany should make sure that the areas are zoned properly so that we get the proper taxes for what the schools are providing and make sure that the landlords are abiding by the zoning regulations or have to pay the taxes for what they actually have. I can't even believe that they are considering the townhouses at Mountain Way- that is going to make the problem worse- how many people can we possibly squeeze into our system? We need to speak out to make sure each family is paying their fair share of the tax burden. That is the root of the problem in my opinion. Quit frankly after learning about the schools failing the Proficiency tests, I am ready to move.
Jeffrey Kreitman September 23, 2011 at 02:17 PM
I would like to thank the 19 parents (and others involved) that came out to question and express concern at last night's BOE meeting. I suggest/recommend other parents to get involved if over-crowding is present and an issue with their schools as well. My understanding of district policy is that it notes a maximum of 25 students per class at the elementary level. In our case we have one class at 27 students and the other with 25. This issue of over-crowding has occurred now for the past 4 years (across government administrations) and was extremely noticeable most recently at this week's "Back To School" night. Over the past several years, I have observed cuts in education to language, music and the arts. Over-crowding can not also be considered as acceptable. Desks that are stuffed into rooms that are right up to chalkboard can overwhelm teachers and is not the best environment for learning. In addition, I do believe that there is a connection between larger class sizes and the proficiency issues. Although as a parent I will seek out other learning alternatives as an offset - we still have an immediate issue and would like the town's help in resolving it.
Darlene September 23, 2011 at 03:11 PM
The Parsippany policy regarding class size and the cut-off date to determine class size was in place long before Christie became governor.
Sharon Miller September 23, 2011 at 04:24 PM
This is a perfect example as to why we must vote for BOE members who are more interested in educating our children than in returning taxpayers' money. Yes, it sounds great at election time when we hear candidates say they want to lower taxes and give back to the taxpayers as their first priority; however, BOE members should be elected as child and education advocates - not the public's accountants. Large class sizes, lack of supplies, and elimination of the arts for our kids is the outcome of elected officials with no education background or understanding. There was a time in this town when BOE members asked what they could do for the schools not what they could give back to the residents. Let's remember this discussion when the next election rolls around.
steve revette September 23, 2011 at 04:43 PM
Sharon that is a terrible idea. The taxpayers ARE fed up. Let's think about this. Two years ago the board gave Marlenee Wendolowski a 10 thousand dollar raise. Because of that the budget got voted down and 800 thousand got cut. That was 800 thosuand that could have been used to hire new teachers. And the fact of the matter is the board of education has become very irresponsible with the taxpayers money. I could totally understand as a taxpayer not wanting to give my money to them because of how irresponible they are. Jeff said it best last night. We pay ENOUGH in taxes that class size should not be a problem. Ands seriously a lot of these policies are outdated. Policies need to change because times do. Maybe instead of hiring new teachers they could ship kids to a different school.
steve revette September 23, 2011 at 04:47 PM
It's not Christie's fault. In my eyes Christie is doing what needs to be done. The real issue is the New Jersey supreme court. We should get what WE pay for. Christie agrees with this. As long as we have the abbott decisions and you got people like Justice Albin on the court we will be wasting our money.
Jessica September 23, 2011 at 05:17 PM
Shipping kids to a different district COSTS the taxpayers. Do your homework.
steve revette September 23, 2011 at 05:19 PM
Send them to a different school. I doubt all the schools are overly packed.
Kevin September 23, 2011 at 05:46 PM
When I went to school in Wash. Township, West Morris district I always had 30-38 kids in my classes (Except for A.P courses) and the teachers did just fine.We received an excellent education. We always were scratching for supplies and a lot of books looked like they had been through a war. Much like today, it wasn't the Governors fault. Our teachers didn't whine and they didn't not do their jobs because they didn't get bonuses or raises. Each new generation seems to be getting softer, and expect to have eveythinhg handed to them on a silver patter.
Alison Cogan September 26, 2011 at 01:28 PM
Thanks to the many Troy Hills third grade parents that attended the BOE meeting. The main reason we were all there was because we were told that if another child registered by Friday, Sept 16th, the classes would be split. One day after that deadline, someone did register, so we were less than one day from the classes being split. As these children have spent their entire school lives (3+ years) being under the limit for the first few days of school, but over the limit during the year, we, as parents wanted to make sure that the BOE understood the circumstances of our situation. I would encourage all Parsippany parents to write to the BOE and Dr. Seitz this week and come to the BOE meeting on 10/6 to voice your concerns or comments regarding your child's class size as well.
g October 01, 2011 at 03:01 PM
You stated that: "overcrowding is a result of Christie's cuts..." "...you lose teachers.." How many teacher did the school or schools lose.
g October 01, 2011 at 03:04 PM
Researchers have found that gains in achievement generally occur when class size is reduced to less than 20 students. Gains associated with small classes generally appear when the class size is reduced to less than 20 students. Gains associated with small classes are stronger for the early grades. Gains are stronger for students who come from groups that are traditionally disadvantaged in education-minorities and immigrants. Gains from class size reduction in the early grades continue for students in the upper grades. Students are less likely to be retained, more likely to stay in school and more likely to earn better grades. Academic gains are not the only benefit of lowering class size. A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health revealed that reducing class sizes in elementary schools may be more cost-effective than most public health and medical interventions. This is because students in smaller classes are more likely to graduate from high school, and high school graduates earn more and also enjoy significantly better health than high school dropouts. When less than 20 students is considered "Small Class" why are parents complaining about 25 to 26 as being overcrowded?

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