Written by Margaret Whitely Friday, 03 February 2012 00:00
Prior to the last Herricks School Board meeting at the high school, the board met with the high school students for the purpose of hearing their comments and suggestions regarding the school.
The first student to speak was the president of the student council, Natalie Quan, who said that she and members of the student council had carefully read the budget and she noted it said that class sizes could become larger.
She said, “How realistic is that because I know that class sizes have gotten larger, from the past few years, and in my classes now there aren’t even enough desks for some kids. So, I’m thinking even extra help sessions are not as personal as they used to be and if we go to the computer lab sometimes there aren’t even enough computers for us to use. The books and supplies and are not enough. So, I’m asking, how much larger are we looking at?”Principal Jane Modoono answered, “I know there are some classes where there are 29 and 30 students, which is very unusual for us, since we haven’t done that in the past and I was concerned about that.
“So, I did an actual study of the average class sizes by department and the average class size, because there are some classes that are large, but there are some classes that have nine or 10 kids in them, and I found that the average class size has about 22 kids in them. Where is it going to go? We are hoping that there is no class that will go over 30 students and we did check to make sure that every class has enough desks, so if that is not the case, I would like to hear about that.
“The books are another issue. I don’t know how many of you saw that Apple just came out with online books that cost about $14.99 which is very good because our books cost about $100. Obviously, we have to have books for every student, but we will have to take that step-by-step.”
Modoono continued, “I am delighted that we do not have to go to eight classes. Some of the classes are a little bit large and that is unfortunate, but we will just have to work that out.”
Board president Christine Turner added, “I know that one of the things that the board felt was to keep all the wonderful course offerings and not to eliminate them.”
Quan said, “We really appreciate that you guys read our letter and that you took it into account and when I read the draft budget, we felt that our priorities were taken into account, so thank you.”
Turner said, “Unfortunately, it would be nice if we didn’t have to do anything, but our main goal was to have the impact on the students as little as possible and that is always our goal.”
Then Quan asked, “So, over the next two years, as the cuts are obviously going to pile up, what are the changes of overriding the tax cap in this district?”
School board vice president Richard Buckley said, “We can’t even comment on that or give you a ball-park.”
Turner said, “There are a lot of strings attached to putting up a higher budget.”
Another member of the student council wanted to know the policy that the school board was going to stick to as they look at future cuts.”
Herricks Superintendent Dr. Jack Bierwirth said, “It is definitely high quality education and our philosophy is to try to keep the flavor of Herricks in place.”
Another student wanted to know what other cuts have been suggested, especially in athletics.
Dr. Bierwirth said, “I will answer that because all of the cuts have been suggested by me, the board has not yet made its recommendations.”
Bierwirth continued, “Since I announced that $75,000 would be cut from the athletic budget, Athletic Director Jim Petricka and I met and have decided to keep all teams intact but that all inter-mural teams district-wide will be eliminated, not because we have anything against inter-mural teams, but because we have to cut somewhere.
President Turner added, ”You have to realize that this discussion is just part of the budget process. The budget will not be adopted until March so we are just going over it, as we always do, but nothing has been set as of yet.”
“Bierwirth continued, “Another option for the board and community to consider is to increase the bus service limit, just for the high school, to 3 miles; however, that would have to be decided by a vote from the community. That would mean eliminating bussing except for Special Education students and only 165 students would be eligible.
“This then would make it possible for the high school, as had been requested five or six years ago, to have a later start time. We didn’t do it then because it would have cost a couple hundred thousand dollars.
“Last year we cut 63 positions, and this year it doesn’t look as bad, but we still have to cut $2 million and to some degree, I think, we will be cutting for the next several years. So, as an option, I wanted you to consider that you could conceivably change the start time at the high school without costing anything if the bus limits were moved.”
It was also established, by principal Modoono, that in order to hold any class whatsoever there would have to be at least 12-13 students enrolled in that class.
Dr. Bierwirth also announced that the district would no longer be joining the Tri-State Consortium. The fee is too expensive and Dr. Bierwirth said they would have to get that valuable information from another source.
The portion of the meeting with the high school students ended.