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From the Desk of Superintendent Michael Nagler - October 1, 2010

The Benefits of Clustering

There are many benefits in clustering for a district our size.  Of course, as with anything in life, there are cons as well.  The most obvious is that many children will have to travel a greater distance for their entire school career. As you begin to formulate your decision on whether to support the Oct. 26 bond here are some clear advantages to clustering:

 

Class Size

The variance in class size will no longer exist. When all of the students in the same grade are in one place you can equalize class size.  There will no longer be some classes at 16 while others are at 22. Over the last few years the Board of Education has been steadfast in adhering to the class size guidelines and there is no indication this commitment will change going forward.  In fact it makes it easier since it streamlines staffing.

 

Facilities

Currently all of our buildings are not equal.  Some have new Library media centers while others do not.  Some have proper electricity and wiring for technologies while others don’t.  Clustering provides the same facility for all of the children.

Any work done on a specific building benefits all of the children in the district.  It is not necessary to spend more money to replicate the same project in multiple places.

 

Heterogeneity

There is a better ratio of heterogeneity in classes  where there are more students-mixing ESL and special needs students within an overall larger number of students allows for more of a balance between different needs of students.  This is especially noteworthy in inclusion classes, where the proportion of disabled and non-disabled students is critical to the overall learning needs in the class.

 

Professional Development

Having a greater number of classes and teachers at a grade level provides more opportunity for teacher’s to collaborate, share ideas and work together as a team.  Students are the beneficiaries of teacher collaboration and teaming.

Training and collaboration for new initiatives and program is easier to implement.

 

Staffing

Combining schools would reduce or eliminate most or all of the shared staff and duplication of services.  Shared staff imposes many challenges, not only on the staff, but on the schedule and the accessibility of the staff members and services for students. Staff travel time would be completely avoided providing for more time for instruction in the classrooms

 Students would have better access to teachers and more supports and services.  The positions that are currently shared in the smaller schools are: library, computer, music and art, ESL, reading, gifted and special education.

AIS, reading teachers, ESL teachers would be dedicated to a grade, thereby allowing for on-going collaboration and efficient and flexible scheduling to meet the NYS mandates and the needs of each student.  Math teachers would be dedicated to each school.  

 

Curriculum

With more classes, teachers and students in fewer buildings, it is easier and more efficient to implement new programs and new teacher positions. For example, it took us four years to phase in the literacy collaborative and reading recovery.  These are excellent, but costly programs that could have been phased in more quickly if we had fewer schools.

Often times the high cost of program implementation and hiring new teachers and staff in small schools are an imposition on the school district, and therefore, we aren’t able to bring certain programs, services and/or positions to fruition-programs and positions the students would greatly benefit from.   

There are differences in the specific options presented, i.e., which grades are in which buildings.  Specific to the 8th grade moving to the high school there are programmatic and academic benefits-more 8th graders would be able to participate in accelerated classes.  We currently offer two sections in accelerated science and two sections of accelerated math in 8th grade.  These opportunities could operate more as an open enrollment option. 

There are great benefits to creating buildings dedicated to developmentally appropriate teaching and learning. An early childhood PreK-1 building allows for a complete focus on reading development and social interaction.  A Grade 2-4 building reinforces reading readiness and prepares student for state assessments.  A grade 5-7 building actually extends elementary school. It allows for an extended transition to departmentalization. Finally an 8-12 High School will allow for an extended elective program that will benefit all of the students.  

Assembly programs, parent workshops, professional development activities and resources/ materials would be specifically selected and dedicated to students at specific grade levels.