Resurrection School - Please Read & Support
One of the planned changes at Resurrection is to increase class sizes in the K-3 grades by eliminating a section in certain grades. We believe this is not in the best interest of the students and is detrimental to the future of the school. We ask that you sign the attached petition that opposes an increase in class sizes and supports the formation of a School Advisory Board so that future decisions are a cooperative effort reflecting the best interests of the community.
What is in the Works?
One section of Montessori will be closed, bringing the remaining classes to 24 students. A first and second grade section will also close, bringing class sizes in one of those grades to the maximum of 24 students per classroom. In other words, class size will increase 50% in that grade from 16 children per class to 24 children per class, over a 2.5 month period.
Why is this Wrong?
Adversely Impacts the Children - Smaller class sizes (below 20 students), particularly in the early grades, are one of the few educational strategies shown to increase learning. There are numerous studies that conclude that smaller classes improve overall achievement and student engagement. Some of these studies include:
• Achilles, C.M., et al. (2012). Class-size Policy: The Star Experiment and Related Class-size Studies. "Small classes (15-17 pupils) in K-3 provides short- and long-terms benefits for students, teachers, and society at large."
• White House Report (2012). Investing in Our Future: Returning Teachers to the Classroom. "We know from common sense that laying off teachers, increasing class sizes, etc all mean that our children receive less attention and fewer chances to achieve in their education...substantial evidence exists that smaller class-sizes - especially in the early years - produce better outcomes for students."
• Lubenski, S.T., et al. (2008). Achievement Differences and School, Type: The Role of School Climate, Teacher Certification, and Instruction. "Multilevel analysis of National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematical data over 270,000 fourth and eight graders in over 10,000 schools finds that smaller class's size is significantly correlated with higher achievement."
• Unlu, F. (2005). California Class Size Reduction Reform: New findings from NAEP. Princeton University. Study found that California's fourth grade students who were in reduced class sizes in grades K-3 had substantially higher scores in math in the national assessments (NAEP), of between 0.2 and 0.3 of a standard deviation, compared to closely matched students who were not in smaller classes.
In addition, it is a sudden and drastic change in class size for the children to adapt. While Resurrection’s current charter states a 24 student per class limit, the school has historically chosen small class sizes when given the opportunity. It is the nurturing environment of the small classes that has drawn many families to the school. Most schools have a stated maximum class size that is used only to cap growth when physical capacity (i.e., classroom) limitations exist. Schools do not typically design classrooms around a maximum when classroom space is available.
Restricts enrollment - By designing classes around a maximum class size, the school cannot increase enrollment. In fact, because of this planned change, Resurrection has already turned away 2 students seeking to enroll in Montessori for the 2013-2014 school year. Sister Anne has stated that only when the school has a wait list of 10-15 students, would it consider opening up another classroom. We find this scenario very unlikely.
Makes Resurrection School a Less Attractive Option - Studies on the benefits of smaller class sizes are well known. The taxpayers in our community recently voted by a 3:1 margin to pay more in taxes so that public school class sizes would not be increased. The Rye public schools have a stated current class size of 18-22. When the classes approach the high end of that range, a new section is opened to bring the class size down. While Resurrection is not a public school, it competes with the public schools for enrollment. By increasing class sizes to levels that are higher than the public schools, Resurrection becomes a less attractive option in the eyes of the community. Because Resurrection School is a tuition-based school, it also competes, to some extent, with the private schools in our area. With a student: teacher ratio of potentially 24:1, Resurrection becomes a less attractive value proposition relative to the private schools ratio of 8:1.
Increases Financial Burden - K-3 enrollment at Resurrection has historically been healthy relative to the later grades. By eliminating classes in K-3 and maximizing the remaining sections, enrollment cannot grow and the downsized school will have less overall students. One of the biggest costs for a school is the operation and maintenance of its infrastructure. With fewer students to spread these fixed costs across, eventually either tuition will need to be increased or the school incurs greater financial losses. For example, current enrollment is 513 students. With only 2 sections in first and second grade, those grades will be maxed at 48 students per grade. That will have a trickle down effect to the later grades, meaning when those 48 students advance to third grade, then third grade will be restricted to two sections with 48 children, and so on... Eventually, you have a school with only 48 children per grade. So if you assume 48 children per grade, 96 in Montessori and 24 in Traditional K, that equates to an enrollment of only 504 students. The reality, however, is that the school will never achieve a full capacity with the stigma of 24 children per classroom and enrollment declines are likely to continue, perhaps eventually leading to the shuttering of even more classrooms.
So why is this decision being made?
Many of us have vocalized that this is not in the best interest of the students and the school. We have questioned why such a drastic decision would be made. It is not a financial decision. Resurrection is fortunate to be financially sound. The Annual Fund raises enough money each year to comfortably cover the operating deficit and maintains a fund balance equivalent to a 7-year operating shortfall. It is also not a capacity decision. Resurrection has the physical capacity (the classrooms) and teachers to maintain three sections per grade.
What Is the Solution?
Important and strategic decisions such as class size highlight the need for a School Advisory Board. Resurrection operates in the enviable position of being in an affluent, well-educated and highly Catholic community. It has a unique opportunity to become a model parochial school. But to do so requires a strong strategic plan that is forward-looking, proactive and positively differentiates Resurrection within the local community – with a marketing message aimed at building enrollment. As Cardinal Dolan stated in January, “we must blow our own horn” and deliver positive marketing messages to grow enrollment. By creating an Advisory School Board of talented and diverse individuals, the collective business acumen, leadership, tenacity, passion and communication skills could assist in making the proactive decisions to positively transform Resurrection. There have been a number of Catholic School success stories as a result of outstanding school boards. (http://www.ncea.org/departments/boards/OutstandingBoardAwards2013.asp
Currently, there is no forum at Resurrection that has decision-making input on strategic ideas or concerns. Part of the NY Archdiocese's "Pathways to Excellence" plan is the formation of Regional School Boards to assist schools in making effective strategic and financial decisions. Because Resurrection School is financially independent from the archdiocese, Resurrection is not governed by a Regional School Board. Neither the PTO nor the Resurrection School Foundation carry any decision-making authority when it comes to the school’s financial decisions, business strategy, marketing, or school security/safety solutions. (The role of our PTO is to act as a liaison between the parents and Principal, and to raise funds for the benefit of the school and the children. The role of the Foundation board is to raise funds to cover operating deficits.) While Monsignor Dwyer and Sister Anne clearly intend to make decisions that are in the best interest of our children and the community, there is no doubt that they would greatly benefit from the collective insight, skills and professional experience of a local School Advisory Board.
There is a school on E 82nd Street in Manhattan, St. Stephen of Hungary. Three years ago, the school faced declining enrollment. Rather than downsize the school and maximize classes that remained, the school took a more optimistic strategy. They recognized that the school operated in a highly affluent community with many other attractive school options. They revamped the schools strategy and LOWERED class sizes to a maximum of 18 students. The result? Enrollment practically doubled in three years. Resurrection has the opportunity to do the same, but not if it increases class sizes.
As the Bishops remind us, Catholic schools are “the responsibility of the entire Catholic community”.
Please be a part of transforming Resurrection School and sign the attached petition!!! And please forward to others who care!