Reduce elementary school class sizes in Ithaca!
Dr. Judith Pastel Superintendent of Schools Ithaca City School District Cc: Thomas Frank, Judith Maxwell, Seth Peacock, Deborah O\'Connor, Jay True, Carol Warshawsky, Robert Ainslie, Brad Grainger, Elizabeth Kunz Dear Dr. Pastel, We write this letter in support of our district\'s teachers. You are familiar with a letter that 25 Cayuga Heights teachers signed and sent to you on October 26, 2007, detailing the benefits of teaching smaller classes at the elementary level. Please refer to the teachers\' letter so that you may familiarize yourselves once again with the benefits of small class sizes as specifically detailed by one of your own seasoned and greatly talented teachers, Laurie Rubin. The Cayuga Heights PTA joins with its teachers in imploring you to make small class size an official priority in your goal to help every child achieve. We echo their suggestion that you implement one of your own redistricting goals: "Small class sizes of 20 or fewer in grades K-2." We urge that you apply this goal to elementary classes individually, not to the schools--or to the district-- on average. It is of the utmost importance that we plan ahead, aiming towards optimizing the capacity of our excellent teachers to reach each child and support his or her individual potential for learning by reducing class size. Real estate projections indicate that Cayuga Heights, for example, will continue to lose senior citizens and gain elementary-aged students. Such figures must be considered each winter and spring, as the board determines teacher assignments for the next school year. Because projections have not been taken into account in the past, we at Cayuga Heights have been faced with the Hobson\'s choice of having fourth grade classes of 28 students or disrupting those students by rearranging them halfway through a major testing year. Teachers need time to prepare their lessons and classrooms, and September is too late to begin a teacher search for that same school year. Looking at district-wide class size numbers, as reported on October 31, 2007, one can see that Caroline School has three kindergarten classes at or above 20, and Fall Creek has two kindergarten classes at or above that number. First grades through the district look good, except at Northeast (three classes of 22 each) and Cayuga Heights (two classes of 23 each). Thanks to a late hire (and much disruption in class reassignments) in October, 2007, the three Cayuga Heights second grade classrooms are at 18, 18, and 16 instead of two at 26 each. Again, Northeast and Cayuga Heights are bursting at the seams in fourth grade; Northeast has three classes above 23 students, and Cayuga Heights has two classes of 28! Wow! These numbers do not include the special education students, some with behavioral problems, who "push in" to the classrooms for a varying number of hours per day. That there are any elementary classrooms in the Ithaca City School District with more than twenty students constitutes a failure. We as parents and taxpayers support you in your goal of decreasing class size in the interest of education and equity for all our district\'s children. We look forward to this issue being discussed at the January 31, 2008, site based meeting, and to working with you to create a solution to this important issue. Sincerely, Members of the Cayuga Heights PTA