Gripes about shifts aired
Six teachers will be reassigned to other schools to deal with the issue.
By HAROLD GWIN
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- It's not unusual for school administrators to make some classroom size and teacher assignment modifications this time of year.
The official enrollment count is done in early October, and some staff and pupil shifting is common in the city schools.
More than 50 parents and teachers, however, showed up at the Youngstown Board of Education meeting Tuesday to complain about some reassignments and class changes that will affect six teachers but a lot more pupils.
The district is experiencing overcrowding at Williamson, Kirkmere, Harding and Mary Haddow elementary schools, where some classrooms have more than the maximum 25 children permitted under the teacher contract, said Germaine Bennett, assistant superintendent of human resources.
She said a total of six teachers from West, North, Taft and Southside Upper elementary schools are being reassigned to help reduce those class sizes.
Some of the teachers will be reassigned within their own building, but others will have to move to another building, she said.
Some classes will be broken up and their children moved into other classrooms (in their same schools) to free up teachers for the transfers, but no class sizes will be larger than about 22 children, Bennett added.
Not everyone thinks the changes are a good idea.
The agenda should be "children first," Leonora Lockhart of North Hazelwood Avenue, told the board. "With kids shuffled and teachers shifted, how will the kids adjust to that change?" she asked.
Cuts need to be made somewhere else if finances are behind the changes, said Shawna Achten of North Osborn Avenue, adding that her son doesn't want to move to a new class.
This type of change should be made earlier in the year, said Cheryl Cornelius of Rhoda Avenue, who said her son is a pupil at West and doesn't want to be moved.
"I think that this is wrong," said Sylvia Kirsch, one of the elementary pupils at West being affected.
Her teacher, Lisa Mogg, told the board her pupils are in the middle of a testing program and this is a poor time to make this type of change.
Teacher Diane Piesto, also at West, read a letter from a parent of one of her pupils saying that the change is causing disarray. She then read a letter from one of her pupils saying the child doesn't want to have to go to another classroom.
Will Bagnola, teacher union president, said the school district has the right to reassign staff and change classrooms.
It becomes an emotional issue when, after seven weeks of classes, teachers and pupils have grown to know each other, he said.
It's unfortunate that this has to be done, but some teachers have classes with as many as 38 children, while classes in other buildings have only 16, Bennett said.
The district is in state fiscal watch and can't afford to hire more teachers to reduce the larger class sizes. It must rely on making reassignments to deal with that issue, she said.
She noted that some shifting occurs every year at this time and that these changes will occur after the first grading period ends Nov. 10.
Last year, children were actually moved to new buildings to accommodate school population changes, but no child will have to travel to another building this time. Only teachers will make that move, Bennett added.
The district does put children first, but when finances change, the system also must also change, said Dr. Wendy Webb, superintendent.
She said she understands the concerns raised at the meeting, but this is the fiscally responsible way to handle the population shifts.