Kinnelon Parents: Add Another Elementary Teacher
Board member said district is hoping for additional state aid that could be used for staffing.
Several Kinnelon parents expressed concern over the district's budgetary decision to eliminate an elementary teaching position for next year, which could have an effect on class size, during Thursday's Kinnelon Board of Education meeting.
Former Kinnelon Public Schools Superintendent Jim Opiekun spoke about the reduction from a total of eight fourth and fifth grade teachers down to seven while presenting the school district budget in March. Parent Jill Agnello expressed her opposition Thursday and questioned if more than 25 students per class is too many.
"The fifth grade teachers have a huge responsibility in preparing our students for middle school," Agnello said.
Interim Superintendent Diane DiGiuseppe asked the parents to be cognizant of the fact that the district is working under significant budget limitations. But Agnello noted that she disagreed with the fact that the budget allowed for several middle school sports to be added back, after being eliminated two years ago with budget cuts, but not for the elementary teaching position.
"Sports is more important? Education is more important," she said.
While DiGiuseppe said Stonybrook School Principal Mark Mongon has worked out a schedule for next year to accomodate for the reduction, Agnello urged the board to reconsider.
"I truly hope that we will add another teacher," she said. "I'm not in New York City, I'm in Kinnelon, NJ, where I pay a lot for taxes, as everyone here does."
Another parent, Jennifer McHenry, said she had heard from parents of previous elementary students how well things had gone when the grade levels were staffed with eight teachers and said it was "unfortunate" that the board decided to make a change.
Jennifer Petrucelli thanked the board for adding a guidance counselor at Stonybrook last year, but said she also had concerns about the reduction, as her child will be affected.
"I am concerned about juggling seven classes and how does that work?" she asked.
She also said she is the parent of kids who enjoy sports, and that while she is appreciative that those programs were restored, education should be a priority.
"Let's not lose sight of the education," she later added.
Board Vice President Keith Dama responded to the concerned parents and said the board will consider their comments.
"The board has an open mind, I have an open mind, about staffing needs," he said.
Dama said the board will be looking closely at end-of-year budget needs and that by the end of August, the board should have a clearer picture of what money is available to increase staffing past what was initially budgeted for. He also mentioned his hopefulness that the district is given an increase in state aid, as it was given last summer.
"Last year, in July, we got extra money and we put all that money in programming and staffing," he said.
But Dama also said the board has to balance the needs of the entire district.
"It's not sports versus education," he said. "We value both."