Class Size Advisory Group

November 13: In response to district-wide concerns about class sizes, we have assembled a parent/administrator advisory group to advise the department about managing class sizes in Belmont. The group will be meeting for several Wednesdays at the Winn Brook School and will be chaired by Principal Janet Carey. Here is the charge set for the group:
The Belmont Public Schools have witnessed an increase in the student population. We are adding some additional support staff within available budget resources for this school year. The current year’s school budget is fully committed, and additional new classrooms and teachers are not possible for 2012-2013. We have frozen for this school year new enrollments at the Wellington and will redirect students to the three other elementary schools where class sizes might be smaller. We have attempted to level enrollments at the middle school and high school. However, all these adjustments are short-term. As part of long-term planning and as part of the annual preparation of the school budget, the district must propose responsible strategies.

Therefore, the Administration is inviting a small group of citizens and educators to explore various options for improving class sizes throughout the district and to propose various ways to manage the student population within available financial and physical resources and in light of the district’s educational priorities. The parent organization leadership at each school is invited to designate one individual willing to be a member of the advisory group. Also on the group will be three district educators, one member of the School Committee, and representatives of the Belmont Education Association (the teachers’ union). The advisory group should meet more or less weekly between November and the end of January (Thanksgiving and Christmas weeks excepted), solicit counsel from the community, conduct appropriate research, review physical and fiscal boundaries, and help inform the Fiscal Year 2014 School Department Budget Request and staffing plans for subsequent school years.

The topics we are asking the advisory group to address are as follows:

A summary review of the research about class size and instruction. The best accessible, comprehensive, and reasonably brief summary of the research was published by the Brookings Institute and is available at http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2011/05/11-class-size-whitehurst-chingos.

A review of the NESDEC Population Projection completed in January 2011 and updated this fall. As well, a review of the student population trend over the past decade.

Comments and concerns submitted by parents and other citizens to the School Department, including suggestions they might have.

A review of existing space and programming.

Discussion and exploration of different classroom models such as split grade combinations.

A review of available revenue and the costs of various adjustments to improve class size.

A review of existing elementary school boundaries and recommendations for realignment if necessary.

Perhaps most important, strong rationale for any recommended changes, adaptations, additions, and adjustments.

We would anticipate that the study group would issue findings and recommendations to the Administration. As Superintendent, I would then pass on the recommendations and incorporate them as possible and reasonable into the FY 2014 budget planning.

We are most appreciative of the volunteer efforts that help promote the high quality instructional program in Belmont. We do not expect that the work of the advisory group will be long-term, and we realize that not every member will likely be able to make each meeting. I have asked Winn Brook Principal Janet Carey to chair the group, and she will establish the agendas for each session.

Again, I thank you for your interest, commitment, and good faith.

Study Group Members

Jane Ewing (BHS)
Angela Chan (Wellington)
Heidi Johnson (Chenery Adm)
Janet Carey (Winn Brook Adm)
Patty Soliozy (BSH Adm)
Christina Ramey (Chenery PTO)
Rosalind Kabrhel (Winn Brook PTA)
Mark Sivers (Burbank PTA)
Martha Brown (Butler PTA)
Lisa Connell (Chenery Faculty)
Laurie Graham (School Committee)
Selina Moeller (Burbank Faculty)

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