Cazenovia school district considers cutting teachers

As the Cazenovia school board prepares its 2014-15 budget, it's considering cutting back on staff, including three teaching positions at Burton Street Elementary School.

For parents and students at Burton Street Elementary, the prospect of fewer teachers and larger class sizes isn't sitting well.

"The research is pretty clear that especially in the K through 3rd grade level that class size is an important indicator of achievement," said Sheila Clonan, a parent of a kindergartner at Burton Street. "I also think that it's something unique that our school district has. My son is currently in a kindergarten with 17 children, maybe even smaller. the kids really get to know their teachers and I think that's a big draw for our district."

In Burton Street's 15-22 student classrooms, close bonds are formed between students and teachers. When third-grader Faith Widrick heard that some of her favorite teachers could lose their jobs, she organized more than 25 of her classmates to attend tonight's special board of education meeting to show support for their teachers.

"I love all of my teachers and I don't want any of them to leave," said Faith.

Faith, along with numerous parents who attended tonight's meeting, also worry that increased class sizes will make it harder for teachers to provide every student with their current level of support and attention.

Nichole's mother, Sheila, has four children enrolled in Cazenovia schools. She says some of them have trouble keeping up in their class rooms now, and feels that an increased class size will make things much harder on her kids.

"I just worry for them and other students like them who are already struggling to get their needs met," said Nichole. "With more students taking away time from the teacher, there's no possible way that all their needs will be met."

But board members point out that with dwindling enrollment and smaller class sizes entering the Cazenovia school district, the increase to each class size will be minimal.

"We're talking one to two, possibly three kids in just a couple of classrooms, not in all of them," said school board president Pat Vogl. "For example, next year's projected kindergarten class would be 19 kids. The bigger classes like second grade would go up to 22 kids and fourth grade to 24. It's nothing that we haven't done in the past. In 2010-11 the class sizes are identical to what we're projecting for next year."

The school board will set its budget for the 2014-15 school year at its April 14 meeting.