School Board Election: Class Sizes

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 10/14/2012 - 01:11

There are four candidates running for two open six-year terms on the boards. Smita Nagpal, Diane Friese, Karen Delhey and Paul Hynek will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.  The candidates have paired off to run as teams, with Nagpal and Friese running as one team and Delhey and Hynek running as the other. Voters, however, are free to choose any two they wish.

See the candidates side-to-side when the Saline High School student group Students Reinvesting In a Valuable Education (STRIVE) hosts a candidates forum at 6:30 p.m., Oct. 25 at Saline Middle School.

Here is today's question:

What’s your view on class sizes in Saline Area Schools? Given the financial constraints of the district, how would you address this issue?

Diane Friese

Smaller class sizes are advantageous, especially at lower grade levels. This is also true in the upper grades, for at risk student populations.  There is ample research to demonstrate that low class sizes are of the upmost benefit in the lower grades, especially for financially disadvantaged students. 

The financing, of public education in Michigan, has become a major issue. All Saline staff members have given numerous concessions to keep the system afloat. More cut backs may have an impact on the district’s ability to attract quality personal to replace those currently in our employ.  As a school system and community, we must support our staff members in any way we can. Committed community volunteers can help remove some of the strain the on the current system, however, the best solution is to add additional trained personnel.  We must be vigilant in monitoring the results of decisions made and respond accordingly. The realities of our time demand less than optimum outcomes, however, we must not allow this to degrade our schools.

Karen Delhey

Class size, infrastructure upgrades and repairs, and building a cohesive board that will work together to deal with these issues while investing in the best interests of the students. I think by returning our focus to the mission of Saline Area Schools of ‘equipping students with the knowledge, technological proficiency, and personal skills necessary to succeed in an increasingly complex society’ it will help us approach future issues in a proactive manner. 

Paul Hynek

Class sizes are too large. We need to prioritize which levels have an immediate need for relief and to try to get help there as soon as possible. Cyber learning and dual enrollment (at local colleges) are ways to reduce some of the class sizes at the secondary level. It would also be interesting to understand the rationale of the negotiated class sizes contained in the SEA contract. How were they developed for Saline Area Schools considering they are higher than most of our neighboring districts. 

Smita Nagpal

Intuitively we know that lower class sizes are better for our kids . Class size can have an impact on ability to learn, the teacher-student relationship, and the stress levels of teachers. In fact, the impact of larger class sizes at the elementary level is being felt in our school district as we speak. Our school district, among many others, has made the difficult choice to increase class sizes, perhaps with the hope that the higher class sizes we see this year will be offset by the resources in our classrooms (parents included) and the high quality of teachers in our district.

However, the issue is complex and the data out there are mixed. The often cited STAR study does show a positive impact on achievement of class-size reduction; moreover the impact is greater when class sizes are reduced in the early years, as well as for disadvantaged youth.  On the other hand, some states, such as Florida and California, have paid a huge price in terms of teacher quality in attempting to meet goals to significantly reduce their class sizes statewide.

What this means for us in Saline is that we must approach class size reduction in a strategic and thoughtful manner. For instance, class sizes at the elementary level should be looked at first. This is where we are likely to get the most “bang for our buck.” Elementary class sizes seem to have the most impact on achievement. Also, class sizes at the elementary level can have the most impact on future enrollment.  However, given current and projected financial constraints, any efforts to reduce class sizes across the school district should be thought through very carefully, to make sure they do not come at the expense of quality of teachers and/or further cuts to salaries and benefits of all school personnel (read my response to the question on running the school district as a business to see why cutting to the bone does not work). I would strongly advocate for any overall class size reduction strategy being formed in a collaborative manner, seeking input from people directly impacted by class size increases (parents, teachers, students).

Previous Questions

Saline School Board Election: Why Do You Want to Serve?

Saline School Board Election: Guiding Beliefs and Principles

Saline School Board Election: Creation of FSAS Director

Saline School Board Election: Board/Administration Relations

Saline School Board Election: Support for a Bond Proposal?

Tran Longmoore's picture
Tran Longmoore
Tran Longmoore is a veteran community journalist. He is founder and owner of TheSalinePost.com. He is co-publisher of The Saline Post weekly newspaper. Email him at [email protected] or call him at 734-272-6294.

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