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Parents to BOE: Preserve Our Full-Day Kindergarten

Residents at Tuesday's Board of Education meeting speak up to support the district's youngest students.

The cost of full-day kindergarten versus a half-day program in Three Village has evolved into a discussion not only of program costs – but also one of educational integrity, family finances, and taxpayer burdens.

Throngs of parents – some of them educators themselves – were among hundreds of people who showed up at Tuesday night's standing-room-only Board of Education meeting, with speakers imploring the school board to maintain the program rather than reduce it to a half-day program in the wake of budget negotiations following the .

Single mom Lisa Stickelman, whose son will enter kindergarten in the fall, said her work schedule doesn't allow for her to care for her son in the middle of the day. "It has been an ongoing struggle to pay for services and this unforeseen expense poses a real hardship," she said.

Another parent, Christine Segnini, suggested enrollment would decline if half-day kindergarten were to be implemented as families looked to private school programs for their kids. "You may have a harder time passing the budget as they have less of an interest," she told the board.

Peter Ronzoni, a parent who is a kindergarten teacher in a different school district, said full-day kindergarten "isn't an extra" because of the rigorous expectations to which the students are already held.

"Kindergarten is no longer just ABCs and 123s. Kindergarten is the new first grade, and anyone who doesn’t think so hasn’t been in a kindergarten classroom recently," he said. "... Half-day kindergarten undermines the entire school system."

Claudine Pepe, a local parent who is an elementary school principal in another school district, called the failure of the budget "an issue of conflicting values tied to an anti-educator sentiment." She said maintaining academic quality is an urgent need at all levels, from kindergarten through 12th grade and the college level.

"Competition from around the world has put our nation’s standing in the economic world at risk," she said, "and the jobs of today along with the jobs of tomorrow require citizens with higher levels of education than ever before."

Another resident spoke to the other side of the debate: John Blaikie pointed out rising taxes even though "people are underwater."

"The point is, we can no longer afford the high taxes here. Just try and sell your south-of-25A-house with a $13,000 tax bill in today’s economy," he said. "... All day kindergarten is a nice thing to have. It’s important, but we’re talking about money here, we’re talking about affordability."

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According to administrators, going to a half-day kindergarten model would save the district approximately $650,000.

A half-day kindergarten program would leave teachers with two hours and 50 minutes of class time for each section. At the March 20 school budget meeting, two of the district's principals lobbied to preserve the full-day kindergarten program, saying the move would do the following:

  • Threaten teachers' ability to cover every subject and activity typically taught at the kindergarten level, as the district complies with state curriculum mandates (also known as common core standards);
  • Decimate teachers' ability to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of the students' various levels of learning abilties;
  • Prevent teachers from being able to facilitate deep social and emotional learning alongside the main subject areas;
  • Adversely affect teachers' ability to prepare students for first grade;
  • Cut music, art, and physical education from the students' daily activities.

The school board has not made any actual cuts to the kindergarten program; it has merely been presented as an option.

"We are all going to endeavor to present a budget that minimizes as much as possible the impact on our educational mission and the children," board president John Diviney said during the meeting.

justme May 30, 2012 at 11:09 AM
I agree its over. Shame on the BOE for trying for even more $ in these tough economic times. I'm still voting no, now I'm sure there is even more that can be cut!
Disgusted! May 30, 2012 at 04:12 PM
For the record, I just want to state that I am shocked at how easily the BOE found ways to cut 1.9 million dollars in one week. As a matter of fact, in less than 10 minutes, during the BOE meeting, they were also able to save another $200K. Whereby, they saved Student Govt, Jr. High Athletics and more than 50% of the Extracurricula activities. So my question to the BOE is... Why wasn't this done from the very beginning? The job of the BOE is to create a budget each year for the district. What were they doing all those months, that they were then able to do in one week. What a waste of taxpayers money to have a budget vote, that was above the cap, when they could have just created the current one. Aren't budget votes costly? This district's BOE should be ashamed of themselves. What a bunch of cowards! Its there job to make the tough decisions. You're not suppose to leave it up to the voters to make the choices. Thats your job. All this nonsense about cutting Kinder and Athletics. This was grandstanding at its best!!!!! Terrible :(
Joanne May 31, 2012 at 04:50 PM
Reject Joanne 12:17 pm on Thursday, May 31, 2012 It is interesting to me that no one has mentioned the new teacher evaluation system which has been mandated by the New York State Education Department. As of January 2013 all teachers in the state will be subject to evaluation based on test scores, formal and informal observations by distrit and non-district personnel and parent/student input. Teachers will no longer be protected by tenure nor seniority. Cuomo has instituted this policy and new contracts will be required to incorporate all of the above. The state is moving in the right direction which will in turn force the school districts to do the same. Voting the budget down is not going to re-open existing contracts. In the not so distant future districts are going to be forced to run more efficiently, as Three Village has begun to do in order to pass the next budget. We all need to see the big picture in regards to teacher and administrative salaries. Those of you who feel their salaries are too high will soon see forced change as per NY State.
Disgusted! May 31, 2012 at 05:49 PM
Joanne, Thats good news. I've heard there were some changes in the making but wasn't sure what truly was being implemented. You mentioned parent/student input. Do you know anymore about this? How will the parents be able to have input, as well as the student? Also when you mention that tenure will no longer protect people with seniority, can you elaborate and direct me to a link that will explain this in greater detail? Thanks
Joanne May 31, 2012 at 07:25 PM
The following is one of many websites offering information on the new teacher and administrator evaluation system which will be in place for next school year throughout the state http://nymuniblog.com/?p=1956

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