Thursday, May 27, 2010

Springboro High School (Springboro, Ohio, USA)
May 27, 2010

Kirsten Allen’s address to the Springboro School Board, May 25, 2010

Thank you for allowing me a few minutes to share some of my concerns as a parent of four children in the Springboro School District. As I look ahead to the coming years I worry about the quality of my children’s future academic opportunities. That is frustrating because I feel at a loss for anything else I can do as a parent to improve it.

For the last three years I have spent numerous hours in our schools at a minimum of once a week. I know it is because of the resourcefulness of our incredible teachers that we have survived the cuts we have made so far but even they have limits. Our teachers cannot give the individual attention our students need when there are so many students in their classrooms. As I volunteer at Five Points East Elementary and Springboro Intermediate watching class sizes get larger is one of my biggest concerns. Three of our 4th grade classes have 31 students and the other has 30.  We currently have five 3rd grade classes this year that will be consolidated into 4 classes when they move up to 4th grade next year.  At Springboro Intermediate one of our home room science classes has 34 students with many classes having over 30. Our district enrollment numbers show we have increased enrollment this year over last and already more students have registered for next year than we have had in this current year. It concerns me that this year we stopped providing reading intervention in the 4th, 5th, and 6th grades. In these grades that are currently seeing some of the largest class sizes we have taken away the help our students need to improve their reading abilities which are foundational skills that affect all of their other subjects. Our libraries have lost large portions of their funding to buy books and our students at Five Points no longer get full advantage of the instruction and training they were immersed in during library time with the addition of another grade in the building this year.
I am frustrated as I listen to people say our teachers are overcompensated when they work weekends, holidays, and collectively spend thousands of their own dollars to subsidize their classrooms, with their own pay checks, so that our students have the best academic experiences our teachers can provide. This situation is aggravated even more as principals are forced to move teachers around from grade to grade to try to cover for growth without new staff. Teachers will spend hundreds of their own dollars to set up a new classroom in a grade that they do not previously have materials and supplies for. Two other parents and I, as volunteers, provided a Math Pentathlon Club to any third grader at Five Points East who wanted to participate. That ended up meaning I spent one hour twice a week with a classroom of at least 26 students. For just those two hours a week I had at least one hour of outside preparation time a week to be ready. For our teachers multiply that hour by 6 hours of instruction, 5 days a week, and add in assessments and grading. Our teachers work hard to earn their pay and they should be able to keep it and not have put it right back into their classrooms.

I am happy to do my part as a parent – I do not mind paying the $441.73 I paid for my children’s school fees this year and also the $120 we spent on required school supplies to start the year. I did not mind being responsible to get my children to school when we lost our busing this last fall. With our district’s current financial situation in the coming year and future ones I will pay for my children to participate in the sports and activities that they choose with “Pay to Participate.” The frustration comes in what else can I do?

As the board looks at needs that arise I would ask you to please resist the urge to think that we can solve more of our problems with volunteers. We have amazing support from our volunteer community but they are already involved in countless hours of service in more areas than I could ever mention. I will highlight just a few. At Five Points East and West Elementary Schools alone we have over a thousand volunteer hours this year doing lunch duty. Volunteers spend their own money to be fingerprinted so they can help in the classrooms reinforcing concepts that have been taught and helping children that are struggling. The parents, students, teachers and local businesses work together to raise money for needs the District does not sufficiently supply. For example, the Springboro Historical Society, with the generous financial support of our local business community paid the expenses for all 3rd graders in the district to still have an educational tour of historic Springboro since that field trip was cut. At Five Points East Elementary in the last two years 85% of all the interactive technology hardware, things like Smart Boards, were purchased by the Parent Teacher Organization. Volunteers and students sold Entertainment Books to help with classroom needs.  This year at Springboro Intermediate the Parent Teacher Organization provided technology like LCD projectors and document cameras, materials to enhance Social Studies Curriculum, Digital Cameras used in student assignments, Physical Education supplies, an In House Field Trip, equipment for special needs students, student awards, basic classroom supplies like Expo Markers, Clorox wipes, white correction tape, paper towels, pens, construction paper and we’re not done. We have dedicated volunteers working in this district and they are working hard but they cannot provide teaching staff. We are not allowed to fund hired positions and as one parent commented we do not send our children to school to be taught by unlicensed volunteers.  We can help, but nothing can replace the expertise and devotion of one of our teachers.

I do want to thank the Board for their willingness to serve and be active advocates for our children. You have made an effort to be deeply involved and I applaud that commitment to our students. The parents and teachers of our district are doing all we can to fund our children’s educations and we need help now. I ask the Board to do their part and take action to provide the funding we need to get our class sizes back down, provide reading intervention, allow our teachers to keep their own pay checks by adequately funding our classrooms, and restore the academic environment our children can excel in before the damage is worse or irreparable.

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  1. Very good column. But I must point out that NO teachers have been cut in the district. The kindergarten enrollment is actually down for this coming school year. That information came straight from Dr. Baker at a resent special board meeting.

    No one wants education cut. No one wants to pay higher taxes or higher cost for goods. It is great you have had the time and resources to spend with the children. But what one must realize is that not everyone in the district can provide for their family the way you may be able to. In these terrible ecomomic times everyone has to tighten up even if it means cutting back.

    This is NOT a problem only for Springboro. This is state wide and nation wide. The Ohio State Supreme Court ruled years ago that the way our schools are funded is unconstitutional. If people (parents and non parents) spent as much time writing and protesting the Ohio legislature as they do with trying to raise your property taxes maybe they would find another way of funding the schools. Call, write, email and stop by your local representative's repsective offices. Until this is fixed all communities will remain divided on the school levy topic.

    Everyone states," think of our children." What happened to think about our community, our retired people, our low income and yes believe it or not there are low income families in Springboro, and think of the disabled, who all built this community. Should they all continue to pay for something they cannot afford.

    I work for the school district. There are ways to tighten things up without "hurting" education. Continue to support our schools by volunteering etc.

    I would love to put my name on this but I can't. The district is still being ran by people who would make sure I would pay with my job.

    Thank you!

  2. Kristen, I applaud you. Anonymous, kindergarten enrollment is down. I believe the main reason for that is our current half day program. I have a daughter starting kindergarten 2012. If the current program remains, we will pay to send her to a full day private program. I am sure there are many parents that have similar plans. When the district can't lobby for any more time, they will have no choice in converting to full day. Kristen, can you provide facts on how many more teachers and classrooms needed as well as projected class sizes? The info went out several months ago, I have failed to retain it. My point is everything Kristen said is right and once the kindergarten enrollment goes up and full day is implemented, its going to be much worse. These problems need addressed, failure to do so will result in a failed school. If the school fails, the community fails. Communities thrive when young, growing families move in...Why do most young growing families choose to move to Springboro? Ask around, of your top 5 answers, I can bet one of them is the schools.

  3. I would like to point out that all day kindergarten is optional. Parents can opt out and just go 1/2 day like it has been for years. Enrollment is also down for the whole system. They had projected 250 kids and that has dropped down to 150.

    We all want to give kids a good education. Defining what is good can be very tough. Teachers that buy supplies are able to write them off their taxes just as others who have to supply their own tools. Depending what occupation you are in the cost could be in the thousands with no pay back expected.

    This is one of the worst economies since the great depression. We have had 3 families on our block lose their homes. Two were from job loss and one from a medical condition. This is tearing at the very fabric of values we all have of hard work and pride of home ownership. These folks did not spend more than they earned. Without these people you lose hard workers that pay taxes that help support the schools. You have to help keep these people in their homes till this storm blows over. Failure to do so will only cause your share of school cost to go up and taxes in general to provide public assistance. I can NOT let my neighbor down!