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May 2018

BOE Continues Budget Review and Discussion of Recommendation to Modify MAS Class Size Guidelines

During the Board of Education’s continued review of the Superintendent’s Recommended Budget at the April 10 meeting, discussion focused on Superintendent Dr. Robert Shaps’ proposal to adjust class size guidelines at Mamaroneck Avenue School (MAS). The proposal would maintain the existing lower class size guidelines at MAS for Kindergarten and 1st grade classes -- 19 and 21 students respectively -- but would raise class size guidelines for grades 2-5 to make them consistent with the guidelines at the District’s other three elementary schools (25 students for grades 2- 3; 26 students for grades 4 -5).


Even with the proposed adjustments in the guidelines, the actual 2018-2019 class sizes for non-Dos Caminos classes in grades K-5 at MAS are projected to remain within the 17-24 range. Although the 3rd grade class sizes are projected to be at the high end of the range, the Administration noted that it would pay close attention to enrollment numbers throughout the summer, as it does every year, and decide at that point whether to shift resources to add another section. The Recommended Budget includes two contingency teaching positions to address enrollment changes at the elementary schools over the summer months.


“Each year, as we approach September, we closely monitor class sizes across all grades and all buildings. We look at individual learning needs in each class, as well as the overall class makeup/dynamics of classes,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Shaps said. “We allow ourselves the flexibility to make adjustments as we deem necessary, both prior to the start of the school year and throughout the year.”


Dr. Shaps noted the importance of a nimble educational structure that directs resources based upon student need as opposed to head count. “We continue to evaluate, request, and deploy staffing resources in response to student, class or grade-level learning needs on an ongoing basis,” Dr. Shaps said. “Guidelines are not hard and fast rules about what each class will look like. Enrollment fluctuates, and dynamics change.” In fact, after last year’s budget vote, the District added 10 full time employee (FTE) positions for the current school year to address individual learners’ needs and behavioral issues within particular classes. The District also added a second full-time behavior specialist, in addition to bilingual evaluators and other special education staff, in response to student need.


In addition to implementing District-wide strategies focusing on curriculum development and professional development -- all with a growth mindset philosophy -- Dr. Shaps noted that the District also has devoted a significant amount of resources to providing additional staffing, specialists and initiatives at MAS that are not available in the other elementary schools. “As always,” Dr. Shaps explained, “our mission is to provide targeted instruction, putting in layers of support and working towards incremental progress for each child.”


According to Dr. Nora Mazzone, Assistant Superintendent for Student Support Services, the addition over the past three years of bilingual speech and language evaluators, as well as bilingual psychologists who conduct evaluations, has enabled staff to better understand the needs and challenges of students who are exposed to a second language at home. With these evaluations, Dr. Mazzone explained, the District can get a better sense of what might be a disability versus a language acquisition issue. “This rich information enables the school to make a more personalized and responsive intervention plan, whether through special education or building based support.”


 The community will vote on the Board’s Proposed Budget on Tuesday, May 15.