Archive for Thursday, March 31, 2011

Larger class sizes still focus of USD 348 school closing critics

Students at Vinland Elementary School walk down the hall together to leave for the day. Vinland Elementary School is one of two Baldwin City USD 348 schools that will be closed at the end of the academic year.

Students at Vinland Elementary School walk down the hall together to leave for the day. Vinland Elementary School is one of two Baldwin City USD 348 schools that will be closed at the end of the academic year.

March 31, 2011, 2:30 a.m.

Updated: March 31, 2011, 5:06 p.m.

Larger class sizes, longer commutes for students and many unhappy rural elementary school parents will result from the consolidation of elementary schools in Baldwin City USD 348.

Most of the 135 students of the Marion Springs and Vinland Elementary schools will be transferring to Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center or Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center after a vote in December by the district’s school board to close the two rural elementary schools effective at the end of the current school year.

Paul Dorathy, superintendent of schools for Baldwin City USD 348, said the board’s decision to close the schools was a result of state reductions in state funding for schools.

Before choosing to close the two schools, the district’s administration and school board tried to look at other options to reduce costs in the district.

School board president Alison Bauer grew emotional discussing the closings.

“We took input over a very long time and looked at options like a four-day school week and a longer school day trying to figure out other ways to save money, but the superintendent decided in the end this is what he needed to recommend to us,” Bauer said.

Dorathy said he hoped the projected savings would offset the reduction in state aid.

“The estimated total (savings) is about $425,000. That’s conservative,” Dorathy said. “We really believe it will probably save more than that.”

The savings will come from building costs for running the two schools as well as cutting positions in the schools. The district will cut six and a half elementary teaching positions and one elementary administrator.

Reducing the number of teachers means larger class sizes in the elementary schools. The average class size for fifth-graders will be about 24 students, compared to classes currently average around 18 students per teacher at the rural schools. The lower the school grade, the smaller the class size will get. For example, a fifth-grade class might have 24 students, while a second grade class will have about 20 students.

District officials are hoping to keep the lower primary grades class sizes in the teens if possible. This doesn’t sit well with fifth-grade Vinland Elementary School teacher Alica Thomas.

“Even if they had said, ‘Yes, we have to close the outlying schools,’ they should have found a way to keep the class sizes more manageable,” Thomas said.

Teachers and parents at both the Marion Springs and Vinland schools have many concerns about the consolidations, including the increased class sizes and busing. Some students could be on buses for more than an hour.

“Our most vulnerable children are going to be riding longer on a bus and in classes that are too many kids for the size of the classroom,” Thomas said.

Dorathy said the district was working to address concerns and conflicts that have arisen because of this decision by doing things such as trying to re-map bus routes

“Marion Springs and Vinland are very concerned about next year. They most certainly did not want their buildings closed because they have a lot of passion for their buildings and have really supported those buildings well over the years,” Dorathy said.

Before closing the schools, the Baldwin City USD 348 school board conducted public meetings and had a hearing to decide if the elementary schools should remain open. Although many of the students are too young to understand the situation, some attended the meetings with their parents and know exactly what is happening.

“I had several kids who were there the night they voted and one of my (students) said, ‘I cried all the way home,’” Thomas said.

Bauer said the Parent-Teacher Organizations have been working together to try and make the transition smooth for the parents, teachers and, most importantly, the children.

“The in-town (Parent-Teacher Organization) has decided to rename themselves the (Community School Organization) to be more inclusive and include anybody that wants to be part of the organization that supports these kids,” Bauer said. “Because that’s a goal; we want all the support we can get in the community for the kids.”

Meagan Thomas, Genevieve Des Marteau and Xiomara Nunez are students in an advanced reporting class at Baker University.


Bakerboy25 6 years, 3 months ago

How does the class size (24) work in Eudora, Desoto, Gardner, Olathe, Shawnee Mission, Blue Valley, and of course Lawrence they are already at these sizes.. How do these others teachers get this done? I think if it is that difficult I would find another district to teach at next year, we( the district) will have no problem finding a teacher that can handle 24 children. Get a clue we have NO DOLLARS why is this so difficult to see and understand.


BaldwinDad 6 years, 2 months ago

Your right Bakerboy why is so difficult to understand that we are out of money, yet we still keep funding extra programs like Arts, Music and Sports for High School students.

Why is it so hard to understand that when realization that we are out of money was recognized by the BOE and administration, the first major cut they make is to K-5 education, that makes total sense, it's way more important to teach that sportsmanship to that 10% of kids that participate in group sports then it is to effectively teach 50% of the students basic reading and writing.

Oh, and larger classes do work, they just aren't as effective, those smaller class sizes are the reason USD348 has maintained the best ratings in the state year after year, just be prepared to see those ratings decline now.


Bloggerboo 6 years, 2 months ago

Closing the outlying schools (cutting K-5 funding, as you put it) was the most recent cut they have made, not the first. They first cut staff and services all across the district. That has taken place over the last year and half to try to prevent closing the schools.


BaldwinDad 6 years, 2 months ago

Yeah, I would like to see some details on those cuts.

Also I like how Dorathy true to form bends the truth with his statement on where the cuts come from.

"The savings will come from building costs for running the two schools as well as cutting positions in the schools. The district will cut six and a half elementary teaching positions and one elementary administrator."

Over 3/4 of that proposed "conservative" estimate is coming from firing the teachers and the early retiring administrator, hardly any of it is coming from cost of the buildings which all but the Vinland's recent add on is paid for in full.


Peabody 6 years, 2 months ago

Bakerboy, you make the point regarding class size quite eloquently. Thank you for the pitch perfect irony of your post.

Tony Brown


Torch 6 years, 2 months ago

And your response is why you're no longer representing us.

When I was in school our class size was routinely 28+ and we all did ok.

You've drank the Kool Aid of the Education Industry Tony...and it's sad. The good news is that you're no longer in Topeka raising taxes.


Peabody 6 years, 2 months ago

I sincerely thought Bakerboy was trying to be funny.

And now I have a riddle for you: How many personal anecdotes does it take to make a scientific finding?


uapinochet 6 years, 2 months ago

Torch walked to and from school uphill - both ways. He grew up in an M.C. Escher drawing.


Stacy Napier 6 years, 2 months ago

I didn't even think Torch went to school.


Nathaniel Johnson 6 years, 2 months ago

As our district gets its taste of austerity, it is humorous to remember that the rural districts voted overwhelmingly in favor of a KS House candidate that was clearly for cutting the funding for public education, which in turn has led us to this situation. Now, tasting that nasty medicine, a cry has gone out spend more but not raise taxes and reopen those schools. I would like to say that my hats off to Terri Lois Gregory and the Tea Party Irregulars. I mean, yeah, I might favor increased funding for schools but I also believe that it will come at the cost of higher taxes. Please do not take seriously any candidate who says they want to reopen the rural schools without raising taxes. It can't be done and even if it could it would be at the cost of a FOUR DAY SCHOOL WEEK (no apologies). Who in their right mind would sanction a 4 day school week?

I hate that the school board made the decision to close the outlying schools. We could reverse it but that would be irresponsible without a realistic budget and not one candidate has offered up a plan that compensates for the schools staying open.

Finally, why is it I always read that candidates are going to look at the facts and make a plan. If you running for office, you should have already done your research. Don't get me wrong, I thinks its great that you are willing but generally I believe in studying BEFORE the test.

Nathaniel Johnson


Torch 6 years, 2 months ago

Interesting article - has info that shows advantages and disadvantages to smaller classrooms...seems appropriate in our case. Excerpt below.

Why Smaller Classes Aren't Enough In California, where class size reduction began in 1996, the research has shown only a modest effect on achievement. This disappointingly small gain has been attributed to the following:

Per-student funding for class size reduction was not enough to cover the cost for already under-funded districts.

School districts had to hire new teachers, many of them not certificated, to meet the needs to make their classes smaller.

Serious overcrowding issues forced schools to "cannibalize" other needed facilities-special education rooms, child care centers, art and music rooms, gyms-or rent portable classrooms to accommodate the need for more classrooms.

The high cost of implementing class size reduction made it difficult to fund other education needs.

The California experience points to an important lesson. Class size reduction, in and of itself, is not the answer to all the problems in education. In order for a classroom to be effective, it must have a qualified teacher and adequate facilities. When weighing the advantages of class size reduction, schools, districts and states must consider these questions:

Will there be enough resources to provide for high-quality teachers? Will there be adequate facilities to provide for the necessary classrooms? Will putting money into class size reduction take away money from other programs, such as art, music and child care?


Peabody 6 years, 2 months ago

This is your response? This is your empirical evidence that class size has no effect on the education of students?

Let me make it easier on you, Torch. I concede class size is not the "silver bullet" to all our education challenges. Good teachers, adequate facilites and funding, and other factors your website article doesn't mention contribute to the quality of education students receive. To be clear, I'm not making the case that reducing class size will fix everything that may be wrong with our current educational system.

But I am saying that class size has been demonstrated with empirical data to be a significant factor in student learning, especially in the early grades. I think the evidence is fairly clear on this particular point. If you disagree, tell me where the methodology, data analysis, or conclusions of those studies are wrong. A case study from California about how reduction of class sizes without adequate support for these changes does not refute the findings from a long line of educational studies.

If you really want to debate this point, then do so. But don't insult the intelligence of those of us on this thread by refusing to address the issue at hand. You are a self-professed smart person. So answer this question: What are the flaws in the many class size studies that make the conclusion they reach invalid?


Torch 6 years, 2 months ago

You're awesome Peabody. Can you videotape yourself reading that and post it on YouTube?

That's hilarious...and I guarantee you it would go viral.

Just so you'll know - virtually everyone I know thanks GOD you're not representing this community in the legislature any more. You thanked the people who ran for this election. You won't get the same were a disaster...and everyone knows it.


Torch 6 years, 2 months ago

Guess I should add that the class sizes I had when I was growing up were routinely 30ish...and we turned out just fine.

But then we weren't under the impression that every person in class was a genius either.

I had classes in college that were over 100 students and we figured things out.

Self-professed smart person? I don't think so. Please link me a post where I said I was smart. That's just your perception.

Face it Tony, you're a flaming liberal who believes that more money (as long as it isn't yours) is the solution to every problem. It isn't. As my mother used to say - 'The world needs ditch-diggers too" - and that is just one area that the education system fails to recognize - NOT EVERYONE IS CUT OUT TO BE THE NEXT EDISON.

Tell you what - let's do an experiment. Why don't we just give every teacher in Baldwin $175,000 to teach for one year. If you think that will make them better teachers then you are even more foolish than you've already demonstrated.

Finally, in that post I provided a link and said it provided information for both sides of the argument. Apparently you did the same thing you did while representing us - failed to read anything. There is argument for both sides in that link...and if you had bothered to take the time to read it you would realize that. You pretty much failed in your run as a politician Tony - and just like everything else in this town recognize that when people look at you they see a relic of a failed 'wind of change'.


Peabody 6 years, 2 months ago

Torch, you exhaust me. If you meant to be fair and balanced in your presentation of the information from the link you posted, you would not have only presented the negative aspects of reducing class size. I looked at your link and your representation of it was clearly biased to support your viewpoint. That doesn't seem very intellectually honest to me.

I know you don't like me and that's fine; I'm not very fond of you either. But this issue seems to be one that has some empirical evidence related to it -- data that is as close to objective as we can get. I've actually looked at those studies and tried to evaluate their findings based on my academic training. I believe the findings are valid.

You don't seem to want to talk about those studies, but rather what a jerk I am. No matter what you think of me, which clearly isn't much, personal attacks are a poor way to set public policy.

You believe your personal experience is more representative of education reality in the larger public arena than educational research. I prefer data from research studies over your or any other person's indvidual experiences, including my own. That is a fundamental difference between our world views that will not be resolved.


Bakerboy25 6 years, 2 months ago

My point was how is every other School District in the area teaching kids with class sizes in the 22- 28 range based on Grade. They have been teaching kids with these class sizes for sometime. Lawrence has been at 28-30 for 15 years in some buildings. I might agree that 15 is better than 24 but we must live within our means. California numbers were much larger than what we are talking about. Most areas would kill for 22-28. Plus I am not sure any study done in CA is worth the time or effort to review. Bottom line our teachers will need to learn how to teach a larger class size.


BaldwinDad 6 years, 2 months ago

Your right the Teachers will learn...the same way those teachers in those schools you mentioned's called not caring....the Teachers get overwhelmed the kids that need the most help get pushed through the system, the kids that show the most promise get marginal attention and are not pushed to their fullest potential. The overall quality declines that is how teachers manage to support larger class sizes.

Also don't confuse educating High School and College students with educating elementary children. There is a huge difference..elementary kids need more one on one time with teachers to establish better long term study habits and to address learning issues early one before they become a long term problem. By the time a person is in High School or College their learning habits and abilities are pretty much set.

I'm not for pushing more money at the problem, I'm for deleting the whole system and allowing private industry to step in, the moment we allowed the Federal Govt to get involved with our education system the worse it has become. All these arguments about class sizes are not addressing the simple truth that the Govt is not capable of managing the most vital resource we have, our children and their education.


dentallover 6 years, 2 months ago

There are several of you who sit here and bad mouth how bad Mr. Dorathy is and how is has lied, he is a coward and all this other crap.That is so arrogant of all of you. Have you really sat down and thought about it. Mr. Dorathy has been in education for over 20 something years. Pretty sure he doesn't go to work every day deciding how he can lose his job he has worked very hard for. He stresses everyday of how he can do a good job for his district! He doesn't want to fire good teachers..and doesn't get the choice of who goes!!!! Closing those schools will save the district money. One they are old schools which means heating and air is higher in cost. Also the electricity, taxes, insurance..have you thought about that chunk of money they would be saving???? Have you people ever sat down and thought what the fine print is for the BOE and Mr. Dorathy. It just disgusts me you guys dont look and get all of the information before you just start bad mouthing everyone! The BOE and Mr. Dorathy know exactly what they have to work with and what areas need to be worked on. I think Mr. Dorathy has cleaned the district up alot since he has been there even though the economy has put a big demper on things. I thought you guys would stand aside your own town.


BaldwinDad 6 years, 2 months ago

Yes, actually I have sat down and thought all that over...I made the decision that it was still not in the best interest of all the kids in the district.

Also as it turns out that Mr Dorathy did the same thing at his last school district he managed. I personally have caught Mr. Dorathy in several misleading statements and half truths.

The simply truth of the matter is that closing the rural schools has been an issue for this district for longer then Mr Dorathy has been educating. Another simple truth is he did lie, he did screw up, and he has not operated this district in the best interest of all the children's education

You can call it arrogant or hateful, I call it reasoning and through analysis of the issues.


dentallover 6 years, 2 months ago

Well personally I know that he didn't screw up the last school. The last school actually really wants him back...because since he has been gone it has gone down hill and people appreciated him. And if the school closings have been an issure for longer then he has been an educator why are you blaming him for it. And tell me what exactly he lied about and screwed up on?? Are you perfect? Do you make mistakes? Mr. Dorathy cares more about that district then anyone and is trying his hardest to do the best he can. Do you think it is an easy job? Do you think you can do better?


BaldwinDad 6 years, 2 months ago

Yes, I do think I can do better.

He told the district that if you pass this bond, the district will spend $200k(Half the proposed savings) on the rural schools. This will indicate our will reaffirmation to the rural schools and the districts decision to keep them open. Then less then 2 years later He was proposing to close the Rural schools because he didn't see the Economic collapse that was predicted well before this Bond was even created.

I might make a mistake, but I admit, to date Mr Dorathy has never said I'm sorry I screwed up....I have asked him this and he felt that it was an unforeseen please don't portray him as some martyr he is not, he is a failed bureaucrat.


dentallover 6 years, 2 months ago

Well....I would love to see you try and do that job! Go ahead and apply..because apparently you can run a district better. You probably went to school for education right and know everything?
I do have one question...did you know the economy would collapse? Did you think that the GOVERNMENT would start doing the budget cuts in schools? Maybe Mr. Dorathy really didn't know that things would go to crap...I bet a lot of ppl didn't expect it to. Personally I will never think he is a failure. He has cleaned up the district alot..and has had to deal with a lot of budget cuts and other crap along the way. He has a done a fine job. Apparently if you are that upset with him..maybe baldwin schools are not for you.


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