Parents, teachers pack Concord school hearing to push for smaller classes

  • Parents, students, and teachers packed the Concord School District’s second budget public hearing Monday, March 12, 2018, to push for smaller class sizes. Lola Duffort—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Parents, students and teachers packed the Concord School District’s second budget public hearing Monday night to plead with the school board not to increase class sizes, especially in the elementary grades.

Last year, discussions about whether or not to include full-day kindergarten dominated the board’s budget discussions. But the issue has taken a back seat for the public this year as the board envisions teacher cuts across grades in the face of declining enrollment.

Heidi Crumrine, an English teacher at Concord High – and the state’s Teacher of the Year for 2018 – came to the hearing to tell the board about her experience with her elementary-age daughters in the district. One had struggled with reading, Crumrine said, but had been able to catch up because of added interventions and her teacher’s careful attention. In a bigger class, that individualized support might not be there.

“I worry about her. But I also worry about the kids whose parents don’t have the resources to hire a tutor or perhaps, more likely, don’t have a mother who’s a literacy specialist herself and knows how and when to ask for help. What happens to that child in a big class?” Crumrine asked.

Crumrine was one of several Concord teachers to speak, and a few educators delivered letters signed by their colleagues.

Fifth-grade Broken Ground teacher Liz Finney told the school board that, on paper, adding three or four kids to a class might not seem like a tall order. But those numbers, she argued, belied the big differences in each child’s needs and abilities.

“In any given classroom at Broken Ground, you’ll find varying degrees of physical and learning disabilities – kids that come with traumatic experiences in their past, students who are homeless, students who don’t speak English, and students whose basic needs, like food and clothing, are not being met,” Finney said.

Many parents – and their children – also came to oppose the cuts.

“It’s really hard for the teachers right now, like even when there’s only 20 people,” said Bernie Masur, a fourth-grader at Broken Ground, who spoke to the board alongside his father, Matt Masur.

The budget right now includes seven teacher cuts – two at Broken Ground, one at Christa McAuliffe, two at Rundlett middle and two at Concord High. Many expressed the concern that the district was cutting teachers in the upper grades in order to make room for full-day kindergarten programming – which most said they strongly supported. But district Superintendent Terri Forsten said the cuts were a response to declining enrollments – and not a bid to save money to accommodate full-day kindergarten next year.

The board is scheduled to have another work session on the budget Wednesday, and to take a final vote next Monday.

(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or lduffort @cmonitor.com.)