Showing posts with label class size. Show all posts
Showing posts with label class size. Show all posts

Friday, March 12, 2021

FM #487 - School Committee Mtg - 03/09/21 - P3 of 3 (audio)

FM #487 = This is the Franklin Matters radio show, number 487 in the series. 

This session shares part 3 of the Franklin, MA School Committee meeting held on Tuesday, Mar 9, 2021. 

The meeting was conducted in a hybrid format: some of the School Committee members, Central Office personnel, and key guests were in the Council Chambers; the remainder, along with the public, were remote via conference bridge, all to adhere to the ‘social distancing’ requirements of this pandemic period.

I’ve split the just almost three hour meeting into three logical segments:
  • First - covers the opening through the Keller Elementary presentation (approx. 39 minutes)
  • Second - School Budget - first view- Supt Ahern and her staff walk through the budget highlights (approx. 53 mins)
  • *** Third *** - from the return to in person learning plan through to the end of the public meeting (approx. 85 minutes)
The show notes contain links to the meeting agenda and to my notes. The meeting packet folder will hold the other documents released for the meeting.

Let’s listen to this segment of the School Committee meeting of Mar 9, 2021



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The music for the intro and exit was provided by Michael Clark and the group "East of Shirley". The piece is titled "Ernesto, manana"  c. Michael Clark & Tintype Tunes, 2008 and used with their permission.

I hope you enjoy!


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Thursday, March 11, 2021

School Committee recap - March 9 meeting - Keller puts on a show before budget and reopening updates

Quick Recap:
  • Keller kids helped to put on the showcase of what's happening at the school this pandemic year.
  • Plans for the Davis Thayer transition to Keller underway, more updates as the work progresses
  • First pass on the school budget reviewed. Time line shared for next steps as it develops. Numbers to be filled in as they come available.
  • Reopening status updated to share the bringing back o in person, effectively doing away with hybrid. Working on bringing in the hybrid folks. Some flexibility at elementary level, more at middle school and less at high school for parents/students who are remote to come back in person. 
  • Pool testing commenced across the district, still time to sign up for it. All negative results ts far. Contact tracing results also showed no in person transfer of COVID-19.

Photos captured during the meeting and shared via Twitter can be found in one album:

As with most meetings in this pandemic period, I took my notes via Twitter during the meeting reporting in real-time via the virtual session.
The Twitter hashtag can be found online  #schcom0309

  • I am getting ready for the School Committee meeting tonight at 7. Are you ready? Agenda doc has details and connection info #schcom0309
  • All the options for watching, listening and/or participating tonight summarized here #schcom0309
  • Over 100 in Zoom session to start this meeting. #schcom0309
  • The zoom session is working for me but not the live stream. Anyone else an issue? Any trouble with cable? #schcom0309
  • Up to 190+ on the Zoom session. #schcom0309 DT and Keller transition underway, 1st meeting last week, lots of familiarity amongst team to work on draft to share later. Ah - an update via the live stream, there is video!
  • Superintendent's report (fully published after the meeting, in some cases several days) #schcom0309 touts Sen Spilka's forum coming Mar 19. Links to be shared when available. Next up the Keller presentation
  • The Keller presentation doc was shared before the meeting, you can follow along with this #schcom0309
  • Announcement to start the day helps at Keller #schcom0309
  • Special edition in November recognized local veterans on Veterans Day. #schcom0309 tech helped extend the celebration beyond the 4 walls
  • Work this year continues to develop the core values #schcom0309
  • Grade level meetings when students are remote done regularly. #schcom0309
  • Multiple students chimed in to share their thoughts as the presentation continues #schcom0309
  • #schcom0309 more slides for more of the Keller kids to talk to
  • Good last slide to share gratitude #schcom0309
  • BTW up to 210+ via Zoom (also only 6 of the 7 members present tonight - D'Angelo absent) #schcom0309
  • Now moving to the FY 22 budget update, first time to view the budget for next year. #schcom0309 doc to be posted after meeting (I.e. sometime Weds)
  • Budget assumptions to start with #schcom0309
  • Level service proposal would be close to Supt recommended amount, second slide gets into the investments required #schcom0309
  • Digital learning integration would be part of going forward required #schcom0309
  • BTW up to more than 220 via Zoom now. Cyber position would be split between town and schools #schcom0309
  • With Dr Edwards retirement taking opportunity to fill and add role for curriculum for elementary and middle levels #schcom0309 (for district our size, long overdue) some funding for the facility master planning work to begin (perhaps redistricting)
  • Expectations for staffing as it evolves on elementary level #schcom0309 watching carefully for population and class sizes
  • Decline in enrollment has also resulted in teacher reductions over the years mostly incorporated as part of the annual moves/leaves/retirement etc #schcom0309
  • Returning to full in person for 1700 students at FHS will be a budget issue, staffing in particular. #schcom0309
  • #schcom0309 where would the revenue come from? Mostly State; Town to be filled in over next 2 weeks. Otherwise some further adjustments required. "It is a process"
  • What's next for the budget? #schcom0309 slide depicts the timeline
  • #schcom0309 classrooms instructional, change year to year? Not clear. No ELA curriculum across at elementary level, question if bandwidth. Math pilot to be expanded next year and then we could get to ELA. Q on tiered support for catching up re: COVID. To be packaged 4 next time
  • #schcom0309 if 2 people replace Joyce and it is budget neutral, what about everything else she does? Under review, planning to include position and descriptions for next time. "If considered on per pupil basis, 75% if the districts spend more than we do... Are we ok with that?"
  • "How do we get on a journey to get more to the average?" #schcom0309 The budget reflects our values. Did I share the pie slide? There is very little room in this for finding money to save.
  • Also reflect on the changes in roles required to support education today. This is not your father's classroom. And oh by the way 40 some teachers were cut due to the decline in elementary enrollment over the years #schcom0309
  • Motion and second on policy to second reading passes via roll call 6-0-1 ( no against, 1 absent). #schcom0309
  • Next up capital budget request for Town approval via FinComm meeting Weds. #schcom0309 Motion to approve, second, passes via roll call 6-0-1 (none against, 1 absent)
  • #schcom0309 next up, reopening and return to full and in person would look like
  • It was a year ago this week that we shut down due to the onset of the pandemic. #schcom0309 middle school due back by 4/28, high school still TBD, therefore hybrid to be phased out as an option. Leverage this time to plan for summer and fall.
  • Targeting to get a week in before the April break, also contingency to move furniture around, #schcom0309 are expecting 5 days fully in person; all this does depend upon some students to stay remote particularly at FHS
  • What is still required? #schcom0309
  • When both teacher and students masked, risk low... #schcom0309 other mitigations, pool testing, ventilation, air purifiers, etc.
  • #schcom0309 co2 was already monitored building wide.
  • #schcom0309 695 pool testing yesterday, all negative. Sign up by school per student, links available.
  • Based upon contact tracing all exposure occurred outside the school #schcom0309
  • #schcom0309 transportation guidance from DESE last month, bus windows about 2 inches for air exchange
  • Lunches will vary building to building, some districts have gone with a shorter schedule and an early dismissal for a grab and go lunch. Stay tuned for what will be here. #schcom0309 kudos to the VLA teachers and the remarkable work they are doing
  • No plan for another survey for elementary, if hybrid will come in, if remote will stay. Some classes remote are already large, so adjustments would be needed. Stricter attendance to be captured. #schcom0309 if space available may accommodate VLA students to come in
  • Were planning for Apr 12 (state now says Apr 28), will be less flexible for attendance as with elementary, if remote so; if in, need to be, can't slide to remote. If sick, of course wouldn't be doing it anyway. #schcom0309 will survey middle school for the plan #s
  • #schcom0309 (BTW still over 200 via zoom at this time) FHS has limitations with space, staffing, etc. 500 fully remote today, could bring some in but not all.
  • #schcom0309 in general expectation for staff to be in person, with process for accommodation or leaves as necessary. Possible hiring for tutors and lunch monitoring, maybe additional teachers (VLA)
  • Volunteer opportunities also. #schcom0309 most stored on site, some desks at DPW garage and these are all part of the active conversation.
  • #schcom0309 1100+ students responses for hybrid survey, FHS to be surveyed again on collapsing the cohort
  • Communications coming to VLA and others on how and where to make move if necessary. Reminder on class sizes. Can not accommodate 25 at elementary in class size with 3' distance. Not yet tracking teacher vaccinations, is covered by HIPPA and could be noted in summary
  • Q on an individual quarantine? Level of detail not quite ready to get to yet, discussion yes, decisions not yet. Planning an 'attendance summit' to work on details and consistency around tracking and reporting. #schcom0309 info on volunteer to be folded into comms
  • #schcom0309 discussion on furniture for use outside as the weather gets warmer. Tents, etc. The more pressure we can put to get vaccinations to distribute locally. Plan coming together, still need patience and grace.
  • It is a team effort, want to note the principals and asst principals and getting the work done. Thank you. It is precarious with the variants about. #schcom0309 bus transportation sign up available on FPS page
  • Q on MCAS, what about rumors about family opt out? New dates for elementary mid may to first week in June, 1 test day/subject/ day. Obligated to bring remote in for MCAS no remote options. It is a requirement, if they are absent, when the return they get tested #schcom0309
  • There is no opt out for families for MCAS. #schcom0309 with dates sliding there is less flexibility in case of further interruptions. District sanctions? Less than 95% participation level affects report card. Currently suspended for this year.
  • Info matters, budget Subcommittee video being worked on, meeting march 16 - 4:30; Legislative Forum last week, no next meeting yet #schcom0309 New business; budget hearing line item next time, more on reopening, position approvals as discussed earlier
  • Consent agenda, #schcom0309 motion to approve seconded and passes 6-0-1 (0 against, 1 absent) Motion to enter executive session, not to return to open meeting, seconded, passes 6-0-1 (0 no, 1 absent). That's all for tonight, catch you next time!


"If considered on per pupil basis, 75% if the districts spend more than we do... Are we ok with that?"
"If considered on per pupil basis, 75% if the districts spend more than we do... Are we ok with that?"

Saturday, January 20, 2018

"School choice money can be a major factor"

From the Milford Daily News, articles of interest for Franklin:

"Each year, millions of dollars in state funding flows from school system to school system, following students whose parents send them to a neighboring community. 
In Massachusetts, a 1991 initiative known as inter-district school choice gives parents the option of enrolling their children in a public school district in a community other than their hometown. While the law lets each school district decide whether to accept out-of-district students, no district can deny its students the right to leave. 
“School choice money can be a major factor in determining both the revenue you gain and the revenue you lose for many school districts,” said Glenn Koocher, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees. “Depending on where you are, districts may really depend on that money to sustain the services they’re able to provide to students ... School choice has made districts a little more competitive with each other.”

Continue reading the article online (subscription may be required)

earlier this winter, Davis Thayer in the snow
earlier this winter, Davis Thayer in the snow

While not mentioned by the article, Franklin had previously allowed for school choice but the School Committee in the past several years has voted not to use school choice. The decisions were primarily based upon the class size and available capacity. 

When school choice is opened, students can come into any grade and then the district is committed to serve them until their leave or graduate. While the funds provided would be nice, there wasn't sufficient capacity to provide for the option. If I recall correctly, the district peaked at about 70 students and the school choice enrollment has declined over the years to less than a dozen or so.

With capacity available in the elementary schools but not at the high school, the decision could be interesting but I would anticipate it to be another "No" for this year. The decision is usually made as part of the budget cycle.

Of note (and requiring further research) the article states that a student leaving a district for school choice going to a charter school, costs the community more than the normal state $5,000 transfer amount. That is new to me. I had not heard that before. There has not been a different amount associated with where a student went, it was always the state mandated $5,000.

Stay tuned!

From the archives on School Choice

Milford Daily News article from 2013

The article from 2013 includes a table on the school choice enrollment from the 2003-2004 school year through 2013

School Committee decision in 2016

School Committee agenda for March 2017

School Choice summary from June 2017

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Live reporting: Discussion Only Items

6. Discussion Only Items
a. School Start Times

proposal to undertake a study of the matter, a complex matter

could spend next couple meetings to frame the committee
including appropriate stakeholders

this is not anything quick, it needs to take some time to work through it

Superintendent Ahern will come back with a more formal proposal and time lines for next meeting

Donna Grady, President of FEA
issue not new to Franklin, this could begin an other chapter in this
there is a good amount of info out there
the issue is not that simple, far reaching implications
day care, work schedules, transportation, busing and related items
before and after school care
needs to be heavily researched, not just for now but for future as well
some items are going to require negotiation with the teachers union

b. 18-19 School Calendar Draft

looking for feedback, for a potential vote at an upcoming meeting

relatively few changes to prior years as Superintendent is only here for five months

combined conferences across the district on two days in October is a change

input and feedback is welcomed

thinking about the number of interrupted weeks (where 5 days are not taught)

half day vs. full day provide different opportunities for professional development, a combination of both is a nice blend (full allowing cross district, half more building based)

c. School Committee Presentation Schedule 2017-18

an outcome from the School Committee and Central office planning session during the summer, the plan has been brought forward for feedback and input

d. Class Size Report

providing some additional detail around class size at the high school, i.e where there are areas of need to be consistent across the district. Most in middle school are meeting School Committee guidelines

class sizes at FHS tend to be larger, enrollment increases can be justification for adjustments

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

MassBudget: New Report: The Right Size for Learning


The Right Size for Learning:
Class Sizes in Massachusetts  
Children have a better chance to succeed in school when they receive individualized support and attention. Smaller class sizes are one way to help our teachers meet the needs of each child. In The Right Size for Learning, MassBudget examines the evidence on how class size reductions can improve outcomes and expand opportunity for all of our children, particularly those who face the greatest obstacles.

The evidence shows that reducing class sizes, particularly in early grades, can improve student engagement, academic achievement and college readiness--but only if it is done right. Examining successful programs in Tennessee and Wisconsin we see clear lessons. Class size reduction efforts work well when they are:
  • Targeted for students in the early grades.
  • Combined with other effective school practices, such as strong teacher professional development.
While well-designed programs have shown positive results, a major initiative in California was far less effective. That case provides important lessons. Funding was structured in a way that provided more help to affluent districts and actually made it harder for lower income districts to attract high quality teachers.

To read the full paper, please click HERE.

This report is part of a shared project--the Roadmap for Expanding Opportunity: Evidence on What Works in Education--led by MassBudget and the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy. The project is composed of a series of reports that identify evidence-based strategies for supporting all children in achieving college, career, and life success.

Click HERE to visit the project website and read the reports.

The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget) produces policy research, analysis, and data-driven recommendations focused on improving the lives of low- and middle-income children and adults, strengthening our state's economy, and enhancing the quality of life in Massachusetts.

BOSTON, MA 02108

Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center | 15 Court Square | Suite 700 | Boston | MA | 02108

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Franklin Public Schools: Class sizes by school

August, preparing for schools to open this September. What will be the class sizes around the Franklin school district? The information as presented to the School Committee on Tuesday is shown here.

These numbers can also be found on the Franklin Schools web page here

You can also view the School Committee meeting from Tuesday where these numbers were discussed.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

FPS: School Choice History 2003 - 2012

School Choice is a program whereby students from outside the Franklin Public Schools can apply and with a payment facilitated by the state (from their town/community to ours), the student can attend here.

As this summary shows, school choice stopped taking applications for the 2008-2009 school year and those students already in the program have continued to move through the system and as they leave, the numbers have declined.

This is scheduled for discussion at the School Committee meeting on Tuesday, Jan 24, 2012. It is a preliminary part of the budget discussion. While Franklin can gain some additional income via these students, the concern has been with the available space for these students. As the class size has continued to increase, it doesn't make sense to continue to add students to further create pressures on class size.

FPS School Choice History - 2003-2012

Saturday, November 5, 2011

There is no turning back the clock on face time

Tonight is the annual 'fall back' to regain the hour of time that Daily Savings Time provides. The earth moves in a cycle around the sun with the amount of daylight shortening from June to December and lengthening from December to June. The 'spring ahead' and 'fall back' effort adjusts the clocks by one hour. We all know this and accept it as the way it is.


However, there is no such adjustment for the loss of face time when a classroom grows from 20 students to 30. Franklin has seen a growth in class size as budget cuts force personnel reductions. Some in the community claim the increased size is not a problem as they went to school with similar class size (or larger) and made it. Making it with the instructional methods in those days versus making it today are two different things. There could be (and should be) a long and constructive debate on the pros and cons of instructional changes in those days, what is being done today and what really should be done to prepare the students for the global economy they will face. We'll hold that topic for another day.

Today, I simply would like to show how much face time is lost when class size increases.

Starting with a class of 20, assuming all students would obtain an equal amount of the teacher's direct attention during an hour of a school day, would calculate out to be 3 minutes. 60 minutes in an hour divided by 20 students equals 3 minutes. Simple math. While a lot of classes are 27/28 students to keep the math simple, we'll assume 30 students and the same assumption on equal face time from the teacher. 60 minutes is now divided by 30 and yields 2 minutes per student.

So Johnny or Susie would go from having 3 minutes of direct face time with his/her teacher to having just 2 minutes. There goes one minute. 1 minute times 5 hours in the school day equals 5 minutes. Times 180 school days equals 900 minutes. To bring the minutes back to hours, we divide the 900 by 60 and get 15. Simple math. So when your child participates in a class size of 30, they loose 15 hours of face time in the school year (compared to the class size of 20).


If that class size increase occurs when the student enters kindergarten and remains for their school time through high school, the student will have lost 195 hours of face time. Just over 8 days. If it occurs at a different grade, you can do the math; 15 hours of lost face time/per year.

When your student needs some extra help, where do you think it will come from? We have already taken away the 'normal' face time they would get. There are only so many hours in a day. I guess you would need to spend money on a tutor. Or consider funding the school budget to support a proper education! Your choice. There is no turning back the clock on face time.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"We're going to have some class size issues"

"We don't like to build a budget on attrition," said Superintendent Maureen Sabolinski, adding that she looks for savings wherever she can. "It's really hard to predict what the attrition number could be." 
Attrition money is gained through replacing retiring teachers, often at the higher end of the pay scale, with new hires who start with much lower salaries. 
The federal money, $850,939, is left over from last year's Education Jobs Fund program, a stimulus program similar to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The School Committee voted last year to save about half of the $1.4 million federal allotment for the fiscal '12 budget. 
Sabolinski and the School Committee members were quick to point out to one another that both sources of funding are unsteady - the Jobs Fund money won't be available next year and the superintendent cannot count on consistent retirements of highly paid teachers.

Read more:

Friday, November 12, 2010

Yes, class size matters.

No surprise here:
But if the board hoped to hear that they could let class sizes creep higher without harming student development or achievement, Rivkin, who also sits on the Amherst School Committee, disappointed.
Extracting from two studies that met his criteria for reliability, the Tennessee STAR project and a 2005 study he did with colleagues on Texas schools, Rivkin told the panel that class size matters.
Moreover, he said, studies using STAR (for Student Teacher Achievement Ratio) data have found students in smaller classes were more likely to attend college, attend a good college, and earn more than peers in larger classes.
You can read the full article in the Boston Globe West section of the print version or online

Class size can increase with growth which Franklin has seen and Brookline is now seeing, or class size can increase due to cuts in teacher staff which Franklin has seen and is likely to continue to see until something changes.

Franklin, MA

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What does class size have to do with it?

For me, the best statement for the impact of class size on educational test results comes from Jane Hyman, the Jefferson Elementary School Principal,  in the School Committee meeting on Tuesday, Sep 14.

One group of students was in the 3rd grade two years ago. Only three class rooms available for this group resulted in high class size, the MCAS results showed they did not meet the AYP guidelines. 

Same group, the next year with four class rooms, they did meet the AYP guidelines (which also increased from year to year).

The same group, this year is back in three class rooms. With a return to large class sizes and the fear is that the AYP will not be met.

Franklin, MA

Monday, August 17, 2009

School Choice update

The Milford Daily News discloses that Franklin will not participate in School Choice this year.

Franklin won't participate in School Choice program

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Live reporting - Elementary schools

36 grade level configurations, six elementary schools, six grades at each school

Red indicates class size exceed the school committee guidelines; only five of the 36 would meet the guidelines

The high class sizes will be costly for academic success

To meet guidelines, needed to think out of the box, how? Change kindergarten from full time to half-day.

The second elementary slide shows how the nine kindergarten teachers would be re-positioned to help reduce the class sizes in the worse cases. This would still leave 24 classes with size exceeding guidelines.

Switching to half-day would be devastating, we have been a model district. Others in the state have visited us to see how it works.

This would also eliminate library across the elementary level!
No resources for library in this draft.

Would loose the kindergarten grant, associated aides, and loose of NAEYC accreditation.

If some of the million in additional funds came through, that would add 20 teachers to the district. 8 of those would be allocated to elementary, 8 to the high school and 4 to the middle schools.

The major update is going from full day to half day kindergarten!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Fix the 9th Grade Problem in PreK

Given the budget cuts being talked off, which will likely increase class size, I would draw attention to this quote:

"Among the promising school interventions that work— used best in combination—include preschool programs, smaller class size especially in the early years, use of cooperative strategies, personalized learning, extended time for learning, extracurricular activities targeted particularly for underachieving students, and, finally, providing high-quality teachers who understand the students, respect them, and believe that the students can learn."

Sent to you by Steve Sherlock via Google Reader:

via ASCD Inservice by ASCD Bloggers on 3/15/09
The achievement gap is a deep-seated, long-standing, hard-to-solve issue that isn't going away unless we use a strategic approach to solve it, Vanderbilt University Professor Joseph Murphy told ASCDers in his session entitled "Leadership Lessons for Closing the Achievement Gap."...

Things you can do from here:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Live reporting - modular status

Modulars were put into place in 1998 and are coming up on 10 years service, some of them have been used all through the year.

The high school modulars get more of an impact than those in the elementary schools

Leakage in the roofs has required replacement of full walls. A bug infestation was found and corrected. Some doors can't be opened in the winter at Parmenter (due to the temperature change).

If we removed the modulars, where would the students go?
With the reduction in staff last year, the rooms were used by art and special subjects where they were roving within the buildings before.

The high school has room to move what they have housed currently within the full building. Davis Thayer could take down the modulars and utilize two classrooms within the building.
Parmenter would have an issue if they were to loose their modulars. An OT/PT room is currently housed there. Even if the function were moved to another school, the population at Parmenter needs those services.

Replacing the roof is not an economic choice, the roof would outlast the modular.
Looking for direction from the committe before going further with the building committee.

Cafasso - there was a lot of shock and awe amongst the professionals at the FHS tour tonight. The subcommittee's report helps to fill in the needs of the district.

Armenio - This speaks to the current school population and staffing levels, with any increases,there will be additional problems in the next couple of years. It would be worthwhile to take them down. Some of the modulars are the largest classrooms in the building.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

live reporting - class size update

40% (200 sections) with less than 25 students per class
  • 20 of these are the Freshman collaborative sections which were protected

60% exceed 25 students per class
  • 167 sections with 25-29 students
  • 61 sections with 30-34 students
  • 44 sections with 35 or more students
Appears that the cuts have affected the electives with larger class sizes

Yes, we protected the core classes and allowed the electives to grow. Those classes can generally deal with the larger class sizes better than the core.


Ogden -
Better numbers are forthcoming with the official numbers that are due into the State in October. These are preliminary and raw numbers. We'll have a better understanding and explanation when the school year has settled.

We are at a saturation size for cuts. Many classes are over-sized. When you have to provide feedback to 100-150 students, you get shortcuts and less meaningful feedback. Some researchers say that 80 kids is the maximum to allow teachers to provide appropriate feedback.


Cafasso -
NEASC has no specific number that they are looking in for?

Ogden -
No, there is no specific target at that level. This will peek their interest. They will start asking questions to get into where the numbers may be changing the actual learning experience. They will ask those kinds of questions. They will give us 6-8 months to respond. They will decide to continually receive a update through our five year anniversary date, or they could take the step to put us on a probation status (we are already on a warning status).

Cafasso -
We have 500 plus 8th graders and 300 plus seniors, this will be an increase of a hundred students at the high school next year. We'll need to think about this as we try to handle the budget for next year.

Cafasso -
Horace Mann has 45 over the guidelines, Remington has 36. You followed a similar effort in those places.

Wittcoff -
We average 28 but that means some are 30 and some are 24. We artificially we able to handle the math but that created problems such that science is higher (with 30 in both sections).

Cafasso -
Jefferson, Kennedy, Thayer are taking the brunt of the hit with the class size and cuts in teachers.

Ogden -
The teachers and principals looked at the numbers but also at the complexity of the learning requirements to make their decisions. The other factor is space. 25 fourth graders in a room is tight.

Cafasso -
Only plus looks like there will be less in the middle schools next year than there are this year (approx. 25).

Ogden -
The teachers are very worried and very challenged about this year in delivering to the high standards they we all have. The kids are not feeling the stress if it is there. There is a high spirit.

Mullen -
The high science class size is a concern and you have the newer facilities to utilize.

Ogden -
Not a universal problem but there are enough large class sizes to be concerned about the overall student performance.

Wittcoff -
When she talks to the teachers about their labs, they won't talk about giving up with they do. They haven't started labs yet, they will somehow maneuver to accomplish as many labs and experiments yet. Talk to me later to see what has been done.

Mullen -
Can you remind me, I know the teachers are not teaching 4 classes.

Wittcoff -
This is due to how the middle school model has transformed. 4 classes in their discipline, split team teachers teach 2 in two different subjects, then all teach in that multi purpose session (re-teaching, homework session). If not teaching, three times during the week they are in planning or prep or meeting with parents, etc.

Mullen -
Can you sustain the numbers in your building?

Wittcoff -
I have looked at the numbers and we can sustain next year. I think it is the 2011 year that the 6th grade can't sustain and then each year there after we would need to add a team for 7th and then 8th as the "bubble" moves through.

Sabolinski -
She did a wonderful job with the projections and those numbers are without the Franklin Heights grow.

Rohrbach -
During the override tour, we had stated that our class sizes would be higher than our target in about 50% of the classes. What are we at now?

Ogden -
I think we are about 40%. The elementary numbers are not as high because when we had the 180,000 to play with we added back three teachers at the elementary teachers. Overall the estimate was right. Elementary was a little low, the high school was higher but it averages out.

Mullen -
I had the opportunity to attend the PCC meeting at FHS. There was a question from one of the parents: Are there desks for everyone. The answer was interesting, there are desks for everyone as there are empty rooms so the desks from those rooms were repositioned to help out.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Ed Cafasso Letter - Part 2

Hello everyone!

I am passing along a brief update on school issues in Franklin, but first I need to make two corrections to the e-mail I distributed Sunday evening…

  • At Franklin High School, the graduation rate for the Class of 2008 was 98.7%. Of the graduates, 73.1% chose to attend a public or private four-year college, and 15.4% chose to attend a public or private two-year college. (My e-mail said “four-year” in the second reference.)
  • The average per pupil expenditure among school districts in Massachusetts stood at $11,859, which was $2,273 more than Franklin’s. (My e-mail said “less.”)

Thank you to the readers who pointed out my errors… I apologize. You can view the complete, corrected version of the academic-financial performance report online at:

With the school year underway, three issues are top of mind:

1. The Superintendent’s Resignation: Many parents have expressed deep disappointment in Supt. Ogden’s decision to resign, and I share that sentiment. You can expect next steps to be a topic of discussion at the School Committee meeting scheduled for the evening of Sept. 9. The mission of education goes on in Franklin and I think it’s fair to say that all the members of School Committee are committed to ensuring that the schools do the best they can this year with the resources that are available.

2. Class Sizes: The Franklin Public Schools began the 2008-09 academic year with an estimated 6,175 students, an increase of 101 students from the end of school in June and 136 more than were enrolled at the start of school in 2006. With 40 fewer teachers, there are fewer classes at all levels and too many of the classes that remain are far larger than they should be. We are already receiving reports of over-crowded classrooms at middle schools and the high school; in some cases, class sizes at Franklin High are at 40 students or more and there are not enough seats or textbooks for some students. Now that school has begun and new enrollments are being finalized, the Committee expects to receive up-to-date data on class sizes soon; I will pass it along when it becomes available.

3. Franklin High School: The reduction in instructional personnel will need to be reported to officials with the New England Association of Schools & Colleges (NEASC), which looks closely at class size in making decisions about our accreditation status. It is possible that the increased class sizes, the need for facility improvements, and the need to invest in our science and technology offerings will result in the high school being put on probation by the end of the year. Moving as quickly as possible to address the issues at Franklin High must be a top priority for the School Committee and for the town as a whole this fall.

Facilities maintenance responsibilities for school buildings and grounds were transferred to the Town control this summer after an agreement was reached to ensure that school principals retain command and control over issues inside their buildings, which is a required provision under the state’s Education Reform law. Custodial staff did another fine job preparing the buildings for the first day of school last week.

Also, I know many of you have expressed concern about the fate of the late bus, which was one of the items at risk in the override voters faced this past June. With the override’s failure, the late bus was not included in the school budget for 2008-09. For a time earlier this summer, it appeared that strong demand for the pay-to-ride program would produce enough funds to continue the late bus, but now additional unexpected new costs have arisen elsewhere within the school district. At the Aug. 26 School Committee meeting, efforts to continue the late bus were again discussed and shelved.

The rollercoaster late bus debate is a symbol of the increasingly difficult choices we face as a district. When there was a threat the late bus would be eliminated, working families protested because the service allows them to work and their children to access important after-school programs. When there was a chance there might be funds to continue the late bus, some community leaders complained that the School Committee would lose credibility if we didn’t follow through on the promised consequences of the failed override. Still others argue that if we can somehow find $40,000, we should use the funds to try to re-hire a teacher or for some other important purpose, instead of using it to revive the late bus.

At a time of scarce financial resources and a variety of urgent, under-funded needs, you can expect more of these unattractive choices to dominate School Committee discussions and decisions.

These e-mails are provided as a constituent service. I hope to distribute at least one e-mail update each month during the school year, as issues warrant. As always, I welcome your thoughts and suggestions. If you are receiving duplicate e-mails or if you no longer wish to receive these updates, please let me know and I will remove you from the distribution list. If you know of someone you would like to add to the list, please send along their e-mail address.


Ed Cafasso, Member

Franklin School Committee

Note: The corrections noted by Ed in the opening here have been incorporated into the posting of Part 1.