Letter to the Editor: Rethinking the “one 5-6 and one 7-8” middle school model

With 39 comments since publication Monday
November 11, 2011
by Maggie Christ

The Knowledge Café put on by the Superintendent Lyn McKay and the CCSD on Monday night (10/24) was presented as “a community engagement meeting regarding middle school scheduling.”

In short, four model possibilities were presented:

1. To maintain the current nine period schedule, and two maintain two middle schools each with grades 5-6-7-8.
2. To maintain the current nine period schedule, but to split the middle schools into one for 5-6 and one for 7-8
3. To switch the schedule to a seven period day, and two maintain two middle schools each with grades 5-6-7-8.
4. To switch the schedule to a seven period day, and to split the middle schools into one for 5-6 and one for 7-8

Looking at this from a purely budgetary point of view, all three of the scenarios that are not the existing model (#1 above) would provide budget savings through the loss of staff positions. Further, even though there is an increase in bus costs if the middle schools are split into a 5-6 and 7-8 configuration, there is still an overall cost savings as a result of a reduction in staff.

As presented via PowerPoint slides, the so-called “limitations” of the division into a 5-6 school and a 7-8 school included:
•       Sense of school community is more challenging to develop
•       Longer bus rides

The only argument presented – orally – for maintaining two schools of 5-6-7-8 was that it would minimize transitions for the children, so there’s no transition between 6th & 7th grades. However, CCSD scheduling consultant Michael Rettig said that the real palpable transitions are the ones out of elementary school into middle school (4th grade to 5th grade), and out of middle school and into high school (8th grade to 9th grade).

To my thinking – as a rational person, not a trained educator - transitions can be managed, especially if the middle school program is similar across all four years. As to the busing, children might well have a longer bus ride for two out of four years, but they’d have a shorter one in the other two years. As far as a sense of community, it seems to me that clumping all of the fifth graders in town in the same middle school is an excellent and quick way to develop community.

Furthermore, what was completely ignored in the official presentation were the benefits to the children to a division into a 5-6 and 7-8 configuration, such as:
• Roaring Brook students would no longer be split between middle schools.
• All fourth graders in the district would move en masse to one school, thereby forming a cohesive cohort in fifth grade (instead of ninth grade as presently occurs).
• Fifth graders would not be sharing bus and school facilities with eighth graders.
• All district children would have the experience of the modern air-conditioned Seven Bridges facility.
• All district children would have the experience of the charming Bell school and its easy access to town and pizza.

Lyn McKay said on Monday that she was leaning towards keeping the existing configuration of two schools each of 5-6-7-8. Further, she was quoted in the Patch a couple of weeks ago as saying that school officials don’t see “any real fiscal reason to go in that direction” – in other words, that they were not inclined to change the grade configurations of the two middle schools.

Given that changing the configuration to 5-6 and 7-8 would save a minimum of about $100K, and provide excellent ancillary benefits, with only minimal downsides, to the children in the district, I hope that Dr. McKay rethinks her position.
____________
Related: Community asked to weigh longer periods against frequency of classes for two middle schools, NCNOW.org, November 11, 2011


Comments(50):
We encourage civil, civic discourse. All comments are reviewed before publication to assure that this standard is met.

Dr. McKay in no way wants to really look at the advantages of a one school 5-6 and one 7-8.  Even the title of the meeting ““a community engagement meeting regarding middle school scheduling” was about scheduling, not about location.  The most ludicrous part of the ‘investigation’ into splitting the schools was when the claim that “Sense of school community is more challenging to develop” - really?! If you place all the kids in the same grade at the same school, what could be more community oriented then that.  When you have a Bell vs. Seven B. mindset (as we do now) you only split the community, create unnecessary rivalries and foster a “we’re better than them” attitude that carries into High School.  It’s a shame that Dr. McKay has clearly made her mind up before engaging the community.

By A forgone conclusion on 11/14/2011 at 7:51 am

I agree with this letter. Having redundant grades in Bell and Seven Bridges seems very wasteful. To borrow a phrase from an old friend, however, Chappaqua in general does not appear to be “a ship that is built for speed” when it comes to change.

By egl on 11/14/2011 at 7:52 am

It would be most helpful to hear from Joan Corwin of Chappaqua Transportation and our town officials on the effects of moving to one 5-6 and one 7-8. How long will the longest bus ride be? How much additional traffic will created through the towns of Chappaqua and Mount Kisco? How might start times at the schools be affected?

In my opinion, a cost savings of $100,000 might very will be outweighed by the additional bus time and traffic creation.

By Lea Barth on 11/14/2011 at 9:01 am

I think it is terrible that Roaring Brook is split up!  What sense of community does that bring to the children?  Also, I am not happy that a 5th grader is mixed up with 8th graders both on the bus and in school.  Many schools are split 5&6 and 7&8th;.  I hope Lynn also reconsiders because it seems as though she made up her mind before she had the community meetings!

By Chappaqua Parent on 11/14/2011 at 9:05 am

Dear Maggie- I agree with you 100%. Unfortunately we have seen this act before going back to the original discussions about building 7 Bridges Middle School in the first place. Isn’t it ironic that Ms. McKay discusses “school community” when it was the very creation of the second middle school that separated the community. 2 middle schools , 1 new 1 old, 1 in town the other isolated, 1 air conditioned the other not, etc.

Our town was redistricted and now separates many students from their friends as they have to part ways to attend different schools. Where’s the community in that?

It has been clear for many years that the CCSD school board has a point of view and the superintendent carries it out. Interestingly we have had 4 superintendants since the inception of 7 Bridges. Last year the CCSD board of ed indicated they wanted to find an internal candidate to replace out temporary superintendent. Then after community objection they agreed to engage a search firm to look outside. Of course they ultimately hired their internal candidate - McKay. It was all lip service.

These Knowledge cafes appear to be a way to allow the community to believe they have a voice but if the superintendant McKay starts the proceedings indicating that she prefers to maintain 2 schools just as the exist today than what is the point?

Two separate middle schools divide our kids. They are not getting equal experiences and it is disruptive. Importantly it is terribly inefficient and EXPENSIVE. If anyone hasn’t noticed we are cutting programs, cutting after school activities, and looking for ways to save money. There is no more waste of money than having all the redundancies we have with 2 middle schools.

Many people thought the knowledge cafes were going to be an opportunity to explore alternatives. What is accomplished when the superintendent has already decided there will be no structural changes?  So much for community participation.

By Been there - done that on 11/14/2011 at 9:08 am

Silly me. I thought these Knowledge Cafes were being held in order to get community feedback, ideas, and participation. If the school board and McKay have already decided that 2 middle schools will be maintained and that 5-6 / 7-8 configuration is off the table than what “knowledge” is being gathered? What knowledge is gained coming into the discussion having made a determination before hearing what the people you invited have to say?

It seems to me this is a intellectually dishonest exercise. At least start by saying “We are keeping the configuration the same with 2 middle schools so let’s explore how to make it best”. People are expecting the opportunity to make their case as to why 5-6/ 7-8 is better. Some might even argue we can consolidate all into one middle school. Based on Mckay’s comments she has already made up her mind. When did that decision get made and who made it? This is another example of lack of transparency just like the budget advisory committee.

By What Knowledge? on 11/14/2011 at 10:38 am

To “Been there/done that”

I disagree.  You write: “It has been clear for many years that the CCSD school board has a point of view and the superintendent carries it out.”  It is the exact opposite.  Superintendent decides, board rubber-stamps. All boards of ed have been in thrall to superintendents. THey need to believe that their chief exec officer knows what works.  Never mind that what works is that we have parents who care—and almost anything would work.  So yes - give us a 5-6 and a 7-8.  Save the money.

By On the contrary on 11/14/2011 at 11:04 am

In a 5-6 you won’t have to worry about periods that are too short at 40 minutes. Time is more flexible for elementary teachers and subjects. You’ll only have to worry about the 7-8 having long enough periods.  Although still I don’t see why two blocked 40-minute periods (which they can all do now anyway) doesn’t work perfectly fine.

By Make a 5-6 and a 7-8 on 11/14/2011 at 11:08 am

There was a lot of discussion about middle school configuration when we built Seven Bridges, and it sounds like a lot of that solid thinking has been forgotten by some people.  Having two schools allows for twice the number of leadership opportunities (student government, clubs, student newspapers, etc.), twice the number of performance opportunities (school plays, chamber ensembles, jazz/blues bands), and twice the number of sports opportunities (no cutting, all kids play all the sports they’re interested in).  Students form solid connections with the staff who play such an important role in helping them navigate their middle school years (guidance counselors, social worker, school nurse, speech teachers, administration) and can continue to enjoy the connections they make with their former teachers.

By Remember the benefits of two 5-8 schools on 11/14/2011 at 11:18 am

Maggie:

I think your thinking is very logical and perhaps that is why it is not being looked at.  Putting aside the obvious financial savings, I am not certain the arguments presented against it make any sense:

Sense of school community is more challenging to develop—I would think the sense of school community is easier to develop when the age groups of the students are closer together.  There is a much greater opportunity to develop school wide activities that cater to the specific age groups and maximize participation.  With such a huge difference both physically and emotionally between a 5th and 8th grader there seems to be more obstacles developing school community with such disparate age groups. 

Longer bus rides—I assume they mean distance because proximity to school is no indication on how long kids spend on the bus.  We live a stone’s throw from our designated elementary school but my kids are on the bus for 30+ minutes.  They could walk to school in less time than it takes to ride the bus.  The other side of the equation is the bus ride itself.  The buses themselves are often segregated by age groups and are a source of countless issues. Reducing the age/grade gap may very well make the bus rides more enjoyable for both students and drivers.  There is more likelihood a 5th and 6th grader will sit together and engage in conversation than a 5th and 8th grader.

Minimize Transition—I’m not sure where they are getting the information but part of what makes for a transition is not just going to a new school but having an influx of new people.  I’m in total agreement that transitions can be managed but emphasize that the transition to high school becomes easier when you are with the same group of kids.

Having all Chappaqua children together in the same school from 5th grade through High School will in my opinion provide an added sense of school and community.  Add the financial benefits and this should be an easy decision.

 

 

By One for all and all for one on 11/14/2011 at 12:03 pm

To On the Contrary- I have lived here for 16 years and have 3 students in the school system—one is off to college. It has been my experience that the school board has the mandate and the Superintendent carries it out. We have many strong willed people in this town and many have served on the CCSD board of ed. These people generally come in with a position and an opinion and they see to it that it is carried out. That was certainly true of the building of 7 Bridges Middle school. Expert demographers warned that student enrollment would decline and not support a second very expensive middle school. Experts warned that redistricting and splitting the town in half by middle school would have inequalities and disruptions.

Look at what just happened in appointing McKay. The board of ed had her as their choice from day one and the executive search firm hired was just a charade. Do you really believe that a nationally ranked public school like ours couldn’t attract a talented and experience superintendant? Perhaps Ms McKay will do a fine job and I hope she does but to think we could not find a deeply experienced person to come top CCSD makes no sense. The board got what it wanted.

If as you suggest that the board of ed just rubber stamps the superintendants wishes than what does that say to the fact that we have had 4 superintendents in the last 9 years and I’m guessing 6 or 7 in the 16years I have lived here? With such turnover and lack of continuity at the helm the organization suffers. However, if the board is stable then things may work; Look no further than our last CCSD board of ed president to get a sense of how decisions were made and how things were controlled. And she was on the board for years as were many others. So if CCSD Board of Ed is stable with members returning year after year but the superintendant is constantly coming and going – who do you think is in charge?

By resident parent on 11/14/2011 at 12:43 pm

While I believe it is important to look for ways to reduce expenses with minimal impact on educational programs, I don’t agree that dividing the schools into 5/6 and 7/8 is the right approach.  The children will spend too long commuting each day, the traffic in town will increase and it will pose a hardship for parents with more than 1 child in grades 5-8 as it will add another layer of complexity to the scheduling juggling we all face.  I also think the added transition will likely interfere with learning, as kids will have to deal with adjusting again in 7th grade, a time when they have a lot of other changes to manage.

By GB on 11/14/2011 at 1:08 pm

Look, even now in the 5-8s elementary teachers are teaching core subjects.  That is, your fifth grade English teacher could be a math, science or social studies teacher mainly.  So already we have elementary geared teachers in fifth grades. Not sure what hte case is for sixth graders, whose teachers also don’t have to be middle school certified in their subjects. Let’s get this straight before assuming that a 5-6 school would be a step down for fifth and sixth graders.

By Already elementary teachers teach fifth on 11/14/2011 at 1:37 pm

the middle school expert at the cafes said that the benefits of a whole class being together outweighed any transitions difficulty.  Transitions difficult happens in high school, he said, because it’s high school, not because it’s a transition.  Enough with the transition-phobia!

By Benefits of a 5-6 on 11/14/2011 at 1:40 pm

All grades together will allow CCSD to serve students better.  Where we can’t now afford to form an advanced math class for 10 or 14 kids at each middle school, at one-middle-school-for-the-whole-class we can afford to offer it to the 20 or 28 students who need it.

This matters to students and to the advancement of STEM (science-technology-engineering-mathematics) subjects for the good of the country and world. 

Give math what it needs!

By Advanced math on 11/14/2011 at 1:44 pm

To “remember the benefits of 5-8s”—

There is no reason why we can’t make more sports and extracurricular activities for more students without hosting two whole separate middle school and their redundancies. Nice when we can afford them, but we can’t anymore.  Make more intramural teams. Keep school libraries open longer. Two middle schools have become a luxury.

By Only when we can afford them on 11/14/2011 at 1:48 pm

When my first issue of Inside Chappaqua Magazine was published in April 2003, the debate was raging about a second middle school and what it should be.  Parents made passionate arguments to persuade the district NOT to split the Roaring Brook kids between two middle schools.While I don’t view the adjustments the RB kids have to make each year as “end of the world,” (my own RB kids adjusted ok, but it brought with it some tears and sadness too), it’s always struck me as unnecessary and a detriment to the Roaring Brook community.  I think the decision is very closely tied to bus considerations, and yes, it would be very helpful to hear from Joan Corwin on that question. Two schools,  5-6 and 7-8 struck me then, and still strikes me, as the far better scenario even if it involves increased commuting time. Community building should trump the extra commuting time factor that has been a consideration.

By Grace Bennett on 11/14/2011 at 2:04 pm

To Remember the Benefits of Two 5-8 ....What you describe and what you support is terribly inefficient, rife with redundancies, and expensive. We NEVER needed 2 middle schools. All we needed was some expansion and flexibility. Now we have empty classrooms as enrollment declines and budget and taxes increase.. We have cut middle school teams and cuts will likely continue. Curriculums are under pressure and extracurriculars like sports and performing arts budgets get cut. You are singing the praises of having 2 of everything at exactly the time we are making other cuts that negatively impact our kids. Your assessment is not based in reality.

By your logic and thinking why not have 2 high schools also. That way we can have classes of 12 instead of 24 and we can have 2 debate teams, 2 football teams, 2 bands, 2 Model UN’s, etc etc. By your logic we would then have more students participating because we would have double everything. Who should pay for having 2 football coaches, 2 Swimming coaches, 2 AP History teachers, and 2 debate directors?

By chappmom on 11/14/2011 at 2:13 pm

I do not favor (and never have) putting fifth grade in middle school. If the fear is that their thinking lives would be poorer, think again.  Our families pay attention to our children. We’re pretty rich in content in our everyday home lives. Our fifth or even sixth grade children will not suffer from being sequestered TOGETHER in a middle school with elementary teachers.  They have elementary school teachers in fifth grade already in both middle schools now.  Relax, CCSD!  Consider a 5-6 and a 7-8

By No need to fear on 11/14/2011 at 2:47 pm

First, the implication that the School Board has made up its mind is simply inaccurate. Second, I am quite certain that no matter what is decided, we will not please everyone. Third, in my blog posting from the middle of last week, I address some of the concerns about the process. Here is a url shortened link to that post. (http://goo.gl/uhSDi)

Today I was sent a link to this post. I happen to think Ms. Christ brings up some very good points, ones that I plan on following up on tomorrow night. I have reached out to Ms. Christ. I missed her call. I plan on speaking with her before tomorrow night.

Know that the best way to be heard by the Board is to contact us directly at either the Board address (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)), our individual addresses (First two letters of first name, last .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)), or in my case I respond to all emails sent to my blog address (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) or comments posted to my blog that are not anonymous. There is also a link to call me on the blog.

Of course, even better is to come to a Board meeting and be heard. We moved this Tuesday’s meeting to the Bell Auditorium (8:15pm) to ensure we can accommodate anyone and everyone who wishes to attend. (HGHS Auditorium being used for HS play, The Drowsy Chaperone.  Tickets on sale now. Shows Thurs, Fri and Sat) 

As Board members, we do not always see the comments on this blog or the Patch or Daily Chappaqua, but we do get all our emails.  To me, the best emails are either ones that indicate where we may have erred and propose a solution or actual compliments.  Constructive criticism welcome. Some emails are not so subtle and point out our limitations.  Regardless, we give them all appropriate consideration. You can always copy any comment you make here and paste it into an email to us.

See you tomorrow night,

JSM
blog.newcastlealternative.com

By JSM on 11/14/2011 at 3:59 pm

Just remember to keep DAILY Foreign Language in the 5/6 and 7/8 program! Long bus rides? The buses to HGHS come from all over town! Chappaqua isn’t out on the prairie somewhere. If we have 7/8 in one building, then maybe the 8th grade lunch won’t begin at 10 AM!  Bring them together earlier so that hey can bond. The HGHS kids will tell you that very few of their friends come from the “other ” middle school.

By Go to 5/6 and 7/8 on 11/14/2011 at 4:12 pm

Maggie,
I really appreciate your giving a voice to what many have expressed before. In that spirit, I am including my name and I hope others will too. 

At the time that the second middle school was being planned, many parents were concerned about the fifth graders being moved into middle school.  Many others felt they would like to have their kids have the opportunity to participate in a brand new school that they were paying taxes for. This possibility of a 5/6 and 7/8 is one that people clamored for years ago.

What was more frustrating was going to many school board meetings in order to participate, only to have to wait until 10 pm or later to be heard—if at all. Participation is not easy for parents, both men and women.  I have also noticed that many meetings are scheduled during the day, impossible for anyone working.  It seems that the feeling in the community, rightly or wrongly, is that in the past decisions were a foregone conclusion and participation was not really considered. 

Maybe there are better ways to encourage participation and get a real read of what the community wants before the Superintendent and Board need to make this type of decision.
If the District really wants community involvement, why not prepare something to be sent to the community and take a real survey on- line.  Maybe we can take advantage of technology, if it is not possible to get to comments at school board meetings.  The last one I went to involved the budget and the public was allowed to ask questions at 11:30 pm.  That is a late hour to conduct important business, for citizens and for the Board of Ed.

Just a thought.

By Anne Angowitz on 11/14/2011 at 4:33 pm

I do not favor (and never have) putting fifth grade in middle school. If the fear is that their thinking lives would be poorer, think again.  Our families pay attention to our children. We’re pretty rich in content in our everyday home lives. Our fifth or even sixth grade children will not suffer from being sequestered TOGETHER in a middle school with elementary teachers.  They have elementary school teachers in fifth grade already in both middle schools now.  Relax, CCSD!  Consider a 5-6 and a 7-8!

By No need to fear on 11/14/2011 at 6:39 pm

I hope that all of the above posters make their feelings, ideas and concerns known directly to the School Board.

By Tell The School Board on 11/15/2011 at 8:35 am

If what Mr. Mester is saying is that unless I write directly to him and use my name, or unless I come appear at a school board meeting and stand to speak, my opinion doesn’t count.

Sorry, but it’s his job to find out what people are thinking wherever and however people want to express what they are thinking. Or ask important questions in a survey.  Was there a question in the survey about the two middle schools?

By School board wants input on ITS terms on 11/15/2011 at 9:46 am

JSM- thank you for posting a comment. You say “the implication that the School Board has made up its mind is simply inaccurate”. That certainly was not true for the 7 Bridges debacle and it’s $53million bond. The BOE wanted a second middle school and pushed it thru while ignoring many in the community and experts opposed. In hindsight, those opposed were correct. It’s hypocritical that some of those supporters are now concerned with “community” and “transitional” issues. Had they been concerned then as many were,7 Bridges would never have been built. The then president of CCSD boe was at the forefront of that initiative, her imprint still remains. Since we should not hold you responsible that lets focus on what you are involved in.
Last year in seeking a replacement for our temporary superintendant the CCSD board of ed told the community that your first choice was an internal candidate. After public outcry you hired a search firm to explore external as well.. Then you hire McKay who was your choice all along. How can you say that the school board hadnt made up its mind going in? Are we to believe that CCSD, a nationally ranked top public school, could not attract a talented and experience superintendent? Of course not - you guys made up your mind and only hired the search firm to placate the community.
Another topic- given the way the school board operates we should expect an attempt by you to circumvent the 2% tax cap which will require a 60% vote. That has already been leaked out. Simply put, many in the community believe you are working on this. You give us reason to believe you have made up your mind because you are allowing a budget advisory committee to operate anonymously and without community participation. What is the message and where is the leadership of our school board to allow such an important exercise to take place with no transparency? Can any conclusions and decisions that come out of this committee be anything but suspect?

By DSS on 11/15/2011 at 10:06 am

To Tell The School Board- we try to tell them but public comment at school baord meetings can start as late as 11pm or 11:30 pm. We told them that we should find an experienced superintendant because we have had much too much turnover at this very important and critacal position. They didnt listen. We told hem that the budget advisory committee ought to be open to the public and transparent and we were told we were a “distraction”. We told them that 5-6/ 7-8 configuration was better and McKay starts the Knowledge Cafe by announcing no change. Maybe you should tell them….they are not listening to us.

By we told them on 11/15/2011 at 3:04 pm

I find it very strange that the School Board, according to Mr. Mester does not read NCNow.
The comments on this thread,  Mr. Mester’s included and other threads speak to a complete disconnect between the School Board and the residents that it was elected to serve.  The SB
is the HEAD of the school system. The buck always stops with them.  Considering the many “problems” with the district going back over a decade I wonder how they can be made to be accountable to the residents ? 
All kidding aside, maybe an “occupation”  of their meetings .

By listen up school board on 11/16/2011 at 7:51 am

I agree with so many comments being made in this thread. What does it say and what does it indicate when we have such turnover at Superintendant? I count 4 in the last 9 years. The buck stops with the board of ed. It is their responsibility to find and retain such an important person. Nothing good can come of such turnover.

Many were offended recently when our former CCSD board of ed president said she was opposed to any significant changes at our middle schools because it would create “transition” problems and community issues. It was her efforts to build a second middle school that split apart elementary school students at Roaring Brook and forced redistricting. NOW she is concerned with transition?

Our school board allows budget advisory committees to take place - 8 meetings- and we in the community, we the parents and we the tax payers don’t know who is on the committee and the meetings are not open to the public.

There is no plan for state mandated teacher evaluations anytime soon as the CCSD boe negotiated that away adding an additional year to teachers contract. So the Healy incident will be repeated. We MUST stay within the 2% tax cap or we will once again demonstrate to the teachers union that people in this town will continue to pay escalating taxes and they the teachers will continue to believe they can get unlimited raises and unsustainable entitlements. The school board has been silent on this issue.

To JSM – people are calling, writing, telling the school board many of these things. They /you hear but you don’t change anything. You must certainly be aware of the anger created by having a budget committee with no transparency. What has been the board response? Many want to see 5-6/7-8 middle school configuration yet your hand picked Supt starts her Knowledge Cafe by saying there will be no structural change. So much for community input. Weeks ago we questioned why student enrollment numbers were not posted to the CCSD website- why not? Etc etc

By Occupy ccsd on 11/16/2011 at 2:51 pm

...All kidding aside, maybe an “occupation”  of their meetings.

An “occupation” of our meetings would be great!  Isn’t that exactly what I am suggesting?  Come to a meeting.  Or, email us directly.  (No harder to type in an email than it is to type here), Call us, etc.

Want to remain anonymous for some reason, copy and paste your comment from here to an email address that does not link to you and email it to the Board.

If what Mr. Mester is saying is that unless I write directly to him and use my name, or unless I come appear at a school board meeting and stand to speak, my opinion doesn’t count. 

I never said your opinion does not count.  I said if you want to be <bold>sure</bold> it is heard, tell it to us directly in some manner. 

Sorry, but it’s his job to find out what people are thinking wherever and however people want to express what they are thinking..

This is simply not logical nor does it demonstrate your wanting to act in your own interests.  For example, what if your wherever/whenever/however concept included when you were in Starbucks?  Do I need to monitor community sentiment at all times in Starbucks? Second, If someone tells you the best way to accomplish your goal is to do X (write an email) and the effort going into doing X is the same as what you are currently doing (posting anonymously here), why not do X? The only reason I can come up with is if you have a different agenda.

I just set up a new blog (http://comments.newcastlealternative.com) where you can leave comments (anonymous or named) for me.  I created 3 categories, General Comments, Budget Comments and Middle School comments.  I will add new topics as they warrant.  If you want to call me anonymously, block your called ID and leave a message at 914-840-2233.

If your goal is to be productive in effecting change then making sure your representative (school board, town board, legislators) hears you through direct contact is the way to go.

JSM

By JSM on 11/16/2011 at 5:17 pm

To JSM - you are obviously seeing and reading these comments. Why don’t you copy and paste them and share with your fellow school board members. While you are at it re-read “occupy” and DSS posts and bring those concerns and questions to your CCSD bow.  Better yet , since you have now borhered to post comments twice , why not just answer a few of the questions. What of the Supt turnover? What of the unwillingness to hire an outside experienced Supt? Why are the budget advisory committee meetings closed to the community.? Why invite middle school parents to a Knowledge Cafe to discuss issues and then start by telling us there will be no reconfiguration? It’s insulting that you redirect us to your personal blog or suggest we email CCSD board when we are already engaged in dialogue and questions are on the table.

By BS on 11/16/2011 at 7:22 pm

And youJSM would be more productive if you simply responded and answered some of the very excellent questions that have been asked of you. in the same time you directed everyone to email the school board or call or email 1 of your 3 catagories on your blog you could have simply responded to our questions. You are ducking the issues and hiding behind some procedural nonesense. Seems that transparency is certainly an issue with CCSD board of Ed.

By Resident taxpayer parent on 11/16/2011 at 7:31 pm

Board members have not proved themselves trustworthy. Why attempt to redirect our comments to you or to board members?  I prefer to post here, where others will see my comments too? You seem to prefer that we tell you alone. What I see is this: I attended the board meeting this week to hear middle school discussion. What I didn’t want was another whole, entire recap of the options. I’ve read the description here and on the district website (NCNOW’s was superior). What amazed me last night is that board members didn’t seem to know anything about the subject!  Didn’t the go to either of the meetings?  Don’t they read the district website or hear from Dr. McKay or read NCNOW?  Last night you had audience (some, anyway) and yet you guys went till nearly 11 pm before you stopped asking the slowest questions in the universe of administrators and one another over and over—- as though the whole world was you guys! And all I heard was the administration getting unlimited opportunities to tell you why we have to have the configuration THEY WANT. It was a mistake to come to one of your meetings that I won’t make again.

By Redirect is what JSM wants on 11/16/2011 at 9:33 pm

I heard over and over last night why we have to maintain two five eight schools.  I attended a knowledge cafe and not at any of my three tables did I hear people married to the idea of “teaming” or the 5-8 configuration or longer periods.  These are Ms. Mckay’s preferences. THis is the problem with having a curriculum person act as superintendent.  Ms. McKay can’t not think like a curriculum person. We need a superintendent. Board members talked until we were brain dead! Why should we have to wait until they ask all their questions? If they cared that people were there why not invite people FIRST to ask their questions?  why can’t they learn from our questions instead of letting us hear their questions?  Their qeustions weren’t that good anyway.  It is very rude to keep people at a meeting for three hours before allowing htem to speak.

By Clearly the supt has decided on 11/16/2011 at 9:43 pm

I am unable to make a complete response now, but I am working on one and will post it as soon as my schedule allows.

JSM

By JSM on 11/17/2011 at 9:16 am

JSM - copy and past this, print and show your fellow board members-
Public comment at your meetings generally takes place at 11pm or later after hours of exhausting dialogue. Many questions by board memebers to administrators had to have been rhetorical because it would seem impossible that as board members they already didnt know the answers. By the time we get to ask questions or express opinions fatigue has set in.

Most discouraging is that the CCSD regularly has made a decision and pretends to give the community the opportunity to be heard and impact change. That was demonstrated again last night. CLEARLY you on the school board have no intention of making any changes to the current middle school configuration. Clearly Supt McKay stated that at her Knowledge Cafe. I participated in that Cafe and foolishly thought that many of us opposed to two 5-8 middle schools might actually have a voice in support of a 5-6 / 7-8 configuration. McKay tells us at the start there will be no change.

McKay is a lovely women but she is in way over her head and that is your fault CCSD board of ed. McKay was a curriculum expert and has no experience running and managing a dynamic and demanding school system such as ours. She was your choice all along and you got what you wanted in spite of the fact that there must have been many experienced and deserving outside superintendents to choose from.

My opinions, suggestions, questions, and observations are no less valid because I choose not to print my name. My only “agenda” is that I am a parent and taxpayer and I want the best possible educational experience for my children. You alienate many when you pretend to want our participation and input when you really have made up your minds. Since everything we do requires money and our budget is linked to our taxes shouldn’t we in the community know what is taking place behind closed doors on your budget advisory committee meetings. Several have brought this up but you haven’t answered.

By Anonymous on 11/17/2011 at 9:38 am

Maggie’s letter makes sense to me in every respect.  Maybe she should run for the school board!

By Carol Hurford on 11/17/2011 at 5:06 pm

Ms. Hurford: You’re advising someone to run for school board?  She won’t if she saw last Tuesday’s board meeting.

It was in-ter-min-able.  I know board members work hard, but don’t they start knowing anything?  Especially about an issue that is so controversial as m.s. config? Not only did audience members have to hear the whole spiel all over again, but hang around till nearl 11 pm till the board members finally stopped their disorganized questioning of one another and administrators. 

Administrators, on the other hand, were utterly focused: to keep the middle school config as-is (or as-are) and have their periods extended. It was clear that they have wanted it from the beginning and are lobbying hard for it still, throughout the so called Knowledge Cafes and all.

How, exactly, does Dr. McKay come up with the measures she offered on What People Want.  People at my three tables didn’t want above all else to preserve team teaching and the 5-8 config.  I’m not buying it.

Wasn’t this info gathered from note-takers at the tables and notes written directly on table papers?  I’m very interested to see the numbers she seems to have counted.

By She won't if she saw the last board meeting! on 11/17/2011 at 6:25 pm

How can the board in good conscience talk about settling on a m.s. configuration without mention of the budget?  Don’t we need a ball park number at least?  Depending on that number, we may actually have to consider making an elementary 5-6 to save the 800-900 thousand bucks.

What ARE the numbers—for the increase, or the “shortfall” or whatever we should call it? Surely they have some idea already.

By What will the budget increase be? on 11/17/2011 at 8:22 pm

Not only do we need budget numbers when deciding and discussing middle school configuration - we also need student enrollment numbers. Where are they? Why haven’t they been made public on the CCSD website? With 8 budget advisory committee meetings being held in secret with participants unknown and enrollment numbers not released one might conclude the administration and school board are hiding something.

Editor’s Note: Keep up with the reading!  Supt for Business John Chow has shown figures that indicate a decline in population of 100 over the next five years (in a zig-zag pattern—not smoothly downward), and a continued decline thereafter, although harder to predict out past the five years.  Chow and McKay have both said that the loss of 100—especially in a zig-zag pattern—does not warrant the selling of one school.

By How many on 11/18/2011 at 6:42 am

I’m late to the comments here, but I can’t help but wonder why anyone is even thinking of getting rid of one middle school until we know how many students will be joining the district when Chappaqua Crossings goes through.  It’s entirely possible that all of Roaring Brook will be at Seven Bridges then.  Moreover, my recollection is that the main impediment to the 5-6 /7-8 concept was transportation.  Shouldn’t we be hearing from the bus company directly on this topic?  Can we get an interview with the Corwins?

By Chris Wolff on 11/18/2011 at 7:44 am

To the editor- I was unable to attend the school board meeting when Chow “showed the enrollment figures” and I have been unable to watch the replay. Would it be so difficult for the CCSD school board to post actual and projected enrollment figures to their website?

The explanation that declining enrollment in a zig zag pattern and not smoothly down is somehow important is unclear to me.
Data such as enrollment, especially projections, are subject to interpretation and many logical assumptions must be taken into account.

All I can think of is the 7 Bridges debate years ago- to build or not to build. “Experts” lined up on both sides of the argument except back then projected enrollment by everyone’s measure was sure to decline - and it did. Today we are paying the price for not listening to those that suggested (and were correct) that student enrollment was a bubble and things would drop and normalize. But we went ahead and built a second middle school, split the town in half, created expensive redundancies, and today we are left paying for all this while we have empty classrooms and shrinking middle school teams and we rent out empty elementary school classrooms.

Can we please see the enrolment numbers!

By transparency now on 11/18/2011 at 7:52 am

I’m appalled to see how many people in this thread have managed to conclude that Dr. McKay and the Board have already reached a decision on the middle school structure.

I’m also disappointed to once again see members of the community hiding under the cloak of anonymity to attack the Board and in particular to attack Jeff Mester. They are genuinely trying to LISTEN and, at the same time, listen most closely to those who are reasonable, thoughtful, and willing to stand by their opinions in public.

Real change happens when the Board and the Superintendent bring forward new ideas and provide multiple opportunities for community education, involvement, and discussion. That’s exactly the process that is being followed now. Imagine if Dr. McKay or the Board simply said “here’s the new policy on middle schools - there will be no discussion or debate”.

I would encourage all those who are interested to actively participate in the Knowledge Cafes and the Board meetings and then work with the Board and the community to reach the best decision rather than just snipe anonymously.

By Civility Matters on 11/18/2011 at 8:08 am

To Civility Matters- you admonish others for “hiding under the cloak of anonymity” while you yourself remain anonymous?
As far as McKay and school board having made up it minds just reflect on these-

I attended the Knowledge Cafe and McKay made it clear her preference was strong and committed. In the most recent school board meeting McKay and the 2 middle school principals had facts and figures to support their preference but had little facts or figures for the other options.

The Board and McKay seem perfectly comfortable with 8 budget advisory committee meetings being held in secrecy with no community participation. We don’t even know who’s on the committee. They have been asked why this is allowed to occur but ignore our requests for transparency.

Student enrollment numbers have been discussed but nowhere are they available to the community. They have been asked and we have been ignored.

Lastly, the CCSD school board DID make up its mind in advance when choosing a new superintendant. The executive search firm was hired as a means to pacify many in the community that wanted to hire an experienced outsider to pump new ideas and new blood into our high profile and dynamic school system. And the board hired the internal candidate they wanted all along.

By resident on 11/18/2011 at 9:34 am

I think everyone on this blog has good points.  I think people are missing a very important point.  Our High School is and continues to be one of the best in New York State.  Year after year our Seniors get into the Best colleges and universities in the country.

Our children are currently prepared to begin High School regardless if they go to Bell or Seven Bridges. Looking from this point of view there does not seem either a financial or logical reason to change the way it is currently.  If we saw a drop in our high Schools and a big change in the Colleges that they are attending then I could understand a reason to change.  With all this said there are good ideas on both sides. 

I attended one of the knowledge sessions and learned interesting things from it.  One of the things people mentioned is that it is more hard for the Roaring brook parents for there kids to split up than it is for the kids.  The teachers say that after the first week the kids have already forgotten about the move to a different school than there friends and are perfectly fine.

I know people have very strong opinions on this and hopefully the Chappaqua School system can continue to give our children a top notch EDUCATION

ML

By ML on 11/18/2011 at 10:47 am

To ML:

How many of our graduates get into “the Best colleges and universities in the country”?  How many, really?  The high school survey article shows that “Best” students - with high grade point averages - have a great deal to say about what they didn’t learn in high school - to write college research papers. How many people think their kids should wait until college to learn to write a college paper? 

And about the RB parents who care more than their kids that they were split up?  Who was saying this?  A teacher, administrator, parent, parent of RB student, parent of a school that doesn’t get split?  Come on, ML.

By Think about this. on 11/18/2011 at 11:18 am

Seven Bridges was pushed down the throat of the community by the Board and then then principle of Bell, who left in very short order after the bond was passed.  This is history all over again and the board will continue to do what ever it wants.  The notion of input by the community is gratuitious at the very best.

Maybe the board and administrators should take heed of the responses, few as they were, to the unscientific survey sent out by Mr. Selesnickto Greeley Graduates.  A few highlights:

- Had to teach myself how to conduct presentations effectively,
I feel we could have done more of that in HS

By Parent of kids at Greely during the whole 7 Bridge on 11/19/2011 at 11:26 am

People complain about the issue of putting 5th graders with 8th graders on the same buses.  If those groups are so different, how do they suffer through putting their 5 and 6 yr olds on the bus with 4th graders now.  The bus ride is the worst part of every day for many kids and the social structures on these buses are very unpleasant.  Minimizing the time on a bus should not be underrated.  As a RB parent, I am confident my child is better off with less school changes and a shorter bus ride than being with all of the 5th graders in the town when kids have a core group of friends anyway.  The kids most children are friends with change throughout a given year, and we sit here bickering about splitting up the town into two middle schools.

Has anyone touched on other configurations?  More grades in Greeley, 6-9 middle schools, making all schools K-6 or higher and getting rid of middle school concept.  Not a clue if any r feasible but hoping they looked at everything.  How much extra capacity now exists at each of the middle schools and the high school?  Funny how all these probs are much less an issue if we can get some mandate relief.

By Do you remember getting on a bus when u were a kid on 11/20/2011 at 1:35 pm

Let the CCSD figure everything out ! We either trust them, or we don’t trust them!! This whole matter is turning into a sporting event!! Be happy, place your trust in the people that take care of our kids! They have, and are doing a great job!! Leave everything as it is!!

By Be Happy ! on 11/21/2011 at 9:58 pm

It looks like this thread ended a while ago, but since it is still on the site’s home page, I’ll weigh in.

As a parent (and only incidentally as a member of the School Board) in the Ossining District, I have no stake in this discussion, but I have this outside perspective.

For those who don’t already know, years ago and for very different reasons, Ossining reorganized its schools so that there was one building for every two elementary grades (K-1; 2-3, 4-5), one middle school (6-7-8) and one high school.  The vast majority of parents here would never go back to neighborhood schools. 

First, the sense of community that comes from having all children of similar ages together for their entire school careers is fantastic. It eliminates rivalries, increases a sense of shared experience, widens their potential social circle and ensures that everyone shares in the pride and opportunity of the larger group.

Second, the developmental difference between a fifth and eighth grader is vast. As a parent, I feel that it works well to have them in separate schools. Having children of similar ages together helps create an atmosphere for learning that is more free of the conflicts and pressures that come when older children are together with younger.  If I could have sent my son through a system of 6-7 and 8-9 schools, I would do it in a heartbeat.

Currently, purely for financial reasons, our fifth grade is now separate from the fourth.  But this would not be so if we lived in better economic times. And in the best of all possible worlds, I would want us to split the middle school just as was being considered in your district.

By Steve Wardwell on 03/02/2012 at 10:50 am


Post a comment:

Display Name*:

Your Display Name will be associated with this comment on NewCastleNOW.org. We encourage commentators to use their real name or initials.

We encourage civil, civic discourse. In other words, be pithy and polite. All comments will be reviewed before publication to assure that this standard is met.