Roughly 40 parents and kids, most of them wearing blue shirts, told Frederick County Board of Education members of their frustration Wednesday night after learning they were slated to lose three of their 12 teachers for the coming school year.
Board of Education President Brad Young and Vice President Joy Schaefer said before Wednesday’s meeting the reason for the reduction was a combination of factors. First, a staffing formula determines the teacher-to-student ratio per school.
Second, the teacher positions lost were typically filled through contingency positions, but because of Title I funding restrictions, those positions must be used at specific schools — and since Parkway is not a Title I school, using those contingency positions to fill those spots would cause a violation for that funding, and it could be revoked. Young said that amount is around $6 million.
To combat the reduction, officials recommended combining grade levels into one class, such as first and second grades. Parkway serves kids from kindergarten through fifth grade.
On Wednesday, parents of Parkway students were critical of Frederick County Public School officials, and felt there was a lack of transparency during the process. Even though they met with them Monday, they were concerned about the split-grade classroom plan.
“How are we to have confidence in a split-grade classroom plan that was implemented last week?” said Dan D’Agostino, one of those parents. “Are we really to believe a teacher can learn a new curriculum in one, two months?”
Marla DiVietro, another parent, said that students would be less safe with fewer teachers in the school.
“Parkway students do not deserve to have their foundation removed from under them. ... You have not been transparent or forthcoming about this process,” DiVietro said.
Later in the meeting, Superintendent Terry Alban apologized to the parents in attendance for losing their trust.
She added, however, that conversations were ongoing, and the split-classroom plan was one of the best available solutions to the problem.
“Please, do not think the reason we did this was to level out the cost per student,” Alban said. “That was never part of any discussion with our leaders or our teachers. ... The staffing formula is what keeps things consistent.”
Multiple board members said before the meeting there needs to be more transparency moving forward regarding these decisions.
In the meeting, Liz Barrett, along with other members, personally apologized for the issue.
“I assure you, my colleagues and I do that as well as we can. ... We do better when we know more, and as policymakers, we don’t always know the boots-on-the-ground stuff.”