Parkway Protest

Parkway Elementary School parents and students protest proposed cuts of three of 12 of the Frederick school’s teachers. Marla DiVietro, who has a child in kindergarten at the school, addresses members of the school board Wednesday.

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.”

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Steve Bohnel is the county government reporter for the Frederick News-Post. He can be reached at sbohnel@newspost.com. He graduated from Temple University, with a journalism degree in May 2017, and is a die-hard Everton F.C. fan.

(14) comments

threecents

When I was in 6th grade, we had the same problem, so I was in a class that was half 5th graders. It did not make sense to me, as we had top of the school 5th and 6th graders together. However, as I recall it actually worked very well. The teacher made it work.

Fredericktonian44

Its seems the formula works when applied to larger schools, and once again, common sense is vacant in the bureaucratic process in order to maintain appearances. Other schools in the area are already at capacity. Parkway, even before the reduction, was not receiving special treatment. It’s purely an economy of scale issue. Parkway kids deserve fair staffing, not one teacher per 37 students or split grades — has nothing to do with economic class or race. And if there is a problem with a formula or the upcoming budget, the parents deserve to know sooner than 4 weeks before the end of the school year.

trwz

Several elementary schools are slated to lose teachers next year. There will be an increase in class size or combined grades to rectify this reduction. The BOE needs to do an investigation of how many schools are impacted and honor their promise to reduce class size. Not all the schools are Title I.

MD1756

How about the parents give up their income tax deductions and credits they get because they chose to have children and put that money towards public education funding?

sandlabbott

I taught in Frederick County schools for forty years and reducing staff using “ the standard formula” just does not work! “Combine two grades,”....I have been involved in that and it just doesn’t work! Oh, you can make it work...at the expense of the students, teachers and everyone involved. Is that what we really want? Throw the formula out and find a way do what is in the best interest of the children and staff. It is time for Frederick County to think about doing the best in education for our children not cutting corners to save on expenses!

mwardtluszcz

The staffing “formula” does not work! You are all smart administrators, you know the facts about class size and learning. 37 Kindergarten kids with 1 teacher will not work. Stop with the “formula”. Look outside of Frederick county. Schools are not run with class sizes over 30 in Elementary school. Kids will fall through the cracks. Help our children thrive with smaller class sizes.

joelp77440

Life is funny. Parkway was always a Title I school or should have been before they had Title I. Look at the picture, it's not the Parkway I grew up with. Gentrification has come to Frederick and Parkway is not longer a school in need of extra resources. North Frederick, Lincoln and Monocacy need the extra resources. All I see in this picture are parents that need to take their kids to the Banner School if they are unhappy.

public-redux

I'm looking at the picture but I just can't tell how much money those people have. How do you do that?

shiftless88

public; you just need to put on your racist goggles and it is clear

public-redux

I didn’t know blue was the color of money. Thanks!

threecents

The town of Frederick is fairly diverse, and Parkway is no exception. The Parkway PTA is not so much.

jwc4b

What a disgrace that the county is gambling with the future of these children. The superintendent needs to find funds to rectify this overlook. A standard formula may not work for for smaller schools and it is her duty to make sure Frederick county provides a safe and productive learning environment. No matter how good the teacher, this expectation is beyond what should be expected from them and the kids will be the ones to pay. I’m sad how education no longer seems a priority.

drewboy44

Title 1 funding. So basically schools that probably needed the funds to hire more ESSL teachers. Gotta live open borders.

Cowell

Agreed jwc4b. So the BOE provides more funding to other schools while combined grade levels. I am no education expert but how difficult is it for a teacher to educate so many young minds while having two different age brackets? Come on BOE! We want our students to be the smartest! Distribute the funds equally to all schools.

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