Tuesday, March 30, 2010
By Nick Grabbe
AMHERST- The Regional School Committee voted last week to "strongly recommend" that Amherst Regional High School students have no more than one required study hall over the next academic year.
Member Steve Rivkin said he wanted to "make a statement" that Amherst should use its high per-pupil expenditures to enable students to take full advantage of all their opportunities.
"It's untenable for school systems like Amherst to tell the community that as high the property tax is, we need two study halls after passing an override," he said.
School Committee member Catherine Sanderson said she hasn't been able to find another high school that spends as much as Amherst and has two required study halls per year.
Now that the region is receiving an extra $950,000 from the override, teacher union givebacks and state aid, it should be possible to restrict study halls, even if class sizes have to increase slightly, she said.
Rivkin, an Amherst College professor, said he has 35 to 40 students in some classes. "We're not going to be a fancy private school and we can't have class sizes that are ideal," he said.
The vote was 6-3, with members Irv Rhodes, Rick Hood, Rob Spence and Kristen Luschen also voting yes. Chairman Farshid Hajir voted against the measure, as did members Tracy Farnham and Kathy Weilerstein.
Hajir said there could be "a cascade of consequences" if schedulers have to limit students to one study hall next year. He said the extra money should be used to restore positions that were at risk.
Parent and teacher Amy Brodigan said she favored keeping class sizes small, saying there is an "enormous difference" between having 21 and 23 students. "I'd rather see a child in study hall than in larger classes," she said.
Interim Superintendent Maria Geryk said the committee should "trust the people who are the experts to make recommendations." Principal Mark Jackson said he can use the extra money to reduce the number of students who have two mandated study halls, starting with seniors next year.
My Goal in Blogging
I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.