Here are a few examples of tough trade-offs we've made over the last two years:
- In February of 2009, the superintendents brought forth a motion to eliminate all elementary instrumental music and to eliminate all world language for 7th graders. These cuts were designed to save other things (such as keeping Marks Meadow open and maintaining small team sizes at the MS and small class sizes at the HS). The SC discussed these choices, and heard from the community, and decided that it wasn't a good idea to cut instrumental music and 7th grade world language, which we then conveyed to the superintendent. We therefore chose to maintain these programs, with the understanding that other cuts would have to be made instead.
- In May of 2009, the Amherst School Committee voted to close Marks Meadow -- with the understanding that this choice would save $500,000 (or more). Some people opposed this decision (and still do), because they believe that keeping this school open was more important than more temporary choices (such as increasing class sizes and eliminating instrumental music).
- In December of 2009, Mark Jackson recommended to the SC that we move to three study halls a year in the HS, so that we could maintain small class sizes. However, the SC decided that having HS kids spend 20% of their time in a study hall was not a good idea, which we conveyed to the administration (which then moved to two study halls a year).
We are now facing other such decisions.
- At the elementary level, we are choosing whether to add K to 6 Spanish in all schools, or to adopt other programs (the current administration proposal is to add 1 Spanish teacher for the whole district, plus a computer teacher -- increasing our computer instruction in the district from 2 to 3, plus an intervention teacher -- increasing our intervention support from 11.8 to 12.8). Thus, the SC will have to decide whether K to 6 world language is in fact important, or whether these resources should be spent in other ways. In addition, we have to decide whether time spent learning Spanish would be BETTER spent learning something else (e.g., more time on instrumental music or math or science). Those are trade-offs of both time and money.
- At the high school level, we are choosing between more required study halls versus larger class sizes. Currently at ARHS, average class sizes are 21 to 22 in the core academic disciplines, and very few classes are over 25 students (14% in English, 13% in Social Studies, 15% in Science, 26% in Math), but we have all students in two required study halls. In contrast, other districts have made a choice to have larger class sizes, but no required study halls. For example, in Newton, MA, there are two high schools, and here is the % of classes over 25 students by discipline in each high school: Newton South - 2% of English, 33% of science, 29% of social studies, 36% of math; Newton North - 6% of English, 42% of Science, 35% of social studies, 32% of Math. So, they have fewer large classes than we do in English (by far, and at both high schools), but more large class sizes in social studies (twice as many), science (more than twice as many), and math. But they have no required study halls, meaning that each year, students spend 14% more time in class learning in Newton than in Amherst.