Let me begin by saying Mr. Zimmerman has every right to fill our local newspapers with his weekly diatribes. (Mr. Zimmerman once accused me of denying him his right to free speech.) Let me remind the rest of our community that Mr. Zimmerman's letters to the editor are not unbiased reports of the goings on of the Port Washington School Board. They represent Mr. Zimmerman's own thoughts, opinions and views of a particular situation.
That said, I beg to differ with Mr. Zimmerman's accusation that the board does not support Special Education in our school district because the board voted against reinstating two Resource Room TAs. These positions were taken away when the budget was reduced after the budget defeat back in May. You emailed me and phoned me, Mr. Zimmerman, in order to gain my, and other Daly parents, support for reinstating these two TA positions. After many conversations with many parents, many of whose children receive Resource Room services, most people felt that in this time of belt-tightening, we do need to prioritize where we spend additional dollars. (I believe it was you who said, countless times, "the community has spoken.") If the district now has additional money due to unexpected teacher retirements, let's carefully analyze where that money should be spent. It is my understanding that the state has now mandated that our district provide intervention services to those children who scored below a certain level on the 4th grade language arts and math assessments. It is also my understanding that those services must be provided by a certified Resource Room teacher, not by a TA. Maybe the $50,000 for the two TAs should go toward another full time Resource room teacher who will aid in providing standard Resource Room services as well as these new intervention services.
Another way to look at any additional money that we now have is to make sure class size at the elementary level is kept low. If we continue to face increased class sizes, some approaching the 24 and 25 children to a class level, we will have many more children in need of Resource Room services, as more and more children will be lost in the shuffle of such large classrooms. Start by ensuring that Daly receives its four sections of fifth grade, ensure Guggenheim that they, too, will keep all of their sections of fifth grade. Keep a close eye on Daly's second grade numbers, and provide a fourth section of that grade in September if the class size approaches an unreasonable number. Examine the class sizes at Sousa, some of the largest in the district, and provide an additional teacher if the numbers require it. It is my understanding that they have an empty classroom ready to go! It has been proven time and time again that small class size ensures academic success. Did you read the article on the One Room Schoolhouse in this past Sunday's New York Times Education Life Section? You should.
Mr. Zimmerman, you had an opportunity to begin this year's session of the Port Washington Board of Education with a spirit of consensus-building and teamwork. Instead, you are back to name calling and finger pointing. Your fellow board members are dedicated volunteers, just like you. Just because they disagree with you on this matter doesn't make them insensitive to Special Education as a whole.
Should we expect now for the rest of the school year that every time the board votes down a proposal that you are in favor of, we will read two columns of John Zimmerman's review of the board's bad behavior? What a waste of newsprint and ink.
There's a lot of work to be done, Mr. Zimmerman. I hope you can put your petty differences aside and get to the job at hand.