By Timothy Chipp
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — SANBORN — At Niagara-Wheatfield’s three elementary schools, status quo might be good enough for one more year.
The three principals presented their preliminary budgets to the district school board, each laying out their requests for staffing – the major expense a principal deals with – for the 2013-14 school year.
Only Errick Road Principal Nora O’Bryan requested additional staffing, explaining three new hires, one each at the third, fourth and fifth grade levels would be necessary to balance out average class sizes with the other two schools.
“It wouldn’t make sense taking them from one of the other schools because that would put them in the same position I’m in now,” O’Bryan said. “I know money’s tight. But it’s my job to stand here and speak about the needs of my school.”
Class size is everything to the principals and their staff and keeping them as low as possible, O’Bryan said, allows the teachers to perform as much differentiated instruction as possible throughout the day.
New state education standards place an emphasis on student performance. But they also judge on personal growth, a new model everyone in education is curious about.
“It’s no longer acceptable to just reach those at the bottom and bring them up to the bar,” she said. “Teachers also have to reach those at the top and get them to grow. Those students who are getting a 90 need to get a 95 next year. To do this, there’s a time factor involved. In order to meet these more rigorous demands, we need smaller class sizes.”
The other two schools informed the board they’re comfortable leaving their staffing as-is for 2013-14, which could be difficult in the coming school year. The district is facing massive increases in retirement fund contributions for both teachers and other employees and could be forced to cut expenses instead of raising its tax levy a second consecutive year under New York’s tax levy threshold.
But the principals said that can’t be a concern to teachers in the classroom.
“I, as are my colleagues, am extremely proud of our teachers,” West Street Principal Theron Mong said. “I feel we need to maintain classroom sizes. Right now, I’m not requesting any additions to staffing. I feel our numbers we have are pretty good.”
Charles Smilinich, principal of Colonial Village Elementary, agreed he’d recommend keeping his staff the same as well.