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Elementary Parents Oppose Princeton Plan

Parents, teachers and administrators discuss moving to the Princeton method. Most parents that spoke out were against the plan. Check back with Nyack Patch later today and tomorrow for more.

 

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Nyack's elementary schools may be facing some major changes, and an open forum was held Monday night at Upper Nyack School for several reasons: 

  • Clear up any misperceptions
  • Inform parents of the Princeton Plan
  • Gather feedback

The Nyack Board of Education is contemplating a shift to the Princeton Plan, which would divide the current K-through-fifth-grade experience into smaller segments across the elementary school buildings. Currently, the elementry schools are under the common neighborhood school plan, which uses geographic district lines to assign students to schools.

Under the Princeton Plan, grades would be assigned to specific schools. Instead of the three schools—Valley Cottage Elementary, Liberty Elementary and Upper Nyack Elementary—housing children from all grades, they would house children from just two grades.

  • K-1: Valley Cottage Elementary
  • 2-3: Liberty Elementary
  • 4-5: Upper Nyack Elementary

More than 50 parents attended the forum, which was led by Superintendent James Montesano, Assistant Superintendent of Business Service Carleen Millsaps and Nyack Middle School principal Nicole Saieva.

Montesano started by saying that although many parents seemed to think that the decision was already made, he wanted to clear the air and establish that the board held off on discussing the Princeton Plan until parent feedback was collected at public meetings such as the one on Monday night.

"I want to clear up any rumors that this is a done deal," he said, adding that although he is a product of neighborhood schools himself and that he has only held superintendent and principal positions in neighborhood schools, "where we are today, in regards to school funding and what schools are being asked to produce in terms of student outcomes, it's a changing landscape."

He said that there will be a meeting in December to "talk more extensively with the school board on where it chooses to go in regard to future plans for the school district." 

Some History

Millsaps and Saieva were asked to co-chair a committee of parents and staff back in 2010.

"The advisory committee was established by the board of education in November 2010 and (its) purpose was (to address) the overcrowding conditions at Valley Cottage School," said Montesano, adding that the committee looked at some short-term solutions such as shifting district boundaries. The committee was also asked to look into alternative methods such as grade span and reconfiguration.

After a full year of research and meetings, the committee brought its findings to the board and "basically, what resulted from that, was a recommendation to make a short term solution ... and change some of the boundary lines between Valley Cottage and Liberty in an effort to balance the student population so we can relieve some of the overcrowding conditions," said Montesano.

However, he added that, with the introduction of the tax levy cap and its effect on the school budget, the schools needed to look more closely at and consider the Princeton Plan. 

The school recently restructured their administration to shave off about $350,000 and the estimated cost savings with the Princeton Plan is $700,000 - $1 million.

The committee's report was given at a public Board meeting in June 2012 and the committee's findings were presented last night and will be presented at three more public meetings throughout the month of October.

"The board of education did not at that time (at the June meeting) have any serious deliberations about the benefits or disadvantages (of the Princeton Plan). The board of education is very sensitive to the idea that they want to be very transparent and particularly to decisions with such great magnitude that really would change the lives of parents and their relationship to what (they) know as neighborhood schools," he said.

He added that the board chose not to do anything until Fall 2012 so it could hold public meetings and convey to parents “what we’re looking at, why we’re looking at it and collect some feedback.”

Feedback forms were passed around and comments and questions were taken from the audience. Check back with Nyack Patch later today and tomorrow for more articles covering the specifics about the Princeton Plan, how it will affect the Nyack schools and what parents had to say about it.

This year also marks the first the Nyack High School implements block scheduling.

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Meeting dates

  • Liberty School Wednesday, October 3 7:30 PM
  • Valley Cottage School Tuesday, October 9 7:30 PM
  • Nyack Center Tuesday, October 30 7:30 PM
kyle October 03, 2012 at 12:12 AM
Helen, What are MAC classes?
Nicola Royston October 03, 2012 at 12:59 AM
This is all about saving money and the bottom line, (which I get) but why isn't anyone concerned with the fact that we pay our Superintendent $239,000.00? The same amount of money the NYC Superintendent earns with a charge of 1 million students while ours has roughly 2,900 students??? And we gave him a raise this year. I understand the need to attract the best but if we are in such dire straights we cannot afford him and I want to keep my teachers which is where our Superintendent said he would get his savings (on Monday night and in the Journal News).
Janice Butwell October 03, 2012 at 02:11 AM
Very sad. So we are to assume that gone are the days when kids learn from the older kids they see every day? Older kids no longer learn how to be better citizens and mentor younger ones while gaining the confidence that comes with being at the top? The kids now exist in a tidy little vacuum where everyone is developmentally on their level instead of having something to strive for? Parental involvement and a sense of community slide because, let's be real, why get all that involved in a place you'll be out of in a couple of years? Why struggle to build on the sense of community you wanted when you bought your house or signed your lease - save a few bucks at the expense of the kids instead. It's about community and the investment you make in it on a daily basis when your children go to school and play with their neighbors. It's about building memories and investing in the place you'll work hard to improve when you're unhappy or work equally as hard to preserve when you are. What our communities will lose - the things you cannot find on financial spreadsheets or when squeezing pennies for the 'betterment of the kids' - are immeasurable.
Kim Tran October 03, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Check back with Nyack Patch at 4:30 today for the last post from this meeting. It'll go over parent concerns that were brought up
Kathy P. October 06, 2012 at 02:46 PM
For the person who asked, the MAC classes are multi-aged classrooms. Both of my kids were in MACs at Liberty, and it was great. They have a TA working in the classroom, and there is more flexibility for students who learn differently. The curriculum is more geared towards the students' abilities, and not limited to "what they should be doing at this grade level." . We saw benefits. At Liberty also, the teachers for the two classes also focused on their strengths. One of the teachers was strong at teaching language arts and the other was really skilled at teaching math, so they switched off at times for lessons. It would be a real loss for our students to eliminate this. That being said, I asked a co-worker who lives in the Orangetown District and he told me that the Princeton Plan there had advantages for the students, but was really tough on parents. Everything in the building can be focused on the two grade levels (like special programs, gym equipment, etc.), and there was less bullying of younger kids by older kids. Transporting kids and attending Parent/Teacher nights...not so much fun. I still think that it would adversely effect PTAs. If the majority of your parents have younger kids, their ability to fund raise and run activities is limited due to lack of experience. Just for the record, we no longer have kids in the school, so this would not affect me directly.

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