Trustees OK slight increase in class sizes

Officials say flexibility will save money, prevent diversions

Some classrooms may see an extra student or two this year following action by the Board of Education as school administrators in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District prepare for the start of another school year.

At a special meeting Friday morning, Aug. 14, board members approved a resolution that would give district staff flexibility to increase K-3 and ninth-grade class sizes up to a maximum of 22:1.

A number of factors combined to bring the issue before the board. The recently approved state budget resulted in an additional funding cut of $6.5 million. The reduction, coupled with the news this week that they would be losing any additional revenue for keeping new classes to the 20:1 level, would result in serious budget issues for the district.

In addition, according to Assistant Superintendent Christine Williams, maintaining the 20:1 class size ratio would result in nearly every school being full and more than 300 students being diverted to other schools in the district. In one case, Williams said, a family with four children were having to deal with the possibility of their children being split up among different schools.

"We still have a handful of students we don't know where they'll be this year," Williams said.

Williams explained to the board that allowing flexibility to a maximum of 22 students per classroom would eliminate nearly all of the diversions. It would also keep the staffing levels stable, with a slight increase in teachers and would save the district an estimated $600,000-$800,000.

Based on current enrollment figures, Williams estimated that somewhere around 20 percent of the effected classrooms would see a population increase and very few would increase to the maximum of 22 students.

Superintendent Steve Enoch explained that

the savings would come from the district not hiring nearly two dozen additional teachers to staff the classrooms required by the lower ratio. He added that those teachers in all likelihood would have been laid off at the end of the school year regardless, as the increasing financial difficulties forced the district to move to the higher classroom ratios.

"We face an incredibly challenging budget process and we need to seize any opportunity we can," Enoch said.

School Board Member Greg Marvel said he can understand the need for making the change but he counseled the board members to hold off until their Aug. 18 meeting.

"The vast majority of taxpayers voted (on Measure C) in large part to save class sizes," he said. "If we, at the last minute, when parents think this issue was resolved, approve going above 20:1, we'll see a massive political uproar."

Marvel said he felt that because class sizes were a large part of the discussion on Measure C, many parents would feel betrayed by the board's action and it could conceivably harm any future chances for the district to pass a bond issue or parcel tax measure.

He added, "I have an issue with increasing class sizes when we have yet to receive any concessions from our employee unions, including management."

Board members agreed with the concern but said the situation requires immediate action.

"Being fiscally responsible means we have to be nimble when circumstances change. Circumstances have changed," said Board Member Paul Gardner.

"If we do our job right and communicate I think this could be good for us," agreed Trustee Rachel Hurd.

Board Member Ken Mintz asked how delaying the decision to Tuesday would affect the situation. Williams explained that the families on diversion need to get registered at their respective schools, administrators need to get classrooms set up and class lists made, and the district would need to hire teachers to have them in place before the Aug. 25 start date.

"I don't want anyone to get the impression that we're making quick decisions," Mintz stated, "but at the same time we're elected and appointed to make prudent financial decisions."

Board President Bill Clarkson said that with the constant stream of cuts coming from Sacramento, districts are left with few options. He added that while making the decision Friday may not be the most politically expedient, it is the right decision given the situation.

"I think we have to have the courage to make decisions. We're not shutting the public out, but we need to act on this now," he said.

After a lengthy discussion about the issue, the board voted in favor of giving staff the flexibility to increase class sizes up to a maximum of 22:1. The vote was 4-1 with Greg Marvel voting against.

The class size issue will be a discussion item at the Aug. 18 meeting. Clarkson said they will give an update on the situation, explain to those attending how they came to the decision, and provide more statistical data about how many classrooms will be affected.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rick
a resident of Danville
on Aug 14, 2009 at 7:41 pm

Thank you trustees for doing the bloody obvious. And the vast majority of taxpayers didn't vote for measure c, let alone to maintain class sizes at the ludicrous and arbitrary 20:1 ratio. Most parents will not feel betrayed by raising class sizes by such a ridiculously small amount. Teachers unions, on the other hand, most certainly will

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Alex
a resident of Danville
on Aug 14, 2009 at 11:33 pm

I support this decision. Circumstances have changed, and we have to change too.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of Diablo
on Aug 15, 2009 at 7:10 pm

This was obviously the right decision by the Board. The reasons Mr. Marvel gives for not supporting it really are suspect. It seems he is more interested in grinding down the employees, than making a decision that any person with common sense would support.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Not a parent
a resident of Danville
on Aug 16, 2009 at 9:01 am

I have no kids in this district but still voted yes on Measure C hoping that the school board would act responsibly. And you did! Thank you!

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Diane
a resident of Danville
on Aug 16, 2009 at 5:35 pm

Good to see so many people in agreement! I thought the decisions made were the most fiscally responsible that were possible and will still allow kids the opportunity to learn without severe overcrowding.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Kasper
a resident of another community
on Aug 16, 2009 at 9:02 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

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Posted by Rick
a resident of Danville
on Aug 17, 2009 at 9:41 am

Kasper, I have no idea what you were trying to get across in your drunken rambling. Were you purposely trying to misspell everything, or were you just intoxicated? And is your name really Kasper, or is that just a cute and clever bloggername? If the latter be true, it might be more fitting to go by Buckwheat.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peeved Parent
a resident of Danville
on Aug 17, 2009 at 1:20 pm

Let me first start by saying that two more kids in a classroom isn't the end of the world. It isn't likely to change the learning landscape drastically. Now on to my point.

The SRVUSD has a credibility problem. I believe that is what Mr. Marvel was speaking to. Those spearheading the Measure C campaign used preserving class-size reduction as a main focal point to sway voters to vote Yes of Measure C. Was it the only point, no -- but it was a big one.

Then, after the Measure passes we hear that the 20:1 ratio can only be preserved for the coming school year and that all bets are off for the 2010-11 school year. Now we hear that they will not even preserve it for this school year.

I understand that things change.... that is life. However, when you put your word behind something and fail to deliver, then it becomes a credibility problem. Don't make campaign promises, or use scare tactics in an effort to get "yes" votes and then fail to follow through.

SRVUSD...wake up and smell the coffee.... you are going to have a very hard time passing another parcel tax.

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Posted by Kasper
a resident of another community
on Aug 17, 2009 at 5:24 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

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Posted by Aaron
a resident of Alamo
on Aug 17, 2009 at 8:05 pm

Kasper, I understand your exasperation with Rick, but you should just sit back and enjoy the show. Rick is like Danville's version Sarah Palin: he makes little sense, lacks any intelligence or evidence of formal education, uses cutesy postings to offset the lack of substance, and tries to stir emotion through ranting and false rage. I doubt he's half as good looking and is probably twice her age, but maybe he can see Alaska from his front yard?!

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Greg
a resident of Danville
on Aug 17, 2009 at 8:55 pm

I am the school board member who voted no on the proposal to increase class size. I did it primarily because I felt that the citizens and parents needed an opportunity to hear and comment about the proposed increase. They left for the summer with the promise that the class sizes would stay at 20 to 1. They come back and find that the classes sizes are now increased. I felt strongly that the citizens of this valley needed to voice their opinions prior to the school board taking the action to reverse its earlier decision.

I agree with the comment that changes in circumstances can justify a change in position. The state has cut even more money from our budget (over $6 million) and the issue deserved to be revisited. I felt that one day's notice before taking the action was too short to give the parents and taypayers an adequate opportunity to voice their support or opposition to the change.

To the reader who felt that my opposition was based solely on the desire to "grind the employees down", I suggest he come to one of our board meetings and see us in action. I am one of the employees' biggest supporters. However, the unions that represent those employees have not yet helped us during these difficult financial times. Many public unions in this state have offered up concessions to save jobs, programs for the pubic, and services to kids. That has not happened as yet with the unions that represent SRVUSD employees. We are all faced with difficult decisions in the worst financial crunch to ever hit public schools in this state since the Great Depression. Our cuts to programs will very probably be close to $20,000,000 for last year and this year when all is said and done. Cutting another program that serves kids without the adults standing up and helping to mitigate some of those cuts is incredibly sad.

If Tuesday's Board meeting has citizens praising the District's action to increase class size, then I will gladly admit that I was wrong. As I said at the Board meeting, the Superintendent's recommendation to increase class size to 22 to 1 was very compelling and deserved serious consideration. However, I felt that waiting until Tuesday and giving the public a little more notice was the right thing to do.

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Posted by Rick
a resident of Danville
on Aug 18, 2009 at 7:59 am

Kasper, don't come at me with the venom you just did then b**** about me being hateful. You are the embodiment of my opponents and their attitude, a strange mix of aggressiveness and whining. I never complain about other people getting angry and rude at me. I just throw it right back. Why don't you grow a set or stay away from the heat.

Before I answer your questions, entertain a few of mine first. One: why are you stalking me for so long to remember what I said months ago. You've got some specific beef, and it seems to me to have to do with the Rylan Fuchs case and/or group homes. If you've got beef partner, you be man enough to tell me exactly what it is.

Two: if you're not an American, what the [Portion removed due to offensive language] are you. What country did you come from and where do you live now. If you're such a tough guy, you'll have ne problem divulging this info.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rick
a resident of Danville
on Aug 18, 2009 at 8:20 am

And Aaron, you obviously believe yourself to be witty. I'll say, you're skills for debate seem to be limited to celebrity comparisons. I myself do not like Palin, for she's a puppet of Israel and a hunter of endangered animals. When it comes to the skills it takes to make a point, you and Sarah have far more in common. I, on the other hand, far exceed both of you on this and most indubitably overall IQ. If you'd care to mentally spar and test your wits against me in debate, you'll see you're dealing with a superior opponent. But, you seem content with your baseless quips. I bet you are the type who laughs hardest at their own jokes. So keep making yourself giggle. I'll be here trying to change my town for the better

PS: if you knew anything about me you'd know this rage is certainly not false, especially when it comes to the Fuchs' case and group homes, which has something to do with Kasper's beef. That case is what got my homeboys and I locally active in politics and it is our rallying cry. And more people join our ranks by the day. Conservatives aren't just gonna sit back and take this s*** anymore

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ulrich
a resident of another community
on Aug 18, 2009 at 9:35 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Leigh
a resident of Danville
on Aug 19, 2009 at 9:53 am

Once again, the SRVUSD lets us down. More promises that they don't keep. Perhaps next time they want money the citizens should insist to include a clause that states if SRVUSD doesn't deliver what they promise, the money is no longer available to them.

SRVUSD asks for even more money this year when the kids sign up for their classes. If the school district is having a difficult time with finances, perhaps there should be some pay DECREASES for the upper salaries in the District.

It is very disappointing.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Matt
a resident of Danville
on Aug 21, 2009 at 7:17 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Geoff Gillette
Danville Weekly reporter
on Aug 21, 2009 at 9:13 pm

Geoff Gillette is a registered user.

Good evening folks,
Just a quick note. I removed four posts from this thread this evening as the same person was posting under three different pseudonyms. It is against the Terms of Use to do so, thus the posts were removed.

Geoff Gillette

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