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St. Lawrence Central School board hears hiring concerns

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BRASHER FALLS — Some who attended last week’s budget hearing in the St. Lawrence Central School District expressed concerns about first-grade class sizes next year and the possibility another administrator might be added to the staff rather than another teacher.

But incoming Superintendent Stephan J. Vigliotti Sr. said Thursday he has no plans to add to the administrative staff when he takes over in July.

Margaret D. Snyder, a high school English teacher, told the Board of Education she was concerned about adding a staff member who is “not in direct contact with students.”

Instead, she suggested, that funding could be better spent on another teacher for first grade, where class sizes are projected to be 24 students each in three classrooms.

“How big is too big for first grade? Is there a number out there?” she asked. “As a parent and teacher ... I hope we don’t lose sight of the children.”

During the board’s April session, teachers had provided a handout to board members suggesting the higher class sizes would result in an increase in behavioral problems, a lack of attention to students because of the higher student-to-teacher ratios and an inability to follow the prescribed small-group instruction in the district’s tiered reading plan.

“In an already high-needs district, student needs are only going to increase. Adding two more students to a class may not seem like a huge difference. However, depending on the specific academic and/or behavioral needs of those two additional students, in reality it could be like adding 10 more students,” the teachers wrote.

Outgoing Superintendent Stephen M. Putman said he would not recommend adding another teacher.

Concerns were also raised during last week’s public hearing about the possibility of a curriculum coordinator being added to the staff rather than another teacher. Mr. Putman suggested a curriculum coordinator could serve a number of functions, including professional development.

St. Lawrence Central United Teachers President Thomas O. Morrison said he was surprised to hear about the possibility of a curriculum coordinator.

He said he had talked with board President James K. Lattimer in mid-March and had been told there were no plans for a position.

Mr. Vigliotti, who will become superintendent in July, said Thursday he did not envision a possible curriculum coordinator as a full-time administrator.

“Here’s definitely what we’re not going to do: We’re not going to go out and hire a new Brasher Falls administrator to be in charge of curriculum,” he said. “It might be a person internally. It might be a person through BOCES” — the regional Board of Cooperative Educational Services — “which means that position would be BOCES-aidable. We’re not going out and spending another $100,000.”

The board has not made any commitment, Mr. Vigliotti said.

He said when he interviewed for the position, he asked board members how curriculum issues were being handled.

“They explained that it was the building principal’s responsibility to get that done. It’s impossible,” Mr. Vigliotti said. “If the lifeblood of a school is student achievement, then curricula and monitoring of curricula and student achievement has to be a top priority. It’s about a laserlike focus on student achievement. ... My message to the board was that, more often than not, unless you have a dedicated individual to those ends, sometimes because of the daily grind and business that needs to be conducted every day, principals are at a disadvantage to pick up the ball and run with it.”

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