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Parents bring opposition to changes to Lincoln morning program to OFA board of education

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Parents and grandparents of children at Lincoln Elementary School descended upon the Ogdensburg City School Board of Education meeting Monday night to express their opposition to changes to the morning program.

The morning program has students meet for a half-hour to forty minutes in advance of classes where they make presentations in front of their families and peers. The presentations are of a wide range of subjects like the calendar, weather and birthdays.

The program has been a daily routine for decades but starting this week is becoming a bimonthly event due to time constraints caused by new curriculum requirements.

“Restructuring the morning program was a very difficult decision,” Lincoln Principal Jacquelyn L. Kelly said.

Mrs. Kelly said kids do reap many benefits from the morning program – and hopefully will continue to do so – including better social skills and improved self-esteem. But with more rigorous academic standards being pushed by the state Mrs. Kelly said keeping the program going in its current, daily form was impossible.

Teachers were struggling to find time to teach new math and English requirements, Mrs. Kelly said. “They need to increase instructional time.”

Mrs. Kelly also noted that according to the studies she has seen children learn best in smaller environments like those found in the classroom.

“I do feel strongly that the morning program has some very nice aspects,” she said, “but we need to focus on improving instructional time.”

But Amy L. Stull, the mother of several students at Lincoln, said she feels the administration could work harder to ensure the program continues unchanged.

“The children that attend the morning program at Lincoln hold their heads high and they shine,” Mrs. Stull said. “Let’s not limit Lincoln school by cutting back on a program that encourages students to be well-rounded.”

“Student’s need to be taught the love of learning, not how to pass a test,” Mrs. Stull said.

Connor M. Grenier, a 7 year-old currently in first grade at Lincoln, addressed the board saying, “I just want to save [the morning program.] I love it and I love my school.”

Ogdensburg Police Chief Richard J. Polniak Jr., speaking as a grandparent of a student at Lincoln, said the morning program teaches students about patriotism and encourages socialization.

Mr. Polniak said the morning program and similar efforts that promote community engagement have been shown to decrease recidivism. “Being in law enforcement for 34 years, a lot of our repeat offenders have low self-esteem,” Mr. Polniak said, emphasizing the morning program’s role in bolstering students’ self-worth.

Board members were supportive of the administration’s decision to restructure the program, though many noted their disappointment that the program has to change.

Vice President Michael J. Tooley said he is the father of two girls who went through the program.

“It brought a lot of joy to my family,” he said. “But having said that I reluctantly support the administration.”

Mr. Tooley said he hopes some of the positive aspects of the program can be built into the school’s curriculum. “We still have an obligation as a community to provide a well-rounded education for our children that does not only include math and English.”

The daily program was ended on Friday and will continue as a bimonthly event.

Some parents, including Rebecca M. Tortorella, who asked the administration to find a way to keep it running every day, said they plan on fighting the decision and are attempting to get a petition ready.

Lincoln Elementary School is closing at the end of the 2013-2014 school year and will be put on the market for sale and redevelopment.

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