Members of the community voice opinions

Posted: Wednesday, November 05, 2003

School board members weren't the only ones thinking about the future of class sizes and teacher jobs in the district Monday.

As the Kenai Peninsula Bor-ough School District Board of Education discussed certified staffing formulas also known as pupil-teacher ratios, or PTR teachers and other community members came forward to share their thoughts on the matter.

About 40 people attended the general board meeting in Homer, including several from the central peninsula, and a handful of the attendees brought forward testimony and petitions on class sizes.

Among the comments:

"Some board members have said parents aren't concerned about PTR," said Barb George of Kasilof. But, she said, that's not true. She presented the board with a petition signed by 128 people. "The petition says, 'We oppose raising PTR. It is not in the best interest of the child. ... PTR should be lowered to last year's levels.'"

Debbie Boyle of Nikiski brought the same petition, signed by another 130 people. "Person-ally, I believe PTR definitely needs to be lowered," she said. "It is the single most important factor in children's success at school."

Susan Matthews, a parent from Soldotna, said she understands the difficult decisions before the board but also wants PTR lowered at least to last year's levels. "I was at the work session today, and I'm impressed and awed by the work in front of you," she said. "But there are 29 kids in my child's second-grade class, and that's a lot of kids. I worry that time spent managing children, managing paperwork, managing transitions and planning for three or more groups in reading and math is limiting time available for quality teaching."

Misty Hamilton said there are 27 students in her child's kindergarten class. "I volunteer once a week, and when I'm done, I need a nap. I don't know how the teacher does it every day. I was watching your meeting tonight, and I give you all props, but 27 in kindergarten is too many."

"Don't raise PTR," said Nikiski parent Karen Calder-wood. She said she had students at Kenai Central High School, North Star Elementary and Nikiski Middle-Senior High and all have large classes. "I went to three different schools during parent-teacher conferences and specifically talked to teachers about the class sizes," she said. "One teacher at Kenai Central said he averaged 25 to 30 kids. They fit OK, but he said if they weren't such good kids, it would be a problem. We don't want the PTR raised."

Michelle Steinbeck of Kenai said she has a kindergartner and a second-grader at Sears Elementary School, and her kindergartner has the same teacher her older child had. The older child was in a class of 21, while the younger now is in a class of 27. "I don't want to make comparisons, but it's distressing every day to visit the class and see 5-year-olds who are unsure, uncertain of what to do on a daily basis."

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