Thursday February 14, 2013

DAWSON RASPUZZI

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- Teachers at Southwest Vermont Career Development Center are asking the school board to reconsider a class size policy it passed last month.

Class size minimums

The technical center's "Optimum Class Size" policy adopted Jan. 28 states classes shall maintain a yearly minimum of 10 students. A class that falls short of the standard is placed under administrative review and the instructor may face a reduction in position if a class consistently falls short. If a program's enrollment does not have at least 10 students for a total of three years that program "may be reduced or discontinued upon recommendation of the superintendent/director to the board," according to the policy.

The policy drew criticism in a letter signed by 18 teachers and read to the school board by Barbara Gorbaty Monday because of the implications it would have on nearly every program.

Gorbaty said more than two-thirds of juniors and seniors at Mount Anthony Union High School and Arlington Memorial High School would have to be evenly distributed among CDC classes for each to have 10 students.

"That includes students who are at a life skills level in special needs and it includes students who have no interest or ambition in regard to a technical education, so we see that as a very high number," Gorbaty said. "We think that the numbers out there just don't support the minimum of 10 students per class.


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The CDC offers 19 programs, all but one of which are for two years. Just two of those 18 programs with a second year would currently meet the minimum class size in the policy, Gorbaty said.

"My reading of the policy suggests that ... all but two programs should be under program review at this point, which seems to me an awfully large undertaking for the administration," Gorbaty said.

Instead of gauging individual courses by enrollment, the teachers suggest "a more positive and proactive" approach to address enrollment by considering the broad service the technical center provides the community.

"This requires a more comprehensive look at enrollment as a center-wide issue instead of addressing it at the individual class and program level," she said.

School board Chairman Jim Boutin said the teachers' views would be discussed at a future meeting, however he also expressed displeasure that the teachers waited until after the board approved the policy before offering their perspective.

"I'm a little perplexed in that we went through the whole process of the Policy Committee (that started) 90 days ago. They brought it to the board 60 days ago. We warned it 30 days ago. And it was during all that time we were looking for input," Boutin said. "I'm just a little surprised it comes now after the policy was adopted."

The minimum enrollment requirement was first brought up in the Education Committee last fall during discussions of low enrollment preventing some programs from being self-sufficient. There has never been a policy that put a number to what the minimum enrollment in a class should be.

The board for years has talked about canceling classes that do not have at least 10 students, however classes with fewer than 10 students have historically continued to run.

Contact Dawson Raspuzzi at draspuzzi@benningtonbanner.com or follow on Twitter @DawsonRaspuzzi