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Letter’s ‘Facts’ Disputed

January 23, 2004

JOANNA LESTIC

    Letter’s ‘Facts’ Disputed

    To the Editor:

    George Caracciolo’s recent letters to the editor regarding the staffing of our school contained incorrect facts: the school he refers to (Hawley) does not have 318 students; it has 460 students. It does not have four administrators; it has one, the principal. There is also a lead teacher, who assists with administration, but is not considered “an administrator” by definition. It does not have 15 specialists; it has one reading consultant, one reading recovery teacher, and one math/science specialist, all of whom work directly with children in need of remedial services in these critical areas. (It should be noted that remediation provided by these instructors often results in cost savings because early intervention reduces the likelihood of sustained and/or comprehensive services as students advance through the school system.) In addition to classroom teachers, there are also certified instructors who teach library/media, physical education, art, and music, as is generally typical in elementary education.

    Although Mr Caracciolo implies that we have greater staffing levels than other school districts, the facts provided by the State Department of Education illustrate otherwise. Connecticut’s 2002–03 Strategic School Profile (SSP) Report indicates an average student-teacher ratio of 13.7 statewide, 14.0 for districts in our educational reference group, and 15.4 for Newtown. In other words, our student-teacher ratio is higher, and therefore less favorable, in comparison. Additionally, in all grades reported on the SSP, Newtown’s average class sizes exceed the average for our reference group and for the state as a whole.

    Our per pupil expenditure, which is driven largely by staffing levels, is notable as well. In 2002, 82 percent of Connecticut’s public schools spent more per pupil than we did. Newtown continues to experience growth and simply put, as enrollment grows, so too do staffing needs.

    We strive for high quality education supported by sound fiscal management. We believe that our statistics validate our success. It will be the charge of this board to justify a sound and well-reasoned budget and we intend to do so with due diligence. It is imperative that our community be provided with facts; misinformation undermines this process and does a disservice to our voters.

    Sincerely,

    Elaine McClure, Lisa Schwartz, David Nanavaty, Tom Gissen

    Newtown Board of Education

    4 Fairfield Circle South, Newtown                        January 21, 2004