Wallingford-Swarthmore School Board
By Katie Crawford
Wallingford Elementary School principal Josh Peterkin transformed Wallingford-Swarthmore School Board members into caped superheroes as part of his presentation on the school’s goals for the 2016-2017 year.
Peterkin emphasized that every decision at WES is made based on the premise that students are “the heart of the school.” He titled his presentation, “U.S.S. WES,” in order to demonstrate that while there may be “lots of other things on our radar that might distract us,” student success remains the objective of his navigation as captain of the ship.
Peterkin listed the enormous amount and variety of data that is collected over the course of a school year and explained how this year WES will focus on using this data most effectively. As part of this process, WES faculty and staff will study the book Data Wise: A Step by Step Guide to Using Assessment Results to Improve Teaching and Learning by Richard Murnane. Peterkin emphasized that alongside this study, the school’s ultimate goal is for students “to feel safe, enjoy school, to be challenged to explore their world and develop the skills to make them productive students and eventually citizens.”
Peterkin showed photographs of students reading and writing in the recently opened new atrium at WES, as well as photos from visiting author Dav Pilkey. The author recently read to WES students and shared his experience of living with dyslexia and ADHD. Pilkey, creator of the insanely popular “Captain Underpants” superhero, provided the capes, which Peterkin in turn shared with the board members, who seemed more than happy to join him as caped crusaders.
SRS Parents Protest Class Size
During audience recognition, the board heard from a group of SRS parents about their concerns over large class sizes in the 4th grade. While the current class sizes are within the district limits, they are larger than what students have experienced in recent years.
Swarthmore resident David Grande, whose daughter is currently an SRS 4th grader, noted that the current 4th grade went from five classrooms last year to four this year, increasing class sizes from the low 20s to the high 20s. The first ten days of school seemed to have been particularly crowded and chaotic for students. Grande reported that during math instruction, when children regroup based on ability levels, some class sizes ballooned to 29, leaving some students without a desk.
Grande spoke of the community’s frustration, noting that parents called and wrote the district over the summer about this impending problem. He believes this sudden change is resulting in teachers being stretched too thin, and expressed his worry about a “lost year” in his child’s education.
Parents are asking for immediate support for the teachers by providing more teachers’ aides. In addition, Grande noted that while enrollment numbers are impossible to predict, a long-term plan needs to be put in place to avoid such large class sizes in the future. He stressed that it was important for the board to hear from parents and to attend a meeting at SRS the night after the board meeting with principal Dr. Angela Tuck and Superintendent Dr. Lisa Palmer.
Among several other parents seated in the audience, Melissa Zeserson also addressed the board, citing studies which show the ill effects on learning once a class size reaches the high 20s and questioned why the district is allowing for a sub-optimal learning environment to exist. SRS parent Gretchen Makai also noted that the parents in the audience represent a small number of the parents who are concerned about this situation.
Board member Wendy Voet thanked the parents for taking the time to share their concerns with the board, noting that this level of involvement “is what makes our district great.”
New Alert System; Panther Pajama Run
Superintendent Palmer noted that the district will be moving from the Honeywell Instant Alert system to the School Messenger System on November 4. The rollout of this new system will begin on October 11 with a test message on October 22. Dr. Palmer also reminded the board about the upcoming Panther Pajama Run and Pancake breakfast on Saturday, November 12, to benefit the Foundation for Wallingford-Swarthmore schools. Last year the event raised $7,000.