As a parent of two children at R. Roger Rowe, I am greatly concerned about the school board’s proposal to potentially layoff 19 teachers. The district has a substantial deficit that must be remedied. However, there has been no explanation of the rationale behind these possible layoffs, nor mention of alternative methods of lowering expenses such as reducing administrative staff or scaling these changes over time. Superintendent Donna Tripi claims to have sought input from teachers and staff, yet I have not been able to find a single teacher or administrator who was consulted in this process. It is also extremely disconcerting to learn these teachers received notice of their potential termination during classroom instruction.
Our school has long prided itself on excellence in academics and whole-student development. A reduction in teaching positions of this scope simply cannot produce equivalent caliber of instruction, in my opinion. The bulk of these cuts affect the elementary school, grades K-5, our youngest students and potentially most vulnerable. Included in these sweeping eliminations are five reading specialists as well as the advanced math and computer science teacher. Ms. Tripi states these same classes and services will remain but will be taught by existing middle school teachers. It is not clear to me how this is logistically feasible. Teachers are not interchangeable pieces of equipment that can simply be moved to wherever it is most cost effective. Our current elementary advanced math teacher has a graduate degree as an elementary math specialist. She has worked tirelessly to create a truly custom curriculum for our advanced students, specific to each elementary grade level. With the adoption of these proposed layoffs, her position will be eliminated and will be absorbed by middle school faculty. Can a middle school teacher maintain the same level of individualization with third graders while simultaneously instructing eighth graders? Is a middle school teacher the right person to engage shy first graders and inspire love of computer science and coding? This is no criticism of our middle school faculty, I am just voicing concerns about keeping our wonderful teachers in their respective areas of specialty.
Finally, the board stated these changes are not intended to balance the budget but represent our new leadership’s “vision” for our school. Where was the stakeholder input in this process? With all due respect to Ms. Tripi, she has been employed since January 2 and I do not feel this is adequate time to fully understand our environment. I have witnessed no attempt to seek community input. Where is the parent engagement our school board assured? There has been no public presentation of this vision. The perception is that the board does not want input from parents or staff, and if that is indeed the reality I am deeply concerned for the future of our school.