May 2017 Principal Chat… REVEALED

Budget Blues

Oh honey.  In case you haven’t heard, the state is facing a deficit next fiscal year and education is once again on the chopping block. BSD’s budgeting was based on $8.1billion for the state, (and now legislatures are looking at reducing it to $7.8billion!), but the break even number was $8.4, which would have given us no change from our current funding.

No matter where the chips fall, BSD and by extension-- Bonny Slope-- will feel those changes.  No teachers will be laid off, but some classified staff might be (which are staff without a teacher’s license, such as instructional assistants and secretaries).  Also, school offices will be totally closed in July and will have limited hours at the beginning of August.  Janet’s general budget from BSD will also be reduced.

Class Size Chaos

Every year at this time, parents start murmuring about next year’s teachers and next year’s class sizes, and debating whether THIS IS THE YEAR that BSE will explode at the seams.  The surrounding boom in construction has put everyone on edge as most feel our current size is living on borrowed time.

However, BSD’s recent demographer report (yes-- that’s a real job in the district) has BSE’s projected enrollment to be 612.  Our current number is over 630.  I mean honestly-- how could our numbers go DOWN??  Unfortunately, BSD does not just guess at enrollment-- they quite literally count the number of elementary age students enrolled… last January.  That means that any new construction in the ensuing months isn’t taken into account unless those families register.  

And so we all just do a little dance as we wait to see who actually shows up in August.  Right now, BSE has been allotted enough money to staff 612 students.  As 2017-18 approaches and class sizes solidify, Janet is confidant that we will get the teachers we need, as BSD has said that the last thing to be changed is larger class sizes.  

The magic number to create a new section within K-2 is 28 students per classroom.  3-5 can go as high as 30 before another section is considered.  With the closure of BSE’s front office in July, parents will be forced to wait to enroll-- which means our class size reality won’t be revealed until late August.

And what about our Specialists?  Well, specialists are assumed at around a 4:1 ratio to teachers, so if we have 23 teachers, we will have five specialists.  Again, we all get to just sit on our hands and see where the numbers fall come late summer.

Early Release Reality

Sit up, parents.  Big changes are coming to our current bell schedule.  Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that Bonny Slope and the ENTIRE SCHOOL DISTRICT will release students 90 minutes EVERY.SINGLE.WEDNESDAY from now until forever.  That means our final bell rings at 1:35pm and parents will be suddenly saddled with what to do with their little hooligans that early every Wednesday afternoon.

Bonny Slope is blessed to have Student Stop as an on-site option.  Over half of our elementaries in BSD do not have on-site childcare, so count your lucky stars for Tina and her team.  Much like cage-free chickens, there is a square-foot limit based on number of students, but Janet and Ali are confidant in our capacity and believe that Student Stop will continue to operate as the well-oiled machine it is known to be.

However, one recent bummer is the announcement that all afterschool clubs and activities will not be available on Wednesday afternoons.  That means our vendors like Young Rembrandts, Mad Science, and all those other fun options will NOT be scheduled on Wednesdays.  For all you working parents that were hoping this could relieve some pressure, unfortunately that is not the case.

Why the schedule shutout?  Couple reasons.  One, the school won’t actually be empty.  Our teachers are using that time to meet and collaborate and having afterschool activities would be a distraction to this professional time.  Two, while the clubs are SUPPOSED to be independent, they regularly need office assistance, which won’t be there after school on Wednesday.

Suppress the Summer Slump

BSE is kicking off a new summer reading program in hopes we can resist the ever-tempting screentime.  “Reading Can Take you Places”  is an idea brought forth from fifth grade teacher, Helen Chandler (note: families should have already received their passport in Friday Folders).

Jennifer Oordt has big things planned for this program, including a possible popcorn and/or popsicle party.  Students will have a little celebration at the end of summer for those that accomplish their goal.  Kinders through fourth graders will go home with a “power goal,” which emphasizes what specific items they need to accomplish in order to move up in reading level.  More info on the Reading Passport can be found here.

Modern Mathematics

Ugh.  Us old-timers keenly feel this struggle.  The recent change in math methodology has left us all scratching our heads and muttering, “I don’t know why-- just carry the one and be done with it!”  

Engage NY has been teachers’ recent choice, but as a stand alone product, it didn’t meet all the expectations as a math program.  BSD is adding a curriculum study that goes with it, called “Context for Learning.” This program fills in all of the holes and our teachers receive training over the summer.  The upside is that parents should be feeling the love and receiving more online support.  The District is also adopting programs to help minions practice at home.  

One of the current free math subscriptions available to students is Zearn, which many of our students have already been using.  Another new option will be Dream Box, for all your mathematical dreams...  kidding.  BSCO has historically funded IXL, which is quite popular with a small segment of BSE parents.  IXL, however, comes with a hefty price-tag of over $4k, so the jury is still out on whether BSE teachers will choose to continue that subscription.

Other Juicy Tidbits

  • Kindergarten numbers for next year look to support four sections, with 77 kinders attending the Roundup. To give you context-- BSE only had 78 kindergartners WHEN SCHOOL BEGAN last fall.

  • Our PYP reauthorization has been pushed into Fall 2018 so we gotta little more time to straighten our ducks.

  • The previously reported BSE preschool is still uncertain with BSD’s current budget landscape.  Our superintendent intends for more elementaries to eventually have preschools on-site, but right now the limitations with space and funds has everything on the backburner.  

And that’s a wrap!  See you next September for your next installment of Principal Chat…. REVEALED.