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Author Topic: Full-Day Kindergarten Snuck in Budget Without Advance Public Notice  (Read 30927 times)
vtgoober
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« on: January 12, 2011, 11:08:55 PM »

Monday night the Fairfax School Board voted 3-1 to include Full-Day Kindergarten for the 2011-2012 school year. 

The most recent data collected from a survey conducted by the elementary principal in September 2007 showed 50% of surveyed parents opposed moving our 2/3 day program to a full day program.  Two years ago when full-day kindergarten was before the board,  the school administrators and Board asked for public input over the course of several meetings, took appropriate measures to notify the public when board discussion on this topic would be occurring, and even formulated a committee of school employees, parents and community members to study the issue.  This time that was not the case. 

This time, a last-minute petition was presented to the board on Monday night in conjunction with a letter from administration and staff asking for this discussion to be reopened.  These individuals were the only people aware that there was going to be a discussion occurring at Monday night’s board meeting about including full-day kindergarten in the 2011-12 budget. 

Yes, kindergarten was listed on the agenda posted late last week outside the library as shown here:
5.   Board Business                               
a.   FY2012 Budget – Action
b.   Approve FY2012 Legal Warning – Action
c.   Approve FY2010 Audit Report  – Action
d.   Approve FY2012 Announced Tuition Rate – Action
e.   Approve Revisions to Parks & Recreation Agreement – Action
f.   Merger Update
g.   Kindergarten
Anyone looking at this posted agenda would not know that kindergarten was being discussed as part of the FY2012 Budget that was set for ‘action’ or a vote on Monday night.  In fact, it clearly reads that this topic was to be brought up after the budget vote was taken.  It is also not clear by looking at the agenda that the discussion was going to be about full-day kindergarten.  The agenda given to school board members goes even further and reads as “g. kindergarten discussion.”  Was it even possible or appropriate for them to vote on this discussion item?
 
The deceptive presentation of this item on the agenda was further compounded by school staff asking for community member signatures inside the school building during school hours on Monday in clear violation of school policy.  I am also equally disturbed by the consistent pattern of inconsistent and contradictory information presented to the board and public over the past three years on the topic of kindergarten.

The cost of including full-day kindergarten has been a constantly changing one.  Each presentation by the same administration on the cost of including a full-day kindergarten program has used vastly different figures.   When first presented in 2008, the cost was presented at roughly $70,000 with an additional $10,000 towards afternoon busing taken from the co-curricular budget.  This number then became $40,000 a short time later after some refiguring.  On Monday night, the board was told yet again a different number.  Does anyone actually know the true cost of adding this program at this point?  Where was the public presentation on these true costs and figures?  It would be great if the administrators and school board would be honest and upfront with the community of Fairfax in representing the entire cost of adding on a full-time kindergarten program.

For the 2008-09 school year, a 4-day per week full-day intervention program was created to support the students who were determined to need additional services through assessments made by the kindergarten teachers; this was presented as best practice by the administration.  These identified students are deemed to be in need of services for only a portion of the year at a time.  After reassessment, students are dropped from the intervention program and return to the same extended day schedule as the rest of their peers.  This practice certainly seems to speak against the need for full-day kindergarten for all.  Additionally, there is no data from our own school regarding the effects of its full-day intervention program for the students it has served over the past couple years.  This small group based intervention program targeted to those most in need of further support will be taken away with the implementation of a full-day kindergarten program. 

For the 2009-10 school year, a fourth kindergarten classroom and teacher were added in order to reduce class size.  The argument presented by the same administration to taxpayers and the board was that reducing class size was best practice for kindergartners because it allows teachers more time to spend with each student while creating a more relaxed classroom atmosphere among other benefits.  This argument was repeated again for the 2010-11 school year in order to keep the four extended day kindergarten classes even though enrollment numbers were lower than expected.  These statements are in direct contradiction to those made that class size doesn’t  have an impact made by the same administration while advocating for a full-day program to be implemented for the 2008-2009 school year (in lieu of 4 classrooms with reduced class sizes at the same cost).  Monday night the same administration presented a full-day program for 2011-12 consisting of only three classrooms, meaning increased class sizes to over 20 kindergarteners per class again, as best practice.  It certainly seems that what is best practice or in the best interests of the students is not what we have been voting on for the past several years but what suits the whims of the administration and staff. 

I feel this was a well-orchestrated and deceitful way for the elementary administration and school board to sneak in a hot and divisive budget item without clearly alerting the public that full-day kindergarten was being introduced as a budget item at the eleventh hour for the 2011-12 budget.  This lack of proper notification did not afford the parents, providers, and community members opposed to the inclusion of a full-day kindergarten program the opportunity to speak.   Monday night, the board was supposed to be finalizing any last edits after months of budget work and voting on a budget and warning to submit to the town clerk for Town Meeting Day.

Instead, this school board acted without integrity.  It is their job as our elected officials to make sure that the budget process is one that is open, honest, transparent, and completed in an ethical manner.  Being a community member that has followed the kindergarten issue closely for years, I was shocked this last minute budget addition was allowed especially since this very same board had already discussed the kindergarten program during its budget meetings this year and had stated that full-day kindergarten would not be put in the 2011-12 school budget. 

Considering the immense community outpouring on this divisive issue each time it has come before the board, I was incredibly disappointed as a parent, taxpayer, and community member that there was not a forthright public announcement to the community about this item in the agenda, in the school newsletter, on vtgrandpa.com, and in the Fairfax News as has been done each time in the past.  It is difficult to trust an administration and board that picks and chooses when it will inform the parents and public on major decisions like whether or not to include full-day kindergarten.  It is difficult to trust an administration and staff that seems to change what they state is best practice every year or two as well. 
Aside from the issue of how this came before the board last evening is the issue of whether there is any benefit to the 5 year olds of Fairfax to move from our current 2/3 day program(also called extended day) to a full-day program.  People tout that research states there is.  This same research also clearly states that extended or 2/3 day programs are considered full-day programs by researchers.  People claim one of the benefits of moving to full-day programs is socialization; however, this same research states that full-day programs actually have lower rates of pro-social behavior.   This research also clearly states that by 3rd and 4th grade at the latest you can’t distinguish between children who attended full-day, extended day, or half-day kindergarten programs.

We are being asked as taxpayers to pay the added expense every year for a full-day kindergarten program when people are struggling to feed their children, when people are accessing state aid programs at record rates, and when people are lucky to be employed.  It seems inappropriate to be adding programs and staff salary increases in this hidden manner in a budget that has staff losing their jobs, staff having reduced hours, and existing programs being reduced and cut.

We will be told a lot about how other communities, including Fletcher and Georgia, have moved to full-day programs.  The teachers say that we need to do it now because they did.  As parents, we have been known to ask our children if their friends are all jumping off a bridge, does that mean they should too?  Just because another community does something, does not make it in the best interests or appropriate for our community. 

What exactly do any of us know about the full-day kindergarten program that was voted on?  We could refer to the fact sheet put out by this administration in 2008 to seek some insight, except the only information provided during Monday’s board meeting on the full-day program was about recess and this contradicted their fact sheet as well.  The fact sheet from 2008 states there will be 2 20-30 minute recesses for our kindergarteners; the same administration stated during this board meeting that there would only be one.    It is difficult to trust an administration that keeps presenting conflicting or inadequate information.  It is difficult to trust a school board that accepts such contradictions without question.

We heard a lot Monday night from some board members about the need for them to listen to the administrators who are making the recommendations about what is best practice.  Whatever happened to listening to parents?  These children are ours.  We are their first and their most important teachers throughout their lives.  We are responsible for the adults they become.  However, parents have been made to feel incompetent in how to support their children’s education throughout this process.  They are often faced with the ‘we are the teachers and therefore know best’ attitude.  I am a parent who is also a licensed teacher and wholeheartedly does not believe that full-day kindergarten is in the best interest of our children or my children. 

I would encourage community members to attend any school board meeting (2nd Monday of each month, 6:30pm in the library) and Town Meeting Day (Saturday, February 26th in the elementary gym) to let board members know that this kind of underhandedness is not how we want our board, administrators, and staff to operate.  I would strongly urge each Fairfax resident to vote NO to this behavior, NO to full-day kindergarten, and NO to the Fairfax School Budget for the 2011-12 school year.   

Respectfully submitted,
Patricia Hendee
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David Shea
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« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2011, 08:42:17 AM »

Isn't your husband / life partner, Robbin Freeman, the chairman of the school board?
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vtgoober
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« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2011, 09:11:11 AM »

My husband, Robin Freeman, is not the chair of the BFA-Fairfax school board.  And, he voted no.
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David Shea
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« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2011, 10:26:12 AM »

As I understand it, there will be an opening on the School Board.  Now is your chance?
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mkr
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« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2011, 10:43:09 AM »

I would like to truly hear what the teachers will do with the full day vs the current curriculum.  I personally have no children and if this is going to include a wider curriculum based on more time with the students I am willing to pay for full days. 

However, if this is not the case, I am not willing to pay for everyone to have day care for their 5 year olds.  Which can be the case for some schools.
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ansbaker
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« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2011, 11:40:48 AM »

I wholeheartedly support full-day kindergarten. My daughter, who is now in 6th grade, was denied access into preschool in Fairfax because she did not "qualify."  As such, we made the decision to seek opportunities outside of the Fairfax school district for her.  She attended full-day preschool and full-day kindergarten, at our expense (which was in addition to our school taxes), because we felt that this was not only beneficial to her educational future, it was also a better fit for her than day care.   We reap the benefits of this decision everyday as we watch her grow and bloom within the school system at Fairfax.

Not all of us have the luxury or benefit of being able to stay at home and have to seek services outside of the home to ensure that our children are getting what they need to be successful.  I work hard everyday as a public servant for the State of Vermont and although my child is beyond kindergarten at BFA Fairfax, I will not gripe about a minimal increase in my tax bill if it means that other Fairfax children are afforded an opportunity for full day kindergarten and if this eases the burden for some parents with respect to a better fit for their child in day care vs. educational environment.

I fully support the elementary administration and teachers and believe that the best interest of our children is at the forefront of their decision-making and I would vote yes, without hesitation, to a budget that FINALLY would allow us to follow suit with many of the other school districts around us who recognize the importance of full day kindergarten.

Kindergarten is not mandated by the State of Vermont.  If you have the ability to stay home with your child and feel that you can do a better job than the school system, more power to you.  However, please do not deny others the opportunity to make the decision to send their child to full-day kindergarten. 

« Last Edit: January 13, 2011, 11:46:04 AM by ansbaker » Logged
logical
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« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2011, 12:26:50 PM »

I full heartedly believe that Fairfax should provide full-time kindergarten.  I believe that it prepares children for the future in ways that we can not even begin to express on this forum.  As a taxpay and as a parent I believe we as a community need to step up to the plate and give the future generations all opportunities possible.  Times change.  Kindergarten may not even have been possible when myself or older generations were growing up.  However, the demands placed on children upon entering the school system were also not what they are today.  Today's children need to be able to know how to write and read prior to even entering first grade.  When I was growing up those were taught in first grade.  Also as a parent and taxpayer I do not believe that kindergarten should be used as a means of daycare.  We as parents are the primary teachers in our children's life and need to ensure that education begins at home.  However, we can not deny our children the right to an early education in a structured environment.  We must remember that the 5 year olds of today are our future leaders and some day will be responsible for our generation's well being.  Let's give them the opportunity to succeed.
« Last Edit: January 13, 2011, 12:52:42 PM by logical » Logged
cronsteel
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« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2011, 12:45:01 PM »

I am also fully supportive of a full-day kindergarten.

Given the choice between sending my kids to daycare or sending them to school, I would choose school. Given the choice between keeping my kids at home or sending them to kindergarten, I would still choose school- I think the first couple of years of education can be some of the most important, and with a well articulated curriculum (good point, MKR!) and practice we would be giving the kids in Fairfax a solid foundation on which to build the rest of their educational lives. The amount of academic distance a kids covers from Kindergarten through first grade can be remarkable; I've taught both, and I've seen kids enter Kindergarten needing help getting their shoes on the right feet, and leave first grade as fully independent readers, writers, mathematicians, and scientists. This process is not terribly easy, and is in my mind dependent on a full day program in Kindergarten.

As to the behavior of the administration and board...I don't have much to say about it. I would like the two arguments to be separated. I think the question of a full day kindergarten should be considered on it's own merits, not based on feelings about other issues. If the financial responsibility question can be answered to everyone's satisfaction, and if the content of the full day is seen to be a valuable addition to the students' academic lives, if this makes sense from an educational and financial standpoint...then I don't understand why we wouldn't do it.
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Corm
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« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2011, 01:04:17 PM »

logical - I have to agree, and disagree, with some of what you said. You said - " I do not believe that kindergarten should be used as a means of daycare". I agree with that statement. I believe kindergarten prepares our kids for first grade. I also agree that it is a huge leg up if our kids can read and write before they enter first grade. My kids and my grandkids all did. You also said - "We as parents are the primary teachers in our children's life and need to ensure that education begins at home". I couldn't agree more with this statement.

I have to disagree with this statement - "I full heartedly believe that Fairfax should provide full-time daycare". Why should I help pay for your daycare needs? Nobody helped me out when my kids were young. My wife and I did what we needed to do to make sure our kids were well taken care of. Your kids are your responsibility, as are your daycare needs.
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ohhman
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« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2011, 01:26:53 PM »

MKR, their day would include adding lunch, (in their class as NOT enough lunchroom time now with kids/times for lunch, so add on more lunch people- or max out we have now, & more cleaning for our custodial staff), extra recess time, & originally there was a quiet time added as it would be overwhelming for these youngsters to go all day without one!, add on extra benefits for the teachers, extra aides, probably extra lots that we don't know about!  Yup, NOT what I want to pay for!! Any daycare provider, myself included, know how wiped out these kids are after a 2/3 day,  so maybe what will happen is then we will have to increase PRE-k time to get these kids "ready" for kindergarten!  REMEMBER EVERYONE, KINDERGARTEN IS NOT REQUIRED IN OUR STATE! So at a time when our economy is still stressed, to say the least, now is not the time to add on to do this....sorry Drew but to help YOUR daycare costs?Huh.... YOU choose to have children, YOU choose to add lots of responsibilities to your life! I once read in a "Working Mother" magazine that BEFORE you have children, know you will pay 1/2-2/3 of your pay for childcare for the 1st 5 years of your child's life......seem like alot, but as an in home provider, we average $3.00 per hr per child( & under in some cases!)...so, it's NOT alot!  & within reason, you can't put a price on the person you are trusting with your child for quality care!!  Remember also, IF this gets voted in, you will continue to pay for this (& more I am sure), for MUCH longer than to have your child in daycare!
Also, as a provider, we are allowed so many "spots" for kids; what will happen to those full time kindergartners after school, when providers will need to fill their spots with a full-time child; many will continue to charge for the "spot" if you want it or you may end up paying the much higher rate for after school care- if you find someone @ all!
Recently there has been lots of child experts that say we have too much pressure on kids; lets add a little more @ a young age! Let them be kids!
Patricia, I applaud you & your husband for letting this be known.  I am very surprised @ our administration & board!  Our board , I feel, has always worked very hard @ trying to get a budget that is fair to all as much as possible & it's been a long time since one of our budgets has not passed........but maybe this will be the year it does NOT pass; it does NOT get my support this year & I may be only 1 vote, but I know going about this the way it was done, will not make a hit with many!
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logical
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« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2011, 01:41:54 PM »

Corm,

I do not believe that Fairfax should provide full time daycare either, but full time kindergarten.  When I had children I made the choice to do so and should therefore be responsible for their daycare!  I beleive that kindergarten and daycare are and should be two separate entities.
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vtgoober
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« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2011, 03:45:25 PM »

Drew, you asked for some examples of the research I was referencing.

Here are a couple of many examples you can find online:

"Earlier ECLS-K reports found that public school children who attended full-day (vs. half-day) kindergarten programs made greater gains in kindergarten in reading and mathematics, after controlling for other characteristics, and were more likely to demonstrate advanced reading skills at the end of the kindergarten year (Walston and West 2004; Denton, West, and Walston 2003). When overall achievement was compared for full-day and half-day children from both public and private schools, however, differences in reading and mathematics achievement were not detected (West, Denton, and Reaney 2001). Findings from the current report also detected no differences in achievement at the end of third grade for public and private school children combined, related to the type of kindergarten program children had attended."
 
 from:
http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2004/beg_school/conclusion.asp Final report in series of four reports from National Center for Educational Statistics, a US DOE division responsible for compiling educational statistics


"Our analyses reinforce the findings of earlier studies that suggest that full-day kindergarten
programs may not enhance achievement in the long term. Furthermore, our study raises the
possibility that full-day kindergarten programs may actually be detrimental to mathematics
performance and nonacademic readiness skills."

and

"Attendance in a full-day kindergarten program was negatively associated with attitudes toward
learning, self-control, and interpersonal skills, and was positively related toward internalizing
(measured by a scale indicating presence of anxiety, loneliness, low self-esteem, and sadness) and externalizing behaviors."


from:
http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monographs/2006/RAND_MG558.pdf   Part of a 2006 Congressional Review Letter from Rand Corporation, objective non-profit think tank funded by the federal  government and other entities to analyze various policy positions related to many different subjects.  This one looked at students through the end of the fifth grade.



« Last Edit: January 13, 2011, 04:01:03 PM by Henry » Logged
ansbaker
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« Reply #12 on: January 13, 2011, 08:33:55 PM »

The reality is that you can find research to say whatever you want it to say, both for and against full-day kindergarten.  A quick Internet search:

From the Indiana Department of Education: "Teachers reported significantly greater progress for full-day children in literacy, math, general learning skills, and social skills. Full-day kindergarten children spend more time in teacher-directed individual work and learning centers. Elicker and Mathur (1997) found that full-day kindergarten allowed children to be more actively engaged and more positive in their activities."  AND  "Full-day kindergarten programs can result in social benefits. In a longitudinal study by J.R. Cryan (1992), children in full-day kindergarten programs showed more positive behavior than their peers in half-day kindergarten in the areas of originality, independent learning, involvement in classroom activities, and productivity with their peers, and their approach to the teacher."

AND:

From the Arizona Department of Education:  Benefits for students include more time and opportunity to play with language as well as to explore subjects in depth, more flexible, individualized learning environment, more individual and small-group interaction with the teacher than is possible in most half-day classrooms.  Benefits for parents include lowered childcare costs possible, the opportunity for lower-income families to enroll children in a higher quality early education program that might otherwise be affordable in the private market, less difficulty scheduling childcare and transportation, especially when more than one child is enrolled in the same school, increased opportunities to get involved in their children's classroom, as well as to communicate with the teacher.   Benefits for teachers include reduced ratio of transition time to learning time, more time to spend with students individually and in small groups , more time to get to know and communicate with parents, more time to assess students and individualize instruction to their needs and interests ,

This isn’t a “research-based” discussion.  There is no definitive research either way.  It’s about a community making a decision in the best interest of the children.   Look around us – why have so many other school districts implemented full-day kindergarten if it is truly so detrimental and costly to the community?
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Mummy
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« Reply #13 on: January 13, 2011, 11:05:25 PM »

This will NOT get my vote! 

Will this year be the first year the Budget doesn't pass? 

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MikeF9
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« Reply #14 on: January 13, 2011, 11:33:08 PM »

In 1991, the budget was voted down. And again in the late 90's I think.
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