WETHERSFIELD - A fourth grade teacher at Charles Wright Elementary School is being transferred to Alfred W. Hanmer Elementary in a move that will reduce the number of classes for that grade level at the former by one.
The transfer, which Wethersfield Superintendent of Schools Michael Emmett said is being done in order to provide relief for teachers dealing with larger class sizes at Alfred W. Hanmer, was not popular with the Charles Wright parents that turned up at the June 10 Board of Education to voice their concerns regarding the number of fourth grade students at their own school.
Wethersfield resident John Baker has two children--one in third grade and the other in fourth grade--at Charles Wright Elementary, where he says this year’s third-graders were broken into three classes of 17-18 students each.
“While the space is tight, the teachers manage to balance addressing the students’ needs and providing quality education,” Baker said during the public comments segment of the meeting. “But when the [number of] classes are reduced further, it will diminish the educational experience.”
There are currently three fourth grade sections at Charles Wright. The loss of the one teacher will remove one of them.
“Twenty-six students in a classroom is just too large,” Baker said. “Plus, there’s no guarantee the number of students will remain the same.”
Over at Alfred W. Hanmer, they’re having the same problem, which is why the district is making the move in the first place, Emmett said.
“I would love to have classes of 17 across the district,” he said, “but I have to look at the bigger picture.”
The picture, at least at Alfred W. Hanmer, is of class sizes already at 24-25 students, according to Emmett.
“We only have a certain number of teachers to go around,” Emmett said. “We didn’t budget for more teachers. This is not an easy process. We looked at it from doing the best we can with what we have.”
The Board of Education was able to fund long-sought initiatives, such as the replenishing of the district’s math curriculum supervisor position to the tune of $104,000. Emmett estimated that it would have cost the district $180,000 to hire three more teachers.
“[The curriculum supervisor funds] would get me, at best, one teacher,” Emmett said. “So that doesn’t solve our problem.”
Charles Wright will have more room for larger fourth grade sections because the students will be in more spacious portable classrooms, unlike at Alfred W. Hanmer, Board members said.
Another concern Baker brought up was regarding the needs of students classified as English Language Learners, (ELL) the district’s 2011-12 strategic school profile of Charles Wright had that number at 17 percent of the student population.
Emmett said that while he understands the challenge that presents, for him it was all the more reason to address the need for another teacher elsewhere.
““The students [at Charles Wright] receiving ELL support will also be receiving tutoring, so it’s not going to be a teacher by themselves,” Emmett said.