• Reconfiguration may spell answers to class size problems for Pacific Grove’s school district

    by Kacie Clark

    The school board officially reintroduced the topic of school reconfiguration during the Thursday, June 13 board meeting.

    The idea, which has been introduced and failed three times previously, consists of reconfiguring Pacific Grove Unified School District (PGUSD)’s campuses by grade level, so that all of the students in the same grade attend school together.

    Possible splits include kindergarten through second grade at Robert H Down Elementary School, and grades three though five at Forest Grove Elementary School. There are also possibilities of bringing the sixth grade students back into an elementary setting, creating a middle school of grades seven through nine, with the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades remaining at the high school level.

    Last time the plan was introduced, it met resistance from parents, according to board member Tony Sollecito, because of the perceived inconvenience of having children at different schools, therefore requiring more driving and scheduling.

    Suggested solutions to this issue included an alteration of the bell schedule and transportation between schools to make sure children could be picked up at the same school, at the same time.

    Board member Mike Niccum voiced reluctance to move ahead with the plan unless he saw clear teacher support.

    “You [in response to Sollecito] say it’s the parents, but’s the teachers who will make the difference here,” Niccum said. “If the teachers don’t think this is a good idea, we’re wasting our time. The parents will be talking to their teachers. I want to emphasize to the administration; start talking to the teachers now.”

    Niccum continued to say that he would not consider taking action with the plan unless teacher support could be proven.

    “Come back when two-thirds of the teachers support this idea,” he said.

    As part of moving forward, the board expects to have some kind of session with the elementary teachers to better understand their positions on the subject, and any concerns, with plans for a survey to go out.

    Kathleen Lee, a Forest Grove parent, advised the board to educate the parents about the plan.

    “Parents didn’t know this was coming. I think you can tell by the empty seats that they weren’t expecting it tonight,” she continued. “Form committees of teachers, parents and alumni. At least people will feel listened to.”

    The importance of being listened to was echoed by Barbara Hirst, a second-grade teacher at Forest Grove.

    “Teachers do like to be listened to,” she said, “and parents do listen. We don’t feel listened to. Decisions don’t reflect what we’re trying to say. Get teachers on board.”

    A focus of just grades K-5 was decided on, rather all grades K-12.

    “We need to phase it. I wouldn’t even consider anything except elementary school,” Niccum said.

    Board member Debbie Crandell disagreed, arguing the importance of looking at all of the information as a whole.

    Despite the reservations to the plan, many of comments surrounding the topic praised the educational value of such a structure.

    Board member Mike Phillips said that the plan “works educationally and would balance class size. It would level the playing field. We should offer an education to everyone in the same way.”

    Craig Beller, principal of the Pacific Grove Adult School, also voiced his support, calling the plan, “educationally sound.”

    Lee also commented on the implementation of the plan.

    “It might be the right time,” she said. “I was one of the parents who was against reconfiguration the last time it was brought up. It seemed like it came out of nowhere. Talk to the parents now.”

    posted to Cedar Street Times on June 28, 2013

    Topics: Front PG News, Kacie Clark, Schools

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