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School board approves extra fifth grade teacher due to influx of new students

— The issue of fifth grade student population increases was broached during the public comment period of the board’s recent meeting first by a district parent and then by a fifth grade teacher, both of whom said they were concerned by the high class sizes and urged the board to hire an additional fifth grade teacher to lessen the burden.

“Any class size above 25 is a serious consideration,” said district parent Jim Steinberg. “The board should take a close look at fifth grade.”

Fifth grade Cazenovia teacher Amy Conley agreed, and said that the 27-per-class number does not even include the specifics of special needs students or boy-to-girl ratios. “This is really about what’s best for the kids,” she said. “If we can put back one fifth grade position that would be great. You can do it; it’s been done before.”

Conley was referring to the similar situation that occurred in third grade for this year, which also has had a higher-than-expected influx of new students and which prompted the school board in July to raise the number of third grade teachers from four to five in order to lower class sizes.

Similarly, at the end of the 2012-13 school year, when the district announced it had to lay off a high school social studies teacher who was a student and parent favorite, the board voted to add extra money into the district budget for this year solely to retain that teacher. In the end, the teacher actually left the district for a job at Fayetteville-Manlius High School — and that added salary remains in the budget.

For the school board, the discussion centered around the “precedent” of adding a teacher when class sizes become too high in a grade level — as was done for third grade. Even though an additional fifth grade teacher position is not in this year’s budget, the unspent money for the unhired social studies teacher position could be used to pay the cost.

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