Parents decry planned teacher cuts

June 02, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writing

Parents of students at Pleasant Valley Elementary School spoke out at Tuesday's Washington County Board of Education meeting against a plan to reduce the number of teachers at the school.

Parent Kim Austin said she was speaking for a "frustrated, angry and emotional community."

"We demand fairness," she said at the meeting. "We want action and the only solution is to restore the teaching position that has been taken away."

About 25 people in the audience responded to Austin's remarks with a standing ovation. Seven people, including Austin, spoke against the proposed changes at the school at 1707 Rohrersville Road in Knoxville.


"Do you feel we are idiots to accept this suggestion?" Austin asked.

According to the school system's plans, the school's staff will drop from 11 teachers this school year to 10 in the next school year due to class sizes and enrollment levels at the school, said Joetta Palkovitz-Brown, the system's executive director of elementary education.

Palkovitz-Brown, who tracks enrollments to see if the target of 21 students per teacher in reading classes at non-Title I elementary schools is met, said that for a few years, Pleasant Valley school "has enjoyed smaller class sizes."

Now teachers from five schools, including Pleasant Valley, will be reassigned to other schools that have class sizes larger than the target, she said.

Austin and the other speakers said that change is not fair.

"Anything other than the status quo is unacceptable to this group of people," parent Randy Thompson said.

Parent Karen Reilly said the parents want a written response to their concerns by Friday.

Before the parents spoke, Patricia Abernethy, deputy superintendent for instruction, said parents have erroneously assumed the teacher's reassignment will result in larger class sizes or split classes, but that will not be the case.

It has not been decided what personnel changes will be made at the school to make up for the loss of the teacher, she said.

The number of special education teachers at the school is also scheduled to drop from 1.5 to 1, she said.

Principal Rose Pellegrino had a May 26 meeting at the school with parents about the planned changes.

It is projected that the school enrollment will drop from 238 this school year to 225 for the school year starting in the fall, according to documents provided by Pellegrino.

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