Waiver would excuse school district from state penalties over class sizes

Waiver would excuse school district from state penalties over class sizes
Carlsbad High School math teacher Keith Glazer urges the CUSD Board to reduce class sizes, as the district’s class averages surpass state maximums. “Large class sizes hurts students, they certainly get less individual attention,” said Glazer. Photo by Rachel Stine

CARLSBAD — A waiver brought forth during the Carlsbad Unified School District (CUSD) Board’s April 17 meeting sparked teacher and parent frustration over class sizes that surpass the state’s maximum student to teacher ratios. Unanimously approved by the Board on Wednesday, the waiver allows the district to be excused from about $650,000 in state penalties for having kindergarten through eighth grade class size averages above state maximums.

The waiver itself only addressed the state penalty, and class sizes would remain above state maximums regardless, due to budgetary constraints throughout the district, explained CUSD Deputy Superintendent of Business Services Suzanne O’Connell.

The CUSD Board decided to raise class sizes over the past several years, a decision which still applies to the current school year and the next.

Although the item did not directly establish the swollen class sizes permitted within the district, teachers and parents used the issue as an opportunity to remind the Board of their dismay.

One Poinsettia Elementary teacher was brought to tears outside of the meeting when she spoke about being unable to give enough attention to her students.

CUSD Deputy Superintendent of Business Services Suzanne O’Connell (center) explains to the CUSD Board that the waiver would excuse the district from paying a $650,000 penalty from the state for having class sizes that exceed Education Code requirements. Photo by Rachel Stine

CUSD Deputy Superintendent of Business Services Suzanne O’Connell (center) explains to the CUSD Board that the waiver would excuse the district from paying a $650,000 penalty from the state for having class sizes that exceed Education Code requirements. Photo by Rachel Stine

“It’s just this flurry of students, and I’m not meeting their emotional needs,” she said. She declined to give her name out of concern for her job.

The state Education Code allows maximum class averages of 31 students for kindergarten, 30 students for first through eighth grades.

In the district this year, kindergarten and first grade classes have an average of 30 students, second and third grades have 32 students on average, and fourth through eighth grades have an average of 29 students, according to CUSD data.

Class sizes for next year have not yet been determined.

Yet because class sizes vary from school to school based on enrollment and staffing, a number of classes have more students than the district-wide averages.

“These averages are so frustrating because the class sizes vary,” said the Poinsettia Elementary teacher, whose third grade class has 33 students.

Claudine Jones told the Board that her daughter’s second grade class has 34 students and is chaotic.

“(My daughter) comes home regularly and says she can’t learn,” said Jones. “I think we need to look at dropping the class sizes for all of our kids.”

“Large class sizes hurts students, they certainly get less individual attention,” said Carlsbad High School math teacher Keith Glazer before the Board. “The burden (for teachers) has become greater each year.”

Glazer as well as the Carlsbad Unified Teachers Association President Sally Estep pressed the Board to delay the opening of CUSD’s new high school to save funds that could be spent at other schools. The Board dismissed this option months ago.

O’Connell said that the CUSD Board determined to raise class sizes due to significant budget cuts over the years.

“No one would deny the fact that class sizes are too large,” she said.

But she added that increasing class sizes was a necessary decision due to financial restraints.

This year, the district is operating with a 22 percent deficit funding, according to O’Connell.

“We were facing a pretty dire situation this time a year ago, and so the decision to increase class sizes did obviously not come lightly, but came in conjunction with multiple reductions,” she said about the Board’s most recent class size decision in spring 2012.

O’Connell said that with the state’s education budget still undecided, there is no telling when schools will receive full funding again, and as such there is no way of knowing when CUSD will be able to return to normal class sizes.

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  1. confused?! says:

    I am really confused now. Those same folks who don’t want Oxford here are saying their child can’t learn in her chaotic classroom. All we heard before from these same folks is how wonderful CUSD schools are, we offer this and that, now children can’t learn? Children come home sad about the enviroment they are in. A parent made that comment to the board when she wanted Oxford here and Board Member Ann Tanner basically laughed in her face to say that happens, her kids came home after having a bad day, she told them get over it. Her 5 children made it through CUSD just fine, and all are graduating or have graduated college, so quit your complaining parents. So how does it feel to be on the receiving end? Well welcome to reality, it hurts doesn’t it, but you had to admit your child is not learning, that is the truth and you said it.

    So CUSD where is all the money? Why are we the only broke Basic Aid district, lets not blame our finacial hardship on being Basic Aid that is an excuse? Why are 6 of CUSD schools already in the top ten for having the largest classroom size? Where is my Mello Roos money going, where are my tax dollars going, where is the CEF money going? Why are parents tired of donating and seeing nothing in return? Then another parent mentioned she supported the district and as parents we have options in Carlsbad. There are 14 local charter schools, we can get into 11 without a waiting list, is she saying that so that we can all go elsewhere? CUSD is so bad that we have all these other options? As for those who wanted a Charter School here in Carlsbad, I am sure it is more them just going to a Charter School but it was about going to the best school public education has to offer and it was Oxford for them and yes it is a Charter School.

    So great job you few folks who worked so hard to keep our children from getting the best education from a top school in the State, you should be very proud and now your children are stuck in crowded classrooms, with teachers who are so upset and they are having a hard time. So sad.

    • Carlsbad parent says:

      I am definitely not in favor of high class size numbers. Unfortunately, we have too many parent agendas in CUSD right now.

      We have parents that would rather have high class size and open a new high school. Those parents are contradicting the ones that want smaller class sizes and/or charter school.

      Del Mar (basic aid) has proposed furloughs and increased class sizes.

      The “fair share” cuts have been damaging budgets for basic aid districts, especially Carlsbad.

      The charter school would have further exacerbated the money problem (already talked about ad nauseam in previous posts).

      Teachers might be upset, but they are still top notch and should be appreciated.

      • Really? says:

        So let’s blame the parents. So parents stop bugging the district about wanting a better education, parents speaking up is the reason we are in this mess. Is that what you are saying??
        We all need to ban together, those who just want a better education and some answers as to why Carlsbad a middle to high class city is in this mess. Whether you want a charter school, high school, or smaller class size, whatever your reason for not being happy with the Carlsbad School District. I think it is time that the Mayor and City Council step in maybe now that people are moving out of the city for better schools it may get there attention. Someone needs to be held accountable enough of the excuses CUSD.
        Yep blame the parents not the puppet board members or Lovely who has learned all her dirty tricks from the best of them Capistrano School District, yep blame the parents.

  2. marilynn gallagher says:

    There are 433 elementary schools in SAN DIEGO COUNTY:

    top 10 class sizes of 433:

    # dist school class size

    10 La mesa dale Elementary 30.3
    9 carlsbad AVIARA OAKS 30.5
    8 la mesa Fletcher Hills 30.5
    7 carlsbad MAGNOLIA 31.2
    6 Carlsbad CALAVERA 31.4
    5 Carlsbad PAC RIM 31.6
    4 la mesa avondale 31.8
    3 Carlsbad POINSETTA 31.8
    2 la mesa Bancroft 32
    1 Carlsbad JEFFERSON 32

    these stats were pulled from the california dept of education website:
    ww.ed-data.k-12.ca.us,

    I presented these stats as unnacceptable at the meeting and everyone there witnessed Kym Szalkiewicz, PSAC Chair, verbally supporting the class size waiver (allowing for increases) and Claudine Jones,(PTA speaker who describes herself as an advocate for childrens right), said NOTHING during public comment,(except she thanked the board for answering one of her emails) glad to see she stepped up for the interview later, and voiced her opinion on class sizes!

    Sally estep, the teachers representative made it clear they would not support the waiver as they have seen the detrimental effect that high class sizes have had on their students.

    The teachers union also encouraged CUSD to look at facilites that are not being fully utilized and combine them or lease them (think Magnolia and BV)

    YOUR SCHOOL BOARD, your SUPERINTENDENT, AND YOUR COUNTY REPRESENTATIVE CARE MORE ABOUT MAKING EXCUSES FOR FUNDING THEN THEY DO ABOUT MAKING OUR SCHOOLS A BETTER LEARNING ENNVIRONMENT.

  3. marilynn gallagher says:

    carlsbad parent:

    You are the one beating a dead horse.

    Here is the correct argument for funding and charters.

    I pay property taxes, I personally help fund public education. I would like a choice. I would like to see my property tax dollars spent wisely. At Oxford Preparatory Academy they would be. They have a brief but escalating history of success. At CUSD they have a recent history of chaos, spending gaffs and lawsuits.

    As a human being who believes all children are entitled to a great education,I would welcome my tax dollars being spent on children (who want to attend OPA) from other districts. I would also encourage ecomonomically disadvantaged children to use my tax dollars to go to OPA (if they choose) even though they dont pay into the “general fund”

    we arent talking about toys, and who had them first, and who is going to get ripped off when someone from “outside” uses “our money”

    we are talking about kids and education.

    • VS says:

      Hi Marilynn, would you mind sharing how you were able to pull the class-size data? We are new residents of Carlsbad, and are just now realizing the situation of the schools. It’s sad to see that a town with so many positive qualities can let their schools deteriorate to this level. We should be competing with the top 10 schools, and not the bottom 10.

  4. Leslie Mayo says:

    I agree with Marilynn G. 100%. What a mess. Why does CUSD occupy 6 of the top ten highest-classroom size spots in the county? Out of 433 schools!!!

    • kurt says:

      The reason is very simple. Carlsbad school trustees are less interested in students, teachers, and learning then they are in building schools we don’t need and maintaining schools that are under enrolled.

  5. Really? says:

    PS I could care less about Del Mar. I only care about Carlsbad kids just because it could be worse or is getting worse for others doesn’t mean I should settle for what is happening in my own district. Once again EXCUSES! The ol’ basic aid excuse.

  6. Torn Between says:

    My husband and I moved to Carlsbad in 2005 with the hopes of fantastic schools. We moved from a quaint, lovely South Oceanside neighborhood where the neighborhood elementary school was classified as “Distinguished” and our monthly mortgage was less than what we pay for monthly property taxes here in Carlsbad. Many times over, I have second guessed our decision. While our 4th grader is doing really well (I can only imagine how well he would be doing in a private school), I don’t want to relocate him. However, my second child who will be in kindergarten this fall WILL be going to private school. It pains me that my hopes of my kids going to the local neighborhood school is diminished. Most neighborhood kids attend private school and I see more and more doing so each year. I have taken matters into my own hands and am not going to wait for the so-called boards and broke government to decide how many kids will squished into the classroom each year. Year after year we are asked to rally for our school and the teachers that are “pink slipped” before the end of the year. I surely can’t imagine that a teacher with that possibility looming over them year after year can be beneficial and productive. It is a sad observation. With all that, I am torn, sad and quite frankly pretty mad that we even have to discuss all this.

    • Carlsbad Parent says:

      First of all, my comments were addressing the person referred to as “confused.” That is why Del Mar was referenced etc. Just stating facts.

      I agree with Marilynn on several points:
      Yes, that topic is beating a dead horse. I was just responding to a previous poster.
      I think the class size issue in Carlsbad is atrocious and was really started by a previous superintendent. It didn’t and doesn’t have to be as it is.
      I’m happy you spoke up at the board meeting as well and can tell your heart is for the best interest of children (except vehemently disagree with OPA as a solution). I still can’t come to grips with paying for the education of people outside the attendance boundaries.
      I believe that things will turn around soon. Class sizes will be addressed, especially with a lot of pressure from parents. I’m going to keep pressing the admin since I believe they have the most influence in what really happens (rather than the board).

      • marilynn gallagher says:

        RE: class size, carlsbad parent, Superintendent Lovely and her ELECTED OFFICIALS could have “stopped it” last night and they didnt. They looked cbad parents & teachers in the eye and voted to allow this to continue.
        ELEMENTARY:
        Average size per class in state of ca 22
        average size per class in vista 24
        average size per class in oside 21`
        average size per class in san marcos 24
        average size per class in encinitas 22
        AVERAGE IN CARLSBAD 31

        date from cal ed data website.

        $$$$$$ solution:
        combine the two “half full” elementary schools (Magnolia and BV) and rent out the remaining school. CUSD has had plenty of offers, and I can only speculate they have left these two schools the way they are so a charter cant come in. (just ask Pheonix Charter in Encinitas who recently offered them +- 450k; way more then they are renting it for now) Now cusd is telling us they arent going to fill sage creek to capacity for years? .. What are they going to do with the empty buildings there? more money to be made and given back to our kids in the form of smaller class sizes/better programs….c’mon,a 1500 capacity high school that taxpayers paid funded is going to be filled with 350 kids to start? are you kidding me?

        Can you imagine if starbucks had two stores that were within 3 miles of each other and they werent making their numbers? do you really think they would leave both open and just “take” those losses.

        Carlsbad schools are funded by taxpayers. Taxpayers, this is your money. These are your employees. Quit waiting for things to change. Make change happen!

      • Parent4Choice says:

        Carlsbad Parent,

        I think we all agree on the point that the class sizes are atrocious and really disrupting to the learning environment. I also can understand where you are coming from when you say that you cannot come to grips with paying for the education of students from outside the boundaries. Yet the district could negotiate so that only a very small percentage of students outside the district would attend a charter in Carlsbad. Denying OPA hurt thousands of Carlsbad students that could have benefited from an environment with different teaching methods. And for many of the struggling students, class size is not the only problem. Unfortunately, I have lost faith in the CUSD and do not plan to sit around and wait for them to fix things. I do not have that sort of trust in the system that you do because I think there can be more effective ways for it to be done. Change is good.

  7. Enough is enough says:

    I have lived in carlsbad for 36 years. After hearing for years how great Carlsbad schools were I had just assumed that was a fact. That is until my children started attending carlsbad schools. All of a sudden the reality was they are a big giant mess. We were instantly facing increased class sizes, “amazing” teachers being pink slipped while other underperforming teachers keep their jobs year after year, and constant threats of even more cuts and budget crisis. The simple fact is enough is enough. These are children. They are not guinie pigs in a giant science experiment to see how many can be crammed into a classroom before either a student or a teacher SNAPS!!!! These are real human beings and they need the attention of a teacher. They are not robots and each learns in a different way. The current stats regarding San Diego county schools and class sizes is simply unexceptable. Why are schools in Carlsbad being kept open that are not filled to capacity, while all of south carlsbad sits with our kids packed in like sardines. Every school should be equal and if there are not enough students to fill (with the same over filled class sizes as other schools) then they should be relocated and the money used to make the existing schools the best they can be. Keeping a school open so some carlsbad families can enjoy free public “private” school while the rest of the districts children suffer is criminal. whats good for one carlsbad family should be good for all. Carlsbad families are already leaving. Parents are seeking better for their children. what carlsbad board has just decided to do to our children is sad and disheartening. Enough with excuses. It’s time for resolutions.

  8. $$$$$ says:

    Here is one small (huge actually) point about keeping a charter school out, class sizes, and money. Not only is CUSD keeping out Oxford, which would have helped with class size. If you worry about teachers loosing jobs many would jump over to Oxford since they are paid well for their efforts. Also the money, CUSD would have kept a potion of the money that should go toward every student who transfered to Oxford, pocket the money. Plus any lease they passed up, plus here is also something Carlsbad Education Fund would have had much more money since Oxford has its own fund raising, so CEF funds there would have been more for traditional CUSD schools to spend on art and music, science, less students, more money in the general fund for less students. Remember Oxford since they spend their money wisely pays for its own art, music, science, from the money they get from taxes. Their per student money say, 5200. pays for all of that. CUSD gets say 5700. per student and still relies one CEF for extra money. So if you are concerned about funds and class size please wise up and question where all of your money is going. CEF makes money a few different revenue sources, my children’s art program and music is a joke, they maybe went on a field trip here or there, I don’t see one thing that CEF is really doing in K-5. If they go to the lagoon CEF pays for that and we have a CUSD board member who is on the board at the lagoon, seems like conflict of interest. Where is the funds going out toward what? CEF said if we as parents donate 1,000. it covers one year of an art program at a school. Why are they asking us for money for art? Aren’t they supposed to pay for that and if it is a 1,000 per school per year then we should have an amazing art program at every school with the money CEF is supposedly paying for our art and music programs. Where is all the money CUSD and CEF?

    Good luck those of you who are choosing to stick around and support those who are ripping you and your children off. Bless those parents who are sticking around to continue to questioning the district.

    • Carlsbad parent says:

      Class sizes will not decrease due to a charter. Layoffs are an additional cost (litigation, etc). In addition, we would like to keep those teachers anyway!

      A lot of what was said in this comment is emotional and not factual.

  9. Letsgetreal says:

    You have bigger problems to worry about with CUSD than class size. Like why they allowed a teacher who had complaints of inappropriate touching from parents, students, teachers and the vice principal for every year he taught (2000-2007) to continue teaching. Finally removed from the classroom in 2007 but the real reason not told to the parents of the kids he taught for nearly 3 yeas later. CUSD was found guilty by jury 12-0 last year. Mr. Firth went to prison after pleading guilty to 3 students, now he’s out and living in Carsbad/Encinitas area. Google it!

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