Reverse the Decision to move the 5th Grade to the Junior High School
This petition made change with 358 supporters!
On May 28, 2014 the Brunswick School Board voted to address overcrowding of Harriet Beecher Stowe School by moving the 5th Grade to the Junior High School, beginning in September 2015. Currently this action is not funded and therefore we are asking the Brunswick School Board to reverse it's decision in a re-vote. We still have time to make this right.
Brunswick School Board: Reverse the Decision to Move the 5th Grade to BJHS
On May 28, 2014 the Brunswick School Board voted to address overcrowding of Harriet Beecher Stowe School by moving the 5th Grade to the Junior High School, beginning in September 2015. Currently this action is not funded and therefore we are asking the Brunswick School Board to reverse it’s decision in a re-vote. We still have time to make this right.
A comprehensive review of the information made available up to this point, including revised enrollment projections and recent studies of childhood access to substance abuse in schools and questionable research behind the move will demonstrate that the current course of action is ill-advised.
The decision to move the 5th Grade to BJHS is neither financially prudent nor academically sound. It is borne not out of desire for best-possible developmental or educational environment for our students, but out of desperation to make our inadequate facilities “work”, at the sacrifice of our children’s well-being. The School Board has made insufficient effort to reach out to the community and engage the public at large in a conversation to evaluate what will best remedy the overcrowding concerns without disenfranchising those that do not wish their 5th Grade students to attend the Junior High School.
There are many alternative solutions to overcrowding at HBS that would not cost the town as much, would not affect as many students, and would not have as severe an impact on those students. The hard work done up to this point bythe School Board may still be utilized and put to good use.
For perspective, a few numbers based on the most current data, provided by the administration:
Projected Enrollment of Harriet Beecher Stowe (current configuration)
2014: 708 students
2015: 689 students
2016: 679 students
2017: 670 students
Over the next three years in the current configuration enrollment will naturally decline, lessening the student enrollment by almost 40 students by 2017. HBS was originally designed to house approximately 612 students. Is the considerable expense and financial burden justifiable for the difference of roughly 60 students, or two students per classroom?
1. Reasons to reconsider the decision:
- 1a. The school is NOT overcrowded. Current student to teacher ratios in the classroom are well below the state-mandated levels by the Maine Department of Education. Simply put, the school by definition is NOT overcrowded.
- 1b. The current action plans to displace the entire 180+ student cohort, when the surplus of students is only approximately 77 in 2015. This number will continue to shrink each year.
- 1c. The proposed lease of mobile classrooms alone will cost the taxpayers of Brunswick an estimated $250,000. This does not account for untold additional amounts needed for transitional expenses or salaries for additional teachers. As it stands, this is only a temporary stopgap unsuitable as a long-term solution, will ultimately cost the taxpayers more in the long run, and thus inadvertently put a more suitable long-term solution further out of reach for Brunswick.
- 1d. This action will negatively impact our students both academically and developmentally (more info below), when our children need stability in an educational environment. It will also put undue stain on teachers, administrators, busing services and the rapidly aging facility that is Brunswick Junior High School.
2. Safety Concerns:
- 2a. By all accounts, the quality of teaching and instruction at BJHS second to none, and the faculty and staff work hard at what they do. However, many within our community question whether the social and developmental challenges of middle school are an appropriate environment for all young 10-year-old children. For example, a recent ruling by the Maine Human Rights Commission found that a student at BJHS was subjected to discrimination and bullying in 2012-13, and that the Brunswick School Department should have done more to prevent these violations of the student's rights. All Brunswick schools have an exemplary teaching and administration team, but this instance is only a singular example of the kinds of challenges many children face every day during that difficult time of development. Is placing our 10 year old children into the challenging and mature climate of Junior High School really in their best interests, particularly if there is no compelling reason to do so?
For more information:
- 2b. Focus Groups conducted for the State of Maine in Spring 2014 with youths (Junior High to High School) find that youths who are exposed to older students with greater access, knowledge, and use of illicit substances are at greater risk to substance use as a reslt of this exposure.
Furthermore the 5th Graders, as part of the BJHS, will be on buses with High School students as well. In recent years reports of bullying, sexual activity and illicit substance abuse on buses routinely makes national headlines. Some parents feel this is a legitimate reason to give pause and reconsider the plan.
Is this the best social or developmental environment for our ten-year-old children to attend school? Is it in their best interests?
3. Academic Concerns:
- 3a. The academic justification for the move is based on a dubious premise. Superintendent Paul Perzanoski modeled the plan after the research in “Visible Learning for Teachers” by John Hattie, a work that explicitly states overcrowded classrooms as a minor and near-negligible factor toward the educational development of a student. Does this not contradict the use of Hattie’s research to remedy “overcrowding” at HBS?
- 3b. A 2010 report from the Institute for Education and Social Policy collated data and academic research from across various publications and concluded that students that transition to a Junior High School at the 5th Grade level are more successful than students that transition at the 6th Grade level. However, this is the only known study to draw such a conclusion.
- 3c. Conversely, there is ample and well-documented research from countless publications and institutions of higher learning that consistently and inarguably demonstrate that any transition to Junior High, regardless of the age at which it takes place will always result in a negative impact on academic achievement and presents a host of academic, social, and developmental challenges to any student moving from one school to another.
If such a transition already imparts a negative influence on our 6th Grade students, how can we ask those challenges to instead be levied onto the shoulders of the still younger, more fragile and less equipped 5th Grade students?
The School Board did not analyze impact on academic outcomes or influence on psychological/social/developmental growth of students in this move.
If the School Board reverses it’s decision, we still have time to find a solution that better accommodates all concerns and doesn’t categorically move an entire grade cohort without our consent!
Please join us in asking the School Board of Brunswick Maine to reverse it’s decision to move the entire 5th Grade cohort to the Junior High School, and instead pursue an option that has a more positive impact on our students and less of a burden on our taxpayers.
Our children deserve better. Thank you.
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After signing this petition, please contact the two At Large representatives and your district representative, and ask them to reverse the 5th Grade Transition decision! Contacts can be found here:
Contact your School Board representatives here:
Not all signers of the petition agree with every reason listed, and the reasons of some signers may not have been included in the list provided. Regardless of the reasons for each person that signs this petition, we are all in agreement that the current plan needs to be reversed!
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