Letter to the Editor: Parents, beware of changes being made at the middle schools

parsippany focus

lettersDear Editor,

In 2008, following two years of investigation into best practices at the middle-school level, a research team of highly qualified and knowledgeable district principals, teachers, and parents adopted guiding principles for the quality education our children are currently receiving in the Parsippany-Troy Hills School District middle schools.

Now an interim superintendent, Dr. Fitzsimons, is attempting to cut budget money by significantly increasing class size, which will destroy our dedicated three-team philosophy of less than 100 students per five-member teacher team at our middle schools.

Furthermore, Dr. Fitzsimons is using manipulated statistics, engaging in circumlocution, and does not honestly answer any questions. He is attempting to eliminate over a dozen more teachers positions by raising class size to a minimum of 24, regardless of the subject area (overloading lab science and elective classes that require close supervision for safety) and dissolving our reading and writing program model, which is the foundation for all success in life.

Taxpayers do not be deceived! These cuts will not save the taxpayers any money; as he said, money will be rolled into a “surplus fund.” Taxpayers will see no reduction in their school tax.

To compound the situation, you have a highly paid director of personnel, Eileen Hoehne, and curriculum advisor, Nancy Gigante, who are neither skilled nor focused upon doing their jobs in the best interest of our children.

The chain of command and procedures established long ago by the Board of Education are not being followed by administrative personnel. They simply do not understand making informed decisions involves longitudinal timelines for research, discussion, problem solving, a budget, teacher support and training, implementation time. There also needs to be time for the Board of Education to evaluate and question proposals before changes are made. The BOE needs the opportunity to make a fully informed vote before implementation of any change.

Another problem is the current administrative personnel refuse recognize the extensive time and team work involved in an intelligent decision making process. They have demonstrated this by their independent actions in eliminating teachers a month into this school year and shuffling hundreds of stressed and worried children into different classes.

This administrative team lacks the knowledge, expertise, and empathy to understand the complexity and far reaching global impact on our students’ and our teachers’ well-being; when making even one seemingly simple arbitrary change in schedule, class size, or curriculum model.

Just one change is a crucial decision with many lasting ramifications and unknown affects at this point. Common sense dictates, with multiple changes at once, it is impossible for to establish a baseline performance or measure any success or failure of a single change.

Fitzsimons, Hoehne and Gigante are attempting to do all of these changes at once; may I add, without Board of Education vote or respecting current district professional advisement teams. All of this independent decision making is going on while the administration should be focused upon supporting the teachers in preparing for the State of New Jersey implementation of the new extensive PARCC state testing and new core curriculum that need to be learned and procedures implemented by the teachers.

Changes should be based upon sound judgment from informed, district, team-based educators’ collaboration and decision making. Please communicate your desire to make no changes in class size, schedule, or reading and writing classes to maintain the current level of quality education.

Please contact Dr. Fitzsimmons (before he leaves in April), Mrs. Hoehne, Mrs. Gigante, the Board of Education, the media, parents, taxpayers, and anyone who cares about our children’s future.

Arlene M. Sklow

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