Santiago Vera’s son is upset he doesn’t have homework yet.
Althea Duhaney says her daughter had an accident in class because the teacher didn’t see that she had raised her hand asking to use the bathroom.
And several other parents of Kindergartners at Maurice W. Downing School in Malverne are upset about the lack of support for teachers in the primary grades this year.
“They are swamped,” one parent and a teacher herself in the New York City school system, said. “Children are being basically pushed to the side.”
Superintendent James Hunderfund explained that among the 50 positions the district cut last year when crafting its budget were the classroom monitors, at a savings of about $75,000.
“We didn't want to cut anything,” he said, “but we had to do something to make the budget come in the range we wanted it to be.”
The cuts also resulted in a small increase in the district’s class sizes, so that the average Kindergarten class has 22 students now, a figure Hunderfund said is still lower that most school districts in Nassau County. He added that the district is currently looking into using funds to restore some positions that were eliminated, focusing on those pertaining to state-mandated Academic Intervention Services (AIS).
“I understand financially cuts are happening all over the place,” the mother and NYC educator said. “I also know about AIS and that children in primary grades need help now so you don't need so much AIS in the future.”
Her comments, along with others made at Tuesday night’s board meeting, provoked applause from fellow parents of Kindergartners in attendance.
“We are outraged,” MacArthur Wilson, a father who had sent his other children to private school but decided to “take a chance” on Malverne with his daughter.
Board Trustee Gina Genti asked Downing Principal Margaret McDaid if she would consider using volunteers to fill the void left by the loss of paid classroom monitors.
“It depends on who the volunteers would be,” McDaid said, adding that she wouldn’t want parents helping out in their own children’s classrooms.
Hunderfund said the district is looking into the situation and will fix the problem but that the size of the classes would not change.
“We are here to support you, but we need to understand what you think we should do,” he told the parents, instructing a number of them to speak with district officials immediately following the meeting.
Kevin Farrell, a father of a Kindergarten student, suggested the district resolve the problem within a week, adding, "I think that's reasonable. It's a simple solution."
“I would love to have an aid in every classroom,” Genti said, but added, “This is our reality. We cut everything..and it's going to get worse.”
She said they could look into volunteerism though. Board President Danielle Hopkins then called for the board to go into executive session to discuss how to solve the problem in private.
Duhaney had just one request: “We ask that the assessment be quick and timely…and our children don't have to suffer.”
Check Patch for a follow-up story.