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Malverne Parents Outraged Over Lack of Classroom Support

Parents of Kindergartners say cutting monitors has left Downing teachers overwhelmed this year.

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.

Concerned Resident September 15, 2011 at 01:00 AM
Cutting aides to save a total of $75,000??? They are the lowest paid employees and have no benefits. Cut an administrator, have the rest give back the raises they took and this would solve the problem. This district is to small to have so many on top at outrageous salaries and they are asking the parents to come up with solutions??? And why was it ok to change their titles and give them stipends?? We have to hold the board responsible for letting these administrators run amuke. People wake up!!! Just one emergency situation in K and the lawsuits will finish our district!!!
Concerned Resident September 15, 2011 at 01:07 AM
How much more money has it cost the district to create a primary and secondary school????? Was this worth it??? This was one persons dream and she will be retiring soon and leaving behind a mess for everyone to clean up!! If the students don't have a solid foundation starting in K they never will!! It reflects in the scores!!
Adrianna Bohdan DeAngelis September 15, 2011 at 02:35 AM
I heard the teachers will be getting an aide in the class for 90 minutes a day which is basically the compromise we suggested more or less.
Tom Grech September 15, 2011 at 10:34 AM
We reap what we sow.....a ridiculous situation that anyone could see coming based on the last election. Eliminating a few $100k plus administrators or having Kindergarten monitors collectively making $75k?
Bea Bayley September 15, 2011 at 02:17 PM
The schools are being run like plantations. The teachers had to take a pay freeze while the administrators got increases in salaries and pensions! It is tantamount to those banks that took bailout money then gave themselves bonuses instead of giving loans to the people. The teachers should be bitter about this. This is why we have teachers that are complaining to both parents and children about not having time to do little things like collect lunch money and take kids to the bathroom. There were no administrators cut from a top heavy administration!!! The children are suffering!!! To add insult to injury the BOE voted earlier this year to have any excess funds from last years budget moved into capitol instead of using it to retain teachers and teachers aides. School has barely started and we've been warned that it will only get worse. The people passed the budget so the children would not suffer. Now that we see that it didn't matter people will once again pull their children out and start voting down the budget. I feel sorry for the children more than anything else.
Joann Krudis September 15, 2011 at 03:31 PM
It saddens me to see how politics has destroyed the true nature of education and every child's learning experience. Unfortunately, it's the children who suffer and teachers who have their hands tied. There are many ways the teachers' time can be used more productively. Parents have offered to volunteer, but have been rejected. Have volunteers come in the morning to collect and record lunch money and important notices needed for school-parent communication. Blocks of time should be worked out collaboratively with the teachers and aides so that small group instruction can be productive and effecient. Why not ask the professional educators, not politicians, how the schools could utilize money in a more effecient manner...I bet things would change for the better and our children's progress will soar!
Gina Genti September 15, 2011 at 06:45 PM
Joann I couldn't agree more and that is one of the reasons I suggested at the meeting that we look at inviting volunteers to help in different capacities . I am hopeful that the primary school opens it's doors to community volunteers in the way that the secondary school has in it's past.
Gina Genti September 15, 2011 at 06:53 PM
1. The teachers received their mandated step increases ranging from 2-3% 2. The banks that took bailout money paid back the taxpayers with interest well ahead of schedule. 3.Thee were 2 administrative positions cut from last years budget totaling approximately 2 1/2 times the line item for the kindergarten monitors. 4. The children are not suffering. 5. Reserves spent on capital continue to provide return to the taxpayer in the form of improved and maintained facilities tantamount to a safe learning environment. Retaining teachers that would eventually have to be excessed is not a responsible fiscal decision. These are my opinions only.
enough already September 15, 2011 at 09:49 PM
Close the district and consolidate. Millions upon millions to educate less than 1800 children is beyond comprehension. Over $500k in salary and benefits for the superintendent. Multiple school principals and administrators earning 6-figure salaries. Multiple school properties to maintain and senselessly expand/rebuild facilities. Wake up Long Island - every postage stamp town can't sustain its own independent school system. Waste, redundancy, corruption and educational quality that is grossly disproportionate to the expense of providing it are the results.
Concerned Resident September 18, 2011 at 02:26 AM
I understand the teachers did not receive Their mandated step nor retro in the contract.

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