This story has been amended following response from the district.
The is in the process of hiring teacher assistants, a move made following parents’ concerns about overcrowded classrooms, particularly fifth grade classes at .
“At and Hewlett Elementary School, they recommended hiring teaching assistants,” said Superintendent Dr. Joyce Bisso at the board of education’s meeting last Tuesday, referring to those schools’ principals. “The hiring of these people is now going on.”
Principals had already begun discussing adding staff in September, when final registration numbers approached district guidelines, according to the district. Four half-time teacher assistants will be hired at Hewlett Elementary and three half-time teacher assistants at Franklin.
Teacher assistants who work full time earn between $24,756 and $26,830 in Hewlett-Woodmere schools, a district representative said.
A group of parents at the board’s September meeting all raised the same concern about classrooms filled with more than 24 students, the district’s guideline, which were echoed at the October meeting. And while many grades in the district are below or at the guideline, parents were concerned about the increasing number of students in the classroom over the past few years.
“We are Hewlett, and we hold ourselves to a much higher standard,” said Jackie May, of Hewlett. “We were assured class sizes would remain the same [during budget talks]. It’s too much for Hewlett. It’s too much for the taxes we pay.”
Guidelines by one teachers’ group, the National Council of Teachers of English, support what the Hewlett-Woodmere parents say. The NCTE says that students in classes of less than 20 with good teachers perform better.
New York State does not have a guideline for class sizes, according to an education department spokesperson.
Rachel Gwistzman, of Hewlett, said that she burned out after seven years of teaching classes of 32 to 35 students in New York City.
“The more kids we put in the classroom, the harder it will be for teachers,” she said at the September meeting. “We’re not helping our teachers do their jobs, and that frightens me.”
Kathleen Anderson, assistant superintendent of human resources & student services, suggested at last month’s meeting that hiring more people might not be the best approach for the district.
“Sometimes throwing more adults into the classroom isn’t the solution,” she said.
Concerns were also raised about large classes at , but officials were quick to point out the differences.
“Hewlett High School is a high school of significant choice,” Bisso said. “You may see a larger section of one class.” She added, “Any high school principal would prefer to have smaller classes.”
Hewlett-Woodmere Board of Education President Stephanie Gould said that larger classes might benefit high school students, in that it would prepare them for college lecture courses where there are hundreds of students.
However, parents such as Paul Shanab of Woodmere weren’t satisfied with the district’s response to large classes at both the elementary and high school levels.
“I don’t feel assistant teachers are the solution,” he said. “There should be extra classes and teachers.”