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Lawrence to Reduce Periods at High School (Updated)

Superintendent's plan includes the layoffs of five teachers from the science department.

Update: This story has been updated with a statement from the Lawrence PTA.

The superintendent of the Lawrence School District will recommend to the board of education the move from nine periods to eight at the and a move from contracted teachers to recent graduates at .

In all, the jobs of four science teachers at the high school and one in the are in jeopardy, according to a rough estimate by Superintendent Gary Schall. The district will seek to shift nine salaried teachers at the pre-k to master’s degree graduates from Hofstra University.

“We have to make a change. Change is a difficult thing to embrace,” Schall told members of the Lawrence High School PTA on Thursday. “It’s something we all have to deal with, especially if we’re going to get through these economic times. I stand before you today to say this is the right thing to do for our kids.”

included the layoffs of 42 civil service staff members, saving the district about $1.5 million. This year, if the district were to maintain current conditions —taking into account some $250,000 in lost state aid and the recently passed 2 percent tax — it would have a budget shortfall of $2.75 million.

Schall said the board would seek a 2 percent tax increase.

“We’re in a position with the cap where we have to make choices and choose a sustainable course,” he said.

Lawrence lost its funding from the state because of the wealth of residents in the district, Schall said. School District 15 has the greatest discrepancy between rich and poor in the nation, he added.

The high school will continue to offer its current lineup of AP courses, and Schall said he believes that electives and clubs will not be affected. Students, who on a nine-period schedule had every course filled, would be down two electives over the course of high school under the new schedule, Schall said.

Less periods means less unnecessary study halls, he added, and possibly less classes with small numbers of students.

Each period would be six minutes longer.

“The question becomes, ‘how is that time utilized?’,” Schall said. “We have to work on improving how time is used. We did it at the middle school and we’re getting better at using that time.”

Both parents and teachers who attended the meeting voiced concern and opposition to the eight-period schedule. Parents are worried that students will have fewer opportunities to seek out the courses they want, and that it might force more students to give up their lunch periods.

Schall said that students would have to make tough decisions about their schedules. He said parents would have new schedules in their hands in March.

"There has always been an open line of communication with our superintendent, Gary Schall, and our hope is to continue the open dialogue since we are in this change together," Heidi Beyer, Lawrence High School PTA president, and Blasia Baum, central council PTA president, wrote in a statement. "We expect to remain a part of the planning process and transition to ensure that our children receive the necessary courses to complete their high school requirements and prepare them for college."

At the meeting, Sergio Caceres, a junior at the high school, had a petition with 152 students signatures collected over one day against the changes.

“We want to learn,” he told Schall. “The students don’t want to lose teachers.”

Lori Skonberg, president of the Lawrence Teacher Association, did not comment by press time.

The superintendent also addressed the district’s poor test scores, and said the new schedule may help struggling students.

“Our scores are in the sewer. No one is going to deny that,” he said. “We have some of the lowest scores on Long Island.”

He added, “There are a myriad of issues that cause failure. I can’t quantify the reasons. The extra time can’t be hurting us. To say extra time doesn’t help — I can’t accept that at this point.”

Stephen J. Bronner January 31, 2012 at 07:09 PM
From Barry Ringelheim of Atlantic Beach: Since the makeup of the board has changed they only say how good our studens are doing. Perhaps it is time they open their eyes and smell the roses. Our enrollment has not declined it is the quality of education that our present board has destroyed. If residents voted on their own and not what they are told our district would have a new board of members that care for all students not just their own that attend private schools.
ingenue July 12, 2012 at 09:17 PM
out of curiosity, which students are performing poorly? isn't it usually the minority/low income students that bring the grades down? stephen, i agree with you 100%.

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