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St. Lawrence Central adds first-grade teacher

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BRASHER FALLS — With money left over at the end of the fiscal year, the St. Lawrence Central School District was able to add a first-grade teacher to alleviate concerns expressed during the budget season about bigger classes.

Stephen M. Putman, who retired as superintendent at the end of June and is serving this month as acting superintendent in the Massena Central School District, said the St. Lawrence school board asked him to look at enrollment numbers for first grade after hearing from parents and teachers.

Classes would have had about 24 students without the additional teacher, Mr. Putman said. With the board approving the personnel recommendation at its June meeting, that number will drop to about 19 students in each classroom.

“First grade is a really critical year in teaching reading and literacy,” Mr. Putman said. “The board looked at how our graduation rates had increased over time and the increased emphasis we put on early literacy. We also ended the year in a financially good position.”

Stephan A. Vigliotti Sr., who took over as St. Lawrence Central superintendent July 1, said that as a result of a recent resignation, the district will hire another elementary teacher this summer.

“Everyone that was cut has had the opportunity to return. They’ve either returned or declined. Now we’re back to a clean hire” to replace the teacher who resigned, Mr. Vigliotti said.

Teachers provided board members with a handout in April that suggested bigger classes would result in more behavioral problems, an increase in students not receiving enough attention because of the higher ratio of students to teachers, and an inability to follow the prescribed small-group instruction in the district’s tiered reading plan.

“In an already high needs district, student needs are only going to increase. Adding two more students to a class may not seem like a huge difference. However, depending on the specific academic and/or behavioral needs of those two additional students in reality it could be like adding 10 more students,” the teachers wrote.

Margaret D. Snyder, a high school English teacher and the parent of a child entering first grade in the fall, shared her worries during the district’s budget hearings.

“The thing in my head is, how big is too big for first grade? Is there a number out there?” she said. “As a parent and teacher ... I hope we don’t lose sight of the children. I feel that is our shared vision.”

Ms. Snyder was back at a Board of Education meeting Wednesday, this time to thank the board for adding the teacher and to commend all the teachers in the district for their efforts.

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