Education officials in Middletown said that they are aware of concerns about inequities in student-teacher ratios in township schools are working to make adjustments to class sizes.
While the number of students at the district’s two high schools are similar, more teachers work at High School North, a concern for some. Administrators said at a board of education meeting last week that—although the student populations have different needs that translate into varying staffing levels—they continue to evaluate teacher placement.
“We are looking very closely at personnel and we’ve begun the process of moving staff members from building to building,” said Superintendent of Schools William George. “We did that this year. It’s a gradual process.”
Former board member Dawn Diorio said that she has brought up the inequity for years. According to district data cited by Diorio, North has 1,489 students, compared to 1,441 students at High School South; there are 123 teachers at North compared to 101 at South.
“When we’re looking at the education of the students, regardless of any building, it shouldn’t be this disproportionate,” she said.
Programs at the schools are not identical, which goes for other schools in the district including at the elementary level, officials said.
“Some of our personnel numbers are driven by special education and [Individual Education Program] needs,” George said. “We are addressing it. We will continue to address it. We have made improvements at the high school level since 2011-12.”
George, who took over as superintendent in 2011 and has been aware of staffing issues since he entered the district, said that he takes “full responsibility” for class sizes, and that numbers are changing within the district.
“Middletown North five years ago was significantly larger than Middletown South,” George said. “Now the numbers are closers. We are looking at that.”
Diorio said she has been asking administrators for years to “keep an eye” on student to teacher ratios.
“They probably should have had a few more teachers. But that never changed,” Diorio said.
North has 70 classes with 14 students or fewer, compared to South’s 24, according to the district data cited by Diorio. At North, 142 classes have between 15-19 students, which is 74 more than South in that range. There are 63 classes at North with 20 to 24 students, compared to 81 at South.
“These are obscene numbers. They’re huge numbers,” Diorio said. “And quite frankly, it’s not new.”
“It’s based on need,” said board member Joan Minnuies. “I don’t think anyone is happy that there is inequity.”
Diorio said that she recognizes not every school should be staffed identically, but held that a teacher with more students in his or her class does not have the opportunity to give each student a high level of attention.
“I’m saying with these numbers, they are not getting the same education as someone in a class with 14 (students),” Diorio said.
Board President Chris Aveta said that class sizes are not an indication of the educational quality students receive. Nonetheless, the issue is being addressed.
“This is an ongoing process and we’ll continue to discuss it with the administration,” Aveta said. “I have faith in our administrators that they will do so.”