NEW BUFFALO — Faced with the last-minute enrollment of 11 new kindergarten students for a total of 51, the New Buffalo School Board hired an elementary instructional assistant for each of the two kindergarten sections and continued the discussion of class sizes during its Monday, Sept. 9, meeting.
With 11 new kindergarten students registering after Aug. 19, Superintendent Jeff Leslie said the kindergarteners were split into two sections, one of 26 and one with 25 students. Under the teachers’ contract, an instructional assistant can be requested after the class size exceeds 23 students.
When the vote came to hire Kathleen Galvin and Rachel Schnitzer as the instructional aides, Trustee Patricia Newton cast the only no votes, saying her votes had nothing to do with the persons being hired but were due to her disagreement that the positions were a solution for the large class sizes.
“The test scores you are seeing now are from the kids that started out in the small class sizes,” Newton said, referring the district’s the strong performance in last spring’s standardized tests there were discussed earlier in the meeting. She said the district needs to also look at the class sizes in the first and fifth grades and look at solutions to large class sizes other than hiring assistants.
During the discussion, Board President Chuck Heit said the assistant positions were a temporary solution for this school year and the discussion on class size would continue. He said the last-minute timing was not right for hiring teachers, noting the proven strong performance of the district’s current kindergarten teachers, Renee Fitts and Laura Selir.
Trustee Lisa Werner said district’s programs and test scores make NBAS a more desirable district than in the past and said the district needs to be more diligent in assuring that students are actually residents of the district. She also said the district needs to get out the message that it wants to know sooner, rather than later, that new families are planning to enroll in the district.
Student test scores were highlighted during the meeting when Leslie gave a recap of the district’s performance in the standardized performance test given last spring which were recently release by Berrien RESA. He said NBAS was in the top four out of the 16 districts in the county for most of the M-Step Tests taken in English Language Arts, Math and Social Studies and the Spring PSAT and SAT scores.
In the M-Step English Language Arts tests, NBAS students ranked second in third and fourth grade, third in fifth grade, first in sixth grade, and fifth in seventh grade. In math, it ranked first in third and fourth grade, third in fifth and sixth grade and fourth in seventh grade. In social studies, NBAS ranked sixth in fifth grade; second in eighth grade and first in eleventh grade.
In PSAT 8 tests, NBAS ranked second in ERW (evidenced-based reading and writing) math and overall. In PSAT 9, NBAS ranked eighth in ERW, fourth in math and fifth in overall. In PSAT 10, NBAS ranked second in ERW, math and overall. In SAT test, the juniors scored first in ERW, fifth in math and overall.
Other positions approved by the board include Jamie Bartelheim as BASE leader, Candice Cooney as BASE helper, Caitlin Rosinko as elementary instructional assistant, Joseph Corkran as JV girls basketball coach, and Crystal Maciewski as middle school cheer coach.
President of the New Buffalo Teachers’ Association Christina Beushausen thanked the administration for the outstanding start to the new school year that included valuable sharing of information and a “powerful presentation” by Adolph Brown.
During the second public comment at the end of the meeting, a parent who recently moved to the district urged the board to work with the township, city and realtors in bringing more affordable housing to the district and said parents were eager to be involved and help the district in any way.