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Keeping the Lines Open Between Parents and Administrators

Every four to six weeks the Parent Advisory Committee meets to discuss school issues.

Communication: It is the only way for a school system to run effectively and that is exactly what Branford schools is attempting to do with its Communication Sub-Committee. It is a collaboration of parents from Branford schools, administrators and members. Although there is a set agenda, all are welcome to discuss any topic such as curriculum, programs, technology and more. Parents are able to address any of their concerns and in return administrators seek to provide answers or at least promises to further investigate. 

Of course cuts seemed to be on the minds of everybody.  The Board of Finance has cut the Board of Education requested budget by $400,000.  The BOE must now brainstorm ways to reduce and according to BOE Chairman Frank Carrano the only way to reduce $400,000 is to cut staff and teachers.  It is possible that a total of 14 teachers plus paraprofessionals, aides and more could lose their jobs with these mandated cuts. The BOE will present to the RTM education committee on April 5.    

Other topics on the minds of parents included technology and the digital future our children must be prepared for (learn more about ).  Unfortunately the capital budget for technology has been cut so ordering more smart boards will not be happening in the near future. Parents requested that the schools research a better way for schools to communicate with parents. Suggestions included a school web site that shares all morning announcements made at the school, fundraising information, club date and times, and most importantly homework posted by all teachers consistently including a syllabus of the class.  Some parents voiced concern that not all children make sure to get their homework done every night and if the parents are aware via a posting on line, the homework will be sure to get done. 

One parent suggested the focus should not only be on technology but more importantly about the lack of textbooks at .  Walsh parent of a 5th and 8th graders, Karen Williams said, “There are not enough textbooks in certain subjects and kids are forced to share.” 

Other topics included an overview by BOE member David Squires regarding the Branford Early Childhood Initiative and the need for infrastructure to support early childhood education.

Also discussed were recent incidents involving at two Branford schools and the legality issues involved with disclosing those incidents to the public.

However, the topic that seemed to energize most parents was and has been for the past three years the supplementation of the current Investigations Math Program.  Parents from school asked why their school does not supplement Investigations with other math programs, such as Scott Foresman – Addison Wesley when other schools do. Assistant Superintendent Mary Peraro made it clear that administrators allow elementary schools and teachers to supplement with other math programs and are encouraged to supplement when and where they feel necessary.  It is the teachers’ decisions if they want to supplement with Envision or Addison Wesley. She went on to explain that administrators at all the elementary schools allow Investigations to be supplemented. Murphy parents believe their children are at a disadvantage because they do not see that Investigations is being suppplemented at their school. Parents went onto explain that they have seen no evidence of any other program than Investigations.

 The current traditional math program, Scott Foresman – Addison Wesley, supplemented at Tisko is no longer in publication according to Peraro. Next year everyone will supplement with Black Line Master.  This will require teachers to make copies of material they can supplement with instead of students having a soft cover workbook. Peraro did promise that teachers would have unlimited access to the number of copies needed.

Concern was voiced over the Excellency Awards for 5th graders  which is given to all 5th graders who score advanced on all three aspects of the mastery tests: math, reading and writing.   Typically this award is given to 30-40 5th grade students and this year only 13 students received those awards. Grades 6, 7 ,and 8 did have 30-40 students receive CMT Excellency Awards.    

Robin Comey April 04, 2011 at 08:04 PM
I thought these meetings were a "safe" place for parents to express concerns. Guess not now.
Jerry Araneo April 04, 2011 at 10:32 PM
I attended the parent advisory committee meeting and feel it is a very safe place to ask my questions and express my concerns. It will be interesting and challenging to see how the Superintendent takes another $400,000 out of his budget without "harming" the quality of education here in Branford for all our children. I am sure it will not be an easy task. With my child going to Walsh next year, it was a bit disconcerting to find out that not all 5th grade teaching teams post their homework assignment. I am hoping Walsh will do the right thing for us and find a way to make it manditory for all their teachers to post homework assignments. Lastly, isn't is confusing to anyone that knows that the principle at Tisko allowed supplementing the Investigations program for almost 3 years with "old math" techniques, while it is a mystery to me what Sliney and Murphy teachers have been allowed to do......hmmmm
Nicole Ball April 04, 2011 at 10:58 PM
Robin, I just wanted to let you know, in case you were not aware, the meeting is public, therefore a Patch representative is allowed to attend; this said, Nichole as well as all Branford Patch contributors operate with journalistic integrity. No one will be quoted without permission and our journalists try to remain as objective as possible when covering or writing stories. I do appreciate your concern and comments and hope you will continue to voice them. Thanks, Nicole Ball
Lisa Andriole April 05, 2011 at 01:13 AM
I am certain that Tisko parents will do all they can to be certain the math program is supplemented with an appropriate workbook to ensure that there is continued education in the "old math". I am relieved to hear that Mary Peraro has promised there will be no limitations on copies that the teachers can make so that they may supplement as they see fit. Parents have a vital role in making sure these workbooks etc... are used.
Laura Troidle April 05, 2011 at 08:46 AM
Supplement? I have been hearing these words for years. Test scores aside, what really is important is are the kids ready for higher level math with this program? With my first hand experience, no. Why do we continue to supplement a program so heavily to the point where the program is no longer recognizable? Does not common sense suggest this Investigations program is pathetic? For the record, Envisions is another constructivist math program that, to be fair, blends some traditional algorithms with its lessons. However, one need not look much farther than its fraction and decimal sections to see how this program is woefully lacking in its approach. It is also important to note that Envisions is published by the same publishers as the former SFAW text and Investigations, Pearson. Folks, our children, AT ALL 3 ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS, need a proper math education that emphasizes the standard algorithms (not just one weeks worth) for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Students must be fluent with these algorithms, and introduced to fractions and decimals in 4th grade. Bring out the former SFAW texts and move on to the inventive spelling and whole language reading programs.
Kate Ross April 05, 2011 at 01:44 PM
Why do we continue to "supplement" this math program (Investigations) that has been proven by test scores not to work well? Why does Mary Peraro insist on keeping this program and doing away with other solid programs? So many parents have voiced their opinion to not have Investigations as the main program. Why is nobody listening? These elementary school years are so critical to a child learning the fundamentals. Why are we experimenting on them? I know people whose kids scored high on the math CMT's but they take their kids to outside tutors to supplement the math program!
Laura Troidle April 05, 2011 at 01:51 PM
As whom sees fit? There are forces present within the system forbidding and making it very difficult for all teachers to supplement with traditional math focussing on the standard algorithms. This is the very broken part of the wheel. And, it needs to happen at Sliney and Murphy as well.
Lynda Knox April 05, 2011 at 06:44 PM
Follow on to Ms. Ross’ s comments above: Traditional mathematics has worked supremely well for thousands of years, and indeed, mathematicians around the globe, physicians, scientists, engineers, architects, and all parties interested in the beautiful world of mathematics would agree whole heartedly with Kate's comments. Mathematics is “the” universal language. Through our personal experience at the Tisko School, we have seen little to no value at all in our two children’s exposure to the math “Investigations Program”. I think this failed experiment should be discontinued immediately, and the school system should revert back to well documented traditional mathematical teaching practices tomorrow. We are strongly proposing this change for two simple reasons; to give our children their birth right to a fighting chance of understanding and enjoying higher mathematics and secondly, to enable our children to compete globally with their peer groups in mathematics. Ron and Lynda Knox
Laura Troidle April 05, 2011 at 08:47 PM
www.stopterc.com We rank 25th in the world in math despite our high economic status. Yet, we have the largest education gaps in the world when comparing minority students to non-minority populations. It is programs such as Investigations that are largely responsible for this gap. We have large education gaps in our district as well. Bringing Tisko down by stealing their thunder (textbooks/workbooks) does nothing to improve the predicament we are in.
Debra Palmer April 05, 2011 at 09:57 PM
I can not believe three years after I had to take my child out of public school and send him to a private school because of "Investigations" nothing has been resolved. Why isn't the administration listening to teachers and parents. Please tell me who benefits from this program. It doesn't seem to be the children!!!!
Lisa Andriole April 06, 2011 at 04:42 PM
Good Point Debra - who is Investigations benefiting? Scores have gone down considerably since 2006 - isn't that when investigations started? What else does Mary Peraro need to know? Absolutely, all 3 schools need a proper math program. Investigations is NOT it.
Penelope Schlesinger April 11, 2011 at 11:20 AM
If the common goal of the Administrators, Teachers, and Parents is the success of our children than use the material that assists them in doing their best academically. It is not a complicated equation. I would also like to say that parental involvement is key to a strong school district - parents that care deeply about their children's learning must be listened to and valued by those who work for the district.

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