Saugus superintendent holds ‘State of the District’ seminar

Saugus Union School District Asst. Sup. of Business Nick Heinlein explains analysis of the district's budget to a group of parents and staff at Bridgeport Elementary on Thursday. Austin Dave/The Signal

In one of a number of follow-up seminars she plans to have regarding the topic, Saugus Union School District Superintendent Colleen Hawkins, along with her staff, held an informational “State of the District” seminar Thursday.

During the presentation, Hawkins touched on a variety of topics including the budget, funding formulas, a potential foundation specifically for arts or STEAM within the district, student safety and art in the classroom. However, a focal point of the discussion was student class sizes.

A Saugus Union School district parent voices frustration over class sizes to superintendent Dr. Colleen Hawkins at a meeting on Thursday. Austin Dave/The Signal

“We’re not a money-making organization,” said Hawkins of the school district. “The only way I can make more money is either to get more students, or to get more dollars per students. And I would prefer not to get that money on the backs of our community. …  (the money) should be coming from Sacramento.”

The conversation regarding the teacher-to-pupil ratio in SUSD classrooms was started by a group of parents who were troubled by the district’s decision — which was based on a previous bargaining agreement with the Saugus Teachers Association — to move classroom-size averages closer to 28:1 student-to-teacher ratio in TK-3rd grade, and 31:1 in grades four to six.

“I just don’t understand why we can’t have more aides in classrooms,” said Mary Nieves, a parent in attendance who has also organized an online Facebook group advocating for smaller class sizes.

A Saugus Union School district parent voices frustration over class sizes to superintendent Dr. Colleen Hawkins at a meeting on Thursday. Austin Dave/The Signal

In response to the question, Hawkins said the use of teaching aides, who are uncredentialed, doesn’t meet what she holds as a standard for a qualified teacher in the room with students.

At the end of the meeting, Nieves agreed to draft a template letter that parents can use for “Full and Fair” funding efforts, the movement being supported by the district to pass Assembly Bill 39, Education Finance, which would reportedly raise the Local Control Funding Formula to the national average by 2020, and to the average of the top-10 states by 2025.

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