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Parent Power in Rye

By MyRye.com Reader Vicki Edmonds

Edmonds is a Rye resident and an Osborn School parent and PTO member.

I witnessed some Rye parent power at the Rye Board of Ed meeting last week. On Tuesday evening I, along with 50 other Rye parents, teachers and interested others headed to the Middle School for another round of discussions on the proposed budget for 2011/12 school year. 

Of the various topics and "line items" reviewed during the course of these economically challenged proceedings class size was a hot issue. Now as stated by one parent on the night, I don't need to list the many benefits of smaller classes since there is a wealth of information available on the net. And to be honest you don't need to be a rocket scientist to know a teacher can do a better job with 18 students in the class rather than 23 or more. It's helpful to know that the goal in the Rye School District is currently between 18 – 22 students per class – at least on the first day of school in September anyway.

Insight in to our current situation at Osborn Elementary was provided by Lauren Rosen, PTO President of Osborn Elementary, as she read a letter to Dr Shine and the Board of Ed.  An extract from this letter:

“We strongly believe that maintaining our class size guidelines of 18-22 students per section is essential to our elementary schools.  At the end of the 2010 school year this past June, Osborn elementary school had 543 students.  At the beginning of this school year, in September, Osborn started with 583 students.  At the close of school today (Tuesday), we are now at 603 students – a net increase of 60 students, almost 3 full classes.  Our current 3rd grade is already over our recommended 18-22 students — each of our 4 sections has 23 students.  Our 1st grade is currently at 22 children per section, the top of our guidelines and a critical year for learning to read.  And it’s only March.  We know it will be a challenge to maintain our class sizes of 18-22 students, yet, we know it is worth it and urge you to continue these class sizes (in the 2011/12 year)."

The 'parent power' in action was that 212 parents, including myself, had electronically signed this correspondence in the 24 hours before the meeting. It remains to be seen if our demands will be met as we await the final weeks of budget tweaking, a Board stamp of approval and finally the District vote. As experienced last year, it will all still depend on the comings and goings of current and new residents this summer. Of course the lack of kindergarten spots in Manhattan, private or public, certainly impacted our intake last year and looks likely to do the same this year. Add to this the resurgence in the expat community in Rye and perhaps we see some trends to explain our booming popularity. If anyone has any greater insight in to predictive population modeling in a town like Rye where birth rate is proving an ineffective tool please attend the next Board of Ed meeting on March 29th!

  1. The reason student populations in Rye are exploding is simple ! Apartments and multi-family units as well as continued razing of older smaller homes replaced with McMansions .

    Look at the pace of new apartments and multi-family units in Rye . Midland Avenue between the school and Kelly’s Bar is one huge construction zone as small homes vaporize and get replaced by hulking multi-family units instantly filled with families with kids .

    Its a business arbitrage . Rye schools have a good reputation and jamming more apartments and multi-family units into Rye is how builders make a profit at the expense of our school system .

    The fools running Rye don’t grasp this and think the few extra nickels they make in additional tax revenue at city level completely ignores the massive cost burdens added to the school system !

    A new 2-3 unit multi-family needs to be taxed at same rate as 3 houses . Until Rye wakes up and realizes this , the school system is going to see its number continue to explode higher with everybody scratching their heads as to how its possible .

    In addition , jamming in several more families into small lots that used to be lived on by one increases the traffic and congestion in Rye as we now have the cars of several new families replacing the one family that used to live there …. thus why it becomes a 20 minute trip to cross Rye these days as we slowly slide into the spiral of becoming another Larchmont / Mamaroneck with long traffic lights getting installed at almost every intersection in town .

    The answer of course by town managers will be to try and raise the obscene taxes on Rye’s large homes to ever more unaffordable levels thus creating even more incentive for owners to sell to developers when the ability to jam more houses on the property exists further sending this bad policy into ever more people jammed into Rye .

  2. Divman – how about some facts to support your theory. Specifically, how many new multi-family dwellings have been built in the past 3 years in the city of Rye versus the number of re-built homes? I won’t bother asking about the number of kids enrolled from those multi-family dwellings because I don’t see how, short of a survey, you could legally assemble a credible reply.

  3. The author of the guest post on the BOE & class-size issues– Ms. Edmonds– indicates that she witnessed “parent power” at last weeks Board meeting.

    If and when the collection of “parents, teachers, and interested others” manage to actually secure the outcome they seek… at that point she will have witnessed parent power. Until then– I’d submit that she basically only witnessed… parents.

    I read the summary of that meeting published by the BOE a few days after. No mention of the class-size issue, nor of any kind of presence or petition submitted by concerned parents. Perhaps the parental show of force was not as impactful as imagined?

    ‘Guess time will tell.

  4. Actually, given the number of parents who attended the meeting and clearly supported the position of smaller class size over the implied option of smaller increases in spending, I would say that a clear demonstration of Parent Power took place. It was not just the number of people present, but that – on this topic – it was really only their Voice that was heard.

    Based on what I saw, I’d bet that a 3% tax increase would pass — not that I agree with that as necessary OR the right answer. Why? Parents are motivated to seek the best for our kids. People who feel strongly that spending (and taxes) is growing too quickly just don’t seem to care as much. Many just whine to their neighbors (or themselves), but don’t take the time to speak at a Board meeting, write a letter to the Board, register to vote, vote, etc.

    So, while there are complaints about the affordability of Rye, I’d say that we have exactly what we want — until proven otherwise by a material level of public action supporting alternative points of view.

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