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Sun, Sept. 22

HUSD board: class size not 'grievable'

A Granville Elementary School physical education teacher was concerned enough about the decision to combine kindergarten students with first and second graders into one PE class to speak to his principal, the school district superintendent, and finally to members of the school board.

Aron Smart, a teacher with the Humboldt Unified School District, appeared before the governing board this past week at a Level III Grievance Hearing to appeal the decision of both GES Principal Diana Green (Level I) and Supt. Henry Schmitt (Level II).

The board, however, agreed with Green and Schmitt that the issue of class size is not a grievable matter.

Patrice Horstman, attorney for the district told board members they were not to discuss the merits of the grievance, but only procedural issues.

District policy states a grievable complaint deals with a violation or misinterpretation of any policy governing an employee's hours, compensation, fringe benefits and personnel policies. It does not deal with class size.

Smart's concerns grew out of a situation at Granville where the school year began with three kindergarten classes of 28 students. When the school created a fourth class, bringing each classroom size down to 21 students each, it needed to also fit another PE class into the day for the extra class.

Smart's last class of the day grew to 41 students, as the kindergarteners joined a combined first and second grade English as a Learned Language class and an extended resource class. The ELL aide also helped out in the larger class.

Later, the extended resource class pulled out to a different class time, leaving about 34 students.

"To me, it was a safety issue. There is a huge difference in size, and how they manage their bodies and move around," said Smart, who has been with the district for five years.

"My point was 34 fifth graders is not a problem. But 34 kindergarteners, first graders and second graders is a huge issue. You are taking kids who have no experience in a gym and putting them with kids who are older, faster and have a variety of ability levels."

Smart said he has second graders learning kindergarten skills like how to form lines. The mismatched ages, sizes, skill levels and behavior increase the risk for injury, he added.

Green observed Smart's class, said Phil Young, human resource director, and his class management skills impressed her.

After the board meeting, Young said the 1:18 adult-to-student ratio was perfectly acceptable, and the board can set class size and determine its grouping.

"There's a tremendous level of skill level in every class. Children develop at different rates both intellectually and physically," Young said.

Smart said making sure all his students receive the best education is the issue.

Additionally, he said, the school dismisses kindergarten classes about 10 minutes earlier than the rest of the grade levels, which means the younger students miss the last 10 minutes of his class when they are practicing new skills.

The board upheld the decision that Smart's concerns were not grievable.

Green said Tuesday morning that she and Smart have not had a chance to talk after the meeting.

"Our relationship is not adversarial. He's a wonderful teacher," she said.

Green said she didn't see a problem because the assistant in Smart's class lowers the ratio of teacher to student.

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