LAKE PLACID - A proposal to ax introductory math courses proved controversial at a school schedule review session Wednesday night.
Patty Gallagher, who said she has a daughter in school, told Lake Placid Central School District administrators and the crowd of several dozen people that she has been to meetings where students said introductory algebra and geometry courses helped them pass the tests. She credited them, as well as Living Environment science courses that are slated for elimination, with helping students who might need two years rather than one to pass these subjects, and said the courses contribute to Lake Placid's high test scores.
Administrators defended the eliminations, which would take effect in the 2011-12 school year, saying they are justified by the low number of students taking the classes. Introduction to Algebra had 12 students this year, and Introduction to Geometry had fewer than 15, said Tracey Cross-Baker, guidance counselor for 10th through 12th graders.
"It is strictly a resource issue," said Superintendent Randy Richards. "Where do you find the resources to teach it when you're being pulled in different directions?"
A new draft master schedule presented Wednesday night includes seven Advanced Placement courses and would possibly add an eighth, AP Calculus. And it would possibly add bridge courses with North Country Community College, where seniors will be able to take high-school classes for college credit.
It also expands alternative education, which goes through middle school now, to offer some service to high schoolers. Also, a GED program is being added for a few at-risk students.
However, it still eliminates 17 electives. As well as the math cuts, the elimination of architectural and technical drawing proved controversial. Several people suggested that, while the needs of high-end and special-needs students are being addressed, those in the middle are being left out.
"It seems to me there's a population out there that's really getting shortchanged in their electives," said school board member Janet Smith.
Heather O'Donnell, a high school French teacher, said her husband is an alternative education teacher in the AuSable Valley Central School District, where the program is being cut due to a $3.2 million deficit there, according to the Press-Republican newspaper. She said she recognizes the value of the program but questioned the wisdom of adding it now in Lake Placid.
"I love alternate ed, but it does service a minute population while some of the programs that may be impacted service more students," O'Donnell said.
The district is in the process of deciding which electives to offer, based on student interests. Surveys are being sent home to students now, and they will have a better idea by early May, Cross-Baker said. Eighteen electives are on this list.
"If you have two students sign up for an elective, it's just not effective," said Middle-High School Principal Kathy Mulderig.
The district didn't have a master schedule last year until late August, Richards said. He said it works better to build it now, "concurrently with the budget, so we know what we're paying for."
Gallagher said she wasn't happy that the list of courses they received at home didn't include the ones that have been identified for elimination, "based on something that has not been approved yet."
"The problem is, we're not offering Column B," said school board member Jerry Blair. "The child does not have the option to check off Column B."
Cross-Baker said the decisions were made "based on available staff as the schedule moved through."
Teacher assignments haven't been made yet. Each teacher will be assigned five courses, but administrators decided to put response to intervention support at the high-school level on hold until the 2012-13 school year, freeing up some periods that now have to be assigned.
Richards said the property tax increase has been whittled down to about 4 percent, from 7 percent when the budget process started. He said the board is working on cutting this further and will hold a work session Thursday.
"We need to get more resourceful and more efficient real fast because we cannot sustain our long-term liabilities," Richards said.
Trisha Garrett, who said she has been teaching for about 20 years, said people might accept a tax hike if they knew it would save classes and teachers' jobs, as Lake Placid's taxes are already lower than many districts.
"My school taxes are about $1,000 a year," Garrett said. "I'm willing to pay $70 more to keep those teachers. Have we asked anybody? I think we should."
Contact Nathan Brown at 891-2600 ext. 26 or firstname.lastname@example.org.