School board to revisit full-day kindergarten proposal

Will take second vote next week following public pressure

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By Fran Hardy
— It’s not over until it’s over.

In terms of the possibility of a full-day kindergarten program for Sparta schools, it appears the Board of Education’s vote against the proposal last month may not be the end of the story.

At the board’s March 24 working session, several members of the public spoke passionately about the need for a full-day program and expressed their disappointment over the board’s 5-3 last month against the measure.

Board member Frank Favichia said that he thought the board should put the matter of full-day kindergarten back on the table and vote again.

He said he thought more about it and that he may want to change his vote, due to the public sentiment and other information he had become aware of. Favichia was one of the five members to vote no last month.

Since the budget has not yet been finalized, the board can agree to re-vote any previous measure, so long as they rescind the first vote.

According to Robert’s Rules of Order, it should be a two-step process. The board member must first announce he or she plans to propose a new vote at the next meeting. The board can entertain a motion to rescind the previous vote and the vote can be done over.

It appears a motion to rescind the Feb. 27 vote on will be on the agenda for the board’s next regular meeting, 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Mohawk Avenue School.

Member of the public were surprised by the first vote and expected the board to support the implementation of a full-day kindergarten program, since it was the strong recommendation of Superintendent Dennis Tobin and his administrative and educational staff.

Tobin, along with Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Melissa Varley gave several presentations over the last several months in which they extolled the need for full-day due to the rigors of the new Common Core Curriculum Standards.

The new standards require more knowledge from first graders than in the past. Kindergarten must now prepare students for the academics and assessments they will face in first grade, and Tobin and Varley quoted state education experts and other sources showing that a half-day program does not allow enough instructional time to do so.

But spending was the key concern of the majority of board members who did not want to utilize the more than $1 million of the available banked cap to implement full-day kindergarten. But they did vote to utilize $700,000 of those funds to funnel into capital projects, including a new track at the high school.

Residents who spoke against full-day kindergarten at previous meetings were concerned about higher taxes if the full banked cap is used and the tax levy goes over the two percent cap.

The board explained the possibility of using residual monies from the Fund 30 account to offset the increase, but those who spoke want no increase at all.

This week it was a different story with citizens urging the board to reconsider their vote. Most were parents, but at least one, Mary Ann Ryan, who is not a parent, spoke in favor of full-day kindergarten.

Ryan has been a business owner in Sparta for 20 years in the greeting service. She routinely visited new members of the community at their homes to welcome them and tell them about the area.

“People move to Sparta because of the schools," Ryan said. "I know because I ask every new family I visit. Even those who move here without kids choose Sparta over surrounding communities because they know the schools are strong and that will keep property values strong.”

Ryan said full-day kindergarten will be good for the whole town.

"I went to the meeting [March 24] because I think this is important and unfortunately there is often so little participation from people on things like this. Since they believe most people want it, they believe it will pass, and then they’re shocked when it doesn’t.”

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