Sunday, May 16, 1999


Children wil get less individual attention

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It's time for social studies in Mrs. Holtkamp's room. Nancy Holtkamp leads her 26 sixth-graders in a discussion about world religions and what they learned at a field trip to the Cincinnati Art Museum the day before.

        While the students talk about Shiva's extra arms and Buddha's extra brain, Cynthia McCullough moves quietly through the room. She whispers to individual students as the discussion continues. She points to papers, signaling what to improve.

        At Carthage Paideia Academy in Carthage, teachers like Mrs. McCullough are called coaches. They help individuals or small groups of students, often those identified as “special ed kids” who are included in classrooms instead of being taught separately.

        But there will be a lot less coaching at Carthage next school year. Teachers won't be spending as much time with individual students or small groups. All because of the Cincinnati Public Schools' budget cuts.

  Where: 125 W. North Bend Road, Carthage.
  Enrollment: 351 students in kindergarten through sixth grades, almost equally divided between boys and girls. About 57 percent of the students are black, about 43 percent are white. 72 percent of the students get free or reduced-price lunch.
  Attendance: On average, fewer than 7 percent of students and 4 percent of staff are absent daily.
  Discipline: Four out-of-school suspensions, five out with a recommendation for expulsion, 143 in-school suspensions, no referrals to Saturday school. (1998-99 school year)
  Current staff: 27 classroom teachers and 10 instructional assistants.
  Impact of cuts: The school will lose four classroom teachers, two of whom are special education teachers, and five instructional assistants, one of whom was trained in special education. The cuts also eliminate the people who ran the school's in-school suspension program and family involvement center.
        The small magnet school will lose four of its 27 classroom teachers and five of its 10 instructional assistants. Two of those teachers and one instructional assistant being cut are trained as special education teachers like Mrs. McCullough. That means the three remaining special ed teachers will see workloads double.

        The cuts were especially deep for Carthage, a magnet school that gets extra money from the district to support its paideia philosophy, which espouses that the ideal teacher is a coach rather than a master or instructor. Magnet programs receive more money than neighborhood schools to fund their more expensive academic methods.

        This year, the school district is sending less extra money to schools like Carthage to help close the $30 million funding gap between neighborhood schools and magnets.

        Carthage lost $97,200 as a result, and Superintendent Steven Adamowski has said Carthage may have been the hardest hit in the whole district.

        Carthage Principal Nancy Colegrove made the cuts based, in part, on which teachers could help other schools and which might benefit from a change to build their leadership skills. She cut “superb” teachers, she says, and she knows they will succeed.

        The teachers are grieving. For themselves, their colleagues, their school. They worry their students — their children — won't get as good an education next year.

        Darla Black was one of the teachers “surplussed” in the cuts.

        It's unclear whether Mrs. Black or the other surplussed teachers will return to Carthage next year. Other teachers might leave for other reasons, leaving spots for those who were cut.

        But Mrs. Black is concentrating on her first-graders. On a recent morning, her 26 students huddled over white paper, working in teams to illustrate their dreams after reading a story about a boy's dreams. (Some times of day, she has as many as 28 students.)

        They check with Mrs. Black about spelling. She helps them sound out words. She looks over the pictures and chats with the kids, getting them just the right colors and doling out hugs.

        The lesson teaches the kids cooperation and how to express themselves. Once finished, they will have to stand up and tell about their work.

        Mrs. Black knows what her children need. She knows who will be first-graders again next year. But next year is uncertain for her. She's moved beyond her own grief. She's worried about the school.

        “It's very hurtful,” she says of the cuts. “We've been able to meet the needs of our children, and we're just not going to be able to do it as well.”

        The Carthage parents are scared.

        Mimi Richmond sits at a Parent Teacher Organization meeting in the school library, surrounded by other moms and teachers.

        Mrs. Colegrove stands, officially announcing her retirement to the PTO moms. She hasn't slept well for weeks, she says. Ever since she decided which teachers and instructional assistants to cut.

        “I'm scared,” Mrs. Richmond says. “I thought the budget cuts were bad, but now we're losing our leader. I'm nervous.”

        Mrs. Colegrove tries to calm her. “This is the best staff I've ever worked with,” she says.

        Then Mrs. Colegrove leaves for another meeting she must attend.

        More than a dozen parents and teachers stay and talk.

        Mrs. Richmond wants to know how the cuts will affect students. She doesn't like the answer: Kids will get less individual attention.

        The PTO talks about fund-raising and hears a presentation about selling coupon books that cost $10 or $20 or $30 but promise hundreds of dollars in savings.

        “We need all the fund-raisers we can get for next year because we need to support our staff,” PTO President Carol Wurzelbacher says.

        The talk turns back to the budget cuts.

        “Ultimately, the students lose. The children lose,” says Emma Binford.

        Victoria Fleischer tries to see the cuts and the change in leadership as an opportunity. She'll miss Mrs. Colegrove, she says, but the school can emerge stronger than ever.

        Her pep talk helps.

        “With home, school and community working together, there is nothing that we can't do,” Mrs. Binford says.

        The moms resolve to come out of the cuts stronger than ever. Over the coming weeks, the parents and teachers must figure out how.

Surgery on the schools
Cuts and reforms: 'This is an issue of survival'
Bramble parents losing their contact point
- Carthage children wil get less indivdual attention
Taft's first problem: Getting students to show up

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