This is a full copy of the email sent December 16, 2017 by Shea Scanlon Lomma:
Friends and neighbors,
On December 5, 2017, the proposed $20.5 million Tuckahoe school bond failed by only 36 votes.
The bond would have provided necessary upgrades to infrastructure and security and would have ameliorated urgent issues of overcrowding. The infrastructure and building maintenance needs are pressing and non-negotiable and the overcrowding is expected to become worse in the next couple of years. Without a school bond, the administration will be forced to eliminate programs and consolidate classes.
The number of Cottle parents who voted was particularly low. The Board needs to know that we, the Cottle families, will show up to vote if they schedule another vote.
Please consider signing this petition indicating your support for another vote:
In the comments section, be sure to include your connection to the district (i.e., Cottle family). This will allow us to verify signatures.
Please FORWARD THE PETITION LINK, above, to your friends and neighbors, NOW! Feel free to share your own reasons for voting. The Board meets on Monday night.
If you’re not sure whether the bond will benefit our community and school, please see my very long, personal explanation for voting “YES,” below. There are many reasons for voting “YES.” These are just a few.
Economic benefits of passing bond
Passing the school bond will raise your home value. Studies show that, when districts pass school bonds, prospective home buyers are willing to pay approximately $1.50 or more for each $1 of capital spending. To be sure, “in districts where bond measures were approved, housing prices appear to shift upward by 6 or 7 percentage points by the third year after the election relative to the pre-election prices. There is no such shift in districts where bonds failed.”[i]
Moreover, increases in per-pupil spending and other financial investments in education result in direct and quantifiable long-term economic benefits for students. When school districts increase per-pupil spending by just 10%, graduating students earn significantly more and are significantly less likely to suffer from poverty as adults. [ii]
Safety and security
Passing the school bond is also necessary to protect the safety and security of our students. The proposed changes include upgrades to fire alarm and PA systems. When these systems work correctly, they immediately notify first responders and ensure that teachers in the classroom receive prompt instructions in an emergency. When these systems are allowed to deteriorate, our children’s safety is as risk.
Likewise, the proposed upgrades to water heaters, boilers, masonry, ceiling, and flooring are necessary to ensure a habitable school environment. The children cannot learn in an environment that lacks heat, in which the walls are crumbling, or in which the floor or ceilings are not properly maintained.
The population of enrolled students has increased by approximately 100 students in the last three years (a 9.5% increase) and is expected to continue to increase over the next several years. This increased enrollment requires the District to either: (1) sacrifice the student-to-teacher ratio by placing more students with fewer teachers, or (2) hire more teachers and use more classrooms.
The best solution for our children is to add classroom space and teachers. “Ample research has indicated that children in smaller classes achieve better outcomes, both academic and otherwise, and that … Smaller class sizes and reduced total student loads are a relevant working condition [positively] influencing teacher recruitment and retention.” In other words, to retain good teachers, we must keep class sizes at reasonable levels.[iii]
The proposed bond specifically provided for an increase in the number of classrooms at Cottle, which would allow the administration to maintain class sizes by adding a classroom per grade, as necessary.
Effects of overcrowding: pre-kindergarten
Increasing student population has already required the elementary school to add regular education classrooms at the expense of th
e pre-kindergarten program.
This is detrimental to our district because children who are given the opportunity to participate in a pre-kindergarten program demonstrate statistically significant improvement on cognitive tests of pre-reading, reading skills, prewriting, spelling skills, math reasoning and problem-solving abilities.[iv]For some Tuckahoe families, public pre-kindergarten is the only option.
Effects of overcrowding: loss of dedicated visual art room
Increasing student population has also required the elementary school to add a regular education classroom at the expense of the art room. Ms. Derbin currently operates art as “art-on-a-cart,” meaning that she must bring all art materials to the regular education classroom and cannot engage students in projects involving the variety of materials that are appropriate in a dedicated art space but not safely and cleanly utilized in a regular classroom.
Art education should not be marginalized in this way. Visual arts instruction is vital to our students’ educations.[v] Indeed, the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (federal law governing education) includes art in the definition of a “well rounded education” along with math and science, and articulates the state’s duty to provide arts education to students.[vi]
Lack of physical space: indoor recess
Cottle students are not getting the recomme
nded amount of daily physical activity on rainy or cold days because the current Cottle gymnasium is only able to meet the needs of physical education class periods and is not large enough to accommodate a space for indoor recess. Right now, indoor recess involves crowding two grades into the cafeteria.
This is unacceptable. The United States Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children have 60 minutes or more of physical activity daily[vii] and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention aver that physical activity during the school day enhances academic performance.[viii]
The proposed bond specifically provided for enhancements to the size and structure of the Cottle gymnasium and could allow the students to engage in the appropriate amount of physical activity on rainy and cold days.
Lack of physical space: proposed move of fifth graders
One of the proposed solutions to the failure of the bond is to move the fifth graders into the middle school. This could jeopardize those students. The transition from elementary school to middle school is fraught with great risk to a student’s emotional and physical well-being.[ix]
Fifth graders are predominately ten- and eleven-years old and predominately prepubescent. The population of the middle school, conversely, consists of pre-teens and teens entering pubescence. These sixth to eighth graders are beginning to notice members of the opposite or same sex as sexual beings and are more likely to engage in sexual behavior, drug use and bullying than are elementary students.[x] Fifth graders do not need to be subjected to these stressors at age ten. It is my opinion that fifth graders are more appropriately educated in an elementary school setting and that fifth graders are too young to be housed in a building with thirteen-year olds.
The Tuckahoe schools are at a crossroads. We are expanding in student population more quickly than our facilities can accommodate. The proposed school bond would have allowed the district to ameliorate the overcrowding and ensured that our children receive appropriate education and program
ming. This investment in our district was not only necessary to ensure the safety and quality of education of our students, but would have been an investment in our homes, as well. The passage of a school bond may increase taxes, but it also increases our home’s values. Passage of a bond is in each of our best interests and in the best interests of our children.
Please sign the petition and please vote!
Shea Scanlon Lomma
[i] “Passing a referendum causes immediate, sizable increases in home prices, implying a willingness to pay on the part of marginal homebuyers of $1.50 or more for each $1 of capital spending.” The Value of School Facilities: Evidence from a Dynamic Regression Discontinuity Design. Stephanie Riegg Cellini, The Trachtenberg School, George Washington University, Fernando Ferreira, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and NBER, Jesse Rothstein, Department of Economics, Princeton University and NBER, March 2009, Quarterly Journal of Economics.
[ii] Study found that a 10 percent increase in per-pupil spending (over 12 years of public schooling) leads to 0.31 more completed years of education for students, about 7 percent higher wages, and a 3.2 percentage-point reduction in the annual incidence of adult poverty and that higher spending increases were associated with notable improvements in measured school inputs, including reductions in student-to-teacher ratios, increases in teacher salaries, and longer school years. Id.
[iii] Baker, B. D., Farrie, D. and Sciarra, D. G. (2016), Mind the Gap: 20 Years of Progress and Retrenchment in School Funding and Achievement Gaps. ETS Research Report Series, 2016: 1–37.
[iv] The Effects of Universal Pre-K on Cognitive Development. William T. Gormley Jr., Ted Gayer, Deborah Phillips, and Brittany Dawson, Georgetown University, Developmental Psychology, American Psychological Association, 2005, Vol. 41, No. 6, 872–884.
[v] For example, children of elementary age trained to look closely at works of art and reason about what they saw demonstrated improvements in their abilities to reason about images in science. Tishman, Shari, Dorothy MacGillivray, and Patricia Palmer (2002), “Investigating the Educational Impact and Potential of the Museum of Modern Art’s Visual Thinking Curriculum: Final Report.” In R. Deasy (Ed.), Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Achievement and Social Development, Washington, DC: AEP; Schools integrating the arts into the curri
culum documented improved student performance across subjects. Deasy, Richard J. (editor) (2002), Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Achievement and Social Development, Washington, DC: AEP.
[vii] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2008 Physical activity guidelines for Americans. Washington, DC: U.S. Departme
nt of Health and Human Services; 2008.
[viii] The association between school-based physical activity, including physical education, and academic performance. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2010.
[ix] Jackson, A. W., & Davis, G. A. (2000). Turning points 2000: Educating adolescents in the 21st century. New York, NY: Teachers College Press, at 2; “Middle school is considered to be a heightened period for involvement in bullying because the lack of a defined dominance hierarchy is thought to promote jockeying for social positions among students.” Farmer. T. W., Hamm, J. V., Leung, M., Lambert,K., & Gravelle, M. (2011). Early adolescent peer ecologies in rural communities: Bullying in schools that do and do not have a transition during the middle grades. Journal of Youth & Adolescence, 40(9), 1106–1117, at 1106.
[x] See, for example, Farmer. T. W., et al (2011).