With the new year to start on Wednesday, transitioning from one school to the next will be on the minds of many parents.
It’s been on the minds of several Board of Education members too, most notably Judy Castiglione, who has asked the board’s education committee to look into her biggest concern, the transition between sixth and seventh grade at l. She appeared to be upset with the response she got to her concerns at a recent board meeting.
“When students come into sixth grade, they are treated with kid gloves and taken very good care of,” Castiglione said. “But when they get to seventh grade, things are much more difficult. There seems to be a huge difference in expectations between sixth and seventh grade, and if you polled 25 middle schoolers, I bet you’d get the same answer from all of them, that seventh grade is difficult.”
She said she had heard from “several” parents who told her stories of students crying, vomiting and pulling their hair out over the amount of work, projects and tests, almost all due at the same time, in seventh grade.
Castiglione had voiced her concerns to the Education Committee, chaired by board member Stacey Poulas, who returned with responses at the most recent board meeting.
“We are going to do a study this year of the transition and the work load at all grade levels,” Poulas said. “What we need is for parents to go through the chain of command, and inform the child’s teachers if there is a problem with the work load. We certainly don’t want to hear of students pulling their hair out, but parents need to help us out and let teachers know what is going on.”
Castiglione was unsatisfied with that response, saying that she was “offended” by what she felt was the lack of attention given to the problem.
“When Kathy (Fuchs, the prior superintendent of schools) was still on board I had brought this up. I was told the board was going to look into making the end of sixth grade more difficult, and having more of a transition period in seventh grade. Then several meetings went by and I never heard anything about the subject,” Castiglione said. “I may not have acted in the most mature way to Mrs. Poulas’ report, because I was so shocked that nothing that I had discussed with Kathy had been acted upon. Why aren’t we looking at making this better? This is not the response I wanted at all.”
Poulas admitted that Castiglione’s comments were the first she’d heard of problems individual students were having, and reiterated that parents need to reach out to teachers.
Superintendent Joseph Kraemer also added information, including addressing the problem with the teachers. The middle school works on a team premise, where students are divided into three different teams, and teachers are grouped into teams as well.
“We’ve made some changes at the team level and we have also obtained lesson planning software for all the teachers,” Kraemer said.
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