http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2012/04/13/popular-elementary-school-program-falls-to-budget-cuts


Pleasanton Weekly

News - April 13, 2012

Popular elementary school program falls to budget cuts

Discovery program to be eliminated at Walnut Grove

by Glenn Wohltmann

A popular program at Walnut Grove Elementary may be disappearing, another victim of the state's ongoing budget troubles.

Increasing class sizes, less interest and less teacher participation are among the main factors leading to the end of the Discovery program, in which students spent two years with the same teacher. The program keeps kids together with teachers for two-year spans in combined classes of kindergarten and first grade, second and third grade, and fourth and fifth grade.

But some of those teachers are on the district's list of layoffs, and Principal Jon Vranesh said he wasn't sure that the school could find teachers who'd be interested in using the Discovery method.

A letter sent out by Vranesh announced that the program was being ended, without input from parents, who packed the school's multipurpose room for two meetings held to discuss the reasons behind the cancellation, and to talk about options.

"We're losing teachers, some of our best and brightest. That's one factor," Vranesh told the crowd, explaining Walnut Grove, like other elementary schools, is predicting a student-teacher ration of 30-1. "We don't have the (enrollment) numbers to sustain a vibrant and vital program. That's another factor."

The idea was met with a mix of concern and enthusiasm. Some parents said they liked the idea because it would do away with perceived divisions in the school, where about one-third of students were involved in Discovery.

"Next year, we will be combining both our 'traditional' and 'discovery' programs so that our students will have the best of what both programs have to offer," Vranesh's letter read. "Additionally, teachers will have the opportunity to 'loop' with their students for two-year periods in consultation with administration."

That would mean students from the same grade would keep the same teacher for two years as they move up.

"I just want to open your minds to the idea of one Walnut Grove School," one of the teachers brought in to discuss the end of the Discovery program told parents. "I think we're going to find we're not so different after all."

One parent worried that students moved out of Discovery would be missing out on some classes, since subjects were planned in two-year blocks.

"We'll work it out so that those kids get their units," a teacher responded.

At the end, most seemed happy about the compromise, while Vranesh and Cindy Galbo, assistant superintendent of educational services, promised to look for teachers who'd like to use the Discovery program, and would consider a lottery -- if enough students can be found to fill the classes.

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