Statement to the Board on 12-10 by Kate Saunders

Good evening. My name is Kate Saunders and I have been an English teacher here at Central since 1999. I have taught 14 different courses in the department, spent ten years teaching summer school, sponsored the yearbook for seven years, and planned 10 proms as senior class sponsor. In my career, I’ve worked with more than 2500 students, many of whom I am in still in contact with today. I’ve written hundreds of letters of rec, sometimes even for students who have long since graduated as they look to enter law school or find employment. Teaching is my passion, and I feel so lucky that I have had the opportunity to cultivate so many wonderful relationships with students.

I am here tonight to implore you not to make the irreversible decision of raising class sizes. As you know, scheduling begins in January and is completed in March. Should you choose to increase class sizes, even if another referendum passes in April, it will be too late to go back. Courses will already be determined and faculty who are let go will have moved on to other jobs in other districts. And what does that mean for students? A lot.

We all know class size matters; even colleges boast about their teacher-student ratio. Studies show that for every person over 18 in a classroom, engagement decreases for students. Now, I have taught classes of 18 and I have taught classes of 30, and I make it work, but it is a much bigger challenge for all of us when there are 31 people in the room. A teacher’s ability to recognize misunderstanding is hindered when they have a fully packed classroom, and it takes much longer to get through material. This is true at all levels — AP and college prep.

Three years ago, this district put Social Emotional Learning at the forefront of our mission. We spent a large chunk of last year identifying students without a go-to person in the building, recognizing the importance of students having an adult in the building that they can turn to for advice. Should you remove faculty members, you are decreasing these vital relationships for students, which for some students are their only meaningful adult relationships.

Class size increases will also mean fewer learning opportunities for students who want to pursue their passions. Classes such as Acting, Art, Dystopian Lit, Film Studies, Cooking, just to name a few, may be among those that disappear.  There will also likely be fewer AP opportunities.

I recognize that as a result of the failed referendum the Board must make difficult decisions, but those decisions should not detract from the quality education students receive here at Hinsdale Central. Though ultimately I hope you will not choose to increase class size, I implore you not to make this decision tonight. Please explore all your options rather than taking away opportunities and relationships from students.