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Johnstown residents suggest grouping plan

January 27, 2012
By MICHAEL ANICH , The Leader Herald

JOHNSTOWN - People attending the Greater Johnstown School District Board of Education's community forum Thursday were interested in talking about grade grouping, also known as the Princeton Plan, for the district.

The board conducted a two-hour forum, titled "Educating Students in Johnstown," at Johnstown High School. Superintendent Robert DeLilli moderated the event, attended by about 30 people.

Several residents said they would like to see the district improve elementary education. Residents wanted to know if the Princeton Plan, which involves grouping certain grades in certain elementary schools, could be discussed seriously.

Article Photos

The crowd is shown at the Greater Johnstown School District Board of Education community forum Thursday night at Johnstown High School.
The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich

Resident Mike Franko said he's concerned about budget cuts, especially as it affects elementary education.

"We should never cut a single education opportunity," he said. "I think we should cut out the extracurricular first."

He added, "The consensus I'm hearing is we need to redirect funding."

Warren Street Elementary School Principal Scott Ziomek, who favors the Princeton Plan, said the district needs to be more creative, especially with project-based learning.

"The money's not going to get us there," he said.

DeLilli said enrollment is growing in the district and elementary school class sizes have grown.

Former board member Scott Miller said there seems to be too much emphasis on high school students and getting them ready for college. He asked what the district can do to bring elementary school students along "further and quicker" in their curriculums.

DeLilli said the district has to strike a balance between "what the school district can afford" and what it wants. He said he sometimes wants to "scream" at state legislators and tell them they're "destroying the future of your kids."

"The pie is just so big and there will come a time when there is difficult choices and decisions," he said.

Pleasant Avenue Elementary School Principal Jeffrey Vivenzio said the district should hire more qualified pre-kindergarten through first-grade teachers and expand enrichment programs for young students.

"The elementary schools have been cut bone dry," he said.

Some people at the forum said grade-level grouping may offer better instruction for elementary school students.

On another topic, Johnstown High School 10th-grader Kevin Ammann said the district needs more career-oriented courses. He also asked why districts like those in Westchester County receive more state funding than more needy districts such as Johnstown.

DeLilli said state funding to school districts works on "complex formulas."

"The political world really drives funding," the superintendent said.



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