A.H. Asst. Superintendent: No “genuine diminishment” due to large classes

By ROBERT TOMKAVAGE rtomkavage@theabingtonjournal.com

October 8, 2013

Abington Heights Assistant Superintendent of Schools Dr. Thomas Quinn believes teachers in the district are dealing well with larger class sizes this school year.

“I have been in eight of the 10 second grade classes for 30 minutes at a time,” Quinn said during the school board’s work session on Oct. 2. “I have seen large group instruction, individual work, and small group work, and I have not seen any genuine diminishment (in the quality of teaching). The teachers have been acting very professionally and are making this work. I’ve seen nothing that concerns me so far.”

Superintendent Dr. Michael Mahon also thinks everyone in the district is making the best of difficult circumstances.

“We currently don’t have any classes larger than 26,” he said. “Again, we’re not happy with 26 students in classes, but we think it’s working because of the hard work of our teachers, parents, and kids.”

Tom Jubon of South Abington Twp., vice president of the Abington Heights Swim Parents Club, expressed his concern regarding the length of pool repairs and the possibility of student-athletes leaving the team.

“I’m concerned that because…this process has gone on for so long, the number of students participating on the swim team is suffering. There are a number of students who either decided not to be on the swim team this year due to extra time constraints from riding buses back and forth from West Scranton to practice, and there are a number that are on the fence right now,” said Jubon.

According to Mahon, the absolute deadline for completion of pool repairs is January 4, 2014. After that date, the company will begin paying fines.

Jubon, who also serves as treasurer of the Band Boosters, addressed the board in regards to the band’s annual overnight trip. According to Jubon, the trips would rotate between Boston, Cleveland, Disney World in Florida and Alexandria, Va.

“The overnight trips, we think this year, are very unlikely to occur as they have in the past,” Mahon said. “There is an ongoing discussion with high school principal Pamela Murray regarding what alternatives can be put in place. There were some very serious issues that arose during the last trip rising in some cases to criminal activity. Upon investigation, we have found at least rumors and our view is that the trips themselves, as they have been occurring, need to stop.”

According to Mahon, the eighth-grade trips to Washington D.C. will continue.

Board President Cathy Hardaway reported that a teacher negotiations session was held last Monday between members of the district’s negotiating committee and the Abington Heights Education Association.

“We continue to make progress on issues,” she said. “We’ve (had) good conversations and both sides are very well informed. We’re able to discuss all the issues that concern both sides. I think some of our thoughts are on parallel tracks and never come together, but I’m encouraged by the candid discussion.”

Abington Heights teachers have been working without a contract since their last one expired on Aug. 31, 2011.

Mahon mentioned that rising pension costs continue to affect the way the district operates.

“This board has said for years that one of the biggest education issues of our time is really not an education issue at all, but rather a funding issue,” he said. “The pension plan in Harrisburg is completely out of control and it has, and will continue to alter our ability to deliver services to our students.”