In what was expected to be a confrontation between parents and board members, Tuesday night's special board meeting turned out to be a lesson in how to solve problems by listening and working together.
After hearing from several parents concerned about busing their kindergarteners from and to other area schools with lower enrollment estimates, the board voted unanimously to hire two teachers, one each for Mill Creek and Williamsburg. Two additional teacher assistants will also be hired.
The cost to the district is $64,300 for the new teachers, but board member Mike McCormick pointed out that the actual cost will be about $48,000, the difference when you consider busing costs of $16,200 that would have been spent.
The room erupted in applause when McCormick announced, "I'm going to be supporting hiring new teachers."
In a letter mailed to parents a few weeks ago, the board indicated that it was planning to take action on the issue and that it would consider moving students to the other schools with lower enrollments or to hire more teachers.
Amy Hamilton, who has a 5-year-old entering kindergarten in the fall at Williamsburg, became emotional when talking about how busing would impact her son.
"He's a little nervous, he's 5 years old," she said. "But he takes comfort from the fact that he can get on that bus with the big kids, and with five other kindergarteners that I live near."
Hamilton submitted a petition with 175 names asking that the board add another class at the school.
Melissa Swierczewski lives in Mill Creek and told the board that Mill Creek Elementary is unique.
"We are a new construction neighborhood with new houses," she said. "Enrollment at Mill Creek is not going to decrease. These types of homes in this type of neighborhood are very rarely bought by empty nesters. The overwhelming demographic of the homes purchased in our section of Mill Creek is young families."
Vice President Kelly Nowak suggested the board consider a boundary study and to review class sizes regularly to better understand what the expectations are.
President Mark Grosso said "everyone here seems to be real upset because a suggestion was made that we may want to bus a couple of kids."
"It looked like an enrollment bubble at the last meeting," he said.
He blamed the Internet and social media for causing parents to "jump to a lot of conclusions."
Grosso said at the last board meeting the board asked for some additional information so they could look at it, review it, and "make a decision based on what we felt was the right decision for this district."
After each of the board members voted "aye," the room erupted in applause.
Grosso announced, "The motion is approved."