It’s not that Klein doesn’t make headway every year. He brought the high of 84 oversize classes last year down to about 35 by the end of the school year, but each September the number soars again.
The issues at Medgar Evers, a grades 6-12 school, are complex. The overcrowded school has no gym and two portables for extra classrooms. Klein said the school’s rigorous and successful academic program creates a scheduling nightmare to meet the needs of students in accelerated programs, advanced placement and Regents classes as well as the needs of students who take college classes on the adjacent Medgar Evers College campus. “We have 8th-graders with enough Regents to get a high school diploma and seniors who have earned associate degrees,” he said. “We don’t want to hold these students back.”
And while Klein is constantly talking with administrators about how to solve the problem, he feels they can do a better job of prioritizing and planning. “Concessions can’t always be coming from teachers and students,” he said.
The long-term answer is more resources. “From my perspective, schools like ours that try to do more need more funding,” he said.
Math teacher Chinweike Ukaegbu described Klein, who has led the chapter for seven years, as “a very effective” school leader dealing with an intractable problem. “We realize he is doing all he can, and we appreciate his sense of responsibility,” Ukaegbu said.
The oversize classroom count this year as of Oct. 17 was 53, with “some teachers reporting not enough desks in their classrooms to accommodate the assigned students,” Klein said. An arbitrator has a meeting to try to resolve all class-size overages.
Klein is hopeful that the new class-size provisions in the proposed DOE-UFT contract will help chronically overcrowded schools like his. “I’m looking,” he said, “for a more meaningful hearing, more muscle and seriousness from everyone involved to improve this situation.”