BEC discussion tabled; hearing is March 24

Despite the failure of one boiler at the Birdsboro Elementary School (BEC) on Friday, March 7, the school was operational again on Monday, March 10, with a temporary rented boiler that is costing the district $5,500.

Dr. Patricia Sanker, acting superintendent of the Daniel Boone School District, said at the March 10 board meeting that the school was closed on March 7 for the boiler replacement and hookup into the school’s two-pipe loop system.

She said the temporary boiler is located outside of BEC in a trailer but operates the same as a boiler in the basement; heat was flowing by Saturday and the school was opened again on Monday.

Board President Richard Martino said the board couldn’t discuss the possible closure of BEC -- or the resulting district realignment -- due to the pending public hearing on March 24.

He did read a prepared statement that BEC’s closure should be based upon the district’s ability to deliver education.

Martino said BEC’s recent student test scores of 64.3 were 20 points less than Amity and Monocacy elementary centers.

“The fact that we have space in two existing buildings means we have too many buildings,” said Martino. “Realignment annual savings of more than $600,000. State Sen. Judy Schwank contacted me today to set up a meeting with the Department of Community and Economic Development to look for grant opportunities.”

The board did discuss at its Feb. 24 meeting the potential failure of one or both boilers at BEC and the $400,000 per boiler replacement cost.

Board members had questioned the judiciousness of investing in new boilers if the most prudent decision might be to close BEC due to declining enrollment.

“In reality we had to have heat coming into the building, and without heat the lines could have frozen, and the quick fix is the rented boiler,” said Sanker.

The boiler won’t be needed when the weather is warmer.

If the other working boiler was used 24/7, board members said its life expectancy would be reduced.

Board member Larry Speed asked why the emergency plan of relocating students to the former Amity Primary Center (APC) was not enacted.

Assistant Superintendent Marybeth Torchia said administration did not have the time to put that plan in place.

She said APC lacks the teachers’ supplies, student supplies, classroom setups, and last minute bussing would have been an issue.

“There was not enough time to make the transition in one day -- but if it had been an extended period of time . . .,” said Torchia.

Sanker said she learned of the boiler’s failure the afternoon of March 6 and knew the situation could be operational again within one day.

“I knew we could accommodate a one student day loss and didn’t think the emergency plan needed to be evoked,” said Sanker, adding, “At this point we are continuing as normal since the board has not voted [to close BEC].”

The board unanimously approved the resignation of Assistant Business Manager Mark Boyer, effective April 1.

Other 2013-14 resignations have included Jeff Haas, director of Educational Technology, effective March 7; the retirement of Superintendent Dr. Gary L. Otto, effective Dec. 20; the resignation of Business Manager Danielle Penza last June, and the resignation in January of board members Monica Hamill and Robert D. McLaughlin.

Kurtz, Curriculum & Instruction Committee chairman, said the committee is preparing a board proposal to adjust the district’s grading system to 90 - 100, 80 - 89, 70 - 79, and 60 - 69 versus the current grading scale of 92 - 100 for an A grade, 83 - 91 for a B grade, 74 - 82 for a C grade, and 65 - 73 for a D grade.

He said the grade scale change would be effective in 2014-15.

“It puts students on an equal footing with other Berks County school districts,” said Kurtz.

Kurtz said the committee also determined that fifth grade would not be moved to the Daniel Boone Middle School.

Sanker said the district received 625 responses (331 parents) to its online survey of the top 12 qualities important in a new superintendent.

She said the district will receive superintendent applications through March and then begin interviewing candidates.

Administration is currently interviewing business manager candidates and hope to have a selection for the board’s March 24 meeting.

“The assistant business manager is posted, applications are being received, and the director of technology is also still open,” said Sanker. “We hope to have everything wrapped up within 2 months.”