Boone to unveil a three-building realignment

Daniel Boone School Board President Richard Martino announced at the March 18 Parent-Teacher Council meeting that a three-building realignment will be introduced at the March 24 school board meeting, 6 p.m., at the Daniel Boone Middle School.

Martino said the board will vote first on a motion to purchase two new boilers for the Birdsboro Elementary Center (BEC) at a cost of $385,000.

He said there is a possibility of a 50 percent Community Development Block Grant (for a cogeneration system that runs on natural gas), as well as the use of $400,000 to $800,000 of cash reserves.

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The school district is renting one new boiler for $550 a month.

Martino confirmed the original estimate by Trane to replace BEC’s heating system would be more than $2 million and must be done within five years.

If the motion is approved to purchase boilers, the board will not hold its 7:30 p.m. public hearing regarding closing BEC in June (due to declining enrollment).

It will vote instead on its two choices for elementary school realignment.

Martino said Assistant Superintendent Marybeth Torchia has developed a new, three-building realignment that is partially in response to BEC’s recent low test scores.

He said March 10 that BEC’s scores were 20 points below Amity Elementary Center (AEC) and 10 points below Monocacy Elementary Center (MEC).

The three-building realignment would entail all kindergarten and first grade students attending MEC, all second and third graders attending BEC, and all fourth and fifth graders attending AEC.

Interim Business Manager Kim Seldomridge said at the board’s Feb. 27 budget meeting that cost savings from closing BEC and enacting a two-school realignment would yield annual savings of $600,000.

Martino repeated that figure on March 18. Seldomridge recommended MEC as a primary center with all the district’s kindergarten through second grade students, and that AEC would be changed back to an intermediate school with grades three through five. Martino read at the March 10 Committee of the Whole meeting, a prepared statement that BEC’s closure should be based upon the district’s ability [or inability] to deliver education, and referred to BEC’s low test scores.

He said the three-building realignment would allow all students to receive an equal education at three different buildings, and from three different teams of teachers and administrators before they advance to the Daniel Boone Middle School.

“ . . . Makes sure that every child gets the same education,” said Martino, clarifying, “they would all get the same instruction. We believe that the [result] would be better education if the realignment takes place.”

Parents said separating siblings would not be beneficial to them or their family.

Austin Peterson, who has taught U.S. History at the High School for 10 years, said his three tenth-grade classes have three very different class averages.

Peterson said the High School had better course offerings and electives five years ago, before budget cuts.

He said it now seems that just as much is being taken away at the elementary level; there is reduced time for encores, and basic skills and elementary band are still on the 2014-15 budget table to reduce the deficit.

“We hear over and over again that we overspent,” said Peterson. “Only the Reading School District spends less that Daniel Boone on each student, and we’re the only district that cuts basic skills and elementary band. We still have only half-day kindergarten.”

“We should be raising taxes,” said one resident. “There is a small handful that don’t want it.”

“Why didn’t your raise taxes in anticipation of the pension increase?”

Another resident added that board members seem to operate on their own agendas.

“It would be good if the state would allow a referendum on any tax increase, so the community could decide,” said Martino.

“Every year you hear dire warnings and we have money left at the end of the year. The school board increased taxes an average of five percent each year for 10 years until the last two years.”

He said that the increased taxes did not result in improved test scores.

“Only Reading School District has more debt than Daniel Boone. We’ve spent $100 million more than we have and our annual debt service is $7 million. Imagine what $7 million could buy.”

“The fact that we have space in two existing buildings means we have too many buildings,” said Martino on March 10.

Former board member Margaret Fiset said in 2009-2010, district enrollment was 4,002 and growing, and there were 150 students in private schools.

District enrollment is now 3,615 and private school enrollment has doubled to more than 300 students. Fiset said there is currently 437 improved home sites in the district (ready to be built upon), with the potential of adding an average of 1.7 students per home to the district’s enrollment.

If the 2009-10 trend had continued, she said current enrollment could be 4,600 students. Although some board members have sought to market and sell APC, Martino said the district still owns the building and it could be reoccupied if enrollment increases.

He said the district could give notice to current lessee River Rock Academy & Day Treatment Center in December of any year and APC could be reopened for the following school year.

Martino said the board is establishing a facility study and ultimately a long-range plan.

He also wants the board -- comprised of six other new members -- to do less talking and make more decisions.

“This board has to make decisions now on a new superintendent, business manager, assistant business manager, Information Technology director, boilers, BEC, and the budget -- and that will occupy our time between now and June,” said Martino.