Birdsboro realignment approved by board

The Daniel Boone School Board unanimously approved on April 28 to proceed with a two-school realignment of the Monocacy Elementary Center (MEC) and Birdsboro Elementary Center (BEC) for the 2014-15 school year.

District Superintendent Marybeth Tochia introduced the realignment at the board’s Committee of the Whole Meeting on April 14.

MEC and BEC are both currently kindergarten through fifth grade schools. The realignment will place all of that area’s kindergarten through second grade students at MEC.

Consequently, all third through fifth graders in the Union Township and Birdsboro areas will attend BEC.

Kindergarten through fifth grade students that attend Amity Elementary Center would be unaffected by the realignment.

The approved realignment plan was the third plan introduced by Torchia and was met by audience clapping on April 14.

Residents were previously angry that the other two plans would have separated their children among three schools with long travel times and also that the plans were the result of low test scores at BEC.

“I received only one negative e-mail [about the now-approved plan], but you won’t have 100 percent support,” said board President Richard Martino.

Torchia said the negative concerns she received were from parents of students that will have a new nurse at the school they will attend. She said the only new cost would be an additional $5,000 expense for transportation.

Some busses will travel an additional four miles and the longest time spent on a school bus could be 45 minutes for some students.

The board unanimously approved the resignation of board member Suzanne Dungan, who is moving out of the district. Dungan was elected to the board during the November 2013 general election.

Board members unanimously approved the appointment of previous board member Michael D. Wolfe to complete her two-year term.

He will serve until the school board reorganization on Dec. 7, 2015.

Representatives of the Community School of Music and the Arts, Reading, said they are willing to work with the district to facilitate a fee-based elementary band program at the Birdsboro and Amity elementary centers.

Board member Andrew Basile said “outsourcing” the program is better than not offering any elementary band program, which would have a ripple effect on middle school and high school band.

Martino and Basile said the district’s current elementary band program is still slated to be cut to reduce the deficit and balance the budget.

The program costs the district approximately $187,426 a year.

The Community School’s two-day a week, after-school band program (from 3:30 to 5 p.m.), would cost each student $16 a week, but financial assistance would be available.

“I think with you considering outsourcing the elementary band program you’re passing another cost on to parents,” said Shane Kochel, Union Township.

“Some parents are paying hundreds, thousands of dollars now on items that used to be paid by the district. Another is food -- those kids will be tired, hungry, and grumpy. When we come to the school board to save our programs, our requests seem to fall on deaf ears. For the past couple of years, you wouldn’t increase taxes to save our programs. You put us in this situation, and we are losing programs. We really need to focus on the students.”

Kochel’s comment was met by cheers and clapping from residents. The school board went two to three years without imposing a tax increase. If the board had raised the millage to the Act 1 index, it would have resulted in revenue of $1 million for each year that taxes were increased.

Basile said “outsourcing” the program is better than not offering any elementary band program, which would have a ripple effect on middle school and high school band.

The current budget includes a tax increase to the index of 2.8 percent, plus the use of the retirement exception, for a total of 3.97 percent.

If approved by the board, a 3.97 percent increase would raise the millage rate from 28.9618 to 30.1118 mills -- an additional $137 for a property assessed at about $100,000. Martino said in January that the revenue from a 3.97 percent increase would be $1,108,000.

The board used its new “Consent Agenda” for the first time to “voice vote” on 18 different items listed under “Consent Items.”

Upon a motion to vote, and after that motion is “seconded,” the subsequent voice vote is accepted as unanimous unless any board member voices a “nay.”

Those items included ranged from approving meeting minutes, financial reports, paying the bills, as well as the Sodexo Food Contract for 2014-15, to budget transfers, personnel approvals (including appointing Loren Small as Business Manager), the submission of the Pottstown Wellness Foundation Grant application, and the 2014-17 Special Education Plan. It also included the Precision 20/20 Full Reserve Study Proposal, at a cost to the district of $69,500, which was unanimously approved.

Board member Tamara D. Twardowski said the study will provide the district with a report on how to better budget money for capital expenditures.

The Realignment Plan was included in the Consent Agenda but was removed so board members could make a “roll call” vote.

The vote was unanimous.

Missing from the agendas is a public comment following the sub-categories of committee reports (Curriculum & Instruction, Facilities, Finance, and Revenue Enhancement), Building and Grounds, Finance, Programs, Policy, and Transportation.

“Presentations by the Public on Agenda Items” is included at the beginning of each meeting.

All other issues may be presented at the end of the meetings.

Carter Hall, age 12, Birdsboro, asked the board at the end of the meeting, to include public comment “back into the meeting, before the items have been discussed.”

Martino replied to Hall that the board’s Committee of the Whole meeting allows for public comment (at the beginning and end).

“Each person up here was elected by the public to make decisions/vote that are in their [public] best interest,” said Martino.

Hall’s mother, Amy Hall, approached the podium and said her son has wanted to be president since he was six-years-old.

“Please consider if you might be able to stop when there is something big -- you might consider stopping and allow some public comment.”