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New Projections Narrow Centennial Budget Deficit to $1.3 Million

Business Administrator Chris Berdnik recalculated the 2012-2013 budget with more assumptions to shave more than $2.5 million off the deficit.

Centennial's Chief Financial Officer Chris Berdnik presented new budget projections to Finance Committee Monday night that showed the has been reduced from $4 million to $1.3 million.

Berdnik arrived at the calculation by adding in more revenue and reduced expense assumptions, including the sale of the Dot Henry Satellite School and Leary Elementary and the loss of 16.5 elementary staff positions. According to Berdnik, representatives from the Centennial Education Association has agreed to come back to the table and look for ways to reduce the need for .

The elementary staffing reduction had not been factored in previously because Berdnik had worked under the assumption that the school board would adopt a new elementary class size policy that results in a zero net gain/loss of teachers. 

An had formed late last year that analyzed the current class size policy and looked for ways to make it more flexible and more in line with research that shows the positive effects of smaller classroom sizes. 

Doctors Bart DeCorte and Kirsten Findell, Upper Southampton residents with a second grader in a classroom of 27 students at , presented evidence from several studies, including Tennessee's Project STAR, considered the largest and most reliable study on the effects of reduced class sizes.

Funded by the Tennessee General Assembly and conducted by the Tennessee State Department of Education, Project STAR's focus was the size of classrooms during kindergarten and the early elementary grades. In the course of the study, over 7,000 students in 79 schools were randomly assigned into one of three classroom situations: small class (13 to 17 students per teacher), regular class (22 to 25 students per teacher), or a regular class with a full time teacher’s aide. Students remained in their classroom type from kindergarten through third grade. The results showed across the board improvement in student achievement.

The current policy has a mandatory student threshold for each grade that, if crossed, requires the addition of a teacher or aide. The new policy lowers the threshold as such:

  • Kindergarten-First Grade: 25 students to 23
  • Second Grade: 27 students to 23
  • Third Grade: 27 students to 25
  • Fourth and Fifth Grades: 29 students to 28

However, crossing that threshold does not automatically trigger an additional teacher. Instead, school administrators would have the ability to analyze the individual classrooms and decide whether or not one or two more students would create an imbalance. The policy would also take into account whether a classroom is inclusive for students with special needs.

For example, a second grade inclusive classroom could have 20 students compared to another room with 24, making up for the additional time a teacher may need to tend to the students with special needs.

When presented with the proposed policy, members of the finance committee questioned the practicality of new class sizes that would not reduce the net total of elementary staff in the face of the current and projected budget deficits. It had been pointed out to Berdnik that the policy has not been approved and that the budget should reflect the current plan that would cut 16.5 positions when the school consolidation process is complete.

The new budget projections take into account the possible sale of , adding $850,000 to the capital projects fund. The board rejected a purchase proposal from the first round of bids, but Berdnik says that another offer has been made and is under review.

In fact, according to an estimated timeline presented Monday night, Berdnik expects the board to approve the sales of Leary, and Stackpole by April.

The closures of Longstreth and Stackpole took another step forward when public hearings for each building were held prior to the Finance Committee meeting. An opportunity was presented to residents in the Centennial School District to make any comments about the procedure. There were no takers from Longstreth, and only a handful of comments on the behalf of Stackpole. The school board now has 60 days to make its final decision on the school closings, expected to take place on June 26.

Steve A March 21, 2012 at 02:21 AM
You are on the right track, Mr. Berdnik. Hopefully, there won't be any more change orders to the various ongoing construction projects.
Steve G March 21, 2012 at 06:33 PM
Do not assume money from the sale of closed schools, until you have the check in your hands!! Real Estate transactions of this magnitude are more complex than some people may realize. I personally do not trust the current board to sell these buildings. I am positive that based on their past record of irresponsible decisions, they will sell the buildings for much less than the buildings and land are worth. What real estate professional/s are advising the board on the sale? Mr. Berdnik please re-present a factual budget without assumed dollars from the sale of real estate. Unfortunately, in the past the board always seems to factor in "Best Case Scenario's" in their budgets, and the taxpayers are well aware of the results of that mindset!!!
concerned123 March 21, 2012 at 06:51 PM
I am happy to see the teachers coming back to the table to avoids cutting 55 teachers. Last years contract should have never been approved ! Besides the construction sale where are they going to get the money next year to meet the budget and pay for the unfunded contract that was signed last year? I also do not see any mention to the act 1 expemption the disctrict is seeking to file and raise taxes 4 % . Is this the additional revenue moving forward they will try and use?
James Boyle (Editor) March 21, 2012 at 08:21 PM
The district had to apply for those exemptions by the February deadline in order to keep them as an option. In other words, if they didn't apply in time, and they realized in June that they needed the exemptions to close the gap, they would be unable to. Most, if not all, of the school board members have made it clear to Mr. Berdnik that they would not support triggering those exemptions and have directed him to find other ways to balance the budget.
Gray Wolf March 21, 2012 at 11:17 PM
Con123- Sounds like you don't know the teachers as well as you thought- "If the Teachers care so much about their fellow brothers and sisters let them come back to the table and give back and show good faith. Let's guess what the answer would be to that question . The teachers union could care lesss about the young eager teachers in our disctrict. that we need instead the older burned out ones that are just counting the days to retire." Maybe you owe them an apology?
concerned123 March 25, 2012 at 01:01 PM
Let's see if they give anything back first Wolf, its easy to say something with no following action , Then I will agree with your comment. If you read the article it say " come back to the table and look" When the facts are reported that they actually do give back then I will applaude them. Let's wait and see since their new contracts added and unfunded 1.6 million annual debt increase to our budget for the next 3 years
Pamela April 24, 2012 at 05:53 PM
WOW just read this garbage. OUr teachers never demanded anything. Our half baked board members signed a contract with no way of paying for it. Who in their right mind would not have jump at what the teachers were offered by these nut jobs. You will see that our teachers care more for our children then these "elected officials"

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