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Education Committee Begins Analyzing Staffing Cuts

Centennial teachers packed the meeting room as presentations were made on discontinuing some high school courses and switching the middle schools to junior highs.

Educators from all of Centennial's elementary, middle and high schools filled a standing room only meeting of the district's education committee Wednesday night to stake an early claim in the months-long process of finding cuts to overcome a in the 2012-2013 budget.

District administrators and teachers seemed to come to a mutual understanding that positions have to be removed for the sake of the budget, and that any cuts should have the least possible negative impact on the students.

"We have to make excruciating choices in the next couple months," said Superintendant Dr. Jenny Cressman. "Nobody on this board or in this administration wants to lose a single teacher, but that is not an economic reality. We need to create more efficiencies in staffing."

Several teachers requested that the administration go back to the budget and look for more cuts and more revenue sources, prompting director Mark Miller to voice his palpable anger at the rest of the school board's refusal to aggressively pursue alternative funding.

His response was quickly rebuked by committee chair Jane Schrader-Lynch, who said that Miller's display violated the mission of the education committee, which is devoted to providing education programming for the children and nothing else.

After the meeting, Miller promised that he will have plenty more to say at Tuesday's school board meeting.

"We have not done everything we can do," said Miller.

Nevertheless, the staffing reduction process began Wednesday night with Superintendant of Education Joyce Mundy's presentation of suggested cuts to courses offered at . The menu included:

  • The elimination of a technology education program because of declining student interest and a redundancy of offerings from the Middle Bucks Institute of Technology. The course would continue to be taught at the sixth grade level.
  • The elimination of computer application courses, instead adding computer literacy classes to the elementary curriculum. The change was spurred by the level of ability already displayed by most of the high school students.
  • The elimination of the graduation project course. Instead of having classes solely dedicated to seniors completing their mandatory graduation projects, the course requirements will be embedded in their regular schedule of classes.
  • The elimination of PSSA math and reading courses. The administration feels students have made large enough gains in their PSSA scores to justify shedding the courses and offering online support for students who need help passing the twelfth grade retests.
  • The elimination of French and German language courses. Low enrollment prompted the administration to place these two Romance languages on the chopping block. Instead, they will be offered through online courses, along with more languages such as Mandarin Chinese, Russian and Arabic. Spanish will still receive classroom instruction.

Miller requested more enrollment data and information on the online courses from Mundy, prompting a tabling of the issue until Monday's education committee meeting. If the proposal passes up to the school board unscathed, it would translate into the loss of 8.5 high school teaching positions (three elementary positions would be created to teach the computer application courses).

The topic then turned to middle schools. Mundy presented an informational slideshow that illustrated the basic differences between the middle school model versus the junior high school structure.

Once the ad hoc committee on class size convenes after making its final presentation and recommendations to the education committe on Monday, Jan. 23, Mundy and Dr. Cressman hopes another special committee can be formed to explore switching Klinger and Log College to junior high schools.

Judging by the reaction of the room to Mundy's presentation, the switch will be met with heavy resistance. As explained by the slideshow, the middle school model of multi-department teams dedicated to each grade would transition to subject-specific departments. This model would allow for less staffing requirements since subject teachers can lead classrooms across multiple grades.

The idea of losing the team-oriented structure alarmed many of the middle school teachers present at Wednesday night's meeting, as several representatives brought up issues of increased class sizes, less time for teacher prep time and diminished opportunities to assist students outside the classroom.

Dr. Cressman stressed that Mundy's presentation was purely informational and contained no actionable recommendations. She suggested that many of the teachers make their concerns known at any potential meetings on the subject.

Pete Krenshaw January 20, 2012 at 04:22 AM
they already cut but unfortunately they cut the wrong ones!
PrimeTime January 20, 2012 at 05:07 PM
I know how hard teachers work and most of them have the best interest of their students in mind. However, updating the technology piece seems to make sense as does the elimination of the extra PSSA courses. I also know most schools do not have a special class for just for senior projects and it could be rolled into the English curriculum. I take exception to the elimination of foreign language (German and French). That is short sighted and low enrollment does not mean no enrollment. In addition the idea of moving from the Middle School model to a Junior High model seems ridiculous. It creates larger classes, it has a greater disconnect between teacher and student, and all it really is, is a way to cut positions that will truly hurt students. I know no one wants to pay more in school taxes however, better schools = higher house prices. I would be willing to pay a little more to keep foreign language and keep the Middle Schools a true Middle School.
concerned123 February 01, 2012 at 03:28 AM
Sure we should all just pay more taxes ,Maybe the teachers should take a pay freeze. Top 20% are making more than a 100k and pay more into their medical like all use private sector workers. The savings could help programs from being cut. You think that would happen? Not a chance !
concerned123 February 01, 2012 at 03:45 AM
Our school board handed over everything the teachers wanted last year with the new contract. And we are already paying for it. Teachers could care less about programs being cut. All the want is more and more. The Board should be ashamed of themselves for not dealing with them tougher. Is are board clueless understanding we are in the worst ecomonic times since the depression ? Taxpayers should know whats in our contracts before they are approved . Morrisville and Neshaminy care enough to share this information with the taxpaying public and let us comment . Our disctrict should too ! The Board and their decisions are leading us into projected debt of 11 million by the end of the current teachers contract. The last two years of the contract are un funded. Get ready for our wonderful board led by Dr Pollack to file for act one exemptions to raise are taxes over the limit for the next few years, They are already trying to do it this year. We need a board that cares not only about the children ,but the taxpayers too. This board needs to go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Pete Krenshaw February 01, 2012 at 05:10 AM
At least we have a few new board members this year. I look forward to seeing what Steve Adams and Chuck Kleinschmidt can do for us. Michael Hartline is still looking promising. At least he tried to go against Pollack.

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