The schools that will close are South Lake Elementary in Titusville, Clearlake Middle in Cocoa, and Gardendale Magnet Elementary in Merritt Island. School board member Andy Ziegler was the swing vote to keep Sea Park Elementary in Satellite Beach open “for at least one more year.”
“We appreciate all of the input over the past months. We have heard you, we have listened to you. We have reviewed every possible alternative,” said Dr. Barbara Murray. “My decisions have never been politically motivated.”
The meeting was highlighted with clashes between board member Amy Kneessy and other board members and plagued by computer issues during votes.
“I thought we had agreed to limit personal attacks,” Kneessy said.
The school closure issue had been simmering for months with parent groups and community leaders rallying behind the targeted schools. Two parent-led political committees were formed and the Brevard County Board of County Commission and several mayors weighed in throughout the process. None of the county commissioners responded to a Brevard Times media request regarding the school closure issue.
During public comment, Martha Franco, a retired teacher, said, “It has been wonderful to see unity – people coming together for the children of Brevard County.” She quoted Abraham Lincoln and urged the board to make right decisions, not politically correct ones.
However, Dr. Brian Bingelli, Superintendent of BPS, stood firm in his recommendations to the school board. BPS needs to cut $30.7 million from its budget due to the sunshine of a property tax upcoming this summer and the defeat of a sales tax referendum last November. The school closures will save about $2.5 million.
The school board also voted unanimously to eliminate corridor busing with an estimated savings of approximately $1.2 million. This includes busing to Choice schools, to Brevard Community College for dual enrollment students and to Choice academies.
Ziegler made a motion to review a plan to implement fee-based corridor busing during the March 26 meeting. Bingelli said there are legal issues regarding a fee-based system that are not currently clear.
The board approved a $30 fee for all out-of-area and Choice School applications. This will generate around $200,000.
The remaining proposed cuts will be discussed at four public hearings and then will be considered by the board on the February 26 board meeting. These can be found at http://documents.brevardschools.org/Updates/Budget/Budget%20Information%20201213/2013-14%20Proposed%20Budget%20Cuts%20and%20Revenue%20Enhancements%20(Public%20Release).pdfThe public hearings on these additional cuts are:
- February 18, 2013 - Astronaut High School Auditorium
- February 19, 2013 - Bayside High School Auditorium
- February 21, 2013 - Hoover Middle School Media Center
- February 25, 2013 - Viera High School Auditorium
A controversy arose prior to the meeting as BPS Director of District and School Security Andrea Alford told the crowd waiting in line that there would be no public comment allowed on the school closure issue. She noted that the school board had closed public comment after their last public meeting.
Dr. Barbara Murray, Chair of the BPS school board, reiterated this point as the meeting was called to order.
The crowd size at the meeting was markedly smaller than previous public hearings with vacant seats scattered around the 500-seat boardroom. Other meetings had overflow seating in use.