Board Inches Closer Toward Shutting Four Schools

By  //  December 12, 2012

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Prioritized List of Other Major Budget Cuts Near

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – The wheels were set in motion to close four schools at Tuesday night’s Brevard County School Board meeting and numerous major budget cuts and cost-cutting reductions are looming as signaled by the school superintendent.

The Brevard County School Board discusses a proposal to close four schools during a meeting Tuesday night in Viera. (Image by Ed Pierce)

School board members voted 3-2 to conduct a public hearing about Superintendent Dr. Brian Binggeli’s proposals to shutter Clearlake Middle School in Cocoa, Sea Park Elementary in Satellite Beach, South Lake Elementary in Titusville and Gardendale Elementary Magnet School on Merritt Island.

Prior to that vote, Binggeli advised the board that a prioritized list of cost-reduction measures would be posted on the school district website a week from now.

The plan to close four schools was formally introduced in November following Brevard voters’ rejection of a half-cent sales tax for capital improvements, earmarked for facility repairs and purchasing new school buses.

Binggeli told the board in November that a 65 percent decline in capital revenue and funding from the state left no other choice than to close schools and change districting boundaries for other schools as a result.

He said the impact of closing the four schools will not even come close to making up the budget deficit, therefore other major cuts must be made.

“Any dollars that are not recovered as it relates to school closure or any other item above the $30.7 million is going to involve then taking other items and invariably then are going to represent programmatic services to children, income and jobs for employees or budgets directly for schools,” Bingelli told the board.

Brevard school board member Amy Kneesey questioned why the board should proceed to a public hearing about closing four schools without seeing all budget reduction proposals . (Image courtesy Brevard Public Schools)

Board member Amy Kneesey said she could not support a motion to schedule a public hearing to close the four schools without learning what is on Binggeli’s prioritized list.

“These four schools only represent 10 percent of the bottom line of what we have to get to,” Kneesey said. “I have to see what’s on the other list and what the other cuts are before I can support a public hearing.”

But board member Andy Ziegler argued that proceeding to a public hearing does not mean these four schools will be closed.

“We are not voting here on closing schools,” Ziegler said. We are voting on a hearing to continue to a public hearing. This can still change. So to refrain from voting for a public hearing, I don’t understand that.”

Kneesey also expressed concerns that the criteria to close these particular schools – capacity and school utilization – was not fair as it omitted schools of choice from consideration.

School board chairman Dr. Barbara Murray, Karen Henderson and Zeigler voted to proceed to the public hearing, while Kneesey and Dr. Michael Krupp voted no.

Binggeli is now tasked with scheduling a public hearing about closing the four schools sometime in January.

The board is expected to formally vote on the school closures on Jan. 22.