South Middleton School District has released to The Sentinel a June 18 report listing nonmandated curriculum programs that may come under increased scrutiny as the school board grapples with projected budget deficits in coming years.
The report, obtained through a Right-to-Know request, outlines data on the number of teacher positions assigned, the number of students involved and the cost in salary and other expenses to operate each program.
The report lists 23 curriculum programs involving 38 faculty members teaching 110 courses at a total estimated cost of almost $3 million based on 2018-19 salary levels and program costs.
The 38 staff positions equal about 24 percent of the 155-member bargaining unit represented by the South Middleton Education Association. While the majority of SMEA members are teachers, the union contract also applies to school nurses, librarians and the athletic trainer.
Program costs listed in the report total $2,998,376, the equivalent of about 8 percent of the current-year budget of $35,745,403. There has been no mention of any cuts to nonmandated programs by school board members or administrators. The next budget cycle for the district is months away.
“This document lists all programs we are not required to offer,” school board president Michael Berk said Wednesday. “It does not mean these programs are going to be cut. The board is using it as a reference as it looks at the budget. It’s just another way of responsibly looking at our programs.”
Not all about cuts
This past May, the board asked administrators to compile the data into a report that was distributed to the full board on June 18. Board members then referred to the document during discussions at a public meeting prompting The Sentinel to ask for a copy of the report, which was only made available after the newspaper filed a Right-to-Know request that included a 30-day legal review.
The report was released to The Sentinel on Tuesday and is available on The Sentinel’s website, www.Cumberlink.com.
At past committee meetings, board member Stacey Knavel said the data compiled in the report “is not all about budget cuts” and could be used upon review to enhance the cost-efficiency of programs. She said her goal is to engage the full board, staff and the public in a process to evaluate the efficiency of programs “so there are no surprises in the end.”
The curriculum and instruction committee was briefed on July 23 on the process the Mechanicsburg Area School District used to evaluate the educational effectiveness, operating efficiency and cost savings of a host of district programs from extracurricular activities to an elementary Spanish program.
Since July 23, Knavel has forwarded information on the Mechanicsburg process to other members of the South Middleton School Board who are on standby as the South Middleton administration develops a plan.
At the request of the board, then-interim Superintendent Bruce Deveney prepared the report after reviewing standards and regulations listed under the Pennsylvania School Code. He used that information to compile a list of nonmandated curriculum programs and their costs, staffing levels and student involvement. His report does not include the potential costs of unemployment.
Deveney stepped down on June 30 and was replaced by Matthew Strine who is in favor of the administrative staff compiling data on nonmandated curriculum programs. “It is better to have a full set of information to come from a direction that is grounded rather than go from the cut,” Strine said.
Grade level overview
In the report, Deveney drew a distinction between curriculum programs South Middleton is required by state law to offer and curriculum programs it may offer to enhance the student experience and to provide options.
The report lists the nonmandated programs under “elementary,” “middle school” and “high school” categories. In each category, there is a listing of programs along with a breakout on specific courses.
Programs listed under “elementary” include art, computer for grades 3-5, instrumental music, library (one class per cycle) and music. This category involves eight teachers, 22 courses and $643,135 in costs. Student participation ranged from 94 students enrolled in instrumental music to 908 students in art, library and music.
Programs listed under “middle school” include art, career education, computers, family/consumer science, library, music, band, technology education, world languages and one “fitness” course. This category involves 13 teachers, 24 courses and $938,175 in salary and program costs.
Student participation in the “middle school” courses vary from 86 students in the band program to 364 in career education to 525 (the entire student body) in art, computers, music and technology education.
Lastly, programs under “high school” include art, business education, family/consumer science, library, music, technology education and world languages. There is an English course listed as “extra 9th grade” but that is the only mention of any of the core subjects on the report. This category involves 17 teachers, 64 courses and $1,417,066 in salary and program costs.
The break-down in course offerings by nonmandated curriculum program are as follows: Art, five; business education, 14; family/consumer science, seven; English, one; music, eight; technology education, 14; and world languages, 15. Because the library serves the entire school, it technically has no separate course for the purpose of this report.