financial officer Mike Shockley said that only 10,588 students
responded to roll call on Sept. 28. That was 364 fewer than a
year before. The last school day in September is when the
student count counts. The result determines how many teachers
the state allocates to a district.
problem in Brandywine is not just that the number of students is
down from a year ago -- that had been expected -- but that
it is significantly lower than the 10,730 that the Data Service
Center had projected, Shockley explained.
20 students, on average, the state authorizes what is known in
the trade as a 'teacher unit'. It pays 70% of the salary that
goes with each unit and the larger share of employee benefits.
Districts use the units to staff not only classrooms but also
libraries, counseling centers and such shared activities as
music and art programs.
bottom line, Shockley told the district's finance committee is
that Brandywine this year is entitled to 643 units, or 21 fewer
than last year. The problem is that, accepting the projected
enrollment figure, it had assumed it would get 655 and went
ahead and hired people to fill those units.
they are now under contract and assigned to specific classes and
job slots, it appears they will have to be paid entirely from
district funds. Shockley said he does not yet have a readily
available figure on what that will cost. Something between a
quarter and a half million dollars comes up in Delaforum's
admittedly rough straight-line estimates based on pay and
benefits at the lower end of the scale.
in a bad year, dollarwise, this just impacts us that much more,"
still analyzing what happened," he said with reference to the
sharper-than-expected decline in enrollment. Opening of two
charter schools in Wilmington drained away a large chunk of
Brandywine children living in the city a year ago, but there was
no comparable jolt this year.
in enrollment were spread fairly proportionately among the
district's schools. The largest drop was 53 students at Talley
Middle School. Three schools gained students, with Concord
High's enrollment increasing the most, 44.
the projection was not a rash thing to do, he said. The estimate
used last year came within about a half dozen of what turned out
to be the actual number.
theory, teacher attrition during the academic year, primarily as
the result of maternity leaves, should be able to handle the
problem. However, it was pointed out that the teacher units are
spread over the entire district and in any given school or grade
it is highly unlikely that children can be shifted to take
advantage mid-year departures from the staff.