Enrollment drop means lost funding for Brandywine

Published 5:46 pm Tuesday, October 7, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- A much larger than expected enrollment drop means Brandywine Public Schools could lose around a half million dollars in state funding this school year.
The numbers were presented by interim superintendent Gary Campbell at Monday's school board meeting.
He said preliminary enrollment figures for the school year, including alternative education, shows that 1,505 students are currently enrolled.
That's 108 students fewer than the 1,613 students who were enrolled last year.
Count day was Sept. 24.
The school district projected 1,600 students would enroll when they set up the 2003/2004 budget.
Worst case scenario means Brandywine could face losing $600,000 in state funding for this school year, he said.
Campbell, however, said it's his understanding the enrollment numbers can go up a little bit in coming weeks, which will reduce the loss in funding.
For each enrolled student, the school district receives $6,700 from the state.
The school board also hired a new Finance Director at Monday's board meeting, thereby quickly replacing former Finance Director Dick De Vos.
Gus Damaske, a former bank manager with more than 12 of years experience in school business administration at River Valley Public Schools, starts in his new position today.
A lifelong Berrien County resident, who currently lives in St. Joseph, Damaske will receive $40,000 for his services for the remainder of the school year.
Listening to the enrollment numbers Campbell presented, Damaske said the school district will have to look into the drop in enrollment numbers and find out why it has happened.
Campbell and the school board will also have to deal with the water situation at Brandywine Middle-High School.
Currently, the water is shut of because of contamination concerns.
Campbell said the water has been chlorinated and the school district is currently awaiting test results that will determine water quality.
All students at the school currently receive bottled water.
Campbell said the school district hopes to hook up to municipal water as part of the $14,2 million bond issue passed in June.
He doesn't know, however, how soon the hook up will take place.
More academically related, Bonnie Hecker, assistant high school principal, presented the school district's annual education report.
The report, which must be submitted to the Berrien County Intermediate School District by Oct. 15, includes Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) test scores.
Hecker said the report includes the MEAP scores for elementary and middle school students, but high school scores have not been made available yet due to delays at the state level.
Hecker said Brandywine's students are doing well.
During visitors hearing, Elsa Hemphill, 2921 Adams Road, addressed the board.
A supporter of the ongoing recall effort of five school board members, Hemphill accused the school board of letting the former superintendent Dr. Eugene Sweeney get away with spending thousands of dollars on gifts, cell-phone use and dinners while at Brandywine.
Hemphill, whose children are all Brandwine Public School graduates, said those expenses also allegedly include Sweeney's travels to Mackinac Island and Oregon.
Hemphill told the board that because they supposedly approved spending of the money, "you're going to be held accountable."
Hemphill said all the recallers want is good education for their children.
Hemphill said there are at least 50 people supporting the recall.
She also invited the school board members to visit her at her home to look at the information she has in "black and white."
Jim Curran, school board president, said he does plan to visit Hemphill.
But after Monday's meeting, he isn't sure whether the information presented was against the board or against Sweeney.
Curran, who like the other five board members subject to the recall has critizied the recall group for not appearing at the board meetings, however, said he wants to have a look at any information that may be of relevance to the recall.
Michael Armstrong was also present at Monday's school board meeting. Armstrong, who hasn't attended board meetings for long periods of time, was asked to hand in his resignation by two members of the public.