That Was A Surprise

Thanks for reading Fluco Blog.  I’m Perrie Johnson, Fork Union’s representative to the Fluvanna County School Board.  My goal with Fluco Blog is to let people know what’s going on at School Board meetings beyond the reports available online.  Be forewarned regarding discussions, most of the comments I remember turn out to be mine.  Here’s the latest….

I might as well start off with the big news of the evening, Ms. Keller’s resignation.  While the purpose of Fluco Blog is to fill you in on discussions that lead up to School Board decisions, I can’t help you much with this one.  Personnel matters are discussed in closed session, which we have one hour before each regular meeting.  In this case I can only give you the facts on public record, which begin with the opening of the meeting, and the Board Chair requesting we add two personnel votes to the previously scheduled vote coming later in the evening.  For the first vote all agreed to ask the Board of Supervisors to let us keep the money left over from last year’s budget.  Then, just before the second vote, it was announced Ms. Keller had submitted her resignation, and we needed a vote to accept or reject.  All voted in favor.  The third vote was to place Mr. Winkler as interim superintendent.  I was the only dissenting vote, with the public comment that I was voting no only because having just learned this information, I didn’t feel I’d had enough time to give a considered opinion on such an important decision.

Wait, wait, don’t leave….we had another unusual event that night.  Three people came forward to speak to the Board during time for public comments. I can think of a grand total of only three speakers in the entire 11 months I’ve been on the Board.  All were teachers who spoke eloquently about money for salaries, and other concerns, for the 2018 budget.  When that budget discussion came around a little while later, I acknowledged the teachers’ comments and requested that we ask them (and all staff) for suggestions on where we can cut costs to better support the priorities they addressed.  I’m sure they have good ideas!

All that’s left is old news, the School Board self-evaluation and protocols.   I asked (again) that we include consideration of the staff survey results in our evaluation.  I asked (again again) that we don’t change our School Board protocols to require administrative oversight of informal school visits by Board members.   Changes have been proposed (Mr. Rittenhouse asked who wrote them) that require Board members to give at least 24 hours’ notice to administration before visiting a school, and further require Board members to reschedule their visit if no administrative designee is available to walk them around.  I read aloud a section of a handbook provided by the Virginia School Boards Association (we pay them a considerable amount of money for their opinion on our policies) which said, ‘From time to time the superintendent may be asked to arrange for the school board to visit schools and see a program in operation….This does not preclude unannounced visits by board members to the schools or prevent them from talking with school personnel at the schools visited.  On the contrary, board members should visit the schools as much as possible.’  I’ve been invited to submit my own version of this protocol in December.  I think VSBA said it best.

 

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This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me.  The views expressed in this blog are purely my own and do not represent the Fluvanna County School Board, the school superintendent, or anyone else. Comments added by others are not necessarily my opinions and I am not responsible for their content.

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8 thoughts on “That Was A Surprise

  1. So even some school board members didn’t know about the resignation until the very night of the vote? And Mrs. Keller gives you only 6 weeks IN THE MIDDLE OF THE YEAR to find a worthy leader? Isn’t Fluvanna worth more thought than this? I know my kid is.

  2. I agree, was a little surprised as well. What does her contract say about leaving our county high and dry. I know we have Mr. Winkler but doesn’t he have his own responsibilities? Could he handle both positions on his own if we are unable to find someone to replace her in the Middle Of The Year? She was voted Superintendent of the Year and her actions do not fit that honor. I am happy for her and her new position but really where does that leave the school district? Its not like she is making minimum wage and she has been looking for more pay

  3. Perrie I had to wait to post until I received some info on special education and unannounced SB visits. One year ago I posted my comments on SB unannounced visits which was based on five other county SB members I had spoken to. As for special ed; you mentioned the addition of 30 special ed students. I think what you are saying is you tested the students who were already attending Fluvanna schools. As you know special ed. students may receive special SOL accommodations and more money from the state. This will mean additional special ed teachers depending on how many students are going to each school.

    Why is the school asking for two more CTE teachers? What courses are you expanding? Are there any new CTE classes being developed? Has anyone spoken to the new Economic Development Coordinator on what businesses might be thinking about moving to Fluvanna? Is there a particular skill set businesses are expecting from the county residents for employment?

    I think you stated the high school has room for an additional 250 students. Is moving the 7th grade to the high school a real option? How many vacant classrooms are there or not being used to full room occupancy? Someone recently posted an English high school teacher with only five students in the classroom.

    Has there been any teacher professional development in the last few years? Are you going to ask residents for questions for the new school superintendent interviews? I suggest three rounds of interviews. Round 1 – county residents; round 2 – teachers; and round 3 – SB members.

    I like your idea of not increasing the school budget for the sake of increasing it. Are you starting with a zero-based budget for next year? As far as paying for teacher healthcare insurance premium increases. If the taxpayers have an 8% – 15% increase in their healthcare premiums why would you expect taxpayers to pay for the teachers? Many healthcare companies have Wellness Programs. Does Fluvanna have one? What is being done to limit the rise in teacher’s healthcare premiums?

    • Thanks for your comments and insights, Dr. I’ll respond in order, and do my best!

      A large portion of our increase in special needs students is actually from already identified special ed children moving into the county. We’re now up to about 40 this year, compared to our usual 20+.

      The administration is interested in expanding CTE (vocational) course offerings to auto mechanics (which requires a lot of space and equipment) and adding more sections to culinary arts. Last year Fluvanna added to the health sciences offerings. There hasn’t been a lot of discussion yet, these are early thoughts from the administration. I need to ask if we’ve had input from the Economic Development Coordinator, what a good suggestion. As far as a particular skill set local employers want, those I’ve talked to mention several things, but stress their main concerns about so-called soft skills – eye contact, clear speech, appropriate attire, following directions, etc.

      The school efficiency review did state the high school was built for significantly more students than it houses right now. I don’t remember any discussion of bringing over 7th grade. I assume the hesitation is mixing young students (my 7th grade grandson is 12) with an older population. But these are my thoughts, I’d love to hear from teachers who know how it works IRL (Thanks, Grandson). As for some very small classes, I do think we should always be looking to make improvements in our distribution of resources, but I also know we try to offer a wide range of courses with different levels of difficulty, so small classes happen. Online courses help with this.

      Fluvanna does have a budget for professional development. I’ve suggested we use it in proportion to each category of our staff. For example, 60% of our staff are teachers, we should use 60% of that amount for their professional development. This way there’s money for operations, custodians, secretaries, bus drivers, everyone. Categories might need to be weighted, I’m not sure if actual costs are equal.

      I just attended a session yesterday sponsored by the VSBA (Virginia School Boards Association) about hiring a new superintendent. It was actually a push to pay the VSBA to help with the process, but I did pick up some good information. They definitely recommend input from parents, teachers, and community members. The funny thing about interviews is that to get the widest range of applicants, and so your best chance at the best fit, it’s a good idea to guarantee confidentiality. Then people who are currently employed can apply and be interviewed without suffering repercussions for thinking of leaving their current situation. We haven’t discussed this as a Board, but it makes sense to me.

      I’m pretty sure we won’t start with a zero based budget for next year (as I interpret the term) but instead start with the assumption of level funding, and recommend certain additions. Even the additions will largely be to just maintain current salary scales, for instance, because of increases in retirement payments, etc. Within that structure, however, I keep advocating for staff input into the possible redistribution of current resources to improve services for Fluvanna’s children. As for paying health insurance increases, it’s a less expensive option for maintaining take-home pay than an across the board cost of living increase because not all employees use our insurance plan, and increases in salary mean increases in VRS payments, FICA taxes, etc.

      Finally, Fluvanna has a wellness committee that meets regularly and organizes and encourages staff participation in certain wellness activities. I’m not sure what the wellness options are under our insurance policy (my insurance isn’t through Fluvanna) but I don’t think we can claim a wellness program to the extent you suggest. I need to find out and see if a program would limit the rise in premiums!

      • Perrie,

        Thanks for the long answers. Be very careful with starting auto mechanics as a CTE program. Hermitage High School, in Henrico County, is one of the best auto mechanic CTE programs that I have visited in the state in the past 3 years. They have a huge warehouse full of cars, engines, tools, etc. They have a front -end alignment machine which costs about $100,000. I would suggest you talk to them on their expenses and the program. Also are you going to get funding from the Fluvanna auto repair shops? In NOVA they send their students to Ford, BMW, and Mercedes to use their expensive equipment like the front end alignment machine. Perkins funds will not cover the cost of all the auto equipment needed. If this goes in the budget I would definitely let the taxpayers know what they are paying for.

        By the way, I think you are doing a great job. Let’s hope you get some residents to run for the SB next election. We discussed STEM when you first was voted on the SB. Is STEM now in every single subject starting in grades 4 – 12? I know you now have a STEAM lab. Have you spoken to county business leaders about what skill set they are looking to hire? Every county I talk to there always seems to be a disconnect between the Chamber, business leaders, and SB on what business leaders expect from high school graduates. You could be the glue in Fluvanna!!

        I sent you what the VA Department of Education is expecting from graduating high school seniors. My committee developed these expectations.

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