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, when it comes to discussions, most of the comments I remember turn out to be mine! Here‘s the latest on three meetings that happened in the last two weeks…
One of the first actions taken at the Jan. 11 School Board meeting was to vote in a chair and vice chair. This happens every January, but because the Board spent recent months discussing the benefits of changing the election timeline to match the school year, not the calendar year, I expected these terms to last only until July. I was surprised to learn this was no longer a Board objective. Ms. Washington, who’s been Board chair for 5 years, chose to step down and Ms. Carr was elected until Jan. 2018. I nominated our current vice-chair, Ms. Pace, to serve again but she declined and nominated Ms. Washington, who accepted.
One information item that stood out to me later in the evening was this year’s 7% increase in participation in the school lunch program. We’ve also reached a 30% threshold in recipients of free lunch, which increases our state aid in some areas.
I had a presentation of my own on the agenda about Fairfax County Schools’ initiative to get more community involvement in the budget process. The unique thing they did was survey the community about what to cut from the budget, not what to keep. Their objective (and mine) was not to reduce the budget, but to possibly redirect resources to better match community priorities. I thought we could gather this information from Fluvanna quickly and easily by just adding budget questions to our upcoming superintendent survey. My interpretation of the discussion was that Board members preferred input on budget priorities to support, rather than cut, and wanted the superintendent survey kept separate from any other purpose.
Near the end of the evening, there was another discussion on the special use of school buses which you’ve probably already read in the local paper.
Meeting no.2 was on Jan. 19 – a short Board meeting with the organization hired to help with our superintendent search (the Virginia School Boards Association). We set a timeline of about two weeks to gather community input by survey (please look at the FCPS website or pick up a hard copy at any school) and decided on a public hearing Feb 1 at 7 pm (School Board office). We expect to advertise community priorities and accept applications from early Feb. through early March. This feels like a short timeline to me, but the VSBA says there are many vacancies this year, and if we move too slowly the best candidates may have already accepted positions. Candidate names and interviews are kept extremely confidential because many will be currently employed and unwilling to let their local Boards’ know they may be interested in leaving. We’re told it’s our best chance for a high quality pool of applicants.
And finally, meeting no.3 was the very next day, Jan 20 – not a short meeting at all since it was a budget seminar focusing on next year. About an hour of revenue reports revealed we can expect more state money next year (mostly because the state underestimated our student population numbers) BUT we’ll be directed how we have to spend most of it in support of existing programs. Money for most things beyond our current budget will have to come from other sources, either reducing or eliminating something we have now (says me) or increasing local funding (me again).
The additional things our interim superintendent, Mr. Winkler, and the School Board support in next year’s budget are salary step increases in accordance with currently published salary scales, hold-harmless increases in health insurance premiums, an application of the possible one-time state sponsored employee bonus (believe it or not, free money always costs us money), an increase in athletic stipends, and the addition of one exploratory teaching position at FMS. We project these additions will require $806, 290 more in local funds.
Much of the conversation around these items centered on our controversial dual salary scales for teachers. Mr. Winkler said he was interested in examining the issue and I suggested he get together a team of teachers for input. I also suggested that even if we couldn’t solve the problem in one fell swoop, we could at least make incremental improvements by asking teachers where they’d reallocate resources from other areas (I know, I sound like a broken record).
As a parting remark for future budget consideration, I brought up the subject of equal planning time, and put forward the desire of elementary teachers to increase their planning time to equal that of middle and secondary staff.
I’m thinking saving up three meetings for one post was not the best idea I’ve ever had. I know several people who I’m sure gave up on me halfway through. Everyone else, thanks for hanging in there!
If you’d like to keep up with Fluco Blog, click the FOLLOW button near the very bottom right corner and enter your email address. It’s private and completely free. If you want to comment on a post, click Comment or Reply. You’ll be asked to provide a name and email address. If something hits too close to home and you want to be anonymous, DON’T GIVE YOUR REAL NAME ANYWHERE. Make something up. Do give your real email address, which will NOT show up with your comment. You might also be asked for a website, which is weird and not required. Your information is not leased or sold to anyone.
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.