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…
…starting with a quick update on a special meeting May 23 to settle a question about the $400 staff bonus. The question was should employees hired May 1, for example, get as much money as employees who worked with us all year? I thought yes, because I considered the bonus, in addition to payment for services, a gesture of appreciation to everyone who chooses to work for FCPS. The Board approved the full $400 for all who were employed on May 19 regardless of when they started.
We try to keep to business as advertised, but discussions can lead in other directions. (Get ready for an even more wordy description of the conversation than usual – trying to keep to the facts) Ms. Carr included in her public remarks a reflection on the number of comments about discipline that were written in on the staff survey. Many teachers commented on their perception that the administration is not as supportive of classroom discipline measures as they’d like. The administration reports a conceivable disconnect between teacher expectations and (sometimes legal) realities. I commented that, by the time a discipline concern makes it all the way to the School Board, we have the luxury of considering one child at a time and their specific need, but the classroom teacher has to consider that need in the context of the needs of the other 24 students in the class, balancing the best course of action for all.
On to the next meeting, June 14.
One of the first items was a request by Mr. Winkler for an additional holiday for 12 mo. employees on Mon, July 3. I was not in favor (and probably not very popular) commenting that our 12 mo. employees have a minimum of 31 paid days out of office per year, compared to a maximum by policy of only 3 days for teachers. And I do already wonder about our confidence (ahem) in getting full value from our summer schedule of 4 ten hour work days with Fridays off. I suggested the taxpayers may prefer we ask our staff to work the following Friday, if taking off Monday, or use one of their personal, annual leave, or floating holidays if that’s their preference. Mr. Rittenhouse and I voted no but the item passed 3-2.
Another vote involved the 2018 budget (again) now that we have an approved (initial) appropriation from the Board of Supervisors. The total budget, by law, has to be divided into categories: instruction, administration, transportation, operations, and technology. I voted against the allocated amounts because I wanted to see the instructional category large enough to support more than an average 1.1% salary increase for staff. Mr. Rittenhouse voted against it because he thought we could identify and eliminate some waste from the total. In the recent past, Mr. Rittenhouse and I have suggested that funds in the administration category, in particular, could be used more efficiently and contribute to an increase in money reaching the classroom. The item passed 3-2.
We looked at a ton of policy updates including one defining excused and unexcused absences. I suggested we add to the policy some academic consequences of unexcused absences to provide information for parents and direction for teachers. (Can the student make up missed assignments and tests? Is the teacher expected to provide missing notes and materials?) The Board did not support my suggestion and the administration agreed there should be no consequences for children regardless of the reason for the absence.
I tried again when the language of the policy changed from an excused absence due to appointments, funerals, and religious observances to simply an excused absence by virtue of “parental awareness and support”. Why spell out excused absences when it actually boils down to anything goes as long as the parent says so? Mr. Winkler said the law upholds the parental awareness and support definition.
There was also some discussion about the school meals and snacks policy, and the practice of allowing students to withdraw up to $5 in cash from their meal accounts for purchases other than food (such as after-school activities, flower sales, etc). I agreed with our finance director that the school shouldn’t act as a bank in such circumstances. The policy stands for now.
At this point I might as well throw in some interesting statistics I shared with the Board that I learned from the National School Boards Association about school choice. The choices under consideration were traditional public school, charters, virtual (on-line) schools, private schools, voucher (magnet) schools, and home schools. 87% of students in the US attend traditional public schools. In Va. we have 9 charter schools. The NSBA’s examination of data showed charters, as a whole, slightly under-perform compared to regular public schools. Virtual schools showed very poor performance, private schools outperformed until ethnic and income gaps came into consideration, voucher schools were below the public school average, and home schools are undetermined because performance data is anecdotal and self-reported. Mr. Winkler asked for the research supporting the virtual schools findings which follows if anyone’s interested (and if I can figure out how to send a link):
Thanks for reading. Thanks for caring! Next month might be another twofer. There’s a regular meeting and a seminar. I’ll try to control myself. I know I can’t blame all the wordiness on sticking to the facts.
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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.