What’s The Deal With Closed Session? (Don’t Get Too Excited)

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 discussion, most of the comments I remember turn out to be mine!  Here’s the latest…

We start regular meetings with a closed session, usually to talk about people, so we step into another room to protect their privacy.  Mostly the Board hears about recommended student reassignments (think alternative ed like Abrams and distance learning, but not necessarily as a result of discipline concerns).  There are almost always a few personnel matters (lots of substitutes hired, some staff turnover).  Sometimes there are legal issues and the superintendent passes on the advice of our school lawyer.  And that’s about it.  Board members have to individually and publicly certify that nothing was discussed in closed session that should have been out in the open.

At the last meeting (on September 13), after the excitement of closed session, we heard presentations from three teachers requesting approval for overnight field trips.  Two trips will be during the school week but the teachers have scheduled time for make-up work, and the overall purpose is educational in the first place.  The students are fund raising.  We are paying substitutes while those teachers are gone.

Next on the agenda came the reports.  This can be A LOT of information and it may look like we don’t have many questions, but often it’s not the first time we’ve seen parts of the report, or we’ve asked questions individually beforehand, or the report was very recently posted and we need time to think it through.  Something a little different on Sept. 13 was discussion about a REQUEST for a report.  Mr. Rittenhouse wanted more information about the use and costs of buses and other vehicles.  Several other Board members questioned if putting this together would be an efficient use of the superintendent’s time.  After the scope of the request was narrowed down a bit, all voted to move forward except Ms. Pace.

The last report, on dues and membership fees, was a follow-up to my objection to paying certain professional dues for administrators, but not for other staff.  I pretty much repeated my comments from a previous post, but added some information from the Superintendent’s Annual Report, published on the Va. Dept. of Education’s website, that shows several of Fluvanna’s administrative salaries compare very favorably to surrounding school divisions.

We finished up, as usual, with School Board member comments. We report on our appointed committees and make any other remarks we want to.  As a member of the Special Education Advisory Committee (among others) I pointed out the minutes of the latest Staff Advisory Council which included several suggestions from staff regarding special ed instruction.

That’s it.  That’s all.  More in October when we have two meetings in two days (Oct 10 and 11)!

 

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.

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Goodbye Budget 2017 (Almost)

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 discussion, most of the comments I remember turn out to be mine!  Here’s the latest…

The Board met on Aug. 30th to talk about money left over from last year’s budget.  There’s always some money left, but this year it was more than usual (essentially $1.2 million).  You can check out the reasons why in the Aug. 30 packet online, but I’m just going to jump into other discussion.

The Board of Supervisors decides if we get to keep any left over money.  So our first discussion was how much to ask for.  Mr. Winkler was clear that all staff feedback he received was to ask for the entire $1.2 million.  The consensus of the School Board was to ask for half, in recognition of both the educational needs of our students and the financial demands on our citizens.

Next we talked about what we would like to do if we get half the money.  About $165,000 would go toward bills incurred in 2017 but paid in 2018.  The superintendent also suggested funding cars and trucks, buses, technology, and radio repeaters.  He presented a synopsis of recent staff compensation increases, averaging 2% in 2016 and 1.5% last year (I just found out the 1.1% I previously reported was for instructional salaries only, not all across the board).  Mr. Winkler referred to questions from the BOS about the $400 staff bonus last year.  I suggested putting that $400 in perspective by comparing it to the July 3rd holiday we recently voted in for 12 mo. employees.  Several of our administrators make $400 per day, so the bonus could be compared to one day’s work for some employees.

Regarding buses, it’s the superintendent’s goal to reach a 15 year replacement cycle.  Some of our working buses are much older.  I suggested we may need fewer buses if we change our current practice of separating students by school into three sometimes overlapping bus runs.  Looking at the total transportation budget category on a per student basis, in 2013 (when diesel was about $4 per gallon) our cost per pupil was $639. Last year (with diesel only $2.50 per gallon) our costs per pupil were $826, an increase of almost $200 per student.  I readily acknowledge that this expense may be worth the investment, or maybe we can get very similar results with only two route repetitions, rather than three.  I asked that we consult our bus drivers about this issue before we ask our BOS for bus carryover funds.

I also suggested we use the funds to continue to address disparities between teachers’ salary scales A and B.  I provided handouts referencing comments from the state School Efficiency Review (“One of the main components of employee morale and job satisfaction relies on a division having a compensation and pay plan that assures employees they are being treated equally in pay”) along with a comparison of Scale A next to Scale B.  The steps on Scale B are always less than Scale A, for the same job at the same level of education and experience, and on seven of the steps the difference is over $5000/year.

When the rubber hit the road, we negotiated a consensus requesting the $165,000 to cover previous bills, $50,000 more for trucks/cars, $300,000 for new buses, $50,000 for 6 chromebook carts, and $75,000 to make adjustments to scale B.  Fingers crossed.

One of my final comments was in anticipation of future discussion about the 2019 budget.  I’m very hopeful that the process will begin with input from our staff about what we’re currently funding that we can live without, in order to re-prioritize some resources toward changing goals. That’s a lot of words, I know, but I’ll walk around the barn a few times to be as respectful as I possibly can.

Wait, wait.  Don’t go.  I also had my meeting with administration about student scores on Career and Technical Education (CTE) tests.  Here’s my takeaway.  Every student must pass a course in personal finance to graduate. It’s reported as a CTE class and obviously, has high pass rates.  Likewise, every student must pass at least one CTE credential (test) to graduate. Most satisfy this requirement by passing a broad measure of workplace readiness skills.  When it comes to the more specific credentials (tests) I associate with vocational training like carpentry, culinary arts, engineering, cosmetology, nursing, agriculture… often (not always) only a few students take classes long enough (past the beginning levels) to sit for the credentials test and then those few have varying degrees of success at passing the test.  You can see those specifics in the July 26, 2017 school board packet.

Just a few more observations on CTE… when we last had auto mechanics, only 1-2 students took most of the credentialing tests each year.  When we last offered an EMT course, 6 took the test and all failed, though firefighting was much more successful (5 took the test and almost all passed).  Our last pharmacy tech, one took the test and failed.  HVAC, one took the test, but passed.

There’s another school board meeting this Wednesday.  I’ll get back to work!

 

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.