May Meeting

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…

Full disclosure, last month’s post was short.  This one isn’t.

Like most meetings, this one began with a vote to approve the consent agenda, intended to include non-controversial items grouped together for efficiency’s sake.  One of these items each May is the staff contract list, naming hundreds of people receiving contracts from FCPS for the next school year.  Retirees receiving contracts has drawn a lot of attention in the past, but this list included only two, both long-time workers with adult education and Families Learning Together.  Other retirees are hired from time to time but paid a daily rate.

Mr. Winkler presented a plan to extend contracts for elementary librarians (pay them to work two extra weeks, I think, during the summer).  His reasoning was spot on, and they certainly deserve the opportunity, but we have so many staff members who come in to work during the summer without pay, or work for a daily stipend that’s less than half of a contract amount, and we have other librarians not included in this plan.  We already offer extended contracts to some teachers and not others. I’d give an extended contract to anyone who wanted it if we had the money, but the inconsistency of giving the chance to only certain people in certain positions bothers me.  However, all Board members agreed to support this for the upcoming year and the administration agreed to look at the issue.

The cafeteria budget came under discussion because although it’s a “self-supporting program”, that definition includes money taken from the overall school budget to cover unpaid student lunch charges. Last year this was $33,000.  These charges have nothing to do with students receiving free and reduced lunches, those children are fed. These are either families who can’t pay but didn’t apply for assistance, or families who (according to federal guidelines) have enough income to cover lunch costs.  No Board member suggested withholding food from any student.  Mr. Pullen wondered if we can work with the treasurer’s office or DMV to impose consequences on parents. Ms. Stewart brought up that we could be using the $33,000 to better compensate those who prepare and serve the food.  At this point I’m not opposed to the cheese sandwich and apple alternative for those with severely overdue accounts, but I’m aware of the lunch shaming connotations and would like to learn more.  Ms. Stewart agreed to take the issue to the wellness committee for further discussion.

Trying for closure on the topic of recording/streaming/archiving our meetings, the Board decided streaming and posting (even just audio recordings) to the website was too costly when ADA restrictions were considered, so we compromised on a one-time expense of about $1700 for equipment to audio record and archive meetings ourselves.  This isn’t much help for those who just want to catch up on their own time since FOIA charges could be as high as $100, but it will provide a comprehensive record of all proceedings.

New Business is sort of my favorite.  Mr. Pullen suggested creating a taskforce to address bullying prevention (it’s tempting, but I just can’t call it a bullying taskforce).  We’ll start with looking at what we have in place now.  Also New Business, we need to decide on the agenda for a July 31 seminar.  Mr. Winkler wants to look at broad strategic goals. Several Board members want to go through the line item budget.  I want to address testing from my personal viewpoint of skipping the justifications which I’m very familiar with, and moving toward a meaningful reduction in testing, with plenty of teacher input.  My perspective is that all assessments may give us useful information, but we reach a point of diminishing returns when we test too much.

Also at our next meeting, we’ll finalize a decision about insurance, since we removed this vote from May’s agenda.  We’re waiting for more information but it shouldn’t affect employee costs or plan provisions.  We did vote on some FY19 budget amendments that simply made changes to account for our final appropriation from the Board of Supervisors.  My only comment was I’m very glad to see that instead of going down for several years, the instructional portion of the total budget is now going up significantly.

When people told me my April post was short I don’t think they were disappointed. Sorry.

Our next regular meeting is a week early (sorry again) on June 6.  Same time (6:30 open session) though!

 

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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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2 thoughts on “May Meeting

  1. As always, thank you for providing an overview of the meeting for those of us who were unable to attend. Yay for the instructional portion of the budget going up! Thank you for pushing for teacher input when it comes to testing! Question on the lunches- what types of reminders are sent to parents when the account becomes delinquent? I pay on line and get a notification from “My School Bucks” on my phone when funds are low, but curious how people who don’t pay that way get notifications? Also, when will we know the deficiency number this year? What’s the cost of researching/enforcing? Also, could you clarify some things on the audio recording of meetings? Is this required or is it at the insistence of certain Board members? Have there been issues in the past that this is supposed to address? Where is the $1700 coming from? Am I understanding that in addition to the one time cost, anyone wanting to listen to it would be subject to filing a FOIA request and charged?

  2. Kerry,
    Thank you for thanking me!
    Now I’ll answer your questions with the information shared with me.
    Families of students with delinquent lunch charges are notified by whatever means of contact they’ve provided the schools. The one school board member with a child still in FCPS commented during the discussion that he was notified several ways, and didn’t consider communication to be part of the problem.
    Mr. Winkler estimated this year’s unpaid charges will be about $25,000. We’ll know for sure pretty soon.
    We haven’t seriously considered any actions that come with a cost to enforce, if I understand your question. A few districts do assign debt to a collection agency but I don’t think Fluvanna’s board is interested in this.

    After learning that the only record of our meetings required by law is the board’s approval of the written minutes, I asked others to consider a more complete record. I wasn’t, by any means, the only one interested. My interest stems from a time in the past when we kept cassettte recordings and I had cause to request one under the Freedom of Info Act because the written minutes didn’t address some comments I was particularly interested in. I’ve also used the online link provided by the Board of Supervisors to listen in on some of their meetings I’ve missed. It would help with community engagement for the School Board to offer this, too.
    I asked the very question about how much it would cost for someone to FOIA one meeting to listen at home to see if it was an affordable option. The answer was about $100 to pay for the time and CD to provide a copy. The problem is, if we post to the website we could incur incredible expenses ourselves to conform to requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The compromise doesn’t help with community engagement (my cassette recording was not $100) but it does provide a perfectly accurate and complete record of all comments and discussion by elected officials during a public meeting.
    The $1700 to record and archive our meetings would probably come from the School Board Services line item in the budget. I haven’t confirmed this with anybody. The amount we actually spend from that line is fluid because it depends on how many board members are able to attend conferences, participate in webinars, etc.
    Thanks for reading!
    Perrie

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