I Don’t Know Quite What To Say About August

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…

Before I get to August, I’ll throw in a little about the July 31st School Board seminar focusing on testing and the 2019 line item budget.

After listening to all of the information provided to satisfy the Board that we don’t test too much in Fluvanna, it struck me again, that there was no formal input included from teachers, students, or parents.  I understand the administration’s point of view about testing, but I think other opinions are well worth considering.

I remain concerned about the amount of testing we have in Fluvanna.  I’m also concerned about the inconsistent use of the Measures of Academic Progress test (MAP).  Only in grades K-7 do we use  MAP scores as an important part of the classroom teacher’s evaluation.  We don’t use MAP at the high school.  Instead, teachers there are evaluated by student growth as demonstrated on classroom based assessments. This means the high school teacher is evaluated by a test covering pretty much only what was taught in his/ her class.  MAP tests, however, run through a gamut of skills sometimes very indirectly connected to classroom instruction. I commented (of course I did) that the high school tests made perfect sense to me and I’d love to see classroom based assessments replace MAP at the lower grades.

I hope the testing discussion is not over among Board members.  I’m pretty sure it’s not just me.

After discussing testing at the seminar, we spent the last hours actually running down the 2019 line item budget with rulers, addressing every item.  This doesn’t include every purchase, program, and position but we’re trying to work our way through many of these as we examine monthly reports.

Now on to the August meeting, which ended on a note that was anything but boring, for me anyway.  I’ll make that a tease to try and get you to read to the end. This is a really long post. Sorry.

The evening began with a public comment.  (Finally!)  A community member told us she was there to live stream the meeting for people who wanted to listen in from home.  I think she was one of only two community members able to come, so her point was well taken (by me).

We had the big talk, again, about the unpaid lunch charge debt.  I brought a lot of research about the great cheese sandwich debate, which I actually didn’t share with the Board because it was obvious early on that this wasn’t going to fly, and I understand why, but since I did all that research, I will pass on to you that according to information provided by the Virginia School Boards Association, quite a number of Virginia school divisions use this plan and some swear by its effect on keeping debt low.  I did share other information from VSBA about the debt collection route and about several divisions who refer families to Social Services for neglect.

We looked at many alternatives but almost all penalized the student in some way. In the end, the Board decided to first improve our efforts to communicate debt to parents, but also set some limit to the individual unpaid lunch charges we would absorb before involving an outside agency for collection.  My objective is to prevent the debt in the first place (and we’ve gotten a number of unexpected checks paying off accounts since we’ve had some publicity about debt collection). As for cost, I consider any amount we recoup better than the zero we would have if we continue without collection.

There’s a report online called the Per Pupil Cost Update that teachers might especially want to see.  It tells how much of the approximately $1600 per classroom received by each school is released directly to teachers for instructional purchases.  It includes a comparison to last year.  My comment was that my goal is to get as much money as close to the classroom as possible.  I think the more we allow teachers to make these purchasing decisions themselves, the more directly it affects our students.

There’s no report for this one, but the superintendent addressed discipline concerns spelled out in the comment section of the last staff survey.  More comments were about discipline than any other single subject.  I was glad to have this conversation because (I said) I think it’s important that something of such great concern to our staff is acknowledged and addressed by the School Board.

Our last item of new business was a motion put forward by Ms. Stewart to inform staff that the message from the chair (me) on opening day was not spoken on behalf of the Board, and directing the superintendent to share with staff the mission, beliefs, and priorities previously approved by the Board.  Ms. Pace seconded the motion, though she wasn’t there to hear what I said on opening day.   I caught my breath and related the gist of my remarks at that event (a staff event, not a public event) where I thanked everyone for working with our kids and thanked them for choosing Fluvanna.  I referenced my history of working for Fluvanna and how it was my inspiration for getting elected to the School Board to make some changes.  I thought then and I still think it gave more meaning to my thank you.

The vote on this motion came out 2-2 (we had a member unable to attend that night) so we’re supposed to vote again in Sept. Oh joy.

Belive it or not that wasn’t the end of the meeting.  We had one more tie vote, this one on the policy setting the teacher probationary period.  A few years ago Fluvanna changed it from 3 years to 5, and two Board members (me again) now want to change it back.  Two members do not.  You probably know from a previous post that four administrators told the Board recently that 3 years was probably enough to determine who was a good teacher,  This makes me think there is no reason to underserve students two additional years before making a decision to let a substandard teacher go.

So that 2-2 vote also gets repeated in September when all five Board members are present.  I used to like September.

 

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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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4 thoughts on “I Don’t Know Quite What To Say About August

  1. I am outraged that your comments to the staff were viewed as anything but positive. You were CLEARLY speaking as a former teacher who left her position to try and make a larger impact by being on the school board. I don’t believe anyone there thought you were speaking on behalf of the school board, simply because you were clearly there to speak up for us. You are the only board member in recent memory to do this. Shame on anyone who tries to silence you or tailor your future comments to fit their needs. The only thing that has come out of this vote is that it is obvious to the community that there are still members on the board who just don’t “get it.”

  2. I truly appreciated your comments. It made me feel as if someone who understands and cares about teaching, teachers, and students is at the helm. Please don’t take this to mean that I feel other board members don’t understand and care…but…they were not there. I will add that I NEVER got the impression that you were speaking for the board. It was very clear to me that your comments were personal ones, and they were heartfelt and meaningful. Thank you for your support. I felt very valued and appreciated.

    Please don’t give up on the cheese sandwich idea.

    Please also don’t give up on the testing issue. The administrators have their perspective, and I’m sure they have valid points. There are other perspectives as well as you mentioned and those of the students are most important. The youngest are the ones less able to articulate the impact, but have seen it firsthand.

    Finally, thank you for doing what you can to ensure that funds make it to our classrooms. It makes a HUGE difference.

  3. Thank you for that informative post. I really appreciate being kept abreast of school board meetings. What a great idea to livestream. .

    Thank you to the board for considering what to do about the unpaid lunch issue. Now please do more than just consider it. It is unacceptable to lose $40,000/year in this manner. I, too, am very much in favor of the “cheese sandwich” solution.

    I am also in favor of the probationary period moving back to 3 years. I hope when the board votes again, you will make this change.

    One last thing, I am very disappointed that Ms Stewart chose to address her apparent disagreement with something you said to the teachers and staff on opening day by making a motion such as the one she made. And Ms Pace seconded the motion without having heard your remarks first hand? I don’t understand that. Of course, Ms Stewart may disagree with something you said but I think we would all be better served if she just expressed that to you privately. This action undermines the dignity of the board, in my opinion.

  4. Ms. Johnson, you are the Chairperson and can say what you want before the public forum begins. You was elected by your Board members and did the right thing. In the past, Board members did not say much because it was run like a dictatorship. To be addressed by a Board member in a public setting was not appropriate. Fluvanna is not located in the Northeast. The teachers need to hear from YOU, that they are doing a great job and YOU have their backs.

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