Thanks for reading Fluco Blog! I’m Perrie Johnson, Fork Union’s representative to the Fluvanna School Board. I’ll post more about our February 13 meeting, but here’s a short explanation about my no vote on the superintendent’s proposed budget for next year, and an update on what happens next.
I didn’t vote for the proposed budget because, as I’ve said from the beginning of the budget process, I believe that IN ADDITION TO a simple percent salary increase, Fluvanna should return to honoring employee salary steps, created in recognition of length of service to our community and increasing skills with experience. These steps exist and are shown to potential employees when they consider working for us. The custom for most of my first 20 years of teaching in Fluvanna was to request of the Board of Supervisors that they fund the published schedule of salary steps PLUS any proposed cost of living adjustment. While I’m in favor of funding steps plus some amount for cost of living next year, I am NOT suggesting we increase the superintendent’s proposed budget (which already includes some component of a cost of living increase). I think it’s time to make steps a priority WITHIN OUR CURRENT EXPENSES and find enough reallocations to our existing baseline budget to make this change. Sorry for all the yelling. I’ve suggested some of the same cuts and reductions to existing positions and programs that I have for years, many coming from staff surveys of the past. The list goes up on the wall, big as life, at budget meetings and I have to own some very awkward opinions in front of the people they affect, but I think it’s our best hope to honor the step increases we show our employees when they agree to work with us AND provide cost of living adjustments.
Offering competitive salaries for teachers benefits students. Our competition in Fluvanna looks reasonable because we’re surrounded by five counties, only one of which offers substantially higher earnings. But I’ve looked up the number of teachers employed by all five, and half of them work for the one county, Albemarle. That’s not even including very highly paid Charlottesville teachers. By number of teaching positions, Albemarle is one out of two local competitors. Only by geography is it one out of five.
Because the budget didn’t pass and we’re scheduled to present it to the Board of Supervisors on Feb 20, we have a special meeting on Monday, Feb 18 to try again. All five School Board members are planning to attend and it’s possible we’ll take another vote that day. I’m really uncomfortable with the rush, though there will be public comments, but we can’t hold up the Board of Supervisors’ budget process and we definitely want input into their determination of what money the schools receive. If there’s no resolution Monday, we have another meeting scheduled for February 27.
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3 thoughts on “A Quick Explanation – longer post later”
Perrie, As usual, I still enjoy reading your blog. You and Andrew do a very good job in keeping the public up to date on educational concerns. My wife was a VA teacher, principal, Henrico County special education director (50,000 students), and you know my daughter is in your high school. Pay for your best employees for any business is a major issue . I have been speaking and wrote 2 books on these issues dealing within my business. I do like the pay steps but not based on teaching experience or longevity. I do believe in rewarding teachers with the required skill sets and performance, this is more than just teaching. This would include using project- based learning and program-based learning. In my case, as you know I was working for the state, I have observed teachers in the STEM field. These teachers acquired more skills in addition to their teaching. I think you are asking too much for a possible pay increase, COLA increase and giving a bonus, which you had done these past few years. Another issue is the Lake owners are experiencing large increases in their dues and other monies for their amenities. You still do not have any additional county businesses to support tax increases. The new waterline has been discussed for years and needs to move forward to get businesses, not warehouses or mom and pop shops to pay taxes, etc.
One other problem you will need to address is the increase in the county private school population. For each student leaving public schools, you are losing ~$10,000 per pupil.
Fluvanna County Public Schools tried giving bonuses to “Exemplary” teachers in the past and it was a disaster. It was incredibly subjective and depended on the administrator of that particular school. It ended up pitting teacher against teacher which is exactly what we DON’T want. We need teachers working together for the betterment of ALL of our students, not just the ones sitting in front of them. I feel like we are finally getting that now and going back to a pay for performance model would simply destroy that.
Ms. Johnson, thank you so very much for your continued support of your teachers. I say YOUR teachers because that’s what we are. We are the school board’s teachers. We are the community’s teachers. We work long hours and aren’t compensated accordingly. We love what we do, we knew the pay wouldn’t be “great” when we first signed on, and we continue to work hard for these kids every single day. With that said, I DO think it’s important that we’re doing everything we can to hold on to the good teachers and attract others. We can’t do that if we aren’t offering a competitive salary, which includes steps that are advertised before signing a contract. Yes, there is a disclaimer which tells us that it’s not guaranteed, but if those steps are ignored year after year after year you are sending the message that those are worthless promises. That will then make future employees skeptical of any other “promises” that are made. I also love the fact that you are looking within the current budget to find that money instead of asking the BOS for additional funds. I know that the school system is already in the hole this year due to less money given for the 2019 budget due to expected fuel savings costs that didn’t come to be. I also know that the increase that’s being asked for this year is to help offset that deficit as well as offset the expected fuel cost deficit next year. As a taxpayer, I’m not excited for my taxes to go up but completely understand the bind that the schools are in. As a teacher, I’m finally starting to be excited again to work in this school system. I see the overall morale improving as we’re given instructional funds to supply our classrooms instead of having to pay for everything out of pocket. We also have some school board members that are clearly determined to make sure the students and teachers have what they need to be successful on a daily basis. This includes making sure teachers are paid a wage that allows them to take care of their own children and families as well. Again, thank you for all that you continue to do for us.