Lots Of Old Business

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 Aug. 9 meeting wrapped up a lot of work that started last year, putting plans into action for 2017-18.  The Board approved the gifted plan, capital improvements plan, and standards of quality plan.  We almost didn’t approve the monthly bills, because two of us objected to the Board’s payment of $470 for an administrator’s membership in their professional association.  While I’m a big fan of these organizations, we have over 100 teachers and staff who belong to a very similar association but pay the $500 dues out of their own pocket.  Also, the membership included a legal liability benefit described this way, ‘You’ll have peace of mind knowing that if your school district…refuses to defend you, your back-up plan is in place.  Your affiliation with the Trust for Insuring Educators makes this valuable member benefit possible’.  I gave essentially this same speech last year when we paid about $5600 for several memberships.

I didn’t do all the talking.  We actually had a speaker address the Board during time for public comments.  This gentleman recently wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper and came to the Board repeating his concern about grade inflation, noting that almost a third of our 9th graders received straight A’s at the end of last year.  It’s great to get speakers, we seldom do, but awkward because we’re not allowed to engage with them in that setting.

Another awkward moment (for me) was the lack of discussion about the probable $1.7 million in leftover funds from last year.  About $400-600,000 of that is dedicated to specific purposes by the state and federal government, but the rest goes back to the local government to keep or reassign to the schools.  The Board Chair opened the subject (of what we might ask to use the funds for, I assume) but discussion was tabled until final numbers are available in Sept.

One of the last items of old business was a report from principals on how teachers get instructional supplies.  This year’s budget allocates about $1500 per classroom for supplies.

Central/West Central does not release a specific budgeted amount to teachers from their $52,000.  Requests go through the office of the principal.  Central’s principal reports positive feedback about this arrangement versus an allocation by person.  (I did not receive the same feedback from many teachers.  I told the Board my impression was teachers prefer to do their own shopping, rather than asking for things from the administration.  They know just what they need in terms of quality and specific features, and don’t always get what they’d hoped for when someone else does the ordering.  Somehow the conversation began to veer toward teachers versus principals and I interrupted to say not one teacher inferred principals were unsupportive, only that purchasing can be more efficient if teachers are given more control.)

Last year Carysbrook teachers were allocated $450 each and could make further specific requests of the administration.

Fluvanna Middle School teachers received $250 last year and $400 this year.  Of course, additional requests from the $62,500 will be considered by the administration.

At Fluvanna County High School this year, all classroom teachers were given an allocation of $1,036.60 per teacher for the year.

I brought up one more issue about instructional supplies that teachers shared with me. (I visited the schools the week before the children came to try and welcome and thank teachers individually.)  They had another suggestion related to the control of purchasing.  Many felt limited to ordering from Staples Business Advantage and Faye’s Office Supply and sometimes couldn’t get just what they needed, or get the best price.  The superintendent said over 2000 vendors are approved, so I assume there’s a disconnect in communication somewhere.

The next meeting seems a long way away but I need some time to understand more about vocational certification scores, the detailed 2018 budget, and some decisions associated with transportation.  At least that’s my list THIS morning.

 

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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Morning Meeting #1

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…

Wednesday the 12th was the first of two morning meetings for July.  It’s not too late to make the next one, July 26th at 9:30 (insert laughing emoji).

Looking at what’s new for the 2017-18 budget, there was some discussion about per pupil funding allocated to each school.  This amount is going up from $61 to $70 per student, but Mr. Rittenhouse commented that teachers tell him they don’t have enough money for classroom supplies.  The response from administration was that teachers generally get what they ask for, and the specific total of $250 per teacher came up more than once.  I pointed out that $250 is only $10 per pupil, a fraction of the total allocation, and gave my opinion that teachers don’t ask for more because they’ve been told no for years.  I suggested if we want to change that notion, communication is essential.  The superintendent proposed a follow-up report from principals on future CLASSROOM allocations.

Also applicable to the new school year’s budget was a vote on personnel, which I objected to only because it included one teaching contract for 10.5 months, over the usual 10 mos.  I emphasized that it’s not that any teacher doesn’t deserve extra pay for extra time, but most teachers already put in plenty of extra time, and only get paid for 10 mos.  I’m concerned about the inequity of only certain teaching positions being extended to 10.5 mo. contracts and beyond.  I was told that this particular position had just been reduced from a 12 mo. contract (making me wonder why it was 12 in the first place, and highlighting the inequity of the situation, I thought).

Of the next four votes, I only objected to one more, the excused absence policy I questioned in my last post. I still find it very unclear as to whether an excused absence is defined by the school system or by the parent.

Near the end of the meeting, I got on my soapbox about discipline, having been inspired by observations of the Board Chair, Ms. Carr, about the number of comments on the staff survey regarding student discipline. I took another look at the comments and compared them to last year.

In May 2016, salary was the most often suggested “area of focus” with discipline coming in second.  In 2017, the two switched positions, though salary had almost exactly the same number of comments as 2016, the number of discipline comments shot up by 60% to overtake even salary as our staff’s main concern (as suggested by their comments).  The superintendent brought up discipline numbers which are tracked and reported (lower numbers implying fewer incidents) but I suggested lower numbers might just mean fewer reports, with too many incidents going unreported, and higher numbers might actually indicate better discipline.  It’s a complicated issue, but obviously important to our staff.

I want to be clever but all I can think to leave you with is that old chestnut (because yes, I’m 100) :

Stay tuned for Morning Meeting #2!

 

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.

Deja Vu All Over Again

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…

I’m sure everyone noticed (!) I skipped my report on last month’s regular meeting but there wasn’t much to tell since we were still waiting on budget news from the county, we’re in-between superintendents, and we can’t comment much on the new superintendent search.

This post will put me back on track with an update on our April meeting held last week.

We hardly ever get input during our time for public comments, so it was great to start the meeting off with a retiree filling us in on her opinion of the Extended Service Plan.  The purpose of the plan is evolving into taking advantage of the expertise of recent Fluvanna retirees, usually as substitutes, in whatever capacity they served when they left us.  They know the kids, the curriculum, and the routines of our schools so their service is more valuable and we’ll pay them a little more than other subs to fill in. Currently the plan has two parts, 20 people who make $125/day and 8 people with special assignments who make $225/day.  After a lot of discussion (including my proposal to eliminate the $225 tier) there was consensus on a modified plan as described in the school board documents.

Most of the budget discussion focused on what to do this year with over $300,000 in (sort of) unexpected state revenue.  Some Board members wanted more technology.  One pointed out the irony of asking for increases from the Board of Supervisors every year, then seeing this increase also.  I agreed with another member who advocated for a bonus for all staff.  I also suggested that IF the Board was reluctant to support bonuses and pay the associated increase in employment taxes, we could consider an allocation to all personnel for supplies. This would essentially increase their compensation because many spend their own money anyway, and we could open other avenues for purchasing beyond the often required Staples and Faye’s Office Supplies.  Mr. Winkler suggested a portion of the money go toward translation services for SPED documents, financial and legal services, the superintendent search, technology, bus replacements, and FCHS field maintenance.

That pretty much covers it because, as of last Wednesday, we were still waiting on budget news from the county, we’re still in-between superintendents, and we still can’t comment much on the new superintendent search.

Yogi Berra said it best.

 

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.