Another Twofer

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 last Tuesday morning to talk about early plans for the 2019 budget.  This applies to the 2018-19 school year.  I appreciated that a survey was sent to staff, asking about budget priorities AND cost saving measures.  Most respondents were teachers, and interestingly, many more were from the high school than any other building.  It’s often the reverse with the spring survey.

Reporting the results gets a little bumpy because people were asked for their first, second, and third choices, and I’m just sticking with responses that came in at #1.  You’ll see what I mean.  Putting together all similar references (meaning I added together responses labeled salary, teachers’ salaries, and salary scales) salary was the #1 priority of more than half the respondents.  The next #1 priority (again, putting together all similar references) was staff.  I assume this means additional staff, as in allowing for lower class sizes or providing more special ed services.  The third #1 priority  was instructional funds.

Turning to cost saving measures, and there weren’t as many of these, the #1 suggestion was cutting energy costs. The next #1 (and again, I’m putting together all similar references) was reducing certain categories of certified, but non-classroom staff.  And the third #1 (if you get me) was a tie between decreasing the number of assessments and bus routes.

Most of the priorities and savings suggestions were addressed during the rest of the meeting.  I’ll turn you loose on the reports online at this point (Oct 10) and you can draw your own conclusions.  There were some important salary comparisons for non-certified staff (bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria, aides, etc), another interest of mine.  I did have some comments about the reporting of our administrative salaries compared to other districts.  Our administrative scales were used in the comparison, but they are not applied as one would assume in reality.

SO FAR, and it is very early and elections are coming, most Board members were in favor of holding employees harmless for a possible 15% increase in health insurance premiums, supporting current salary steps, and making some adjustments to Scale B.

We had another meeting the next day.  It went pretty quick.  I’ll try not to drag it out.

The superintendent presented two reports originally requested by Mr. Rittenhouse.  The first was about buses and school vehicles.  There was some discussion, mostly against reducing our three separate bus runs down to two, but I’d like the Board to consider it further, after input from bus drivers and others.  The second report provided a description and cost of programs for disadvantaged students.  US Flucos inspired some discussion.  Mr. Rittenhouse remembered it as a $22,000 budget item a few years ago and this year it’s $98,875, mostly because a full time teacher is now included.  When asked how many students are served by the program, principals reported 15-20 at the middle school and 350 (all 8th grade, as I understood the reference) at FCHS.

Thanks again for reading.  I hope it helps!

 

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.

Morning Meeting #2

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…

No votes were taken during July’s morning meeting #2.  We discussed common School Board priorities and certain priorities specific to each Board member.  Generally, Ms. Pace addressed the importance of meeting the emotional needs of children; Ms. Carr wants to strengthen technology, vocational education, and the gifted program; Mr. Rittenhouse wants to make sure our funds directly support students and quality staff; and I want teachers more extensively involved in decision making.  (Teachers know their students and know their content, and I think we can improve instruction, discipline, assessment, budgeting -almost everything- by soliciting more input from the professionals who address all of these every day.)

There’s a long but pretty interesting report online with data about test scores.  With Advanced Placement (AP) exams, 40% more students tested than last year, but our pass rate doesn’t look great compared to the state average.  SOL scores are generally down, but all schools are still accredited.  SAT statistics put us in line with the percentage of students who take the tests statewide -at 54%- and a little above the state average score in reading and math.  There’s also a lot of information about Career and Technical Education (CTE) credentialing pass rates, which I need to talk over with an administrator before I spout out about (hehe) possibly incorrect conclusions here.

We heard some numbers I’m not sure made it online, about student discipline and teacher (maybe staff) attendance.  To address discipline concerns the administration is considering expanding the PBIS program (Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports) from the elementary schools to middle and high school.  Concerning attendance, student att’d is going down but still at about 95%.  A real eye-opener (for me) were statistics on teacher attendance.  Missing more than 10 days/yr is defined as chronically absent by the state, and the Board was told that 30%-40% of our teachers are chronically absent.  The national average, according to the U.S. Dept. of Education, was 27% last year.  Mr. Winkler doesn’t assume a problem with Fluvanna’s numbers, but will explore the issue.

We can’t have a meeting without talking budget, and salary comparisons are available among the online reports to start discussions for 2018-19.  After seeing some of the administrative comparisons, I commented to the Board that while teachers’ experience generally equates to steps on the scale, our administrator scales carry the footnote that ‘experience may not necessarily equate to steps’.  And, in fact, many of our administrators are contracted at a much higher rate than their steps would indicate by experience.  I brought it up because, in my opinion, this situation makes comparing our administrative steps to others unreliable.

Finally, on another (short) note… a word about new staff for 2017-18.  So far we’ve welcomed almost 40 new members.  Of the new teachers, the three largest categories by instruction are special education (7), math (6), and CTE (Career and Tech Ed-3).

No more morning meetings in the foreseeable future, but you can join us at 6:30 on Wed, August 9 (or just look for my next post at some undetermined time after that).  Thanks again for reading!

 

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.

 

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

…starting with a quick update on a special meeting May 23 to settle a question about the $400 staff bonus. The question was should employees hired May 1, for example, get as much money as employees who worked with us all year? I thought yes, because I considered the bonus, in addition to payment for services, a gesture of appreciation to everyone who chooses to work for FCPS.  The Board approved the full $400 for all who were employed on May 19 regardless of when they started.

We try to keep to business as advertised, but discussions can lead in other directions. (Get ready for an even more wordy description of the conversation than usual – trying to keep to the facts)  Ms. Carr included in her public remarks a reflection on the number of comments about discipline that were written in on the staff survey.  Many teachers commented on their perception that the administration is not as supportive of classroom discipline measures as they’d like.  The administration reports a conceivable disconnect between teacher expectations and (sometimes legal) realities.  I commented that, by the time a discipline concern makes it all the way to the School Board, we have the luxury of considering one child at a time and their specific need, but the classroom teacher has to consider that need in the context of the needs of the other 24 students in the class, balancing the best course of action for all.

On to the next meeting, June 14.

One of the first items was a request by Mr. Winkler for an additional holiday for 12 mo. employees on Mon, July 3.  I was not in favor (and probably not very popular) commenting that our 12 mo. employees have a minimum of 31 paid days out of office per year, compared to a maximum by policy of only 3 days for teachers.  And I do already wonder about our confidence (ahem) in getting full value from our summer schedule of 4 ten hour work days with Fridays off.  I suggested the taxpayers may prefer we ask our staff to work the following Friday, if taking off Monday, or use one of their personal, annual leave, or floating holidays if that’s their preference.  Mr. Rittenhouse and I voted no but the item passed 3-2.

Another vote involved the 2018 budget (again) now that we have an approved (initial) appropriation from the Board of Supervisors.  The total budget, by law, has to be divided into categories: instruction, administration, transportation, operations, and technology. I voted against the allocated amounts because I wanted to see the instructional category large enough to support more than an average 1.1% salary increase for staff.  Mr. Rittenhouse voted against it because he thought we could identify and eliminate some waste from the total.  In the recent past, Mr. Rittenhouse and I have suggested that funds in the administration category, in particular, could be used more efficiently and contribute to an increase in money reaching the classroom.  The item passed 3-2.

We looked at a ton of policy updates including one defining excused and unexcused absences.  I suggested we add to the policy some academic consequences of unexcused absences to provide information for parents and direction for teachers. (Can the student make up missed assignments and tests?  Is the teacher expected to provide missing notes and materials?) The Board did not support my suggestion and the administration agreed there should be no consequences for children regardless of the reason for the absence.

I tried again when the language of the policy changed from an excused absence due to appointments, funerals, and religious observances to simply an excused absence by virtue of  “parental awareness and support”.  Why spell out excused absences when it actually boils down to anything goes as long as the parent says so?  Mr. Winkler said the law upholds the parental awareness and support definition.

There was also some discussion about the school meals and snacks policy, and the practice of allowing students to withdraw up to $5 in cash from their meal accounts for purchases other than food (such as after-school activities, flower sales, etc).  I agreed with our finance director that the school shouldn’t act as a bank in such circumstances.  The policy stands for now.

At this point I might as well throw in some interesting statistics I shared with the Board that I learned from the National School Boards Association about school choice.  The choices under consideration were traditional public school, charters, virtual (on-line) schools, private schools, voucher (magnet) schools, and home schools.  87% of students in the US attend traditional public schools. In Va. we have 9 charter schools.  The NSBA’s examination of data showed charters, as a whole, slightly under-perform compared to regular public schools.  Virtual schools showed very poor performance, private schools outperformed until ethnic and income gaps came into consideration, voucher schools were below the public school average, and home schools are undetermined because performance data is anecdotal and self-reported. Mr. Winkler asked for the research supporting the virtual schools findings which follows if anyone’s interested (and if I can figure out how to send a link):

Thanks for reading.  Thanks for caring!  Next month might be another twofer.  There’s a regular meeting and a seminar.  I’ll try to control myself.  I know I can’t blame all the wordiness on sticking to the facts.

 

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.

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

Our regular May meeting was just last night (though I’ll probably have to change that intro because it may look like I dash off a post in 5 minutes, but it usually takes more than a day).  Meanwhile, we had a special meeting on April 24 to vote for our next superintendent.  There was a push to make the announcement as soon as possible in order to let the candidates know if they did or didn’t get the job.  I’m uncomfortable not being able to share pretty much anything of the discussion but it’s legally considered confidential personnel information.  The best I can do is pass on the comment of our Chair, who stated on the 24th that we had several excellent candidates under serious consideration.

As for last night’s meeting (and it’s still Tuesday so I’m still on track) I declined to approve the list of staff for next year because it included a new administrative director position, in addition to the 6 we already have.  I quoted the School Efficiency Review (again) which reported that Fluvanna had 17.8 total administrative positions, compared to our neighboring peer average of only 15.  And the review was performed in 2014, we have even fewer students now.  I suggested we redirect that administrative money to the classroom. However, the position was approved.

We talked again about how to use the nearly $300,000 in additional state funds for THIS year.  Mr. Winkler recommended using some of the money for $300 staff bonuses and applying the rest to vehicles and chromebooks.  I shared with the Board my recent discussion with school board members from surrounding counties who all except one (Orange) gave staff an average of at least 2% increases for next year.  Fluvanna’s increases averaged only 1.1%.  The Board voted to give staff bonuses of $400 and recommended the purchase of more chromebooks.

With a discussion of policy updates came the question of recouping unpaid lunch charges.  We’re now required by the USDA to put measures in place to try and collect on losses.  Last year we used $41,000 in local money to square up food services accounts because of unpaid charges.  In contrast, this year Chesapeake reported only about $4,000 in unpaid charges for 38 elementary and middle schools.  Unpaid charges have nothing to do with free lunch recipients.  They don’t accrue any charges at all.  The measures Fluvanna is considering for collection include phone calls and email notifications, quarterly home mailings, and restriction of participation in extra-curricular activities.  I’m highly in favor of trying harder to recoup these losses, though I hesitate to approve the restriction on extra-curricular activities which appears to punish the child rather than the responsible adult.

Toward the end of the meeting the latest staff survey was presented.  If you’ve already checked it out online, you may want to look again because information was added during the evening that compared this year to years past.  I couldn’t comment much at the time since we hadn’t seen the comparison before, but I have a few observations now.  In the spirit of the survey’s 3 strengths and 3 areas of focus, of the seven categories, the 3 that continued their upward trend in positive feedback (compared to last year) were Professional Development, the Superintendent’s Office, and the School Board.  The 3 that reversed their upward trend (compared to last year) were Building Administrative Support, Culture and Climate, and Professional Responsibilities.

Building Administrative Support went from having 12 of the 13 positive indicators go up last year, to having 12 of the 13 go down this year.  Culture and Climate went from all 4 indicators trending up last year, to 3 of the 4 trending down this year.  Professional Responsibilities (a measure of things like class size, instructional assistance, additional duties) changed from all 6 indicators going up last year, to most of them (4 of 6) going down.  In total, of the 44 positive indicators, last year only 2 went down compared to the year before.  This year 22 were down compared to the previous survey.

Good grief! I might make my post in one day, though I know that last part about the survey is hard to follow.  And unfortunately, the post is long.  They weirdly get shorter the more I work on them.

 

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.

I Did It 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…

My last post was way too long because (I’m going with) I combined 3 meetings into one report.  Well, I did it again, this time because (I’m going with) we had 3 meetings in 8 days, and nobody wants to hear from me THAT much.

On Feb. 1 the Board met for a budget work session and a public hearing on qualifications of a superintendent.  The one person who spoke at the public hearing was in support of naming Mr. Winkler our next superintendent.  The work session took a little longer.

You can see the interim superintendent’s latest budget proposal online.  It’s about the same as I reported in my previous post.  (I can’t help but brag that I just deleted a whole paragraph spouting the almost identical information.)  One big change is that our health insurance rates will actually go down, a huge relief, so our new revenue request of the county will be closer to $500,000 (not $800,000) above last year’s allocation.

There was a lot of discussion (again) about our two teacher salary scales, particularly Scale B.  I asked for (and several other school board members supported) a salary committee, including teachers, to look at Scale B in the future.  I gave my (now familiar) opinion that we should reverse the trend of the scale that improves very little for the first 20 years and then speeds up the next 10.  I cited (again) the School Efficiency Review which supports front-loading teacher scales.  I repeated my goal of funding improvements to Scale B by re-prioritizing some of our current expenses, not by increasing the tax burden on our community.

Our next meeting was Feb. 7 and after a long closed session, we discussed the qualifications of our next superintendent.  I pressed for a requirement that all candidates have some kind of public school teaching experience (they’ll be making decisions about teaching methods, programs, schedules, compensation, and evaluation) and that our chosen candidate agrees to live in Fluvanna.  The Virginia School Boards Association also recommended this qualification when they met with us last month, pointing out that this may be the highest paid position in the county and it’s key that all candidates are willing to spend their time and money in the community that pays them.  The Board chose to make these preferred, rather than required, qualifications.

Finally, meeting no.3 was just last night.  There were a few last-minute changes to our budget presentation for the Board of Supervisors (Feb. 15).  One future proposal (for 2019) was to allocate almost $1 million to include auto mechanics in our vocational program.  At a previous meeting I wondered about this as a budget priority.  The new presentation still includes the addition, but transfers some of the cost to the capital improvement plan.

When we voted on the budget, Mr. Rittenhouse and I voted against its approval.  My comments mirrored my opinion of last year. The percentage of our total budget spent on the instructional category has gone down almost every year from 78% in 2010 to this budget’s 73.3%.  I understand reporting requirements can change, but none of our other categories appear to trend consistently downward as instruction does.  Also, about the same time that we had 78% of our budget in the instructional category, we spent 86% of our money on people.  Now we spend 80-82% on people.  I said I’d like to see a budget that allocates a greater percentage of available funds to instruction and staff.  Mr. Rittenhouse said he’d like to see more money go to the classroom and less to administration.

Another long post.  I’m going to hear about it.  At least it was fascinating!

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.

Three In One

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 on three meetings that happened in the last two weeks…

One of the first actions taken at the Jan. 11 School Board meeting was to vote in a chair and vice chair.  This happens every January, but because the Board spent recent months discussing the benefits of changing the election timeline to match the school year, not the calendar year, I expected these terms to last only until July.  I was surprised to learn this was no longer a Board objective.  Ms. Washington, who’s been Board chair for 5 years, chose to step down and Ms. Carr was elected until Jan. 2018.  I nominated our current vice-chair, Ms. Pace, to serve again but she declined and nominated Ms. Washington, who accepted.

One information item that stood out to me later in the evening was this year’s 7% increase in participation in the school lunch program. We’ve also reached a 30% threshold in recipients of free lunch, which increases our state aid in some areas.

I had a presentation of my own on the agenda about Fairfax County Schools’ initiative to get more community involvement in the budget process.  The unique thing they did was survey the community about what to cut from the budget, not what to keep.  Their objective (and mine) was not to reduce the budget, but to possibly redirect resources to better match community priorities.  I thought we could gather this information from Fluvanna quickly and easily by just adding budget questions to our upcoming superintendent survey.  My interpretation of the discussion was that Board members preferred input on budget priorities to support, rather than cut, and wanted the superintendent survey kept separate from any other purpose.

Near the end of the evening, there was another discussion on the special use of school buses which you’ve probably already read in the local paper.

 

Meeting no.2 was on Jan. 19 – a short Board meeting with the organization hired to help with our superintendent search (the Virginia School Boards Association).  We set a timeline of about two weeks to gather community input by survey (please look at the FCPS website or pick up a hard copy at any school) and decided on a public hearing Feb 1 at 7 pm (School Board office).  We expect to advertise community priorities and accept applications from early Feb. through early March.  This feels like a short timeline to me, but the VSBA says there are many vacancies this year, and if we move too slowly the best candidates may have already accepted positions.  Candidate names and interviews are kept extremely confidential because many will be currently employed and unwilling to let their local Boards’ know they may be interested in leaving.  We’re told it’s our best chance for a high quality pool of applicants.

 

And finally, meeting no.3 was the very next day, Jan 20 – not a short meeting at all since it was a budget seminar focusing on next year.  About an hour of revenue reports revealed we can expect more state money next year (mostly because the state underestimated our student population numbers) BUT we’ll be directed how we have to spend most of it in support of existing programs.  Money for most things beyond our current budget will have to come from other sources, either reducing or eliminating something we have now (says me) or increasing local funding (me again).

The additional things our interim superintendent, Mr. Winkler, and the School Board support in next year’s budget are salary step increases in accordance with currently published salary scales, hold-harmless increases in health insurance premiums, an application of the possible one-time state sponsored employee bonus (believe it or not, free money always costs us money), an increase in athletic stipends, and the addition of one exploratory teaching position at FMS.  We project these additions will require $806, 290 more in local funds.

Much of the conversation around these items centered on our controversial dual salary scales for teachers.  Mr. Winkler said he was interested in examining the issue and I suggested he get together a team of teachers for input.  I also suggested that even if we couldn’t solve the problem in one fell swoop, we could at least make incremental improvements by asking teachers where they’d reallocate resources from other areas (I know, I sound like a broken record).

As a parting remark for future budget consideration, I brought up the subject of equal planning time, and put forward the desire of elementary teachers to increase their planning time to equal that of middle and secondary staff.

 

I’m thinking saving up three meetings for one post was not the best idea I’ve ever had.  I know several people who I’m sure gave up on me halfway through.  Everyone else, thanks for hanging in there!

 

 

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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.