March 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…

The March meeting started with a focus on school safety (it happened to be the same day as the student “walkout”).  During public comments, one high school student respectfully acknowledged the intent of now requiring students to report directly to first block, but asked administrators to reconsider.

Budget discussions were a little shorter than usual since 2019 has been submitted to the Board of Supervisors, and 2018 is close to the end.  There’s still the subject of this year’s bonus-now-raise to vote on next month.  It looks likely (says me) that all full time staff will receive a 1.25% raise – plus supplements for some lower paying positions to reach a minimum of $500 – paid in one lump sum and applicable to THIS year.

Next year’s school calendar came up for a final vote.  I suggested we put off the decision to get more input on the latest version, and to include a discussion of costs vs. benefits of a staggered kindergarten opening (half of new kindergartners come one day, half the next).  Most Board members wanted the decision done and the superintendent said we can still discuss staggered opening without changing the calendar, so all voted in favor.  I did add the comment that even if administration comes up with the best calendar every time, there may still be value in reviving the calendar committee of staff, parents, and community members.

New business for future agendas included Ms. Pace’s request for suggestions to increase direct contact between Board members and school staff, and my hope for a discussion of the staff survey and the possibility of a third party administering and reporting survey results (as recently implemented by Roanoke schools).

I’m sorry we’ve been making so many changes to our scheduled meetings.  We changed the time in March and April (open session begins at 4:00) because the Board of Supervisors also meets Wednesday evenings and we want to keep up with their budget discussion, and we changed the date in June (to June 6 instead of 13).  We also have a special meeting coming up sometime soon in Charlottesville at the headquarters of the Virginia School Board Association.  It’ll be an open meeting, though not nearly as easy to get to. The purpose is Board development, learning strategies to work together effectively as a team.

Have any thoughts on how Board members and staff can communicate more directly?  Attending Staff Advisory meetings was suggested, and announcing Board members’ “office hours” in each building.  We need your ideas.  Please send  ‘em on!

 

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 an 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 sold or leased 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.

All I Ever Wanted for Valentine’s Day (was a School Board 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…

The School Board is meeting A LOT in February, mostly to pass a budget to present to the Board of Supervisors.  On Feb. 7 we heard the superintendent’s proposal and comments from six employees during a public hearing.  The comments were wonderful, and the stories and information made a big impression.

Last night (Feb. 14) we passed the budget BUT the work may be just beginning.  If the Board of Supervisors doesn’t approve the total we’re asking for, we’ll have to make adjustments, of course, and I’m hoping the School Board will not just cut new requests off at the top (money for salary and health insurance increases).  You can see the budget packet online, but along with a few additional instructional staff and assistants, that’s the gist of it.

The night went on with something like a million superintendent’s reports.  The proposed calendar for next year got some attention.  One parent addressed it during public comment. The big controversy involves 9 half days for students so teachers can attend professional development sessions.  I believe in the concept in theory, but I think to lose that much instructional time and, yes, place that much of a burden on parents, the professional development needs to be really valuable, and that has not always been my personal experience.  (I did run for School Board partly to bring a teacher’s perspective.) And, because the calendar says 12 other full staff/workdays but actually contains 13, I suggested fewer half days.

Mr. Winkler wants to begin to approve calendars two years out instead of one at a time.  I suggested we get input from staff and parents and look at other counties to consider the big picture in that case.

The next big discussion was about staff bonuses this year.  The Board definitely wants to get this money to the staff, but timing became an issue.  It’s a long story.  Ms. Pace wanted to vote to approve the bonus now, Ms. Stewart abstained, I moved to table the vote until April because the two other Board members thought it might help.

Toward the end of the meeting we looked at cell phone policies.  The consensus was the policies are good, and if enforcement is an issue maybe the School Board can help by assuring administrators we will back them up.

Items of New Business brought up VSBA board development and recording/streaming/archiving our meetings for future discussion.

We finished some old business by voting to lift the restrictions on Board members visiting and volunteering in the schools.  Formerly, protocols called for 24 hours notice to the superintendent and Chair.  We replaced those protocols with existing Fluvanna policy that specifies School Board members may visit schools to maintain contact with employees and increase their understanding of actual educational practices.  SB members follow the same procedures applicable to all other visitors.  I know I went overboard a little there, but this change was important to me.  (Unofficial quote, ‘I am crazy excited’)

It was one of my favorite Valentine gifts!

 

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 an 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 sold or leased 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.

It was an 8 hour meeting. LONG post!

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 Jan 19 meeting ran twice as long as expected because Board members wanted to look at current program costs before we add any more to our next budget.  The superintendent reported on costs and some revenues (grants and other state and federal funds we receive only because we have some of these programs) for alternative education, testing, athletics, cafeteria, vocational, gifted, technology, and transportation.  These reports are all online if you’re interested.  We talked about these costs quite a bit, but we purposefully didn’t get into costs vs. benefits to students, though that’s coming of course, because it’s the whole point.

The Board talked about salaries a lot, for this year as well as 2019.  This year’s budget still accounts for money the former governor proposed to increase salaries.  The increase didn’t pass through the General Assembly but we discussed the possibility that our 2018 budget can still accommodate a small staff bonus before the end of this year.

Some of the superintendent’s proposed changes to Fluvanna salary scales for 2019 are in the Jan 19 packet online.  There’s a lot of discussion to come before anything is finalized.  It started with the psychologists’ request for a scale separate from and above the current teachers’ scale.  That general discussion recognized the importance of their work, but acknowledged that many teachers also have higher degrees and specialized qualifications and most on the Board felt we don’t have the money at this time to increase funds for reading speacialists, guidance counselors, and others in addition to our much appreciated school psychologists.  I’m making a kind of big deal about this because it was great to have the psychologists speak at our last meeting to make their proposal.

Our two different teachers’ salary scales got a lot of attention, as usual.  SO FAR, the budget proposal includes another adjustment – tiny increase – to the lower scale (Scale B), step advancements for both scales, and a 1% increase for all staff.  ( Albemarle is looking at 2% and Charlottesville at 4%.)  I suggested a cap on salaries that benefit from the 1%, perhaps $100,000, only because as some of our teachers took a step back with Scale B, no other employee categories took this hit.  According reports on the Va. Dept. of Ed website, our administrators are still well compensated compared to surrounding counties while our teachers are less so.  I’d like to correct that proportion for morale as much as taxpayer savings. I’ve stated several times that I certainly think our administrators are worth their money, even more, as all educators are.  But I think this adjustment is fair.

One of the last discussions on salary was about the 40 teachers who were hired before Scale B existed and then placed on that scale.  The Board talked about returning any or all of these teachers to Scale A, and the potential timing for making that happen.  At least two of us were in favor of moving all 40 over next year.  The cost is not prohibitive now, though it increases as these 40 move up on the higher scale.

So, the budget priorities most Board members agreed to consider at our next meeting (Feb 7) included the salary changes already described, an autism teacher plus 2 aides, a part time (I think) Emergency Medical Tech teacher, a full time teacher for a new vocational program (I’m not in favor of funding a new program at this time given our pupil teacher ratios in many existing classes), five new instructional aides – some to go toward more equal planning at the elementary level  (I’m a big fan – check out my last post if you’re really into it), and Continue reading

Budget (of course) and Discipline

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 Nov 8 meeting started with the usual tasks of closed session, but then came the unusual task of deciding on an evaluation instrument for our new superintendent.  We have all kinds of leeway with how this is done, except, like teachers, a large component has to be based on student performance.  I get nervous about passing on something I shouldn’t when it comes to closed session, so I’ll check on whether the final instrument is public information before I share any more.

Once the open meeting got underway, in addition to the regular invitation for public comments (which we almost never get) we held the first public hearing on the 2019 budget.  That pulled in one speaker, the president of the Fluvanna Education Association, Nancy King.  She asked the Board to consider increasing salaries, citing the obviously positive effect that would have on morale.  Then she elaborated on a desire for increased morale in Fluvanna, referencing a decrease in trust and teacher autonomy during recent years.  Ms. King also asked the Board to reinstate a staggered start for kindergartners (during the first 2 days of school in August, half of new kindergartners would come the first day and half would come the second day) to acclimate these students in smaller groups.  Full disclosure alert: I’ve brought this up in a previous meeting suggesting the revenue we would lose because of 2 days of reduced attendance might be worth the penalty.

Reports from the meeting included one about discipline, particularly in-school and out-of-school suspensions.  We were all concerned about the disproportionate representation of certain subgroups, of course, but I also spoke to information recently shared by the Virginia School Boards’ Association about a 5% drop in suspension rates in Va. Beach accompanied by nearly double the number of teachers reporting the schools did not provide a safe and orderly place to learn.  According to the article, teachers felt discipline reform put pressure on them to not to refer students, so standards were lowered and students became even more comfortable acting inappropriately.  (Virginian-Pilot Online, Oct 5,2017 by Mike Connors)

With another report, the discussion of what to do about money left over from last year continued.  The carryover automatically goes to the Board of Supervisors, but we can request some or all of it back.  When the School Board last talked about this, we agreed to ask for about half the money, and incorporated in that half, it was originally proposed we designate more money toward the purchase of 6 computer carts than toward compensation adjustments for the 120 teachers on Scale B. I was concerned about the message that sent to staff and the Board agreed to increase the amount for compensation.  When it came to a vote at Wednesday’s meeting, however, the technology number had overtaken compensation again by adding funds from an unexpected technology rebate to that category.  While this made sense to me, I still objected to the reversal of our original message and wanted to apply the rebate to salaries.  Mr. Rittenhouse also voted against the action, wanting to return the rebate to the Board of Supervisors.  The motion passed though, 3-2.

The only other vote involved some policy changes defining drugs and weapons, and clarifying the timeline for discipline appeals.

The subject of the recent election came up at the very end of the meeting, with appreciation expressed for the service of departing members and congratulations extended to Mr. Rittenhouse, Mr. Pullen, and Ms. Stewart, whose new terms begin in January.

Thanks again for reading Fluco Blog!  Happy Thanksgiving!

 

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.

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.

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.