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

Full disclosure, last month’s post was short.  This one isn’t.

Like most meetings, this one began with a vote to approve the consent agenda, intended to include non-controversial items grouped together for efficiency’s sake.  One of these items each May is the staff contract list, naming hundreds of people receiving contracts from FCPS for the next school year.  Retirees receiving contracts has drawn a lot of attention in the past, but this list included only two, both long-time workers with adult education and Families Learning Together.  Other retirees are hired from time to time but paid a daily rate.

Mr. Winkler presented a plan to extend contracts for elementary librarians (pay them to work two extra weeks, I think, during the summer).  His reasoning was spot on, and they certainly deserve the opportunity, but we have so many staff members who come in to work during the summer without pay, or work for a daily stipend that’s less than half of a contract amount, and we have other librarians not included in this plan.  We already offer extended contracts to some teachers and not others. I’d give an extended contract to anyone who wanted it if we had the money, but the inconsistency of giving the chance to only certain people in certain positions bothers me.  However, all Board members agreed to support this for the upcoming year and the administration agreed to look at the issue.

The cafeteria budget came under discussion because although it’s a “self-supporting program”, that definition includes money taken from the overall school budget to cover unpaid student lunch charges. Last year this was $33,000.  These charges have nothing to do with students receiving free and reduced lunches, those children are fed. These are either families who can’t pay but didn’t apply for assistance, or families who (according to federal guidelines) have enough income to cover lunch costs.  No Board member suggested withholding food from any student.  Mr. Pullen wondered if we can work with the treasurer’s office or DMV to impose consequences on parents. Ms. Stewart brought up that we could be using the $33,000 to better compensate those who prepare and serve the food.  At this point I’m not opposed to the cheese sandwich and apple alternative for those with severely overdue accounts, but I’m aware of the lunch shaming connotations and would like to learn more.  Ms. Stewart agreed to take the issue to the wellness committee for further discussion.

Trying for closure on the topic of recording/streaming/archiving our meetings, the Board decided streaming and posting (even just audio recordings) to the website was too costly when ADA restrictions were considered, so we compromised on a one-time expense of about $1700 for equipment to audio record and archive meetings ourselves.  This isn’t much help for those who just want to catch up on their own time since FOIA charges could be as high as $100, but it will provide a comprehensive record of all proceedings.

New Business is sort of my favorite.  Mr. Pullen suggested creating a taskforce to address bullying prevention (it’s tempting, but I just can’t call it a bullying taskforce).  We’ll start with looking at what we have in place now.  Also New Business, we need to decide on the agenda for a July 31 seminar.  Mr. Winkler wants to look at broad strategic goals. Several Board members want to go through the line item budget.  I want to address testing from my personal viewpoint of skipping the justifications which I’m very familiar with, and moving toward a meaningful reduction in testing, with plenty of teacher input.  My perspective is that all assessments may give us useful information, but we reach a point of diminishing returns when we test too much.

Also at our next meeting, we’ll finalize a decision about insurance, since we removed this vote from May’s agenda.  We’re waiting for more information but it shouldn’t affect employee costs or plan provisions.  We did vote on some FY19 budget amendments that simply made changes to account for our final appropriation from the Board of Supervisors.  My only comment was I’m very glad to see that instead of going down for several years, the instructional portion of the total budget is now going up significantly.

When people told me my April post was short I don’t think they were disappointed. Sorry.

Our next regular meeting is a week early (sorry again) on June 6.  Same time (6:30 open session) though!

 

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.

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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.

Changes with the New Year

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…

At the January meeting I was really happy to be elected Chair until 2019.  One of the first suggestions I made was to add New Business to the agenda so every Board member can easily and openly bring up any issue for discussion.  Under New Business, we added to future meetings a closer look at the detailed line item budget, a discussion of cell phone policy, another look at Board members visiting schools, and a greater appreciation of the history of the S.C. Abrams building.

We talked about bringing our meetings into the community, and plan to have at least one meeting in each school this year.

Three employees made a proposal about psychologists’ salaries during public comments, which I took as a good sign that they trust us to consider all options.  I have a long history of speaking at public comments before my election to the Board, and I really appreciate the effort and courage this takes.

Budget is the big story.  We all prioritize salary, but interests split off from there. Some mentioned better support for new teachers, vocational programs, athletics, special ed, and (from me) class size and more equal planning time. A lot of this will be narrrowed down at our next meeting, Jan. 19 at 8:30 am.  It’s not great timing for public comments, but there’s always email, and I don’t know about other Board members, but I don’t get nearly as many phone calls as I’d expected.  PLEASE think about getting in touch!

 

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.

What’s The Deal With Closed Session? (Don’t Get Too Excited)

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…

We start regular meetings with a closed session, usually to talk about people, so we step into another room to protect their privacy.  Mostly the Board hears about recommended student reassignments (think alternative ed like Abrams and distance learning, but not necessarily as a result of discipline concerns).  There are almost always a few personnel matters (lots of substitutes hired, some staff turnover).  Sometimes there are legal issues and the superintendent passes on the advice of our school lawyer.  And that’s about it.  Board members have to individually and publicly certify that nothing was discussed in closed session that should have been out in the open.

At the last meeting (on September 13), after the excitement of closed session, we heard presentations from three teachers requesting approval for overnight field trips.  Two trips will be during the school week but the teachers have scheduled time for make-up work, and the overall purpose is educational in the first place.  The students are fund raising.  We are paying substitutes while those teachers are gone.

Next on the agenda came the reports.  This can be A LOT of information and it may look like we don’t have many questions, but often it’s not the first time we’ve seen parts of the report, or we’ve asked questions individually beforehand, or the report was very recently posted and we need time to think it through.  Something a little different on Sept. 13 was discussion about a REQUEST for a report.  Mr. Rittenhouse wanted more information about the use and costs of buses and other vehicles.  Several other Board members questioned if putting this together would be an efficient use of the superintendent’s time.  After the scope of the request was narrowed down a bit, all voted to move forward except Ms. Pace.

The last report, on dues and membership fees, was a follow-up to my objection to paying certain professional dues for administrators, but not for other staff.  I pretty much repeated my comments from a previous post, but added some information from the Superintendent’s Annual Report, published on the Va. Dept. of Education’s website, that shows several of Fluvanna’s administrative salaries compare very favorably to surrounding school divisions.

We finished up, as usual, with School Board member comments. We report on our appointed committees and make any other remarks we want to.  As a member of the Special Education Advisory Committee (among others) I pointed out the minutes of the latest Staff Advisory Council which included several suggestions from staff regarding special ed instruction.

That’s it.  That’s all.  More in October when we have two meetings in two days (Oct 10 and 11)!

 

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.

Meet the Neighbors

Because my term on the Fluvanna School Board doesn’t begin until January, I’ve had time to go to school board meetings in some of our surrounding counties.  It suddenly occurred to me I could probably learn something from our neighbors, so this week I went to Orange, Goochland, Buckingham, and Albemarle.

The meeting in Orange was very short, but they have two meetings per month, a regular meeting and a workshop.  After I turned up for the regular meeting, I found out most of the action takes place during the workshop sessions.  Several counties meet only once a month, but that makes for a long evening, and it’s hard to imagine everyone is as focused at 10 pm as they were at 6.  Buckingham School Board often meets during the day, beginning at 1:00.

There were other less obvious, but very interesting, differences.  In some counties it was clear who was in charge of the meeting.  In others it was a toss-up between the Board chair, the superintendent, or even apparently influential members of the administrative staff.

There was a big difference in time spent discussing Board member questions or concerns. Some counties kept closely to a prescribed agenda, not asking questions or adding new business.  Some went a little too far in the other direction (at least I thought so after 10 pm) but you had to appreciate their level of engagement.  I did like that Goochland and Albemarle included “New” or “Other” Business on the agenda.

Two things that everyone had in common concerned public comment and community attendance.  Most of the meetings had only 1 or 2 people making a public comment.  One county did not invite speakers to come forward from the audience but required them to sign up in advance.  There were no takers.  Some of the other counties were (no kidding) excited to have people come forward.  They tried to put speakers at ease before their remarks, and commented on the issue when the speaker was done.

Community attendance was very low in all locations.  We’re talking less than 5 people.  Even Albemarle only managed about 10 folks who didn’t have to be there.  But how many of us sit in on sessions of the General Assembly, only about an hour away?  We elect representatives to show up and represent.

Fluvanna also had a School Board meeting this week.  It was fairly short.  One of the items teacher subscribers may find interesting is that the $300 one-time bonus is off the table.  The possibility of a raise from the Governor was discussed, and he announced just yesterday he’ll propose a 2% raise for teachers, but not effective until July 2017 and dependent on revenues estimated for 2018.  That means 0% next year with 2% possible after that “subject to approval and matching funds from local governments”.

Cumberland has a School Board meeting on Monday.  Anybody want to carpool?

 

If you’d like to keep up with Fluco Blog, click the FOLLOW button near the bottom right corner and enter your email address.  It’s private and completely free.  If you want to comment on a post, click Comments.  You’ll be asked to provide a name and email address.  If issues hit 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.  Please try it!

 

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.