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.

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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.