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.

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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.