Moving On In September

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…

Within minutes of beginning September’s open session, there was a controversial vote on the position of Director of Elementary Instruction and Federal Programs.  The vote was to put a certain person in the position. I have no objection to this person or the last, but I do object to the position itself.  I voted no because this was not a director’s position a few years ago and, in my experience, the highly structured methods and programs put in place by those in the position severely restrict teachers’ abilities to use their own professional judgment to tailor instruction to meet the needs of their unique group of learners. It’s a mouthful, I know. And I have other concerns.  The motion to fill the position failed (2 in favor, 3 against) but I think the discussion will live on.

The first round of public comments drew 7 speakers, commenting on kindergarten staggered opening (teachers were appreciative), my opening day remarks (staff was supportive), testing (too much), and the first day bus fire.

Budget reports covered three years. Closing out 2018 gets us closer to a “carryover” amount for 2019, which is about $1.5 million BUT the timing of sales tax revenue reduces that by about $180k and another $500k is spoken for by state and federal programs we’re obligated to fulfill.  Then another $470k is “promised” to the county for funds used for Carysbrook roof replacement.

The 2020 budget discussion began with the governor’s plan for a 3% raise BUT state funds would only cover positions required by the Standards of Quality.  That includes only 219 out of our 500+ employees.  To raise all salaries by 3% would cost us an additional $625k.  I thought it sounded like a lot, too, so I asked twice.  The administration is also looking at some large class sizes at the high school.

Two items of Unfinished Business came up.  Ms. Stewart asked the Board to consider busing student voters to the polls during the school day in November.  The admin will prepare a report for our next meeting.  I asked if the Board was willing to discuss reducing the amount of testing we require in Fluvanna.  At our last seminar we heard from the administration about testing.  I’d also like input from those who give the tests and use the results for instruction.  The Board agreed to have this future discussion.

A couple of action items were especially interesting.  In addition to some simple changes to the teachers’ probationary policy, the Board voted 4-1 to change the terms of probation from 5 years back to 3.

We changed the date of the November meeting from the 14th to the 7th.  I hated to make the switch, and we thought about not changing it since three of us would be available, but two requested the change and both the clerk and deputy clerk will be away on our regular day.

We were scheduled to vote again on the motion from last month that certainly felt like a reprimand to me concerning my opening day remarks to staff.  However, Ms. Stewart and Ms. Pace rescinded their motions and the item was removed from the agenda.  I was actually disappointed (and said so) because I was hoping for a vote of support from a majority of the Board, and would have preferred that as the last word.  I respected the Board’s wish to move on, though, and somehow resisted the temptation to revive the motion myself!

For the last round of public comments, two teachers made it through the entire meeting to speak again in support of my opening day comments to staff.  I am very grateful to everyone who came, spoke, emailed, shared a kind word, patted me on the shoulder.  I needed it!

 

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

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.