2 For 1

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

…starting with a quick update on a special meeting May 23 to settle a question about the $400 staff bonus. The question was should employees hired May 1, for example, get as much money as employees who worked with us all year? I thought yes, because I considered the bonus, in addition to payment for services, a gesture of appreciation to everyone who chooses to work for FCPS.  The Board approved the full $400 for all who were employed on May 19 regardless of when they started.

We try to keep to business as advertised, but discussions can lead in other directions. (Get ready for an even more wordy description of the conversation than usual – trying to keep to the facts)  Ms. Carr included in her public remarks a reflection on the number of comments about discipline that were written in on the staff survey.  Many teachers commented on their perception that the administration is not as supportive of classroom discipline measures as they’d like.  The administration reports a conceivable disconnect between teacher expectations and (sometimes legal) realities.  I commented that, by the time a discipline concern makes it all the way to the School Board, we have the luxury of considering one child at a time and their specific need, but the classroom teacher has to consider that need in the context of the needs of the other 24 students in the class, balancing the best course of action for all.

On to the next meeting, June 14.

One of the first items was a request by Mr. Winkler for an additional holiday for 12 mo. employees on Mon, July 3.  I was not in favor (and probably not very popular) commenting that our 12 mo. employees have a minimum of 31 paid days out of office per year, compared to a maximum by policy of only 3 days for teachers.  And I do already wonder about our confidence (ahem) in getting full value from our summer schedule of 4 ten hour work days with Fridays off.  I suggested the taxpayers may prefer we ask our staff to work the following Friday, if taking off Monday, or use one of their personal, annual leave, or floating holidays if that’s their preference.  Mr. Rittenhouse and I voted no but the item passed 3-2.

Another vote involved the 2018 budget (again) now that we have an approved (initial) appropriation from the Board of Supervisors.  The total budget, by law, has to be divided into categories: instruction, administration, transportation, operations, and technology. I voted against the allocated amounts because I wanted to see the instructional category large enough to support more than an average 1.1% salary increase for staff.  Mr. Rittenhouse voted against it because he thought we could identify and eliminate some waste from the total.  In the recent past, Mr. Rittenhouse and I have suggested that funds in the administration category, in particular, could be used more efficiently and contribute to an increase in money reaching the classroom.  The item passed 3-2.

We looked at a ton of policy updates including one defining excused and unexcused absences.  I suggested we add to the policy some academic consequences of unexcused absences to provide information for parents and direction for teachers. (Can the student make up missed assignments and tests?  Is the teacher expected to provide missing notes and materials?) The Board did not support my suggestion and the administration agreed there should be no consequences for children regardless of the reason for the absence.

I tried again when the language of the policy changed from an excused absence due to appointments, funerals, and religious observances to simply an excused absence by virtue of  “parental awareness and support”.  Why spell out excused absences when it actually boils down to anything goes as long as the parent says so?  Mr. Winkler said the law upholds the parental awareness and support definition.

There was also some discussion about the school meals and snacks policy, and the practice of allowing students to withdraw up to $5 in cash from their meal accounts for purchases other than food (such as after-school activities, flower sales, etc).  I agreed with our finance director that the school shouldn’t act as a bank in such circumstances.  The policy stands for now.

At this point I might as well throw in some interesting statistics I shared with the Board that I learned from the National School Boards Association about school choice.  The choices under consideration were traditional public school, charters, virtual (on-line) schools, private schools, voucher (magnet) schools, and home schools.  87% of students in the US attend traditional public schools. In Va. we have 9 charter schools.  The NSBA’s examination of data showed charters, as a whole, slightly under-perform compared to regular public schools.  Virtual schools showed very poor performance, private schools outperformed until ethnic and income gaps came into consideration, voucher schools were below the public school average, and home schools are undetermined because performance data is anecdotal and self-reported. Mr. Winkler asked for the research supporting the virtual schools findings which follows if anyone’s interested (and if I can figure out how to send a link):

Thanks for reading.  Thanks for caring!  Next month might be another twofer.  There’s a regular meeting and a seminar.  I’ll try to control myself.  I know I can’t blame all the wordiness on sticking to the facts.

 

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.

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

Our regular May meeting was just last night (though I’ll probably have to change that intro because it may look like I dash off a post in 5 minutes, but it usually takes more than a day).  Meanwhile, we had a special meeting on April 24 to vote for our next superintendent.  There was a push to make the announcement as soon as possible in order to let the candidates know if they did or didn’t get the job.  I’m uncomfortable not being able to share pretty much anything of the discussion but it’s legally considered confidential personnel information.  The best I can do is pass on the comment of our Chair, who stated on the 24th that we had several excellent candidates under serious consideration.

As for last night’s meeting (and it’s still Tuesday so I’m still on track) I declined to approve the list of staff for next year because it included a new administrative director position, in addition to the 6 we already have.  I quoted the School Efficiency Review (again) which reported that Fluvanna had 17.8 total administrative positions, compared to our neighboring peer average of only 15.  And the review was performed in 2014, we have even fewer students now.  I suggested we redirect that administrative money to the classroom. However, the position was approved.

We talked again about how to use the nearly $300,000 in additional state funds for THIS year.  Mr. Winkler recommended using some of the money for $300 staff bonuses and applying the rest to vehicles and chromebooks.  I shared with the Board my recent discussion with school board members from surrounding counties who all except one (Orange) gave staff an average of at least 2% increases for next year.  Fluvanna’s increases averaged only 1.1%.  The Board voted to give staff bonuses of $400 and recommended the purchase of more chromebooks.

With a discussion of policy updates came the question of recouping unpaid lunch charges.  We’re now required by the USDA to put measures in place to try and collect on losses.  Last year we used $41,000 in local money to square up food services accounts because of unpaid charges.  In contrast, this year Chesapeake reported only about $4,000 in unpaid charges for 38 elementary and middle schools.  Unpaid charges have nothing to do with free lunch recipients.  They don’t accrue any charges at all.  The measures Fluvanna is considering for collection include phone calls and email notifications, quarterly home mailings, and restriction of participation in extra-curricular activities.  I’m highly in favor of trying harder to recoup these losses, though I hesitate to approve the restriction on extra-curricular activities which appears to punish the child rather than the responsible adult.

Toward the end of the meeting the latest staff survey was presented.  If you’ve already checked it out online, you may want to look again because information was added during the evening that compared this year to years past.  I couldn’t comment much at the time since we hadn’t seen the comparison before, but I have a few observations now.  In the spirit of the survey’s 3 strengths and 3 areas of focus, of the seven categories, the 3 that continued their upward trend in positive feedback (compared to last year) were Professional Development, the Superintendent’s Office, and the School Board.  The 3 that reversed their upward trend (compared to last year) were Building Administrative Support, Culture and Climate, and Professional Responsibilities.

Building Administrative Support went from having 12 of the 13 positive indicators go up last year, to having 12 of the 13 go down this year.  Culture and Climate went from all 4 indicators trending up last year, to 3 of the 4 trending down this year.  Professional Responsibilities (a measure of things like class size, instructional assistance, additional duties) changed from all 6 indicators going up last year, to most of them (4 of 6) going down.  In total, of the 44 positive indicators, last year only 2 went down compared to the year before.  This year 22 were down compared to the previous survey.

Good grief! I might make my post in one day, though I know that last part about the survey is hard to follow.  And unfortunately, the post is long.  They weirdly get shorter the more I work on them.

 

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.

A First For Me

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, with reference to discussions, most of the comments I remember turn out to be mine!  Here‘s the latest….

There were more people than usual at the December School Board meeting. Some came with public comments about serious concerns for 8th graders at the high school, and some (I assume, though only one person addressed it publicly) came with an interest in the superintendent’s recent approval of a school bus going to the Democratic caucus held Dec. 3 in Farmville.

Before any public comments, the meeting began with an almost immediate vote to go into closed session, an action taken when the Board needs to discuss employee or student matters, real property, or consult with legal counsel. Board members left the room for some time. When we came back, we had to individually certify that only public business lawfully exempted from open meeting requirements was discussed in the privacy of closed session. I voted no, along with one other Board member.  This was very awkward, and a first for me (not the awkwardness, for sure, but the inability to certify).

On the heels of that usually routine vote, another simple item became more complicated. There was no provision on the agenda for addressing the superintendent’s approval of the bus going to the Democratic caucus. I moved to add a discussion of the school board policies cited in that action.

The gist of that discussion, according to NBC Channel 29, was that ‘the board resolved to be mindful of the way the policy is written’ (Policy GBG …The Fluvanna County School Board also recognizes that school time and school property should not be used for partisan political purposes) ‘and when in doubt to consult its team of legal counsel for advice.’

Also during the meeting, Ms. Brenda Gilliam became the superintendent’s designee, replacing Mr. Winkler who’ll be interim superintendent.  She’ll have authority to act in his place if he should be unreachable for any reason.  The new assistant superintendent, Frank Leech, will be working part-time , and not consistently available to fill in.

Toward the end of the evening, I think the Board achieved a breakthrough in the debate over protocols for Board members visiting schools.  Ms. Carr and I worked together on a revision that does not require board members to reschedule their visit if administrators aren’t available to conduct a walk-through, but does call for 24 hours’ notice and a stated purpose for each visit.  I’m in favor of as few restrictions as possible but I’m hoping for approval of this compromise in January.

Finally, the Board will meet on January 19 to begin the formal search for a new superintendent.  Two Board members indicated during the meeting that they were well satisfied already with a potential candidate present in the room that night.  They were not more specific.

Whoops… P.S. I got in a last word about Fairfax County’s successful initiative to get community input into their budget through meetings, social media, and an online survey.  Our Board was open to the idea of more community involvement and asked for details at the next meeting.

 

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.