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.

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Lots Of Old Business

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 Aug. 9 meeting wrapped up a lot of work that started last year, putting plans into action for 2017-18.  The Board approved the gifted plan, capital improvements plan, and standards of quality plan.  We almost didn’t approve the monthly bills, because two of us objected to the Board’s payment of $470 for an administrator’s membership in their professional association.  While I’m a big fan of these organizations, we have over 100 teachers and staff who belong to a very similar association but pay the $500 dues out of their own pocket.  Also, the membership included a legal liability benefit described this way, ‘You’ll have peace of mind knowing that if your school district…refuses to defend you, your back-up plan is in place.  Your affiliation with the Trust for Insuring Educators makes this valuable member benefit possible’.  I gave essentially this same speech last year when we paid about $5600 for several memberships.

I didn’t do all the talking.  We actually had a speaker address the Board during time for public comments.  This gentleman recently wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper and came to the Board repeating his concern about grade inflation, noting that almost a third of our 9th graders received straight A’s at the end of last year.  It’s great to get speakers, we seldom do, but awkward because we’re not allowed to engage with them in that setting.

Another awkward moment (for me) was the lack of discussion about the probable $1.7 million in leftover funds from last year.  About $400-600,000 of that is dedicated to specific purposes by the state and federal government, but the rest goes back to the local government to keep or reassign to the schools.  The Board Chair opened the subject (of what we might ask to use the funds for, I assume) but discussion was tabled until final numbers are available in Sept.

One of the last items of old business was a report from principals on how teachers get instructional supplies.  This year’s budget allocates about $1500 per classroom for supplies.

Central/West Central does not release a specific budgeted amount to teachers from their $52,000.  Requests go through the office of the principal.  Central’s principal reports positive feedback about this arrangement versus an allocation by person.  (I did not receive the same feedback from many teachers.  I told the Board my impression was teachers prefer to do their own shopping, rather than asking for things from the administration.  They know just what they need in terms of quality and specific features, and don’t always get what they’d hoped for when someone else does the ordering.  Somehow the conversation began to veer toward teachers versus principals and I interrupted to say not one teacher inferred principals were unsupportive, only that purchasing can be more efficient if teachers are given more control.)

Last year Carysbrook teachers were allocated $450 each and could make further specific requests of the administration.

Fluvanna Middle School teachers received $250 last year and $400 this year.  Of course, additional requests from the $62,500 will be considered by the administration.

At Fluvanna County High School this year, all classroom teachers were given an allocation of $1,036.60 per teacher for the year.

I brought up one more issue about instructional supplies that teachers shared with me. (I visited the schools the week before the children came to try and welcome and thank teachers individually.)  They had another suggestion related to the control of purchasing.  Many felt limited to ordering from Staples Business Advantage and Faye’s Office Supply and sometimes couldn’t get just what they needed, or get the best price.  The superintendent said over 2000 vendors are approved, so I assume there’s a disconnect in communication somewhere.

The next meeting seems a long way away but I need some time to understand more about vocational certification scores, the detailed 2018 budget, and some decisions associated with transportation.  At least that’s my list THIS morning.

 

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.

Morning Meeting #2

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…

No votes were taken during July’s morning meeting #2.  We discussed common School Board priorities and certain priorities specific to each Board member.  Generally, Ms. Pace addressed the importance of meeting the emotional needs of children; Ms. Carr wants to strengthen technology, vocational education, and the gifted program; Mr. Rittenhouse wants to make sure our funds directly support students and quality staff; and I want teachers more extensively involved in decision making.  (Teachers know their students and know their content, and I think we can improve instruction, discipline, assessment, budgeting -almost everything- by soliciting more input from the professionals who address all of these every day.)

There’s a long but pretty interesting report online with data about test scores.  With Advanced Placement (AP) exams, 40% more students tested than last year, but our pass rate doesn’t look great compared to the state average.  SOL scores are generally down, but all schools are still accredited.  SAT statistics put us in line with the percentage of students who take the tests statewide -at 54%- and a little above the state average score in reading and math.  There’s also a lot of information about Career and Technical Education (CTE) credentialing pass rates, which I need to talk over with an administrator before I spout out about (hehe) possibly incorrect conclusions here.

We heard some numbers I’m not sure made it online, about student discipline and teacher (maybe staff) attendance.  To address discipline concerns the administration is considering expanding the PBIS program (Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports) from the elementary schools to middle and high school.  Concerning attendance, student att’d is going down but still at about 95%.  A real eye-opener (for me) were statistics on teacher attendance.  Missing more than 10 days/yr is defined as chronically absent by the state, and the Board was told that 30%-40% of our teachers are chronically absent.  The national average, according to the U.S. Dept. of Education, was 27% last year.  Mr. Winkler doesn’t assume a problem with Fluvanna’s numbers, but will explore the issue.

We can’t have a meeting without talking budget, and salary comparisons are available among the online reports to start discussions for 2018-19.  After seeing some of the administrative comparisons, I commented to the Board that while teachers’ experience generally equates to steps on the scale, our administrator scales carry the footnote that ‘experience may not necessarily equate to steps’.  And, in fact, many of our administrators are contracted at a much higher rate than their steps would indicate by experience.  I brought it up because, in my opinion, this situation makes comparing our administrative steps to others unreliable.

Finally, on another (short) note… a word about new staff for 2017-18.  So far we’ve welcomed almost 40 new members.  Of the new teachers, the three largest categories by instruction are special education (7), math (6), and CTE (Career and Tech Ed-3).

No more morning meetings in the foreseeable future, but you can join us at 6:30 on Wed, August 9 (or just look for my next post at some undetermined time after that).  Thanks again for reading!

 

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.

 

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

Wednesday the 12th was the first of two morning meetings for July.  It’s not too late to make the next one, July 26th at 9:30 (insert laughing emoji).

Looking at what’s new for the 2017-18 budget, there was some discussion about per pupil funding allocated to each school.  This amount is going up from $61 to $70 per student, but Mr. Rittenhouse commented that teachers tell him they don’t have enough money for classroom supplies.  The response from administration was that teachers generally get what they ask for, and the specific total of $250 per teacher came up more than once.  I pointed out that $250 is only $10 per pupil, a fraction of the total allocation, and gave my opinion that teachers don’t ask for more because they’ve been told no for years.  I suggested if we want to change that notion, communication is essential.  The superintendent proposed a follow-up report from principals on future CLASSROOM allocations.

Also applicable to the new school year’s budget was a vote on personnel, which I objected to only because it included one teaching contract for 10.5 months, over the usual 10 mos.  I emphasized that it’s not that any teacher doesn’t deserve extra pay for extra time, but most teachers already put in plenty of extra time, and only get paid for 10 mos.  I’m concerned about the inequity of only certain teaching positions being extended to 10.5 mo. contracts and beyond.  I was told that this particular position had just been reduced from a 12 mo. contract (making me wonder why it was 12 in the first place, and highlighting the inequity of the situation, I thought).

Of the next four votes, I only objected to one more, the excused absence policy I questioned in my last post. I still find it very unclear as to whether an excused absence is defined by the school system or by the parent.

Near the end of the meeting, I got on my soapbox about discipline, having been inspired by observations of the Board Chair, Ms. Carr, about the number of comments on the staff survey regarding student discipline. I took another look at the comments and compared them to last year.

In May 2016, salary was the most often suggested “area of focus” with discipline coming in second.  In 2017, the two switched positions, though salary had almost exactly the same number of comments as 2016, the number of discipline comments shot up by 60% to overtake even salary as our staff’s main concern (as suggested by their comments).  The superintendent brought up discipline numbers which are tracked and reported (lower numbers implying fewer incidents) but I suggested lower numbers might just mean fewer reports, with too many incidents going unreported, and higher numbers might actually indicate better discipline.  It’s a complicated issue, but obviously important to our staff.

I want to be clever but all I can think to leave you with is that old chestnut (because yes, I’m 100) :

Stay tuned for Morning Meeting #2!

 

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.