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

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Changes with the New Year

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…

At the January meeting I was really happy to be elected Chair until 2019.  One of the first suggestions I made was to add New Business to the agenda so every Board member can easily and openly bring up any issue for discussion.  Under New Business, we added to future meetings a closer look at the detailed line item budget, a discussion of cell phone policy, another look at Board members visiting schools, and a greater appreciation of the history of the S.C. Abrams building.

We talked about bringing our meetings into the community, and plan to have at least one meeting in each school this year.

Three employees made a proposal about psychologists’ salaries during public comments, which I took as a good sign that they trust us to consider all options.  I have a long history of speaking at public comments before my election to the Board, and I really appreciate the effort and courage this takes.

Budget is the big story.  We all prioritize salary, but interests split off from there. Some mentioned better support for new teachers, vocational programs, athletics, special ed, and (from me) class size and more equal planning time. A lot of this will be narrrowed down at our next meeting, Jan. 19 at 8:30 am.  It’s not great timing for public comments, but there’s always email, and I don’t know about other Board members, but I don’t get nearly as many phone calls as I’d expected.  PLEASE think about getting in touch!

 

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.

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 talked a lot about money and not much about policy at December’s meeting, so this will be a short post.  (Merry Christmas)  I brought up two budget priorities for next year that aren’t listed in the online reports, that I hope the Board will consider.  I want to concentrate on improving our current class sizes before we look at adding new positions and programs.  According to the Va. Dept. Of Education website, Fluvanna’s pupil/teacher ratios are higher (that’s bad) than most of Virginia at the high school level, and they’re even worse at the elementary grades.  I think it’s time to bring these ratios down to at least average levels.

I also want to do something to help equalize planning time across all grade levels.  Teachers are given some time during the school day to prepare lessons, grade assignments, contact parents, attend meetings, and work on a million other requirements of the job.  High school and middle school teachers in Fluvanna have twice as much planning time as elementary teachers.  Our elementary students deserve teachers with enough daily planning time to be just as prepared as our middle and high school teachers.  (Of course they ARE just as prepared, but at the cost of taking even more time from their evenings and weekends.). One of my budget priorities would be to hire lunch and recess aides for the elementary schools.  Teachers would have a little more time for planning (not equal yet) and we would be paying less than teachers’ salaries to watch kids eat and play.  Plus, NO instructional time would be lost.  This wasn’t my idea, a teacher suggested it, and I’m sure staff could come up with lots of other ways to improve the situation.

With two new Board members starting in January, I’m looking forward to hearing their priorities, too!

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

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.

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.

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.