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First day of school goes off without a hitch

Principals explain method behind distributing instructional dollars

The weather was perfect. Sunny but cool. 

Children dressed in their best clothes and carried new school supplies. 

Bus drivers knew their routes. 

Everyone got to where they were supposed to go.

New teachers introduced themselves. All laid down classroom rules. 

Students arrived home safely. 

The first day of school is behind us. 

The Fluvanna County School Board met for its monthly meeting just hours after school closed Wednesday (Aug. 9).

Charles Rittenhouse (Cunningham) said as he was driving down his road he saw a mother, father, aunt and grandmother all waiting together for their student to get off the bus. 

Camilla Washington (Columbia) said it was good to hear the buses running that morning. “I was hoping everyone had a great first day,” she said.

Carol Carr (Rivanna) said she wondered throughout the day if all was going as planned. 

“I was sort of waiting for the other shoe to drop,” Carr said, turning to Superintendent Chuck Winkler. “I’m almost afraid to ask – did it?”

Winkler said everything went well. “It’s going to be a great year,” he said.

He said 3,511 students attended the first day of school, which is down 91 students from May. However, the numbers always go up and it won’t be until well into September before a true attendance picture will form.

Brenda Gilliam, executive director in charge of curriculum instruction and finance, reported the district continues to be on track to end the 2017 fiscal year (FY17) with a surplus of about $600,000 because of increases in average daily attendance figures and higher-than-anticipated state sales tax revenue. They cannot close out the FY17 books and final surplus figures won’t be available until September or October, Gilliam said. 

The School Board cannot automatically retain all money that it doesn’t spend in a given fiscal year, but must instead ask the Board of Supervisors to re-appropriate it. The surplus comes from earmarked state and federal funds and can’t be used for just anything, Gilliam said.

At an earlier Board meeting Perrie Johnson (Fork Union) asked how instructional funds are allocated. Gilliam asked all building principals how they distribute those funds and presented those findings to the Board. 

Both middle and high school teachers are given a dollar amount to spend as they see fit on learning supplies. This year, middle school teachers will each receive $400. High school teachers each receive $1,036.60. 

At Central Elementary and West Central Primary Schools, Principal Amy Barnabei does not allot money to each teacher. 

“We do not allocate a specific amount by team and/or grade level,” Barnabei reported. “We provide all staff with a spreadsheet and send a minimum of two emails each nine weeks soliciting any requests. In addition, the secretary continually communicates with team leaders regarding requests. This allows for the purchase of large ticket items. We have received positive feedback in comparison to an allocation by person.”

Carysbrook Elementary School Principal Scott Lucas said last year teachers each received a total of $450 for instructional use. When more needs arose, office secretaries devised an online order form for teachers to request additional items.

Gilliam reiterated those instructional dollars are separate from the district funds used to buy basic supplies. Unlike past leaner years, the district now provides items such as textbooks, workbooks, notebook paper, glue sticks, crayons, tissues, disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer, pencils, pens and expo markers.

Winkler said he encourages teachers to go to their building principal if they have supply needs. “The message I send to principals is, ‘These are your buildings. I trust you to run them,’” he said.

Katrina Lee, director of special education, said the Virginia Department of Education sent a letter confirming Fluvanna meets requirements in all areas of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Winkler reported on building upgrades and repairs:


  • The lighting work is about 90 percent complete throughout the county.
  • New windows are being installed at the School Board office. HVAC upgrades are also being completed.
  • Middle school bathroom renovations are 90 percent complete.
  • The fiber internet network project is well underway.