School board

Financially the move will benefit the district as the Virginia Public School Authority (VPSA) provides $26,000 to each school, effectively doubling the state-funding intake for Central.  Superintendent Gena Keller calls the decision, “exciting” and believes that the two schools will “serve us better instructionally.” However, while the split will give each school a principal, funding limitations require the elimination of assistant principals.

Liz Barnett pointed to Central Elementary’s Assistant Principal, Jennifer Valentine.

“I want to paint the very real picture of what’s going on in her office.  Just the other day, she’s got two kids on the floor and she’s rocking one to sleep,” said Barnett.  “When I hear that we’re going to lose the administration, I’m just really trying to not fall apart, because I don’t know what else I can do.  I’m stretched so thin with planning and how much work I can do at night. When we lose administrative positions, that pushes more work onto my plate and there’s only so much work I can do.”

The morale at Central Elementary has been difficult since it was identified as a low-performing ‘focus’ school in 2012, subject to specific interventions by the Virginia Department of Education.

“The pressure that we’re in as focus schools is beyond overwhelming,” said Barnett.  “I want you to see it’s real.  If you talk to a lot of other elementary school teachers, the tears are there.  We’ve got people breathing down our neck constantly and all they’re looking for is ‘what are you doing wrong?’  There’s a reason why elementary school teachers are leaving.”

One such teacher is Kelli Henning, who teaches first grade at Central but will be taking a year off next year.

“Honestly, at the elementary levels, it feels like you’re robbing from us to help the high school,” said Henning to the School Board.  “I will do whatever I can to help get the Board of Supervisors to fund our budget, it makes me sick to think that more teachers are being RIF’d.”

Several School Board members were stirred by the Barnett and Henning’s public comments, but directed their outrage toward the Board of Supervisors.

“I hope things turn for teachers,” said Cunningham representative Charles Rittenhouse.  “I am anxious to see what will come up at our meeting with the Board of Supervisors.”

“I encourage all of you to show up to the Board of Supervisors meeting,” said School Board Chair Camilla Washington.  “They are our appropriating body.  I hope the room is packed.”

The Board of Supervisors will vote to adopt their budget on April 17.  A public hearing on the budget will be held on April 10 at 7 p.m. in the Fluvanna County Circuit Court.


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