Board debates surprise school visits

That’s when Keller will take the job of coordinator for professional development with the Virginia Department of Education.

“What a beautiful journey it’s been,” Keller said. “In a blink, it’s been seven years. I’d also like to say it speaks volumes of our Board and how well we work together that we can name a person as qualified as Chuck Winkler as the acting superintendent. I’m proud of you Mr. Winkler. You’re the bomb.”

Just before the Board voted on Keller’s resignation, member Perrie Johnson followed up on her questions from last month regarding the protocol on Board members visiting schools unannounced.

Johnson quoted from the Virginia manual for school boards. ”From time to time the superintendent may be asked to arrange for the school board to visit schools and see a program in operation,” she read. “This does not preclude unannounced visits by board members to the school or prevent them from talking with school personnel at the schools visited. On the contrary, board members should visit the schools as much as possible.”

It goes on to state a board member should check in at the school office, as required of all school visitors.
Johnson pointed out the revised Fluvanna County School Board norms suggest if someone isn’t available to escort the Board member through the school, she shouldn’t visit.

“I oppose any restrictions on Board members entering schools and talking to school personnel,” Johnson said.

After a discussion about common courtesy and letting a building principal know you’re coming, Board Chair Camilla Washington suggested Johnson take on the job of rewording the Board norms statement on visitation.

“If we take these words out then we need to come up with something else,” Washington said.
Johnson agreed to research the matter further and suggest new wording at the next Board meeting.

Washington said they would vote on the matter in January, along with a Board evaluation.

Johnson, Washington, Carol Carr and Brenda Pace are heading to Williamsburg this week to attend the Virginia School Board Association’s annual convention.

Washington urged the members to attend the board governance breakout session to get more ideas on how other boards evaluate themselves.

The Board also voted to ask the Fluvanna Board of Supervisors to re-appropriate $430,222.58 to the school’s fiscal year 2017 budget.

Finance Director Ed Breslauer shared highlights during his financial summary:

  • Munis will visit Nov. 14-16 to help with running concurrent payrolls. This is a necessary step to move all payroll functions to Munis by January.Finance staff participated in the Virginia Retirement System regional employer roundtable on Nov. 2.
  • The finance team is working with county finance to implement an ongoing revenue review in place of the post-year process.
  • The finance staff participated in the Virginia School Business officials’ conference Nov. 4 in Charlottesville. Keller was a speaker at the conference.
  • The supplemental appropriations chart and methodology have been updated.
  • The auditor completed onsite review work Oct. 31 through Nov. 3.

The Fluvanna High School ecology teacher Terrie Wood gave a presentation along with master naturalist Ida Swenson and student Austin Breeden on the retention pond project.

The group received a Chesapeake Bay Trust mini-grant to study the pond’s water quality, flora and fauna. With the money and with the help of carpentry teacher Paul Chirico and agriculture teacher Russell Jennings, they built a floating dock. They also bought kits that allow students to collect samples and life vests for safety, although at its deepest the pond is only five feet.

During public comment, seventh grade life science teacher Gloria Scharer said the schools needed more instructional aides and help with meeting the needs of the students on the autism spectrum.

Scharer said she regularly encourages younger teachers to come to the Board to express their needs.  Besides the fact that many of them are busy with small children, she said, they also don’t come because “they fear reprisals.”

President of the Fluvanna Education Association Nancy King thanked the Board for providing competitive salaries for teachers.

She then quoted William Arthur Ward. “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires,” King quoted, adding, “The teachers in our county inspire every day. Your great teachers look forward to greater financial support next year.”

High school teacher Jimmy Koczan added his comments on the budget. He said he will be 40 soon and he makes less money with a master’s degree than he did working in a restaurant 20 years ago.

“The number one factor in the quality of a child’s education is their teacher,” Koczan said. “In future budget negotiations, commit to making people a priority over stuff, over things… We don’t need more stuff, we need to support teachers.”

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