School Board barely passes budget

By Ruthann Carr, correspondent

At the same meeting the Fluvanna County School Board honored teachers and staff, it almost didn’t pass a budget to pay them.

Superintendent Chuck Winkler presented a fiscal year 2020 (FY20) budget of $41,896,842 broken down into the following categories:

  • Instruction: $31,785,413;
  • Administration, attendance and health: $2,015,639;
  • Pupil transportation: $2,904,054;
  • Operations and maintenance: $3,066,018; and
  • Technology: $2,125,718.

After the April 26 work session the Board told Winkler it was important to them to include a minimum 3 percent raise for all staff. The budget Winkler presented included that money.

Anticipating passage of the budget, Director of Curriculum and Instruction Brenda Gilliam printed out contracts to mail to staff the next day.

Not so fast.

Board Chair Perrie Johnson (Fork Union) said she didn’t approve of the budget because it did nothing to remedy the way teacher raises are structured on pay schedule B. She said she’s lobbied for years to follow the guidelines set by auditors to give teachers the biggest raises in the first 10 years rather than in the last five.

“I think our budget should reflect our priorities,” Johnson said.

Her priority is to put as much money as possible into instruction.

“As a percent of the total budget, all categories went down [from the FY19 budget] except technology,” Johnson said.

Andrew Pullen (Columbia) said he wanted money earmarked for career and technical education (CTE) programs in the middle school.

Charles Rittenhouse (Cunningham) said he’d go along with the budget built around a minimum 3 percent raise just so they can get the contracts out, but thought there were other ways to cut the budget. “I see three buses come down my road every day and each only make one stop,” he said. “I know you can save money there.”

Shirley Stewart (Rivanna) said it was important the board find consensus. “I think we’ll do more harm than good if we don’t approve it tonight,” she said.

Brenda Pace (Palmyra) agreed.

Stewart made a motion to pass the budget. Pace seconded.

Pace and Stewart voted yes.

Johnson, Rittenhouse and Pullen voted against.


Winkler said the Board needed to guide him on what to do next.

Pullen again noted his desire to have a CTE program at the middle school. He asked if they could take the vote again.

Winkler said only those who voted no can bring it up again for a vote.

Pullen made a motion to vote again and the board agreed unanimously.

Then Pullen made a motion to “approve the $41,896,842 budget with a CTE program at the middle school.”

Rittenhouse seconded.

Pullen, Pace and Stewart voted yes.

Johnson voted no.

Johnson turned to Rittenhouse and asked him what his vote was.

Rittenhouse paused.

“In hindsight, I was illogical” in the first vote, he said. “I vote yes.”

Winkler explained how a middle school CTE program could be created without adding money to the budget in an email to the Fluvanna Review.

“The CTE position was in the original numbers and the board’s requests. We later cut it from the budget as an addition,” Winkler wrote. “On Wednesday, it was still removed (originally). Mr. Pullen wanted an overall budget with the position embedded in the numbers. After carefully examining the retirement announcements, we believe there will be funds to support another teacher in the overall budget. The teacher is going to be a CTE position at FMS. Eventually, our categorical budget will probably change to allow for it, but the money will be coming from the payroll line through attrition and new hire savings.”

Field and auditorium naming

In other actions, after hearing accolades for Steve Sheridan’s work ethic, coaching skills, inclusion of all athletes, grounds-keeping skills and service as a role model, the board voted to name the high school baseball field after him. Pullen, Pace and Rittenhouse voted for, Johnson voted against and Stewart abstained.

During public comments the Board also heard several people speak of Elva Keys’ and Rev. Paul Spraggs’ contributions to Central Elementary. The board voted to name Central’s auditorium the Paul Spraggs, Sr./Elva F. Key Auditorium. Pace, Pullen and Rittenhouse voted for, Johnson voted no and Stewart abstained.

Stewart explained her abstentions in an email to the Fluvanna Review. “Clearly, the people being honored are beloved by this community. I can appreciate how honoring them by naming parts of the school after them is appealing,” she wrote. “However, I struggle with the concept of renaming segments of our schools after people. Many deserve this kind of honor, and yet we are selecting just a few. I did not want to dishonor them by voting against it. Therefore, I withdrew my vote from affecting the result.”

Johnson also explained her dissenting votes in an email. “I was careful at the meeting to state several times that my vote was not against Mr. Sheridan, Mr. Spragg, or Mrs. Key, all of whom I admire very much,” she wrote. “My vote was against naming any school facilities after anyone at this time. In nearby communities, past choices of honorees are being challenged, and I am unwilling to put Fluvanna County Public Schools under any possible examination of our choice by completely unintended criteria such as gender, race, religion or politics.”

Textbook adoption

Several teachers and others spoke in public comments regarding textbook adoption. Tamika Braveheart said any social studies books needed to include the contributions of people of color and the LGBTQ population. Braveheart recommended adopting the textbooks.

At the March 13 Board meeting, a committee made up of teachers and Fluvanna residents recommended adoption of a series of high school history and social studies textbooks.

Pullen had said he wanted to read through them before voting.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Pullen said he read all recommended books “cover to cover” and took issue with the “Virginia and U.S. History” textbook.

“There are things in here I particularly don’t want my daughter to learn about in high school,” he said. “I never heard the words white privilege until 18 months ago and it’s on the first page of this book.”

Pullen said his objection was based on his belief that it is a political view that doesn’t belong in schools. “That’s my opinion. Some people may not like it but it’s my opinion,” he said.

Stewart said she had faith in the committee’s recommendation. “I trust we have a skilled staff in social studies who participated in the conversation,” she said. “I think we want to encourage discussion in our classrooms and have to trust our staff to guide it.”

The Board voted 4-1 to approve the textbook adoptions. Pullen voted no.

In other matters, the board voted unanimously to approve the solar panel contract with Sun Tribe Solar. Sun Tribe projected a cumulative cost savings over a 35-year contract of between $3.2 and $3.5 million.

Editor Christina Dimeo contributed to this story.


Teachers and support staff of the year for 2019. Photo courtesy of FCPS.


Teachers and staff members of the year honored

At Wednesday’s (May 8) meeting the School Board honored employees voted by their peers to be the teacher or staff member of the year.

Amy Barnabei, principal of West Central and Central Elementary, called up kindergarten special education teacher Tamara Patrick to honor as West Central’s teacher of the year.

One person who nominated Patrick stated that she “is able to effectively partner with parents, service providers and colleagues to help ensure she is supporting the whole child.”

A nominator honored West Central Primary custodian David Tolliver with these words: “He arrives early and is preparing the school before daylight, and continues to be on constant call throughout the school day, always with a smile and chipper attitude.”

Central’s teacher of the year was special education teacher Carol Rich, noted for her problem solving, willingness to serve and helpfulness to colleagues.

Central’s staff person of the year was Sharon Edmonds, an instructional support staff member.

“She is always willing to help without complaining,” one Central colleague wrote about Edmonds.

Carysbrook honored teacher Lucille Williams and custodian Marshall Pompey.

“The staff adores him,” Principal Scott Lucas said of Pompey. “He never stops moving and always does an incredible job.”

Lucas said Williams was “firm but fair and the kids know they’re loved.”

Fluvanna Middle School Principal Brad Stang said his staff chose instructional assistant Angela Patterson as staff person and Melissa Powell as teacher of the year.

Stang said Patterson “does everything with a smile and is organized, calm under pressure.”

Powell, Stang said, has “positive relationships with students, staff and parents and students know they can learn.”

High school Principal Margo Bruce said custodian Doug Tanner works hard and is dedicated. One measure of how much Tanner is revered is the fact his custodian’s closet door is often covered with notes from students saying how much they appreciate him.

Testing coordinator Angie Blevins was the high school teacher of the year. “She is over-dedicated,” Bruce said. “When the nominations started coming in it was a no-brainer. We saw her name too many times.”

District-wide, Powell is teacher of the year and Tanner is support staff member of the year.

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