School Board defers action on testing for second time

By Heather Michon


For the second time in as many months, the Fluvanna School Board deferred a decision on whether to eliminate a standardized testing program known as Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP.

The issue was not originally on the agenda for the meeting on Tuesday (Aug 13), but Andrew Pullen (Columbia) moved to add it as an action item. “We keep talking about it and talking about it and talking about it,” he said, “so I’d rather take it up for a vote.”

Superintendent Chuck Winkler made the case for keeping the program, which he called “the best tool that we have right now” to chart a student’s progress across time and to identify issues early in a school career.

MAP is given to children up until Grade 7 and is not mandated by the state. Winkler acknowledged some members of the teaching staff who would prefer it be eliminated but based on his three decades’ experience as an educator, his recommendation was to keep it. “I think you’d be doing a huge injustice to this school system academically by just saying ‘we’re doing away with MAP.”’

Shirley Stewart (Rivanna) argued that putting it up for a vote at the last minute meant teachers didn’t have the opportunity to voice their thoughts on the program. “I cannot imagine how they and other staff would feel to have the board vote on such a thing and they didn’t know it was going to be on the agenda nor have the opportunity to come and speak about it.”

“I’ve brought up MAP time and time again, so I feel like the discussion has been out there,” countered Chair Perrie Johnson (Fork Union).

As the discussion went on, it was clear a lack of consensus among school staff allowed board members to stake out positions on both sides of the issue. Pullen and Johnson argued that teachers and staff didn’t want the testing; Pace and Stewart acknowledged the difference of opinion but felt that it was a valuable diagnostic tool and the testing decisions were better left to professionals like Winkler and his staff.

Charles Rittenhouse (Cunningham) said there were valid arguments for and against elimination, but added if there were repercussions for eliminating MAP, as Stewart warned, “we could just as easy reinstate it.”

Just as Johnson called for a vote, Pullen withdrew it.

“I will rescind my motion for thirty days so that teachers have the opportunity to speak,” he said. He added that he didn’t feel that having the teachers restate their arguments would change anything.

The board then debated whether teachers would only be allowed to speak on the topic during public comments or during a separate presentation. “I prefer to leave it to public comments to keep it as neutral as possible,” said Johnson.

“I have a question,” said Pace. “If we vote this to be done away with, does the board have an answer to some other tool to be used to measure the growth of our children or lack thereof?”

“The point is less testing,” said Johnson, “not substitute testing.”


Retired teacher Chris Ann Ludwig raised an issue with her insurance during the first round of public comments.

A thirty-year veteran of Fluvanna schools, at the time of her retirement, Ludwig understood that long-standing policy allowed her and her family to enroll in the school system’s health insurance plan at any point in the future, even if she had opted out in the past.

She was initially covered under her husband’s plan but said it had always been her intention to return to the school system’s plan when he retired.

When she contacted the administration, however, “it came to my attention that the policy had changed” just a few months earlier.  She was told she could not be grandfathered into the program.

“I cannot tell you how upset and frustrated I was by this news.” She asked the board to review the policy.

After Ludwig departed, the issue was added to the night’s agenda.

Winkler explained that “Mrs. Ludwig is an extremely unusual situation,” and believed there would be few if any similar claims in the future.

Following a brief discussion, members voted 5-0 to grandfather Ludwig into the insurance program.


At the July meeting, Winkler was tasked with researching the costs involved with making audio or video recordings of board meetings available to the public.

On Tuesday, Winkler and director of Information Technology Josh Gifford said that YouTube or Facebook Live were probably the best options, with Giffords leaning towards Facebook Live.

Both platforms are free to use and archived video would be available for later viewing. Gifford said no special equipment would be needed.

Use of a third-party hosting platform might also relieve some concerns about compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In July, Winkler told the board that the school’s legal advisors were worried that posting audio on the school’s website might open the board up to an ADA lawsuit.

The members requested that they try a broadcast of an upcoming meeting, perhaps as early as September.

Other items:

  • The school year began on Thursday (Aug 8), and Winkler reported that it was “an extremely successful first four days.”
  • With a growing number of students participating in Fluco athletics, the members voted 5-0 to approve the hire of an additional athletic trainer to monitor student safety during training and events.
  • Winker advised approval of an insurance policy to cover students and staff during foreign travel. The policy costs $2,000 annually. The motion passed 3-2, with Pullen and Rittenhouse voting no.

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