New year, new Board

By Ruthann Carr

James Kelley (Palmyra) joined the School Board at his first meeting Jan. 8.

The Board voted unanimously to elect Shirley Stewart (Rivanna) as vice chair and for Perrie Johnson (Fork Union) to remain as chair.

They also voted to keep Board meetings on the second Tuesday of each month with the public meeting beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Superintendent Chuck Winkler said Sun Tribe began work installing solar panels and expects it to be up and running at Central by April, Carysbrook by May, West Central by September, the high school by July and the middle school by November.

“They say it should all be done by the end of 2020,” Winkler said. “Before, it was the spring of 2021.”

High School Principal Margo Bruce addressed the Board about graduation plans.

The student-led plan to have graduation on Friday evening May 22 is going ahead.

Bruce said she realized she should have told parents right away so they could express their opinion. She vowed to not let that happen again.

Winkler reported a new bus should be delivered within a few days. They also bought a new special education bus.

He asked the Board to consider how they wanted to spend the other $100,000 the county gave back from unspent 2019 funds.

He said that amount is enough to buy another new bus or to put air conditioning in about 10 of the existing buses that are less than five years old.

The Board will wait until the February meeting to make a decision. Andrew Pullen (Columbia) said he wanted to do some research and “talk to some people at the garage.”

Brenda Gilliam, executive director of curriculum and finance, reported spending is on track for the 2020 budget.

The Board will meet at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 16 for a seminar to get started on the 2021 budget.

About the 2021 budget, Winkler said, “My worry, truly, is the insurance piece.”

Staff has not had to pay increased insurance premiums for three years.

“There is no way looking at next year’s budget that we won’t have to raise insurance premiums,” Winkler said. “Whether we, Fluvanna County Public Schools, pays it or we, the Fluvanna County Public School employees, pay it, we’re going to have to raise premiums.”

Gilliam listed highlights of the governor’s budget proposal:

  • Additional Funding Basic Aid and Re-benchmarking;
  • Compensation- 3% Increase effective July 1, 2021;
  • Increased Funding- -Special Education -K-3 Class Size Reduction -Virginia Pre-School Initiative -School Counselors;
  • Reduced Lottery funding offset by “Games of Skill” Funding;
  • Expected Increase in Local Match- $1,168,206.

Gilliam said enrollment will be down next year by about 45 students due to lower birth rate and people moving away. That would mean a decrease in state funding.

In other business, the Board had a lengthy discussion about offering hunter safety training for students.

Don Stribling, executive director of human resources, operations and student services, said he would have more information about different ways to provide the training after an upcoming meeting. He’ll report back to the Board and they’ll discuss it again at the February meeting.

The Board again discussed ESports.

Johnson reiterated her objection to the games chosen for students to play in competition.

“While I certainly see the benefits, I’m completely stuck on the fact that two of the three games have been rated by the entertainment software rating board as containing blood, violence, partial nudity, alcohol and tobacco use and suggestive themes,” Johnson said. “In no way do I think we should be promoting interactions such as these for our students. I hope we don’t in any other sport and I don’t see the difference with this one. The parents could sign a waiver, but that’s just making a decision for their child. We are making the decision for all the students. And not just for young men who are now participating but all the young women who are the recipients of objectification exemplified in some of these games.”

The coach for the team, Aaron Grubbs spoke to the Board and answered many questions.

The Board made no decision and said they would continue to discuss it at upcoming meetings.


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