School Board listens to mask debate, honors retirees

By Ruthann Carr

Masks, procedures, graduation and retiree recognition dominated the June 9 Fluvanna School Board meeting.

Chair Perry Johnson (Fork Union) started with what is usually a simple procedure of accepting the agenda, when James Kelley (Palmyra) asked to remove the vote to challenge the public schools mask mandate.

Andrew Pullen (Columbia) had earlier requested the matter be put on the agenda.

Answering Kelley’s request, Johnson said in the past she asked that three members agree before putting a new item on the agenda.

Johnson said while the Chair has the right to decide what goes on the agenda, she should have followed her own protocol.

Kelley made a formal motion to withdraw the mask mandate vote.

During discussion, Johnson said she took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and Virginia and did not feel comfortable voting against Governor Ralph Northam’s executive order.

Northam’s order for wearing masks indoors and outside in schools is set to expire June 30.

Pullen said in the past the Board sent resolutions to the Governor when they didn’t agree with a ruling about the band playing on the same field as the football players and he didn’t see the difference.

“We’re completely  taking away the parent’s right to make a decision and putting it in the governor’s hand,” Pullen said.

The Board voted 3-2 to remove the mask action item. Pullen and Charles Rittenhouse voted against.

Before recognizing retirees from the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years (see sidebar) the Board heard an earful from citizens during public comments.

A vocal group of about 10, most not wearing masks nor physical distancing, clapped when someone spoke against wearing masks.

Jason Hampshire asked the Board to open graduation (graduates get six family tickets).

“You’re teaching them there’s no freedom in this country..,” he said, adding: “Let people decide for themselves. If you’re scared, stay home. No one wants you here anyway.”

Jennifer Scopelliti said making someone wear a mask affects children’s health, learning and psyche.

“The emotional and psychological warfare you’re inflicting upon them is disgusting,” she said. “…shame on you for continuing this farce. Shame on you for continuing this unimaginable situation.”

Later during the meeting, Superintendent Chuck Winkler said he trusts the high school team who worked on the graduation plans and will not change them.

However, Winkler said if anyone needs extra graduation tickets, they should call the high school and explain their need.

Brenda Gilliam, executive director for instruction and finance, gave an overview of the Fiscal Year 2020 school budget. She anticipates ending the year with about $1 million.  Winkler said he hoped that amount will go back to the county.

Don Stribling, executive director for human resources, operations and student services reported on capital improvement plans that include football field turf replacement in the next year or so.

“The replacement cycle is 10-12 years,” Stribling said.

A discussion followed about the wisdom of having artificial turf. The initial installation was about $1 million. Stribling said replacement will be about the same.

“I don’t know if I can say there is financial return on investment, however there are many times when it  rained, and we’ve been able to have a game immediately after with no delay. You can’t do that with a grass field,” Stribling said.

Winkler said he was hoping to have all lights on solar before he retired (June 30) but it’s not quite there.   “By next school year all should be live,” Winkler said. “We’re already starting to see electric (costs) drop or remain constant in the face of rising costs.”

The school will provide three meals a day, five days a week to any child throughout the summer.  Winkler said schools will also continue providing free Wi-Fi throughout the summer and next year.

The Board voted to make Juneteenth a paid holiday this year for staff.

All Board members thanked Winkler for his service.

Winkler said he will never forget his time in Fluvanna.

“It’s been an honor and a privilege to work with you. I will ever be a FLUCO,” he said. “This is my last ride with you. I implore you to work together. Put aside your political differences to work for students. If you’re going to make a difference for the kids, you need to work together.”


2019-2020 Retirees

Deborah Banks

Teresa Barker

Linda Candea

Angela Carneal

Tom Casto

Brenda Childress

Debra Goldie

Connie Haislip

Jan Hinkle

Margaret Hopkins

Janet Hunter

Deb Kretsos

Janice LeSueur

Edith Magner

Carol O’Dell

Tamara Patrick

Debbie Payne

Horace Scruggs

Sandra Thomas

Lee Woodford


2020-2021 Retirees

Marjorie Chester

Sherron Haley

Linda Harding

Lori Hoffman

Jessica Jackson

Terry Lintecum

Robert Peake

Beverly Proffitt

Michelle Rafaly

Gregory Smieciuch

Ann Stewart

Steven Szarmach

Jocelyn Stevens

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