School budget passed after parents rail against the Board

By Ruthann Carr

After listening to vitriol about a moot mask mandate issue, the Fluvanna County School Board passed a fiscal year 2023 budget Thursday (Feb.10).

The nearly $52 million budget ($51,983,078) includes:

5 percent compensation increase for all employees;

7 percent compensation increase for the lower-paid salary scales;

Absorbing the roughly 6 percent health insurance rate increase;

Moving teachers currently paid on Salary Scale B to Salary Scale A; eliminating Scale B;

One more school counselor at the high school;

One more school counselor at Carysbrook;

Additional nurse at the high school;

A part-time ESL (English as Second Language) teacher, division-wide.

On Feb. 16 the School Board and Superintendent Peter Gretz will present the budget to the Board of Supervisors and ask the county to give them close to $20 million ($19,727,761); about 42 percent of the total budget.

The state provides more funding at 52 percent. The rest of the money comes from federal and other local sources. 

Public Comments

When the night’s agenda was published days before Thursday’s meeting, it included this action item: “Approval of Action in Acknowledgment of Circuit Court Injunction Giving Senate Bill 1303 Precedence Over Recent Executive Order #2,” a confusing sentence asking to revisit the recently lifted mask mandate.

At the beginning of the meeting the Board voted to remove the item from the agenda – meaning they would not make any changes to their Feb. 2 vote to lift the mandate and stop contact tracing.

However, that didn’t stop the more than 30 assembled from making masks the subject of their public comments.

First, several speakers pushed against the public comment rule of giving their address. 

About 10 teachers stood behind Lauren Reed (who gave Central Elementary’s address as her own). 

“I am speaking on behalf of many teachers,” Reed said. “Please stop playing politics. Stop injecting unwanted chaos into the classroom. The School Board hasn’t listened to what the majority in the community asked for. We are tired of dealing with the School Board’s impulsive decision making, of being jerked around…of not being heard. You are stealing the joy of teaching. We are here to protect our joy – to protect our students.”

Danny Reed (who gave the sheriff’s department as his address) said the teachers should be excited about getting a raise but instead they came to let the Board know the Board is robbing them of the joy of teaching. 

“You just keep poking the bear and the teachers finally stood up,” Reed said. “Board, you have bullied this community for way too long.”

When Maria Clark got up to speak, she said she lived in Lake Monticello. Clark said she didn’t want to give her exact address in front of everyone and all who were listening on social media. 

Kelley said it was the Board’s policy. 

Danny Reed yelled out, “Do you want the sheriff’s address because that’s what I gave.”

Brittany Gray said: “There is a lot of talk about a recall right now. We’re looking for legal guidance. We want the right people on the Board…as loud and proud as we’ve been about coming against certain Board members, that’s how much we’ll back those that support us.” 

“If this many people don’t want certain members on the board, then leave,” Gray said.

Katie Brown said: “We the parents are sick of it (changes in mitigation policies). You are harming our children. Quit going back and forth with your policies. I’m sick of it. Just like you are taking the joy from the teachers, you are taking the joy from the students.” 

Both teacher Darrell Baughan and parent Jennifer Scopelliti said they believed if a person didn’t have children, they shouldn’t be allowed to or are qualified to serve on the School Board. 

When Scopelliti’s three minutes were up, the chair thanked her and said her time was up, she insisted on finishing. Kelley once again tried to move on and Scopelliti screamed, “You don’t have children, Mr. Kelley, so you don’t know.”

A regular school board meeting attendee and former teacher Jessica Jackson said she was troubled by what she heard from some of the people. 

“You keep talking about children and what’s best for them,” Jackson said. “I don’t think it’s best for children to see their parents come up here and be disrespectful and cast blame when I think the blame goes both ways.” 

Ashlyn Thayer, a high school senior, said she’d rather not attend school with unmasked students and teachers.

“I come to school every day with the fear I could catch COVID from my unmasked peers,” Thayer said. “We should prioritize health and safety over a minor frustration.”

Two other students spoke in favor of a mask mandate.

As soon as public comments closed, all but two or three in the crowd left. 

Gretz said February is designated as School Board Appreciation month. 

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