School Board wrestles with VSBA membership

By Heather Michon

This month’s meeting of the Fluvanna County School Board touched on many different topics, but none quite as charged as the discussion around continued membership in the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA).

VSBA is a membership organization for school boards around the Commonwealth. Among its activities are professional and leadership development for school board members and advocacy for public education policy on the state level. 

It also provides professional services for school boards, including the writing of model school policies, conducting policy reviews, and other legal services. These services can relieve small school districts of considerable time and legal costs when it comes to policy-setting.

With the 2023-2024 membership dues of $6,737 coming due, board members wrestled with some of their individual issues with the organization at several points in the evening, even before the invoice came up for a vote.

Andrew Pullen (Columbia) has been the most vocal critic of VSBA during his tenure on the board, calling it a “lobbying organization” paid for by the taxpayers through the use of school funds. He made it clear from the start that he would not vote in favor of continued membership.

Superintendent Peter Gretz said the school board certainly had the option of moving policy matters to the school’s legal counsel, but it would come at a cost many times higher than VSBA dues.

Perrie Johnson (Fork Union) said the cost-savings provided by membership meant that VSBA essentially has them “over a barrel” when it comes to finding alternatives outside the organization. When it came time to make the motion to approve the payment, she did so “with reservations.” 

“I think it is fiscally reckless not to have this service available,” said Chair James Kelley (Palmyra). Earlier in the meeting, he tried to find board consensus to ask staff to look into VSBA alternatives for the following year but failed to win a majority.

“It’s either this, or we’re really in the wind here,” he added.

The motion to renew their membership in VSBA passed on a vote of 3-2, with Charles Rittenhouse (Cunningham) voting with Pullen again the motion, and Andre Key (Rivanna) voting with Kelley and Johnson to approve.


Unanimously approved in favor of renewing Gretz’s contract as superintendent for another four years.

Board members’ voted 4-1 to hold  salaries at the current rates of $8,139 for the chair and $6,680 for regular members. By law, changes to board salaries can be made in an election year when two or more seats are up for election and take effect on Jan. 1 of the next year. Rates must be approved by June 30. Pullen voted against the measure, saying he did not oppose holding the salaries at the current levels, but as a matter of principle didn’t like that the public had no time to comment.

Members also received a presentation from a representative from the architectural firm of Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates, which will be conducting a survey of the Abrams Academy on Central Plains Road. The Abrams School was built in 1936 as Fluvanna’s first high school for black students during the long era of school segregation and as an integrated school and administrative building since the 1960s. Following a study of the structure and the school district’s current needs for educational space, the firm hopes to submit a list of recommendations in November.             

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