Road Eyed In PE

Published 4:30 pm Tuesday, September 28, 2010

PRINCE EDWARD – Would an alternate State Rt. 628 benefit the County schools?

School board members discussed putting in their two cents on a proposal at their September meeting, and may ask County Supervisors for their support in building the road even if the proposed Granite Falls hotel, conference center and training center that the proposed new road would provide access to, is not constructed.

“…My concern has to do with the traffic load on Zion Hill Road, especially morning and afternoon school traffic, but wanting to alleviate that pressure by giving traffic an alternate way out from that end of our property,” Division Superintendent Dr. David Smith told school board members. “And, it could really greatly enhance…the safety on the road out here.”

Email newsletter signup

The planned road would roughly intersect U.S. Rt. 15 south across from the existing traffic light at the County's business park and connect into Zion Hill Road (Rt. 628) just beyond the bus garage.

The road is planned to allow access to the proposed Granite Falls project and would offer an alternate to the existing road where traffic flows through the school's campus.

If the road is built, it is yet to be determined whether the existing road would dead-end just beyond the schools and force the flow of traffic onto the planned alternate access road.

School board members took no action-it was presented as a non-action item-and could weigh input on the project in an upcoming meeting.

AYP Report

School board members were presented a detailed report on SOL performance in August and it was expected that in each school at least one sub-group would not meet federal Adequate Yearly Progress benchmarks.

Those results were confirmed.

“The state has released the official report in mid-August and basically confirmed what we had presented to you. At least one or more subgroups in each one of the schools did not make AYP,” Director of Accountability, Assessment and Technology Dr. Roy Echeverria said.

The elementary school, Director of Curriculum and Instruction Laura Williamson cited, enters the first year of school improvement in reading. The middle school enters the first year in school improvement in math; and the high school enters year one in school improvement in math.

Ms. Williamson cited that the No Child Left Behind Act requires that Title I schools in year one of school improvement offer public school choice.

Letters were sent to area superintendents that had one or more schools that did make AYP to request that they accept students who might be interested in transferring.

“Responses indicate that no school division is able to accept (transfers) and therefore we go to step two in the services that are offered, and that is to provide supplemental educational services to eligible students,” Ms. Williamson said.

A letter dated August 30 was sent to parents outlining that the schools are fully state accredited, but did not make AYP. Parents from the elementary and middle schools do not have the option of transferring their child to another school in the division and no local school divisions are available to accept transfers.

The letter also cites that to address the problem of low achievement, an array of after-school and Saturday programs in core content areas will be offered throughout the school year.

“The school division is committed to helping the schools increase student achievement and will provide resources, personnel and data analysis support,” the letter reads.

Low income students receive priority for supplemental educational services; parents will be able to select appropriate services for their child from a list of state-approved providers. School officials are identifying service providers and a parent fair will be held at the elementary and middle schools where parents can meet the providers and select a tutor for their child. (The elementary fair has been scheduled for September 29 from 5-6:30 p.m. and school officials are working to set the middle school fair the same week.) Invitation letters will be sent to parents of all eligible students.

After-school tutoring with the supplemental service providers is expected to span October through November and February through March. Students would be able to ride activity buses home.

School board members did not break down the AYP report, but were expected to be presented information at their retreat (held September 11).

Energy Report

School board members were presented with a report on the effectiveness of energy conservation efforts. The school board is utilizing the services of Energy Educators to save in costs.

Energy savings reported to date totaled $35,876 from March through July.

Comparisons were offered on costs using a baseline, expected costs and actual costs for electric, heating oil and costs. Savings reported included 427,500 kWh of electricity and 453 gallons of heating oil.

School board chairman Russell Dove asked about the process and how the school board verifies the numbers are correct.

Among the areas highlighted is that a software package, purchased by the school is provided by a third party company and that it's a third-party process crunching the numbers. Data is collected from utility billing the school receives.

The software takes raw numbers and factors such things as the differences in weather, billing period from month to month, and adjustments in square footage.

Turnaround News

Dr. Jean Murray, coach and turnaround representative for the high school, was introduced at the meeting. She is the Virginia Department of Education state facilitator and will facilitate the partnership between the schools and Cambridge Educators.

“…As a facilitator for the transformation process, I'll be working within the school division and with Cambridge to make sure that we're doing what the school board identified as the transformation model that you were most interested in implementing,” Ms. Murray said. “And I bring with me the support of the Virginia Department of Education.”

School Board member Dr. Ellery Sedgwick asked about what the school board's role can be in it, citing, among other things, budgetary priorities.

Dr. Murray offered that as they begin the budget process, their internal lead partner would be the person to work with them and Dr. Smith to make sure that they are shepherding the appropriate resources.

“People, money, time, not just money, but people, money, time, towards the turnaround process and the transformation process that needs to take place at the high school,” Dr. Murray said. “Because our goal and your goal, of course, is student achievement, and we want to make sure that everything that we need to make that process happen is in place.”

This year, she assessed, is kind of a planning year budget year. The contract with Cambridge is for three years.

School officials noted that they had an award letter for grant funds for the school turnaround. The school is set to receive $499,586. School board members agreed to seek appropriation from County supervisors for the funds.

In Other News…

*The board agreed to allow New Horizons Academy students to attend the Youth Empowerment Center after school. Though not required to participate, alternative education students would be provided transportation to the Center; student pickup would be the responsibility of the family.

“…As of yesterday, we had no students who have yet expressed an interest in going, but we'll continue to make the offer to the students…,” Dr. Smith said.

Last year, students participated in the program as part of the school day.

*The school board approved a diesel fuel contract with Southern States Petroleum for the school year. The school division, which has entered in a consortium with four surrounding school divisions, committed to purchasing 75,000 gallons of fuel at the fixed price of $2.325 per gallon.

*Prince Edward, for the second consecutive year, has received federal grant funds for the fresh fruit and vegetable program. The $71,104.37 is expected to provide access to fresh fruits and vegetables and nutrition education at the elementary school.

School board members agreed to request supervisors to appropriate the funds, allowing the monies to be spent.

*Director of Support Services Richard Goode reported that they have contacted a local contractor and made some minor repairs on the greenhouse-looking to replace some glass that is cracked and a mechanism that lets in or releases heat and some non-working units that reduce humidity inside the building.

It was estimated that about 80 pieces of glass need to be replaced, costing about $6,000. The mechanism in the top was projected at $800 (glass will be replaced with plexiglass); there was no cost projection available for the units that reduce humidity.

*It was reported that flu shots are being made available to employees on a scheduled early dismissal day. Employees enrolled in the Anthem health insurance can receive the vaccination at no cost; those not enrolled would have to chip in the cost.

*The school board was presented with budget plans for the federal AARA-IDEA funds. The school received $730,755 in funding and $24,608 preschool AARA IDEA funds. The school board in the 2009-10 school year agreed to expend half of the funds by September 2010.

A proposed budget presented to the school board included $96,000 in personnel costs, which provides stipends for teachers to attend staff development programs and inclusion classroom support at the elementary and middle schools; $25,000 in materials to provide instructional materials to enhance student academic success; $155,000 to provide technology and assistive technology support to promote student achievement; $89,377.50 for a special needs small bus for transporting students with disabilities and equipment necessary for occupational therapy services.

Expenditures for 2010-11 total $365,377.50.

*Board members were presented with information on plans to distribute surplus computers to randomly-selected students meeting certain criteria. The project is expected to be completed by mid-November.

*Dr. Echeverria presented an update on technology upgrades. It was reported the entire division has been rewired (with the exception of a few spots), have changed cables from category five to category six in the three schools, created a one-to-one PC to switch connection at the classroom level, and replaced existing switches using higher speed switches increasing speed.

The school division is expected to have the capability to change the telephone system to voice-over IP with the improvements. Upgrades have also allowed the school division to offer wireless WI-FI to the division (which is encrypted). Security improvements were also cited. It was also reported that 95 percent of classroom computers that were out of warranty and had limited memory and processing capability have been changed to thin clients (which are essentially terminals that connect directly to a server). That, it was cited, also increases reliability and speed and use less power to operate and are better protected against viruses. Using thin clients with WI-FI, they can also create mobile labs.

Yet to be completed: adding a generator, virtualization, and training and recruitment of technology staff.

Other technology efforts included adding 56 promethean boards and installing them throughout the division, and six carts with 25 thin client laptops (the goal is to have them operational before the first benchmarks are administered September 23).

*The school board discussed the process of selecting committees. The board was presented with lists of willing participants by staff or appointment, but Dr. Sedgwick highlighted that the board's policy outlines that the staff would develop lists, which would be shared with the board in closed session, voted on in August in time to be ready to go in October.

That process would allow the board to have more input.

While apparently little can be done at this point, he encouraged that the process be followed in the future. The issue was expected to be discussed at the board's retreat.