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One More Snow Day To Make Up

BUCKINGHAM – Although students missed seven days because of wintry weather and icy roads, only one more make-up day, April 22, is scheduled.

During its March meeting, the school board voted to utilize banked hours rather than days to meet the state's attendance requirements.

Prior to the vote, Superintendent Gary Blair explained that one make-up day was held on February 21, and another is scheduled for Friday, April 22.

Addressing the other five days, Blair offered, “Due to the number of hours students attend school, we go way beyond the 990 hours so we have a decision to make.”

He said the five days could be made up during spring break. However, Blair explained that after requesting information from the principals, five of the six schools preferred to use hours and not add days. However, one school requested making up the days later in the year.

“If you do approve that, the additional days would be added on Memorial Day, May 30; and at the end of the school year-June 6, 7, 8, and 9,” stated Blair.

“Last year, there was a lively discussion and the board voted four to three not to make up the days…but to utilize the hours,” reminded Blair.

Pete Gowin led with the motion to utilize hours rather than make-up days. The motion drew a five-to-one vote with Chairman Acie Allen opposing. David Christian was absent.

In the Spotlight

The March meeting launched a new program-Division Spotlight-aimed at showcasing the positives of Buckingham County Public Schools.

Buckingham County High School took center stage for the program's premiere.

Principal Roger Coleman began his presentation by offering, “The high school has its challenges but the high school has its success stories also. He followed with a PowerPoint presentation providing both.

“If I had to pick a title for what you are about to see it would be The Knights Rise because whatever happens, whatever we are going through, the Knights find a way to figure out what's going on and fix it,” shared Coleman.

Framed with various scenes featuring the students, the slides provided statistics showing a school meeting its challenges.

The dropout rate offered a primary example of the success. In 2008, the dropout rate was 18.22; 16.58 percent in 2009; and 10.70 percent in 2010. Likewise, the graduation rate has risen from 69.16 percent in 2008 to 83.01 percent in 2010.

At the conclusion of the slides, Coleman stated, “As you can see there are a lot of smiles, a lot of people enjoying themselves but what you don't see is a lot of hard work that takes place behind the scenes and that comes from a team of people-teachers, administrators, school board. We have all of us working together behind the scenes to make these smiles possible.”

Dr. Blair offered, “Mr. Coleman I appreciate all you have done in the short time you've been here. It's an incredible transformation.”

QSCB Received

In the good news category, Blair said the Virginia Department of Education announced Buckingham would receive $10 million in Qualified School Construction Bonds, QSCB, to help with financing the $25 million renovation and expansion project of the two schools on Route 20.

Blair explained the no-interest bond would save approximately three to four million dollars over the life of the loan. “I think that is outstanding and we are really excited about that,” said the superintendent.

Budgetary Updates

Reviewing updates for the proposed FY12 budget, Blair said the initial estimate of $240,000 in additional state revenue would actually be about $149,650. He explained they would be able to work with the $90,350 decrease by paying some bills in June for FY12. Therefore, the total budget would remain at the $24,574,279.

Blair stated that the school division would still be requesting an increase in local funding of $1,790,514.40. “So that figure did not change,” he added.

Referencing the state revenues, Blair offered, “It's a floating figure and I am sure it will probably continue to change but that is the latest.”

Subsequently, the board approved the changes in the FY12 budget proposal as recommended by the superintendent.

The board also approved recommended updates in its FY11 budget. Blair explained the major change combined lottery and construction categories to align with the county's reporting. He said the changes also include more information on carryover funds.

Policy Revisions Presented

Blair provided information on revisions to the Virginia School Boards Association Policy Manual. As customary, the superintendent said no action would be taken this month but would be on the April agenda.

“Most of these are due to adding legal references,” said Blair as he went over the nine policies.

In his overview, Blair noted that some of the changes update policies to reflect Board of Education regulations and/or Code of Virginia amendments.

According to Blair, Policy KKA, Service Animals in Public Schools, probably has the most changes. Those changes include legal references updated to reflect amendments of federal regulation implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Blair shared that the revisions add miniature horses as service animals. “There is a whole section on miniature horses,” he noted.

Overnight Field Trip Approved

Blair advised the board of an opportunity for eight students to attend a program available through the American Civics Center, April 2 through April 7.

“This is like a trip of a lifetime,” stated Blair. “They will get to meet with important decision makers in D. C.” He added, “I think it would far exceed anything else we could do here.”

Blair said financial assistance was available with four low-income scholarships that cover all expenses, with the exception of transportation, a substitute teacher, and some meals; and four moderate-income scholarships that provide all expenses with the exception of $150 that would be required of each of those students.

The superintendent recommended that the school system pay the $150 for the four moderate-income students.

Principal Coleman shared that Steve McChristian, social studies teacher, brought the opportunity to his attention.

McChristian explained that the students would be provided with tours of D.C.; involved in discussions with journalists and lobbyists; and meet with congressional delegations. “So it's not your typical field trip…This is way above anything we could do.”

According to McChristian, the regular cost for a student to attend would be $1200, which he noted would be out of the question for most Buckingham students.

Vice Chairman Ed Wise asked how they would select the participants. McChristian said they were in the process of getting the information to the students to see who was interested.

Coleman stressed, “With this opportunity, we want to make sure all eight spots are filled.”

Chairman Allen commended McChristian for doing the work to put the trip together.

Thomas Hutcherson asked if the school's activity fund could provide part of the $150.

Coleman said that he felt they would be able to use a portion of the activity fee for those students who had paid it.

In turn, Hutcherson led with a successful motion to approve the field trip with the school board agreeing to fund one-half of the $150 required for the four moderate-income level students.

Blair added that the participating students would follow-up with a presentation on their trip.

Garage Added to GCA Contract

Blair presented two options for adding the new bus garage/maintenance facility to the GCA contract for cleaning.

Cleaning the facility five days a week would carry a monthly increase of $436.50 or $5,238 more annually; cleaning three days a week would be $285.50 per month, increasing the annual cost by $3,426.

Chip Davis, facilities manager, recommended trying the three days per week schedule. Davis said he and Ronnie Palmore, transportation supervisor, felt the best scenario would be on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

“It just depends on the traffic,” said Davis, noting that more and more people are using the facility. “If that doesn't work then we'll ask for the two additional days.” He added, “This is for the offices, restrooms, and conference room. This is not the shops-the technicians and the mechanics will take care of the shops.”

When Hutcherson asked about the people using the facility, Davis explained that county employees with the sheriff's office and other departments were getting fuel at the garage. “Now they are finding out that the facilities are available,” said Davis.

As the discussion ensued, Davis pointed-out that nowhere else in the school division were employees required to take care of their own restrooms.

Kathy Midkiff asked if they could start with two days a week instead of three.

“I don't see it being a five-day a week job,” offered Sherry Ragland.

Wise asked if the cost included any landscaping. Davis responded that it did not include any grounds maintenance. He added, “At some point we may need to negotiate for some more grass-cutting but we are trying not to use very much grass if we can. We are trying to use groundcovers.”

Reiterating the possibility of trying a two-day schedule, Ragland stated, “The main thing is to maintain the bathrooms, collect the trash, and clean the conference room.”

Hutcherson led with a successful motion to revise the GCA contract to include cleaning the bus garage/maintenance facility three days a week.

In Other Action

The board unanimously approved a request from the county's department of recreation for use of a school bus and driver to transport area youth to Washington D. C. to a NBA basketball game. When presenting the request, Blair noted the recreation department would reimburse the school division for the expenses.

School board members voted to extend authorization of Dr. James Dumminger to serve as the superintendent's designee for four more years.

Concurring with the superintendent's recommendation, the board approved Change Order 7 for the renovation and expansion project on Route 20. The change order involves removing and replacing concrete in sections of corridors.

The board also appointed Pete Gowin to serve as alternate in the absence either of the chair or vice chair when a change order for the school renovation project needs the committee's evaluation prior to approval.

Personnel Agenda

Following a closed session, the board approved the personnel agenda as presented.

The agenda included the retirement of Joanne Jones, special education teacher at Buckingham Primary; and, the resignation of Peter Irausquin as assistant coach for JV baseball.

Appointments included Kevin Flippen, assistant coach for JV baseball.

Additionally, the personnel agenda included the appointments of teachers, office assistants, and bus drivers for After School Programs Spring 2011.

The programs will run from March 29 through May 12 on Tuesdays and Thursdays (with the exception of the week during spring break) from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. for primary, elementary, and middle school students; and, from 3:30 to 5:45 p.m. for high school students.

Information included in the board packet notes the program is funded with state remedial monies.