BUCKINGHAM – Following a closed session at the school board's August meeting, Superintendent Gary Blair presented his plan for an administrative reorganization.
He began by expressing his concern with the state of the economy and the country's debt and deficit. Blair shared, “I really had to do some soul-searching and look at where my priorities are for the coming year.”
Quoting Yogi Berra, Blair offered, “The future just ain't what it used to be.” He added, “The future is changing and I do think there is enormous pressure on the states to fund education and an enormous pressure on localities to fund education.”
Continuing, Blair stated, “With my commitment for sound stewardship of public funds, I am recommending some changes.”
His first recommendation was accepting the resignation of John Sylvester, assistant superintendent for technology. Blair explained that when Sylvester was hired, he promised he would stay for three years. “His three years are up and he has other things that he would like to do,” said Blair. “I am honored that he worked with us.”
Blair stated, “I am recommending that we do not fill the assistant superintendent position.” He added, “That we have no assistant superintendent positions-they'll be director positions.”
He explained that Sylvester's former position would now become coordinator of technology.
Addressing the recent resignation of Elaine Duke, principal of Dillwyn Elementary School, Blair said Joan Staton, principal of Buckingham Primary, has also “graciously” agreed to serve as principal of Dillwyn Elementary for this school year.
“I thanked her for her initiative and her stretch factor,” stated Blair, noting that the move would save some administrative money.
Addressing increasing federal and state regulations, mandates, and restrictions placed on the school division, Blair recommended Dr. James Dumminger, who is currently assistant superintendent for finance, become the director of administrative operations.
“Now this leaves a hole in finances,” said Blair. “With this reorganization, we have to do things differently with budgets.”
He asked the board for permission to hire an independent school finance consultant, Paul Imig. Blair explained the consultant would do three things. First, he would develop a three-year history of the division's expenditures and revenues.
Next, he would develop a much more current and up-to-date procedural manual for the budget.
“When money is tight, we don't circle the wagons, we become even more focused and more committed,” said Blair. “I know the board wants for everybody to know where the money goes. So we want to build the budget next year from the ground level…”
The third thing, said Blair, would be looking at updating the division's antiquated accounting system.
Subsequently, the board, with a motion by Pete Gowin, authorized the superintendent to hire the consultant with the provision that there be a price cap of $6,700.
After the meeting, Blair explained that he felt now was the time to really look at the division's financial picture.
“We are all generalists here-I need an expert to give us a trend analysis,” said Blair. “We need to know if we are going in the right direction-we know we are gong to have to cut expenses again.”
He said the procedure manual would be something everybody could follow. “School finances are tough stuff,” stated Blair. “And, I want this to be such an open process that the citizens, the employees, the school board, and supervisors all understand what we are doing.”
Blair said that once he gets all the information from Imig, he would decide on his recommendation regarding a finance officer.
Offering that he thinks reorganization adds renewed vigor. Blair concluded, “You preserve what works but then you enhance where you need to.”
Donna Matthews, director of academic services, provided an overview of what she described as her “hand-counted” unofficial and preliminary SOL scores from the 2010-11 school year.
She prefaced the presentation by reminding that the small school effect is always in play; and, each year the respective scores represent a different group of children.
In English/RLR, third graders at Buckingham Primary went from 95.45 in 2009-10 to 87.75 in 2010-11; in math, from 97.73 to 93.75; history, from 97.73 to 91.66; and in science from 100 in to 95.92.
Third graders at Dillwyn Primary went from 86.44 in English/RLR in 2009-10 to 80.30 in 2010-11; math increased from 91.29 to 95.31; history went from 86.44 to 86.15; and science went from 84.75 to 80.00.
At Gold Hill, third graders scored 95.24 in 2009-10 and 87.09 in 2010-11; math went from 100 to 93.55; history from 100 to 90.32; and science from 95 to 93.75.
However, Gold Hill scores for fourth graders increased across the board with English/RLR going from 75 to 82.35; math from 91.30 to 94.44; and history from 87.50 to 100. Conversely, fifth graders scored 77.77 in writing in 2009-10 and 56.00 in 2010-11; English went from 95.45 to 75; math from 92.86 to 80.76; and science from 92.86 to 84.
Dillwyn Elementary fourth graders scored 88.54 in Eng RLR in 2009-10 and 85.29 in 2010-11; math went from 95.79 to 84.53; and history dropped from 91.49 to 86.73. Fifth graders scored 91.07 in writing in 2009-10 and 79.59 in 2010-11. English RLR scores increased from 86.66 to 91.08; math went from 97.58 to 91.91; and science from 94.64 to 90.63.
Buckingham Middle School sixth grade scores went from 88.08 to 88.41 in English RLR, math dropped from 78.91 to 70.15; and history increased from 88.36 to 89.55. Grade 7 scores rose from 89.33 in English RLR to 90.91; math, from 80 to 84.78; pre-algebra 7 stayed at 100; and history scores increased from 89.79 to 97.16.
Grade eight scores in writing went from 96.89 to 86.76; English RLR increased from 91.97 to 95.65; pre-algebra dropped from 96.91 to 91.58; algebra stayed at 100; science rose from 97.74 to 99.22; and history scores went from 93.75 to 100.
Buckingham County High School scores indicate writing rose from 90.38 to 92.50; English went from 89.89 to 82.14; grade 8 RLR modified stayed at 100; algebra I went from 93.10 to 93.05; geometry from 89.23 to 92.17; algebra II increased from 90.63 to 97.30; earth science increased from 82.05 to 85.30; biology from 84.48 to 85.17; and chemistry from 88.46 to 96.06. U. S. History scores decreased from 93.26 in 2009-10 to 74.82 in 2010-11; World History I dropped from 86.93 to 70.13; and World History II from 98.66 to 88.30.
Matthews noted that the history SOL test was changed for the 2010-11 school year.
“Our principals are now going back through the data to come up with their improvement plans,” said Matthews.
According to Matthews, this school year, the math SOL test will change. She said they were already gearing up to do a lot of staff development for math and would be working with other schools in Region 8 in preparation for those changes.
“All of the tests are getting more complex,” she offered. “We have to learn how to write those kinds of questions to help children to see if they can give us the answers. So it's a learning curve for us, too,” stated Matthews.
She added that they would be hearing about AYP and accreditation soon and would then report that information to the board.
Angela Patterson-Jones, J. B. Heslip, and Patti Branch reported on the division's summer programs.
Over the last several years, Jones and Heslip have alternated as principal of the summer programs. This year Jones was at the helm.
She said the programs began on July 5 and ran through July 28. Classes were held Mondays through Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The programs included the Remedial Summer School for grades K through 8 with an enrollment of 200 students; High School Project Graduation, which offered Biology, Earth Science, EOC Reading/Writing, and World History, with 21 students; and High School Credit Classes for English 9/10, Honors English 10; Apex Computerized Instruction including Algebra I and II B, Geometry B, Earth Science, US and Virginia History, and World History to 1500, for 23 students.
Additionally, the Summer 21st Century for Dillwyn Primary provided remediation and enrichment classes to a total of 149 students.
Moreover, eight students from Buckingham attended the Summer Longwood TAG Camp.
Jones described the month as an exciting and awesome time that moved smoothly and proved successful for most of the students. “We had a great time, we really did,” shared Jones
Heslip said the coordinated effort yielded a great summer school. “It's a great part of my job,” he stated.
Patti Branch, a business teacher at the Career and Technical Education Center who was serving as an intern in conjunction with requirements for completing her master's degree, thanked administrators for letting her be part of the summer programs. She expressed her deepest appreciation to Jones and Heslip.
“It was a great opportunity for me, a great learning experience. I can't think of a better way to end my master's program than right there at summer school with them,” said Branch, noting that it was definitely different on the administrative side of the fence.
After the report, Thomas Hutcherson complimented the summer programs team. “I like the idea of all of the schools working together in one place-different faculty members working with different age groups,” he shared.
Athletic Director Missy Shores introduced three outstanding BCHS athletes-two who graduated in June and one who is beginning his junior year.
Calling Maurice Taylor to the podium, Shores said he will be attending Virginia Tech and will be on its football team.
“Maurice represented us at the Virginia High Schools Coaches Association All-Star football game this summer in Hampton,” shared Shores. “I've been privileged to know him. He is an incredible young man and showed an incredible amount of leadership on the field.”
Next to the podium was recent graduate Michael Layman. Shores said Layman traveled to the Dominican Republic in July and participated in the Baseball without Borders program on a scholarship provided by the Dave Matthews Band.
“He played at the Texas Rangers' Baseball Academy against their academy team and some of the other professional ones,” shared Shores, adding that Michael was the first student from Buckingham to participate in the program.
According to Shores, the coordinator of the program said Laymen did a great job on and off the field and interacted well with the other players.
Shores shared, “I really want to express my appreciation to Michael for representing us so well over there and doing such a nice job.”
She presented both Taylor and Layman with framed photographs of them in their BCHS team uniforms.
Camre Johnson, a rising junior, was recognized for being selected as the Region B representative on the Student Action Team for the Virginia High School League. “He will be representing 32 schools,” said Shores.
Johnson said that as a member of the Student Action Team is expected to build better student awareness in the VHSL and its activities. “Also, as a member of the SAT, I am expected to promote participation, sportsmanship, community building, service, positive values, teamwork, and healthy lifestyles,” he shared.
“I plan to promote positive attitudes among all athletes and at sporting events,” said Johnson, adding that he recently attended a retreat that brought much attention to the issues students face everyday. “I plan to use these ideas for the betterment of our students and our student athletes,” he stated.
Superintendent Blair told the young athletes, “You honor us. You honor Buckingham with what you have done.” He continued, “More importantly, you brought honor to yourself and your family.” Blair added, “You are incredible people first and then you are wonderful athletes. Thanks for all you do and thank your family. And keep the Knight spirit alive.”
Concurring with the superintendent's recommendation, the board agreed to stay with Coventry Southern Health as the school division's health insurance carrier.
The board approved the consent agenda as presented. Included were minutes of the June 8 and 29 meetings, bills, and building and grounds requests; and out of zone requests.
School board members also approved six change orders for the elementary school renovation and expansion project.
Before the vote, Blair explained that once the change orders are validated by the architects, they go to “the critical eye of Mr. Ivan Davis.” He praised Davis for his scrutiny and efficiency in dealing with the change orders.
Blair said he and Davis then discuss the change orders before calling in Chairman Acie Allen and Vice Chair Ed Wise. “Then it comes to the board. So these are not a whim. We don't think that they are an option,” stated Blair, noting that the cost of the change orders is approximately $17,421. He added, “We do feel like these are necessary.”
Allen added his praise for the way Davis is handling change orders and noted that in most instances he has been able to negotiate a much lower price than initially indicated. “Thank you Chip,” said Allen.
Agreeing with the superintendent's recommendation, the board approved revisions to the maintenance and transportation uniform contract at an additional cost of approximately $500.
In a unanimous vote, the board voted to revise the division's crisis intervention plan. Thelma Llewellyn, director of student services, explained that the revisions were minor and did not involve procedural changes but were mostly revisions in personnel and contact information.
In conjunction with the Route 20 construction project, the board agreed to ask the board of supervisors to request VDOT abandon Frank Harris Road until it can be modified with two loops and then re-entered into the state's secondary road system.
According to information provided on Friday, August 19, the school board is calling a special meeting on Thursday, September 1, at 2 p.m., in the basement conference room of the school board office. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss personnel matters in closed session.