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PE To Replace HVAC Unit

PRINCE EDWARD – County school officials need to replace an HVAC unit at the middle school and it could cost up to $150,000.

School board members met September 7 and agreed to seek the additional funds from the County, possibly tapping unspent monies from the school budget the previous year that were returned to the County.

“The unit to be replaced is 21 years old,” reported Finance Director Cindy Wahrman. “The life expectancy is 15 to 18.”

Just in June, she cited, they spent a little over $4,700 to repair the unit to make sure it was ready for graduation. She noted that the compressor and some other pieces are no longer working and that it is in need of replacement.

The board, following some discussion, put in a request for funding from the County not to exceed $150,000.

“We anticipate the actual expenditure, including installation, will come in below that, of course, but we need to allow enough room in there for any fluctuations in the bidding process,” Division Superintendent Dr. David Smith said.

Dr. Smith said that the county administrator suggested that they send a letter early in the process instead of going through the bidding process and then seeking funding. Bartlett, he also cited, has made the board of supervisors aware the request will be coming.

Dr. Smith said his suggestion to the county administrator was that this was an opportunity to draw from the escrowed funds from several years ago that the County is still holding.

School Board Chairman Russell Dove asked if there were other units 21 years old. Director of Support Services Richard Goode told the board that there were other units close to it and that they have asked for help from a firm in getting the dates of units that are on top of the three schools so they can get a report for them and try to do an improvement plan in years to come and project costs for replacing the units.

Supervisors, meeting September 14, approved a Budget amendment, transferring funds from the general fund balance to the schools. After approval, Supervisor Howard Simpson suggested that they should wait to get the bids and then appropriate the money.

Security Hardware

Goode detailed that they had some trouble with an electrical storm and that two DVRs were damaged. The two were sent out for repair. Damaged key fobs were also replaced.

Goode also reported that additional cameras are being added to the security system at the high school. (A parent had raised concerns at the previous school board meeting.)

Goode noted that students seem to know the spots they don't have cameras and that they have to continue to change their security. In addition, he cited, since they moved the alternative school to Building H, they would be adding security cameras there as well.

High School Turnaround

High School Turnaround Lead Partner Michelle Hairston, presenting an update on the turnaround effort, reported that they are in the process of conducting the School Quality Review. Parents and students will be surveyed as part of the process. The principal must also conduct a self-evaluation, and it was noted a team of two from Cambridge were to visit the school and conduct the SQR, spending two days at the high school. They were also to meet with students, the principal, leadership team, observe a grade level or a content meeting, do a student focus group and bring a group of parents together, and review high school data.

A first draft of the report is expected to be at the school no later than September 23, and a final report to the superintendent October 3 with Cambridge reporting to the school board at their October 5 meeting.

A similar review was conducted last year, but much later in the school year.

Energy Report

Jacob Morgan, Energy Education Specialist for the school and a representative from Energy Educators firm, presented an update on the program that aims to save costs.

The gross savings (March 2010 to July 2011) was reported at $195,410 (including heating oil) and that the total cut in energy costs since March 2011 is 22.2 percent. The total electricity savings of 19.24 percent is close to the 20 percent goal.

Still, the program costs and some board members expressed an interest in when there would be a savings.

SOL News

Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction Laura Williamson gave a presentation on Standards of Learning testing changes. Revised standards included increased application, critical thinking and higher order processing skills. School board members were presented with examples of sixth grade math.

New standards have been adopted by the Virginia Department of Education and the State Board of Education and SOL testing changes are based on new standards. History and Social Studies changed in 2008 and children were tested this past year. The content was much the same, it was detailed, but the expectation for students in terms of higher level thinking had increased.

The math standards changed in 2009 and students will be tested this year. English and science standards were revised in 2010 and students will be tested in the 2012-13 school year.

“Now the Department of Education is very helpful in providing the resources for us to use and we go through a very rigorous process in terms of aligning our instruction material with the state standards,” Ms. Williamson said.

Teachers are expected to work on curriculum alignment, use assessment development (benchmark, classroom), professional development, vertical articulation and intervention. Students are expected to practice the level of thinking, use the standards and discuss results.

In Other News…

*The board discussed early student numbers and, while there will still need to be some clarification, the K-12 membership (the figures used to factor a portion of state funding) apparently is continuing to slide at 2,294. If the August figure holds into the school year, it would be the lowest number of students in recent memory. (A school chart only dates to the 1992-93 school year.) Last year's August figure was 2,409; the school ended the year with 2,356.

Still, as often noted, numbers tend to rise after Labor Day.

*The school board agreed to increase the pay for substitute teachers, clerical, aides or nurses for the year. It was noted that the work day has increased from seven-and-a-half hours to eight hours and that the daily substitute rates for those with an associate's degree or those with a high school diploma did not meet minimum wage requirements.

The rate will increase across the board for those with a degree from an accredited college and a state teaching certificate from $66.20 to $70.64; goes from $60.69 to $64.72 for those with a bachelor's degree from an accredited college; increases from $57.37 to $61.20 for those with an associate's degree, and is upped from $54.38 to $58 for those with a high school diploma/GED. (Longer-term substitute teachers receive additional compensation.)

*School Board member Darin Thomas asked about the cost for purchased pizza and asked whether staff could make pizza; it was reported that it is an opportunity for students to have another choice. The fast-food lines were reduced and eliminated and were just brought back. It was believed students could make the purchase every other Friday.

*Flu shot vaccinations were to be made available to school staff on September 21 (and would be covered for those enrolled in the insurance program).

*It was reported that the fixed price bid from Southern States Co-Op Inc. of Amelia was accepted by the superintendent. The heating oil fixed price is $3.153 per gallon, diesel fuel 3.121 per gallon, and unleaded gasoline $2.949 per gallon.

The estimated total cost is $440,226.

*Each of the three principals presented a report on school opening and discussed preparations for the new school year.