Budget A Fiscal Cliffhanger

Published 4:16 pm Tuesday, November 27, 2012

CUMBERLAND – The Cumberland County School Board continues to prepare for “budget season,” as Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Chip Jones likes to call it. During his 2013-2014 Budget Outlook, Jones announced an expected reduction of $86,000 in state funding and an expected increase in need of $248,694. He also reported that if sequestration goes into effect January 1, 2013, the school division is projected to loose an estimated $72,300 in federal funding.

A resolution on sequestration was approved during the board's November meeting. The board also accepted a new duty as the coordinating agency for a local consortium focused on English language learners and immigrant students.

Decreased Funding

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At the beginning of his presentation, Jones stressed that all numbers were preliminary and state funding is difficult to forecast because the Governor's budget will not be released until December 17.

However, because projected enrollment is expected to go down for the next school year, a reduction in state funding is almost certain. Currently, 1,317 students attend Cumberland Public Schools, 15 less students than were projected. Jones is planning for 1,311 for next year. The projected reduction in enrollment and preliminary state budget estimates forecast a $86,000 decrease in state funding.

The sequestration resolution which was suggested by the Virginia School Board Association (VSBA) and introduced by Chairman Ginger Sanderson, District One, referenced the possibility of federal funding being cut by 8.2 percent in January as provided by the Budget Control Act of 2011. The resolution encouraged “congress and the administration to amend the Budget Control Act to mitigate the drastic cuts to education…” and was approved unanimously by the school board.

If sequestration goes into effect on January 1, 2013, Jones stated that it would not impact the current year's budget, but would reduce federal funding by $73,000 for the 2013-2014 year budget. The area that would be most impacted is the pre-kindergarten program, which would be reduced by $35,000.

George Lee Dowdy III, District Two, stated, “Based on these federal numbers, we are talking about three positions, possibly.”

Jones responded in the affirmative, noting that with Title I, the majority of the funds go to personnel.

Increased Need

According to Jones, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Amy Griffin has requested that a step for those employees who are eligible for them be awarded in the upcoming year. Steps are not across the board raises for staff members, but scheduled pay increases that are based on salary level and number of years of experience. Staff members in Cumberland have not been awarded their scheduled steps for the past two years.

Awarding steps will increase the division's need by $169,294.

Although the Virginia Retirement System rate is not expected to increase this year, and will therefore not affect the budget being discussed, Jones reported that it is expected to increase by five percent every two years over the course of the next ten years, adding, “It will be costly to a school division.”

Jones also projected an almost $80,000 increase in health insurance costs for employees for the upcoming school year.

Jones stated that the school has not begun its talks with the county government yet regarding the school budget. However, he expects to be approached about the preliminary amounts the school will be requesting within the next month.

During the December Board of Supervisors meeting, supervisors will also be given time to comment on the school budget while it is still being developed.

Community Outreach Meetings

Three community outreach meetings are scheduled for the end of November with discussion revolving around the budget, 21st Century Learning and the Bring Your Own Device Initiative. Dr. Griffin encouraged anyone with input on the school budget to attend one of the meetings.

They will be held November 27 at the Randolph Fire and Rescue Building, November 28 at the Cumberland Middle School Media Center and November 29 at the Cartersville Rescue Squad Building. All three meetings will begin at 7 p.m.

The Board of Supervisor meeting on December 11 is also scheduled to be a time when public comment can provide room for citizen input before budget development.


Halifax had been the coordinating agency for Title III, Part A, Language Instruction for Limited English Proficient and Immigrant Students funds in the region. However, according to Jones, Halifax has asked Cumberland to become the lead school division for the consortium. Dr. Amy Griffin asked the board for “permission to submit this grant for the consortium.”

The consortium includes Cumberland, Halifax, Charlotte, Appomattox, Greensville, Nottoway, Lunenburg and Isle of Wight. These divisions are grouped as a consortium because they all have a limited number of English language learners in their individual systems. Funds are used to purchase materials for staff members providing tutorial services which focus on reading, language arts and math.

Dowdy moved to accept “this responsibility.” The board unanimously approved the application for funds.

Updated Comprehensive Plan and Policies

An updated Comprehensive Plan and revised policies were given to school board members as a first read before action is taken on them in the upcoming months.

The Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee added the three new goals that the school board had created for the division. Gang awareness was also added as a new component, according to Dr. Griffin.

Dr. Griffin reported that the policy revisions involved the addition of some types of harassment and some grammatical changes. The board will vote on the policy updates and revisions next month.

Professional Development Update

Dr. Griffin reported that The 21st Century Learning Committee has been working to differentiate professional development opportunities for teachers, because just like students “they, too, are at all different levels when they teach.”

Two optional workshops were created for the school year. An October workshop on project-based learning was geared for master teachers who were ready to move ahead in their teaching methodology. The second workshop, a review of conversational tools, will be offered in March and is a review of materials for those teachers who feel they need more support.

A group of middle and high school teachers attended a Mathematics Design Collaborative this past month in Atlanta, GA, put on by The Southern Regional Education Board, which focused on how to do high-level math problems with students.

Cumberland will also be hosting the Literacy Design Collaborative put on by the same organization. Powhatan and Pittsylvania County schools have been invited to attend the eight sessions, which will be offered throughout the school year. The training will focus on how to incorporate college and career-ready literacy into all classrooms.

Cumberland's involvement in both the Mathematics and Literacy Design Collaboratives were funded by a High Schools That Work Grant.

Dr. Griffin also gave a short report on each of the schools' individual professional development activities.

Self-Evaluations For School Board Members

Sanderson summarized the self-evaluation surveys she had received from school board members during the November meeting. Board members reported feeling confident in the areas of public image, the amount of public input offered, the superintendent and their relationship with her.

Sanderson added that the well being of students appeared as a priority on all the evaluations, adding “I was very proud that we put our students first and that's where our heart should be. And our staff is, of course, right along with that.”

Sanderson reported that the board wanted to work on increasing their visibility in the community, keeping-up with current topics in education and encouraging more public input during the development of the budget.


The Virginia School Board Association held its annual convention November 14-16 in Williamsburg. George Reid Jr., District Four, was the board's delegate to the convention and voted during legislative sessions.

Dr. Griffin welcomed the board to express feedback to Reid as he went to vote for the district, particularly regarding the issue of nonpublic school students participating in Virginia High School League activities, and the proposed VSBA bylaw changes. She stated that the VSBA is recommending that a study be completed before any additional legislation is passed on the Virginia High School League. Dowdy, who attended a breakout session on the topic last year, commented that it was a very complex issue with lots of liability and policy concerns and “something I don't agree with.”

The entire board attended the convention, along with student liaison Mason Dukes. Sanderson expressed her excitement to “take advantage of every single opportunity to learn, to bring back and to better help our school system here in Cumberland.”

21st Century Learning Highlights

Students from Stephanie Hammond's second grade class presented economic lessons they had learned while pretending to be stranded on a desert island. Groups of students chose from a list of ten real-world desert islands and gathered information online about their choice.

Students discussed the differences between “want” and “need” and traded with each other during a simulated market day. They also completed journal entries, read an appropriately themed book together and even built model shelters as part of the project. Learning objectives were centered on essential knowledge needed for three Standards of Learning goals.

William “Ace” Kinney and four of his students – Ryheem Minter, Jordan Nolan, Glenn Patterson, and Cody Tyson – presented on the Building Trades classes at the high school. During this school year, students have worked on construction of two small scale houses, built a storage room for the athletic department using metal studs and are currently constructing tree stands for local hunters which can accommodate both general firearm and bow hunting.

Kinney stated that he had picked the four students to accompany him because they were important to the class and took ownership of the projects. The students presented the board members with keychain-whistles made by the Building Trades II students.


Tracy Armwood, grade eight English teacher, introduced the board to the inaugural charter of the Juniorettes, a service club sponsored by the Cumberland Woman's Club. The club is for 7-9 grade students and is designed to teach girls how to be involved in their community, volunteer, lead and improve their life skills.

Armwood was very enthusiastic about the club, saying of the students who had submitted applications, “they seem anxious to get started and willing to serve the Cumberland community. I am excited about this. I truly am. I am honored to be a part of it and to be one of the co-advisors.” Armwood is co-advisor with Pat Allard.


The school board continued with its tradition of recognizing students of the month during the Board's meeting.

The Cumberland Elementary School Student of the Month for November was Nalonda Henderson, second grade. The Middle School Student of the Month was Abigail Heath, sixth grade; and the High School Student of the Month was Taneijha Hampton, grade 10.

Meet the Staff honorees this month were Lynne Lunsford, Cumberland Middle School guidance counselor; David Drummond, History and Government teacher at the high school; and Amanda Scercy, a Cumberland County Public Schools bus driver.

The Meet the Community recognition was awarded to Lisa Bell, manager of Dollar General.

The Helping Hands Recognition was given to June Mahoney, who stepped in at the last minute and volunteered to photograph this year's homecoming when she noticed the scheduled photographer had not yet arrived.