PE School Board Talks Numbers

Published 4:45 pm Thursday, November 1, 2012

PRINCE EDWARD – County school board member Dr. Lawrence Varner noted a drop off in the number of students at their October meeting.

“Do you know why we've dropped in just three weeks?” Dr. Varner asked. “Typically we would…add after starting instead of dropping.”

The number of students from kindergarten through 12th dipped from 2,221 in August to 2,208 in September. There were eight fewer students in K-4; three fewer students in middle school, and two fewer students at the high school.

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Superintendent Dr. David Smith noted that the numbers did increase through the first 10-15 days “but I don't have the specific reasons that it dropped.”

From August to September, except for one other year, Dr. Varner noted, it has always gained.

If they see that same type of trend next month, Board Chairman Russell Dove directed, they will try to have some details.

It was noted in the discussion that the board based their budget on an average daily membership of 2,270.

Outsourcing Work?

The school board in budget deliberations earlier this year discussed possible outsourcing of custodial work. While they opted not to then, they also discussed revisiting the issue for another look, starting the process earlier.

Board member Dr. Timothy Corbett, who joined the school board in July, asked the purpose of the outsourcing. Dove assessed that last year it was two fold, citing performance concerns and cost savings.

Director of Support Services Richard Goode presented an update on efforts to address improvements. The school board, following some discussion, agreed to at least take a look at the possibility; the board approved a motion to gather the information.

Self-Insured Option

The school board also discussed the option of moving to a self-insured health insurance option.

“We got to a point where we realized that, based on last year's calculations, there wouldn't be a real benefit to moving ahead with self-insured. But the board had talked about taking a look again for the coming year,” Dr. Smith said.

Specific information, he noted, that will be needed to make a final decision won't be available until the spring, but that if the board is interested in having them look at it again, they can at least start the process and begin to gather some of the information so they can have that in a timely fashion.

While he would offer no recommendation on whether they could go self-insured or not, Dr. Smith assessed there could be value in going through the process.

Dr. Smith agreed that they should put the insurance out for bid as well, which was included in the board's approved motion.

Call Me Mister

Call Me Mister program Director Maurice Carter gave a presentation on the program. Call Me Mister encourages African American men to become teachers. The program began at Clemson University and embraced at Longwood University and has been developed locally and around the state.

Carter noted there have been approximately 52 young men to come through the program-to come to Longwood and study to become a teacher at the elementary or secondary level. He cited that there are 22 students currently involved with the program, from a wide range of backgrounds and universities and community colleges. Carter noted they have partnerships with SVCC and several colleges and universities to help recruit African Americans into the teaching field.

They hope to recruit in the region to get bright and intelligent young men, train them, and that they return to their school district or some district in the state and become excellent teachers.

“…I have a great idea and insight what school districts are looking for when recruiting and retaining quality teachers,” Carter said. “Not just African Americans, but teachers period. Because these young men are going to teach all of our students.”

He noted that there are approximately 300 African American men in elementary education in the state, out of 93,000-94,000 K-12 teachers.

“…It's not just helping Longwood University. Our aim is to have a mutual partnership so that we're helping you. And I think the best way that we can help you is with your children, with your staff,” Carter said.

Board Retreat

Chairman Dove presented a report on the school board's retreat, held September 15 at Longwood University.

Among the highlights-the board approved a mission and goals (six) as part of the comprehensive plan and finalized a committee.

The list of goals include:

*Improve academic opportunities and achievement for all students while closing the achievement gap.

*Strengthen home, school, business, and community engagement to advance staff and student achievement.

*Ensure that schools are safe, orderly, nurturing and supportive of quality teaching.

*Promote a positive, healthy, and inviting school culture conducive to learning.

*Optimize effective use and management of operational resources that support teaching and learning.

*Hire, support, and retain highly qualified teachers and staff.

The mission statement outlines: “The Prince Edward County Public School system's mission is to enable each student to achieve his/her full intellectual, personal and vocational potential.”

Also, as part of the retreat, Dove reported they were provided division information including discipline data, student achievement data, school report card, school climate survey, SOL historical trends, and student enrollment trends.

The chairman noted Prince Edward comparisons with neighboring counties academically. He noted there was some information shared with them from the Department of Education website of SOL data. “We did fairly well against other school divisions,” Dove commented. “In some cases, we even performed better.”

Board member Dr. Ellery Sedgwick highlighted that in algebra I and chemistry they were at the top.

Among the other issues Dove further noted, they reviewed and discussed several strategies for the division improvement planning process, received a copy of the school board survey they had done with the consultant, received information on teacher turnover, received data on the new teacher evaluation program revisions, spoke briefly about a potential for a sustainability coordinator position (no decision was made), looked at the development of capital improvement plans (in the works), and wrapped up looking at some major issues.

Teachers Supported

School board members (with one abstention), following a closed session and the recommendation of the superintendent, agreed to approve a re-initiation of the process leading to permanent residency status with three current teachers.

There were some present to support the teachers. One speaker commenting in the public comment portion of the meeting (after the board had made its decision) commended the board for their decision.

In Other News…

*School board members recognized visiting German exchange students. The school system has participated in the exchange program for nine years with a school (*St. Angela's School) near Frankfurt Germany.

*Dr. Smith presented Virginia School Boards Association Academy Awards to the respective school board members. Board members Darin Thomas and Dr. Lawrence Varner received a certificate of recognition; Chairman Dove, Dr. Osa S. Dowdy and Susan Lawman each received an award of excellence; Linda Leatherwood the award of honor and Dr. Ellery Sedgwick with an award of distinction. Dr. Smith was also presented with an award of distinction.

*School board members formally approved (with Dr. Varner opposing) a vision statement that will be a part of their comprehensive plan.

The vision statement, specifically, reads: “Prince Edward County Public Schools will be high performing schools of choice that educate a diverse population to be informed, responsible and productive citizens.”

Dr. Varner preferred a different proposal.

*The board was presented with a draft budget proposed development calendar. The board is expected to approve the calendar at their November meeting.

*It was noted that the school would participate in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The event, open for fourth through eighth grades, will be held December 7; the highest three scorers from each grade level will participate in a division wide bee on January 15.

*It was reported that students would participate in the National Geographic Bee (a written history exam administered by history teachers) for grades fourth through eighth on November 19. School winners (the top three from each grade) will participate in a division level event on December 14.

*Middle School Principal Lucy Carson reported on the bullying program initiative, Taking Strides Against Bullying. A pledge walk was held at the high school track with a large turnout. She noted that they had over 200 people come, noting that there was a “really good turnout from the community,” as well as teachers, parents and students.

“We are working hard at preventing or trying to help our students understand that bullying will not be tolerated,” Carson said. “And we are trying to do what we need to do to make our students understand it.”

She added that they appreciate everyone that came out and the Editor of The Herald giving them “a little boost.” (The editor published a supportive editorial prior to the event.)