Safety Review For BCPS

Published 3:34 pm Tuesday, January 15, 2013

BUCKINGHAM – Superintendent Cecil Snead began the January 8 meeting of the Buckingham County School Board with a moment of silence for the victims and their families of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Later in the meeting, Dr. Snead provided what he described as a formal response to the tragedy that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14.

He reminded that the division's current practice to update its crisis plans on an annual basis and its practices on various safety measures throughout the year ensure the safety of Buckingham's students.

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Offering that the tragedy not only directly affected that community in unforeseeable ways, Snead shared, “But it also reverberated concerns and fears among all who have loved-ones in educational facilities, specifically K-12 education.”

He continued, “This event has given us in Buckingham the impetus to strive even harder to take specific actions.”

Noting that employees were diligent during everyday operations prior to December 14, Snead stated, “However, we understand that such events as those that occurred in Connecticut implore that we heighten even greater our vigilance and diligence.”

Subsequently, discussions and actions commenced on the Saturday following that Friday tragedy in Newtown, explained Snead. “We also provided information on how to talk to children about such tragedy,” he added.

Continuing, Snead said, “Buckingham County Public Schools has reviewed, again, and familiarized itself with the crisis plan.”

He outlined a list of specific security measures that have been ensured at the county's schools. Moreover, he assured that the security surveillance would be audited for functionality.

According to Snead, the school division submitted a safety review audit to the Virginia Department of Education as requested of all divisions at the behest of Governor McDonnell.

“As noted earlier, immediate discussion began between the Emergency Coordinator for Buckingham County and the school system,” stated Snead. “As those discussions have continued, I am pleased to say these communications have resulted in follow-up meetings that will include the Virginia State Police, Buckingham County Sheriff's Department, and Buckingham County Public Schools' crisis chairperson, facilities director, transportation director, resource officer, and superintendent.”

Snead offered, “Having visited each school personally on several occasions prior to the holiday break and immediately after the holiday break, I can confidently say that the employees of Buckingham County Public Schools are working together to ensure safety for all of our students on a consistent basis.”

He added, “I have appreciated the dialog with all whom we serve and welcome future discussions and dialogs as needed and or perceptions arise. It is communication and caring people who truly make the difference for all of us.”
Snead concluded, “Like our instructional practices, this needs to be a continuous dialog for improvement. To that end, a vehicle for that continuous dialog will be through the cooperation of our health and safety committee and our facilities/transportation committees.”

At the end of the report, Snead offered, “That essentially, hopefully, gives you a state of where we are with our security measures and our dialog and our continued improvement for such security in Buckingham County Schools.”

VSBA Safety Program Award

David Smith, Director of Insurance Services for the Virginia School Boards Association's insurance programs, presented the division with an award for outstanding risk-management services in its workers' compensation program.

“We insure over 60 school divisions in our programs and recognize three of them every year for outstanding risk management,” shared Smith. “You are one of those three.”

He told the school board, “We commend you and your staff for your efforts. It does start at the top. It is your support that allows the staff and the employee-base to work within a safe environment.”

According to Smith, during July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012, the division had 14 worker compensation claims that totaled less than $1,000 in actual pay and reserves. “That is remarkable for a school division of your size,” he offered.

He offered special recognition to Chip Davis, director of facilities; Ronnie Palmore, director of transportation; Thelma Llewellyn, director of student services; and Ken Boley, former supervisor of maintenance who retired in June, for their efforts in working with VSBA risk-management specialists.

After accepting the award, Chairman Ed Wise asked those who Smith acknowledged and Dr. Snead to join him for a photo acknowledging the award.

Following his presentation Smith added, “Your staff has done a great job and you had no bus accidents last year either. When you think about all the miles that your bus drivers travel, think about all those narrow twisting and turning roads-that seems impossible.”

Fiscal Cliff and More

In his superintendent's report, Dr. Snead shared that although Congress voted on a plan to avert year-end tax hikes and spending cuts, he was concerned that in February when issues of public funding resurface, they could again be facing the “sequestration monster” of across-the-board cuts to federal programs, some of which support public education.

“The other piece that became complicated personally for everyone we employ is the fact that it was stated that there were no income or payroll tax hikes,” said Snead. “However, there was confusion about the interpretation.”

He shared that upon returning to school after the holidays and hearing some of the discussions, he surmised that not everyone was aware that the social security tax was about to be increased by two percent for January 2013.

In turn, Snead advised the school board that on the afternoon of January 3, he sent out an email to employees notifying them of the change in the social security tax rate from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent.

That email explained that the 2010 stimulus reduced the employee rate for the past two years.

In the email, Snead included an example of how the increase would affect employees' paychecks. He also provided several links that employees could visit for more information on the social security tax rate.

Review of Policy Updates

With a list of policy updates on the screen, Dr. Snead advised that the VSBA recommended policy updates/revisions presented for the board's review last month were updated to reflect specifics for Buckingham County Public Schools.

He explained the board would act on the updates/revisions next month.

During a discussion on Policy GB, Equal Employment Opportunity/Nondiscrimination, David Christian questioned the language regarding the “Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.”

Snead said they had sought counsel on that for a better understanding of the issue. Noting that they were not the only ones asking the question, he explained that the terminology means that they cannot discriminate on the basis of a disease or a hereditary predisposition for a disease.

For an example, he said they could not discriminate when considering hiring an employee who has a family history of a certain illness such as heart problems or diabetes.

As the discussion on the policy updates continued, Christian questioned whether some of the policies could use titles/positions rather than titles with actual names of those currently fulfilling those roles.

Explaining that an administrative regulation could accompany such policies, Snead said that would provide the specificity without having to rewrite the respective policies each year. However, he added that they would seek guidance and counsel on the issue and report to the board.

MOU Approved

Following a closed session, the board authorized Chairman Wise to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors authorizing the county to use space in the old Dillwyn Primary School building on Route 15.

According to the MOU, the board of supervisors will use the school to house the Buckingham Department of Social Services on an interim basis while the former county administration building undergoes renovation.

Additionally, the county would be able to use part of the school building for certain programs offered through the Buckingham County Department of Recreation.

The agreement specifies that the BOS will be responsible for the maintenance and care of the school. Moreover, the BOS will provide its own liability coverage for its occupants and the public using the facility. Likewise, the BOS agrees to pay the utility bills during its usage of the building.

With the agreement, the school board will continue to use part of the building for storage. The school board also agreed to allow the BOS to make alterations and additions to the interior of the building as the BOS deems advisable as long as the structural integrity of the building is not compromised.

In Other Board Action

The board approved its consent agenda as presented. That agenda included minutes of the January meeting, auditing and approval of bills and accounts; monthly enrollment report; building and grounds use requests; and one home exemption.

After its closed session, the board approved its personnel docket as presented. Personnel items approved by the board, effective February 1, included the retirement of Nancy Stuart, health and physical education teacher at BCMS; and, the appointment of Andrew Schmitt at agriculture education/welding teacher at the Career and Technical Education Center.

The meeting was recessed until Thursday, January 17, 2 p.m., at the bus garage, for a budget work session.