School Board Approves Plan, Priorities & Goals

Published 5:18 pm Thursday, January 10, 2013

CUMBERLAND – While December's School Board meeting was primarily focused on allowing input on the district's upcoming budget, several planning, policy and legislative decisions for the Cumberland schools were also decided during the meeting.

A revised Comprehensive Plan and policy updates were both approved unanimously by the three members of the board present, without discussion.

The Comprehensive Plan was revised by the Comprehensive Plan Committee and given to the board during the November meeting as a first read. During that meeting, Griffin had reported to the board that the revised plan added the three new goals that the school board had created for the division.

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Those goals, which were announced in June, are as follows:

– Cumberland County Public Schools will be student centered.

– Cumberland County Public Schools will expand opportunities for learning.

– Cumberland County Public Schools will develop committed stakeholders who build positive relationships. Stakeholders are defined as students, faculty and staff, parents, and community members.

Gang awareness was also added as a new component to the Comprehensive Plan, according to Dr. Griffin.

The policy updates were also given to the board during the November meeting for a first read. Chairman Ginger Sanderson stated that the revisions were minor and based on small changes to legal aspects or addition of cross-references with the Virginia state code.

School Board Goals

Sanderson presented three goals with which the school board could choose to monitor themselves:

1) The Cumberland School Board will be more visible at school and community events.

2) The Cumberland School Board will continue to advocate for public education and Cumberland County Public Schools at the local, state, and federal levels.

3) The Cumberland School Board will continue to participate in professional development in the areas of current educational issues and the role and responsibilities of being a school board member.

The goals were approved unanimously without discussion.

Legislative Priorities

During the superintendent's report, Griffin introduced her recommendations for legislative priorities for 2013. They were presented to the board as a first read and will be voted on during the January meeting.

Griffin said the priorities should be approved “so when we go to the legislative conference and go visit our legislatures… we are all on the same page and have common ground.”

The recommended priorities were focused on an increase in state funding to make up for past reductions and to help increase salary and benefits for school staff. The priorities also supported legislation that would reduce the number of required Standards of Learning assessments for students.

Finally, the priorities included a request for the initial probationary period for teachers to be extended from three to five years in length. Griffin clarified that the need to extend the probationary period was “due to the new teacher evaluation assessment…you need some time to look at growth.”

After introducing the priorities, Griffin reiterated, “these are just recommendations. You have time to go back and digest these and determine which ones that you as a board want to support as your legislative priorities.”

The board was also given the legislative talking points and position handbook of the Virginia School Board Association. Griffin encouraged the board to consider changing or replacing some of her recommendations if there were others they would rather use from the position handbook.

Professional Staff Leave Policy

Griffin also reported that a staff member had requested the board review the school's policy on professional staff leaves and absences. “She's requested the policy be changed to include a statement that gives administration the authority to – for lack of better words – to change a sick day to a personal day, in certain circumstances.”

Griffin stated that she had checked with the division's lawyer, since changing the policy involves legal issues. She stated that the attorney “strongly advises against changing policy. It'd be going against what Virginia School Board Association's put out.”

She went on to add that because sick and personal days are a benefit, the attorney stated that they should never be discretionary. Griffin paraphrased the attorney's concerns, saying “Once benefits become discretionary we set ourselves up for discrimination and legality issues.”

Griffin concluded that she had brought the request before the board because a staff member requested it and “I know the board always wants to listen…to staff's concerns and request, but the administration and our attorney advise against it.”

No one chose to make a motion on the request, therefore it did not go forward.

Board Comments

During the period for business by school board members, Mason Dukes, student liaison to the board, shared his enthusiasm about 21st Century Learning at the schools. He gave a specific example he personally enjoyed of helping create a telenovela in his Spanish class.

Reid congratulated all the students and community members that received awards at the beginning of the meeting. He also commended Dukes for doing an excellent job as student liaison.

Dowdy thanked Dukes for sharing on what he had learned at the Virginia School Board Association's annual meeting. (See below for more information on Dukes' presentation.) He also commented on the informative sessions the remainder of the board attended during the annual meeting.

After providing her input on the budget, Sanderson thanked the administrators, staff and teachers for the amount of dedication and effort they give to the schools. She encouraged the administrators present to let the staff and teachers know that “we really care, because they truly make a difference.”


The school board continued with its tradition of recognizing students of the month during the December meeting.

The Cumberland Elementary School Student of the Month for December was Aurelia Alvarez, first grade. The Middle School Student of the Month was Blake Barker, fifth grade; and the High School Student of the Month was Tiara Beaty, ninth grade.

Meet the Staff honorees this month were Kimberly Page, Cumberland Middle School math teacher; Jordan Vick, History and Government teacher at the High School; and the Longwood Partnership program, overseen by Dr. Katrina Maynard and Dr. Sarah Southall, assistant professors at Longwood University's College of Education and Human Services.

The Meet the Community recognition was awarded to Patricia “Pat” D. Scales, Commonwealth's Attorney for Cumberland County since 1995. Scales is also a graduate of Cumberland High School.

The Helping Hands Recognition was given to Louis T. Evans Jr., who volunteers with track and cross country and is the owner of his own math tutoring company, T SQUARED.

James River District Awards

Geofrey Oliver was recognized as the Actor Of The Year and first team member.

Matthew Horton was recognized as Runner Of The Year and first team member.

District team members that were recognized during the meeting included for football: Justus Dowdy, First Team Punter and Second Team Linebacker; Bryant Winbush, First Team Defensive Back; and De-Aundre Brooks, Honorable Mention. Volleyball team members recognized included: Mackenzi Parker, Second Team; and Ivy Arbaugh, Honorable Mention. John Bapties was recognized as a cross country First Team member. The following theatre team members were recognized: Claire Drummond, Second Team; Sylvia Fusari, Honorable Mention; and Princess Royall, Honorable Mention.

VSBA Awards

Cumberland County Public Schools received two awards during the Virginia School Board Association's annual convention held in Williamsburg last November. Cumberland was the Green Schools Challenge Winner in the category of schools with a student population under 5,000. The division also received a platinum certification as a green school, the highest possible.

Additionally, Cumberland was recognized as having the 2011-2012 Virginia School Boards Association Workman's Compensation Outstanding Safety Program. The award is based “on the training and information provided to staff members and the number of workman compensation claims for the school year,” according to a document published by the school.

Art Exhibit

Three Cumberland students were recognized for the inclusion of their work in the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts Annual Area Youth Art Exhibit. Their art work was also selected to be hung in the Hull Education Building on the Longwood University campus. Both Jones and Griffin commented on how gratifying it was to see the artwork of Cumberland students at Hull. The following students were recognized: Reheema Fulani, elementary school; Dakoda Boyles, middle school; and Dakota Blanton, high school.

Teachers Rock 2012 Wall Of Fame

Meredith Williams, a pre-kindergarten teacher at the elementary school, was recognized for being inducted into the Teachers Rock 2012 Wall of Fame, which was sponsored by Wal-Mart, Walden Media and the movie “Won't Back Down.” Williams was nominated by parent Misty Myers, because Williams “really connects with students and…explains material so students can understand it.” The induction also included an award of a $500 Walmart gift card.

Digispired Graduates

Two high school seniors, Essence Wiley and Tyler Cox, were recognized for their imminent graduation from Digispired, a hands-on program on such topics as design, programming and electronic technologies. Digispired is funded by the National Science Foundation and was sponsored by Longwood's Institute for Teaching Through Technology and Innovative Practices. It is intended to interest students in careers related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

21st Century Learning Highlights

Kimberly Page's fifth grade math class shared how they studied math by learning about the electoral college. Students colored maps of the United States, indicating which states were won by each presidential candidate during the November election. Students used iPads to search the internet and find out how many electoral votes are required to win the election. Not only did they have to add up the electoral votes for each of the candidates, they also had to color in an alternate map showing which states presidential candidate Mitt Romney would have had to win in order to become president.

VSBA Student Leader Presentation

Mason Dukes, student liaison to the board, shared what he had learned during his attendance of the 2012 Virginia School Board Association annual convention. During the convention, workshops are held for student representatives.

Dukes felt that the information he gained will help him better serve the student body and the board. He looks forward to building his rapport with not only the students but also the community members of Cumberland.

He also enjoyed networking with other student representatives from around Virginia. He added that he found out how Cumberland was different than other representatives' schools. “I found out that Cumberland is really hip as far as our use of technology and our communication skills between our wonderful superintendent and our board. We're really ahead.”

He also stated that he was thankful for the school's food, particularly the pizza, “we're fortunate. Our food's good.” Evidently, some schools in other districts are feeding their students kelp.