By Matt de Simone
The Botetourt County School Board held its regular meeting last Thursday at the Administration Offices in Fincastle.
The board recognized March’s BCPS Employee of the Month, Lord Botetourt High School Athletic Director Chuck Pound. Superintendent Dr. John Russ shared his thoughts on Pound’s recognition.
“Since I got to Botetourt County—I can say this with 31 years of experience—you’re not going to meet a nicer person,” Russ stated. “I have yet to hear one individual say a single negative word about Chuck Pound.”
The 2021-22 school year is Pound’s final year as athletic director. Russ jokingly mentioned that he’d find something for Pound to do when the school year finished.
James River High School student-athlete Jayson Easton received a certificate of recognition for making the Virginia High School League (VHSL) Class 2, All-State 1st Team in basketball. James River Vice Principal Jordan Pinkard presented Easton with his certificate.
Lord Botetourt High School’s Riley Rothwell received a certificate of recognition for making the All-Virginia Symphonic Band from Lord Botetourt Band Director Chris Caldwell.
Caldwell mentioned, “It’s pretty rare that we get an opportunity to recognize a student for All-State band. It’s an extreme honor. To get there, you have to make it into the All-District band and also be in the top chairs there. And then, go to All-State auditions and make it through there. It’s an extreme honor to get there, but especially on percussion.”
Caldwell explained that while most students audition on one instrument, Rothwell had to audition on multiple percussion instruments (snare drum, xylophone, tympani, etc.), know his major scales, and perform prepared pieces on each instrument.
During the public comment period, a citizen who drives a school bus presented a letter to the board members for them to read and discuss at a later meeting. The letter addressed bus drivers’ salaries, the cameras on the buses, and overall safety for the drivers on the road. A parent commented against fundraising within schools stating that “it isn’t in the best interest of the students.” Another parent commented about the possibility of putting cameras in classrooms to prevent issues that are happening in other states and spoke about the trust issues regarding a government-run education system.
The board approved the resolution declaring that the old Colonial Elementary School in Blue Ridge is surplus to the needs of the school system and desires to cooperate in the mutual interests of economic development that benefits all schools in Botetourt County.
“Plainly, this just means (BCPS) is handing ‘old Colonial’ back over to the county as we have a brand new, wonderful facility that we’re very happy to have,” School Board Chair Anna Weddle added.
Next, Dr. Russ gave his superintendent’s update published within the meeting’s agenda. He mentioned the FY23 budget public hearing was held on March 24, and the School Board approved the budget as presented. The budget and finance department has communicated with Robinson, Farmer, and Cox Associates regarding the upcoming FY22 school activity fund audit and the FY22 county-wide audit.
Russ spoke about the Special Education Advisory Sommittee holding an informational session on April 12 at Lord Botetourt High School. Representatives from Virginia Western Community College and Dabney S. Lancaster Community College provided information about college opportunities for students with disabilities.
In March, the third set of kindergarten, first, and second grade teachers continued their level one Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) training. The teachers will conclude the LETRS professional development in May and be fully certified. Division benchmark assessments for the third grading period were completed in March. Principals and teachers are working with the benchmark assessment data to prepare students for upcoming SOL assessments.
In terms of school maintenance, Russ mentioned the school safety committee met on March 9. The committee consists of Botetourt County Public Schools, Sheriff’s Department, Fire & EMS, and County Administration representatives. The maintenance department installed a gravel parking lot for bus drivers at Colonial Elementary, cleared the property line by the walking track at Breckinridge Elementary, and repaired sewer vent lines at Greenfield Elementary.
Jamison Electric installed a generator panel and connections at Lord Botetourt High School. The installation was part of a grant awarded to Botetourt County Fire & EMS. James Buck Plumbing & Heating Inc. installed new sewer lines for the second-story restrooms at Lord Botetourt High School.
Technicians updated operating systems on student desktop computers to comply with testing requirements. The School Board successfully submitted the Preliminary Student Behavior and Administrative Response Report to the Virginia Department of Education. The state report provides safety indicators for Virginia’s School Quality Profile for events on school property, a school bus, or at a school-sponsored activity.
BCPS Director of Finance Brandon Lee provided his monthly update. He mentioned the county is providing BCPS with an $800,000 increase in funding to the school division, leaving BCPS with a deficit of $568,000 from their initial request to the county Board of Supervisors. Lee mentioned that they’re working to bring that deficit down. Russ noted that he remains optimistic that they’ll still be able to add new positions and programs in the future once the county approves the new budget. Currently, there isn’t a set date when the state will authorize Virginia’s FY 23 budget.
Vice Chair Dana McCaleb added, “I think it’s important for the public to know that, by law, (BCPS) has to submit a budget. The Board of Supervisors has to submit a budget, but there is no law for the legislature in Richmond to submit their budget. We have to do the best we can do.”
Director of Human Resources & Student Services Julie Baker presented the first reading of the 2022-2023 Special Education Annual Plan. She highlighted the information about local policies and procedures, Special Education in local and regional jails, a report on implementing the 2020-2021 plan and how they spent the money in the past, and maintenance of effort requirements. Baker asked the board to read through the proposal before potential approval at next month’s meeting.
To watch April’s School Board meeting in its entirety, visit bcps.live/archives. To read through this month’s School Board agenda package, it’s available at https://go.boarddocs.com/vsba/bcps/Board.nsf/Public.
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