By Matt de Simone
The Botetourt County Public Schools (BCPS) school board met last week on the heels of the first day of the new school year.
School Board Chair Anna Weddle addressed the “communication breakdown” over the $4.5 million gap in infrastructure funding this school year. Even though the county had a budget line for the CIP ask of $4.5 million, the board of supervisors assumed that the school board was receiving the money from other funding sources. According to Weddle, the school board “erroneously” believed the county was funding the CIP this year.
Weddle went on to say that board members from the school board and board of supervisors met individually to streamline next year’s budget process to ensure this communication issue does not happen in the future.
BCPS Superintendent Dr. John Russ presented the recent draft of the 2022 six-year strategic plan by the BCPS Strategic Planning Team. Earlier this year, BCPS decided to work with Thru Education Consulting and Strategy Services (thru.co) to better develop a strategic plan for BCPS over the next six years.
Russ and team members Mike Ketron, Mike Moser, Thru-Ed consultant Simma Reingold, and Dr. Janet Womack expressed their excitement about the team’s goals and commitments, highlighted indicators of how the team’s progressing, and briefly described initiatives to get to their goals, and then left the floor open for questions.
The presentation featured the team’s process of developing BCPS’s strategic direction, the feedback received from families and staff members, and the team’s commitments to students, employees, and learning environments. Members of the group of presenters highlighted the indicators of success in student preparation, effective teaming of employees, and the learning environments’ connection to the Botetourt community.
The team reviewed over 500 family survey responses, hearing back about family experiences with BCPS, learning ways to make learning more relevant for children, and soliciting ideas for their new strategy.
BCPS Communications Specialist Mike Moser mentioned that the team read all of the survey responses. He noted one of the responses about communication from the school division said the family received text messages, voicemails, and emails from BCPS whenever there was an issue. One response stated, “unless [BCPS] is going to start putting messages on a banner and flying them behind an airplane, I think communication is good.”
Moser joked, “So, I’ve been working on my pilot’s license.”
The school division and students’ families formed strong lines of communication during the COVID pandemic. Moser stated there is always room for improvement within anything in the school division. Russ will extend the connection by penning a quarterly newsletter which will serve as another way to keep parents and guardians updated about BCPS’s strategic plan.
Dr. Janet Womack spoke about the team’s community-wide campaign in ongoing activities and planned events to raise awareness and understanding of the planning team’s decisions and communications.
Russ concluded the presentation by thanking the school board. “We are excited about [the six-year strategic plan]. Is it going to be easy? No, and it’s not going to be quick. This is a six-year plan that can be adjusted throughout. There will be days when we feel like we’re bogged down and not getting anywhere. That’s when we’ll have to lift each other up and keep going. I one-hundred percent believe this strategic plan can take us from a good school division to a great school division. We just have to stay committed.”
School board member Tim Davidick commented on the efforts of the planning team. “I’m excited by what I see. I sat here listening to each of you. I’m trying to figure out how the board members will help to communicate this message because I know there are citizens listening today who don’t understand the processes we go through. The results are miscommunication, misunderstanding, hurt feelings, and so on. So, I’m very excited about this [plan for the division], and #bettertogether is a pretty cool hashtag, in my opinion. I’ll be using it myself.”
To watch the BCPS school board’s August meeting, please visit bcps.live/archives. For a detailed look at the individual presentations from the meeting, go to www.bcps.k12.va.us/school_board and click on the Board Docs tab. The next school board meeting is scheduled for September 8.