Pam Dudding-Burch Contributing writer

School board meeting discusses budget cuts for the upcoming school year.

Everyone’s attention seemed to be at its highest at the recent April School Board Meeting as the annual budget for 2017-2018 was being discussed. The unpleasant words ‘budget cuts’ already had to be in play as the Board of Supervisors had suggested a possible huge reduction.

Photo by Pam Dudding-Burch
Art Teacher Sierra Frasier accepts the certificate and ribbon for her student Mackenzie Darnell who placed third in the 2017 Blue Ridge Regional Forum Art Contest.

The District Representatives in attendance were Patrick Myers-Craig City, Susan Crenshaw-Craigs Creek, Gerry Foster-New Castle and James Stephens-Simmonsville. Aaron Calfee of Potts Mountain was unable to attend. Diana Bayne-Deputy Clerk of the School Board, Gerri Van Dyke-Coordinator of Student Affairs, Heather Duncan-CPA and Director of Finance, Sonja Switzer-Clerk of School Board, Samuel Foster-Director of Instruction and Technology and Jeanette Warwick-Superintendent also attended.

All Board members seemed to agree that it is not something they like to have to do. “We already run on a very low budget as it is,” one member said.

At the last budget work session, the Board of Supervisors proposed a reduction in the allocation of the school division of $67,566. “We intend to continue communicating to the Board of Supervisors that to impose a tax increase in the community and not place any of the tax payers dollars into the school division is troubling,” another member shared.

However, if the BOS’s choose to proceed with the budget cuts, Warwick and Myers identified a list of items that would have to be evaluated to meet the reduction in budget. “I want to emphasize that these cuts are undesirable and would greatly impact students and staff in this school division,” Warwick shared. “But I would be remiss if we didn’t have these conversations.”

Warwick discussed the list of items that could be areas for possible reduction:

* Athletics – $64,562 – Warwick explained that the school would have to go to a pay per play that would greatly impact the pocketbooks of families “to the tune of $380 per student per sport to equal the amount they pay the coaches as the School Board pays the coaches stipends.” (The other athletics are supported by the Booster Club and gate duty.)

* Governor School Tuition and Transportation – $30,226 ($18,600 + $11626)

* BTEC Tuition and Transportation – $26,396 ($12,575 + $13,821)

* Virginia Western Community College – $9450 $51/credit to assist students in dual enrollment credits

* Employee Insurance – $45,500 Change from Key advantage 250 to 500.

* Change employer contribution – $43,584.

* Change insurance from 250 to 500 with employer contribution to be the same for everyone – $8,550.

* Step increase – $74,000 – “This would be the absolute last thing we would want to do.” Warwick shared.

“We present these to you, in the event we are in the situation where we are asked to cut our budget,” Warwick said. “The Board of Supervisors will make this decision in May.”

Donna Deplazes presented some questions concerning the possibility of a pay increase for the teachers. “I want to thank the Board for sticking to your guns and not making any budget cuts and presenting what you did at the Board of Supervisors a couple of weeks ago,” Deplazes said. “The employees really do appreciate you looking out for us.”

Still, Deplazes addressed questions to be answered in the future. Her concerns were based on her facts of the cost of living as well as cost of insurance and co-pays getting higher. “Is there anything that you can do for the teachers?” she posed.

1 – The school has $400,000 in rollover monies. “I have no clue how in the world our small little school system which operates on a bare bones budget could not be used for teachers’ stipends,” she said.

2 – For 2017-2018, the Small School Division Enrollment Fund is getting $75,000 to the county (Deplazes reported). “That is about what the budget has to be cut but I am unsure if these monies are for this or next year or what the Board has plans for.”

3 – Pay the $25.00 renewal fee for Teacher’s license. “If the teachers are going to stay, it would be a good investment,” Deplazes said.

“I know we aren’t getting a huge pay raise, but stipends are nice as well, even if only a cost of living increase,” Deplazes concluded. “Any small token is better than a pat on the back when it comes to bill time.”

The Board approved the forward motion of the Perkins Grant Funding that helps to support the career and technical support programs. “We are using it for Career Cruising, service charges for courses at BTEC, conferences that teachers and students attend for competition, equipment and supplies,” Warwick said. Stephens agreed that this grant brings money into Craig County, and though there are certain stipulations he highly encouraged the support and approval.

Additional business was completed as Warwick shared that several people were eager to assist the school in a new role as an Agriculture advisory committee. “We had some interested people in the community that approached the Agriculture teacher, Edwards to have Ag advisory committee in order to assist her and Foster in gaining what is needed to move forward with the greenhouses and other projects for the Ag department.”

The committee will consist of Jeannie Dudding, Ben Flinchum, Travis Blevins, Drew Phipps, Rusty Zimmerman and Donna Deplazes. “I feel they are ready to roll up their sleeves and provide what they can to move our Ag program forward,” Warwick shared.

Myers added Mary Hunter’s name because she expressed a willingness to help as the Farm Bureau had been involved in the past. Also, Foster and Stephens had recently met with the Farm Bureau and they shared that they would like to see some applications of Ag in the classroom grants. “This is something we have had in the past but I don’t’ believe we have a whole lot right now,” Stephens added.

The six-year comprehensive plan was adopted so the schools could proceed and work on their yearly plans.

Each spring, the Virginia School Board Association has a Blue Ridge Spring Regional Forum Art Contest. With the help of their Art Teacher, Sierra Frazier, each school had an entry. “This includes all the divisions in the Blue Ridge District,” Warwick shared. “Mackenzie Darnell won third place.” The ribbon will go to Mackenzie, however, her picture will hang in the school board office for a year. Frazier was proud of her students.

Tara Medley, a student of Wanda Reynolds, Finance, took third place at the regional FBLA Conference. Warwick shared the Board was very proud of her and she will go forward to state, as Kaylee Pauley, who took second place will be unable to attend.

Warwick also reported some very ‘good news’;

* The secondary gym is finally receiving its new face-lift. The entire floor has been taken up as it had been in unusable condition. “The next step is a moisture test where they will drill down into the concrete and once they get that test back the school can proceed with the type of flooring to purchase.”

* All of the parking lots at CCPS will be repaved, starting in June after school graduation.

* There will be a purchase of Security cameras for the buses as they need to be updated.

* Four AC units will be installed in the remainder of the high school classrooms.

The next School Board meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 2, at 6:30 p.m. in the Media Center. All community members are encouraged to attend and be a part of building the education system in Craig County.

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