School Board begins 2020 with budget and more

Photo by Pam Dudding
The School Board elected officers at the January meeting. Seated from left to right are: Susan Crenshaw, Newly elected Chairman, Representative for Craigs Creek; Gina Smith, Vice-Chairman, Simmonsville; Faye Powers, Potts Mountain; George Foster, New Castle; Trace Bellassai, newest elected board member for Craig City; and Diane Bayne, Deputy Clerk of the School Board. Clerk Sonja Switzer is not pictured.

Pam Dudding
Contributing writer

“At our first meeting, we always have a reorganization of the Board,” Superintendent Jeanette Warwick announced on January 30. Voted to Chairman was Susan Crenshaw , a representative for Craigs Creek, Gina Smith, the Vice Chairman and Simmonsville rep., Clerk Sonja Switzer and Diane Bayne, the Deputy Clerk of the School Board.

Other School Board members who were present include, Faye Powers, Potts Mountain rep., George Foster, New Castle rep., and newest elected Trace Bellassai for Craig City. Warwick welcomed him to the Board and thanked the other members for continuing their service.

School Board meetings will be changed back to the second Tuesday of each month, beginning at 5:30 p.m. instead of 6:30 p.m. The location will be changed to the auditorium.

The public hearing was open for people or delegations to share their concerns and comments. A three-minute window was given to each speaker.

Donna Deplazes, a teacher who represented her colleagues, spoke on several issues, beginning with the upcoming budget which many feel was of priority and employee benefits regarding salaries. “Prices including insurance continue to go up so if we do not receive a continual increase, we go backward each year,” she said.

Deplazes added that the teachers are constantly challenged in keeping up with the software and technology needed for today’s classroom. “We have had tons of new things, but too much of something at one time is a lot to handle,” she explained. “We would like more training prior to implementation which would be a huge benefit, saving us time in the classroom when we are showing students how to use it as well as when we are trying to set it up, use reports or obtain data that is needed.”

She also shared that computers are rotated out of a computer lab for technology for teachers. “Many of us have been handed things that are several years old. The machines are not up to par as to what the kids use and our monitors are not all the same size and with as much screen time that we have to spend, we would like a respectable size monitor with consistency in classes.”

Deplazes even suggested an increase in pay for substitute teachers, with more extensive training. She said, “We would have more subs and we believe they would stay longer if the pay was better and if there was more specialized training.”

Finally, she asked for consideration in funding for additional educational opportunities, saying that if the school is covering tuition for BTEC students, would it be possible to also cover Dual Enrollment and AP students’ tuition.

Rusty Zimmerman, a member of the Craig County Board of Supervisors, came early and took the annual tour of the school with the School Board. He has done this for years before he joined the Board of Supervisors and spoke with his colleagues.

“I thank you for the walk-around and there has been a tremendous amount of improvements since then, so thank you for a good job for the work that has been done,” Zimmerman said. “However, there are a few issues that concern me as I have four kids in public schools. It was brought to my attention, with the current class scheduling and diploma requirements, there is a 22-credit diploma and a 26-credit diploma.”

He continued, “It’s a struggle to get the 26. There seems to be no room for any extra. When I went to school here, we had block schedule where there were eight available credits per year which equaled 32.”

Zimmerman’s concern is that students do not have an opportunity to take additional classes to learn outside the scope of their route, to learn something that they may not otherwise be able to experience.

“You’re asking a kid to decide if they are going a college route or vocation route at a freshman level and I think that’s asking a lot of them. If they want to go to a college, they now have 26 credits they need to obtain during that period of time and have no opportunity to take an elective, a class at BTEC, Ag, Home Economics or Computer Science,” he explained. “In other words, there is no open door for them to take anything other than the direction of college or vocation. There’s been a lot of improvement at the school, but I would like to see some scheduling changes to see what options there would be to expand on electives and additional classes available for our kids.”

Warwick explained that she is completing the budget calendar for 2020-2021, including dates of the Board of Supervisors meetings so that any staff member who wishes to attend will have those dates.

Discussion by the Board on students bringing a B.B. gun or handmade gun for class projects, determined that a B.B. gun can still be used as a weapon, therefore is not allowed on the premises and a wooden handmade gun, would be considered if used for a project. “I do feel our principals understand our community and are very reasonable,” Warwick said. She did add that the codes they had applied were copied from the Code of Virginia.

Warwick noted as the school calendar was discussed, and that Botetourt County has not finalized their calendar. “We have tried to align our calendar so the kids do not miss any classes. We ask that it is approved tonight with a 30-day comment period, with final approval at the February meeting and we will post it for public comment,” she continued.

Smith inquired about the 1:30 p.m. versus the 12:30 p.m. release time and asked that it be consistent with next year’s calendar. “There can be confusion for a parent for one day to be a 12:30 and another 1:30 dismissal,” she explained.

Students being fed lunch was also a question, however, CCPS feeds all students before they are dismissed.

Samuel Foster, Director of Instruction and Technology, shared that they had switched to the 1:30 p.m. dismissal so the high school students could also have a lunch before they were dismissed. Principal Melissa Whiting shared that even on the 12:30 release now, middle school students eat at 11:30 and noon at the high school.

“I personally feel it is important to feed every student before we have early dismissal,” Warwick shared.

It was also noted that only having three hours for exams and lunch would not be a lot of time for testing.

Deplazes mentioned, “As a teacher, I would rather give my kids an extra 20 minutes so if they needed to go back and review or correct then they would have sufficient time.” Warwick shared that the dismissal times will be reviewed with staff and decided on in February.

Updated Social Studies textbooks had been on the schedule for purchase. “We currently have money in our textbook fund account, so rather than wait until next year, we can purchase these for grades K-7 now,” Warwick shared.

She also noted that there had been previous discussion of having a retreat for Parliamentarian education and will send them the information via email.

Next month, the Board will use an electronic board packet during the meetings. “Yes, we will try to stop killing trees,” Warwick said. “Also, you will have Chromebooks here at the meetings, making it easier for us to make the agenda available to the public.” Foster will be available to train everyone on how to access it from any computer.

Governor Northam has declared the week of January 20th, Principal Appreciation Week. “We will celebrate and today wish to take this time to publicly thank our high school and middle school principal Melissa Whiting and our Elementary School Principal, Geri VanDyke, for all that they do every day for our students and for your staff and for what you do for us in helping to make our jobs a lot easier.”

February 11 is the next scheduled monthly School Board meeting at 5:30 p.m. in the auditorium and will be the second public hearing on the budget. Citizens are encouraged to attend.



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