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Weekly Meeting Roundup: We sit through hours of meetings, you get info in minutes

We are starting a new weekly feature here on BTW called the Weekly Meeting Roundup. The thing about county government is that they really like to have meetings, a whole lot of meetings, so..... many..... meetings. Let me show you what I mean...

This is the list of meetings for the last week, just one week of meetings. There are 22 public meetings on the Stafford County Government calendar in April and that doesn't include School Board meetings; those are listed on the SCPS site. Maybe they should read this article that discusses how meetings kill productivity. Just in case you were wondering, I am not a fan of meetings but they are a necessary evil...moving on.

Not that we plan to cover ALL of these meetings, most of the various committees will present their relevant findings at the Board of Supervisors meetings. But the facts are that these meetings are where all the important decisions that shape the county are made. Someone should be there for that and it might as well be BTW. We will spend hours a week at meetings so you can spend minutes on Friday getting only the important details. We want to make it easy for the public to stay abreast of what is happening in our county.

April 4 - Board of Supervisors meeting

SCPS: Superintendent Dr. Benson gave an SCPS update to the BoS. The most important topic of his discussion related to the development of a real curriculum for SCPS, something that has long been lacking in the schools. To that end, he has instituted a reorganization of the Office of Instruction into the Office of Development and Professional Learning. The goal of the new office is to focus on interdisciplinary connections in the school system as a whole and to develop an over-arching curriculum framework above and beyond SOL standards. Cheers to Dr. Benson for beginning this very important change for SCPS students.

Mt View Rd/ Stefaniga Rd Intersection: As someone who drives this intersection multiple times a day, I was excited that this came up. Hartwood Supervisor Snellings brought up the issue calling it a "very dangerous intersection" and he is not wrong. Hundreds of teenagers traverse this intersection daily on their way to MVHS. Apparently, VDOT has vetoed a 3 way stop but has approved some temporary measures, such as clearing vegetation to improve visibility. Mr. Snellings thought that by putting the issue in front of the board at this time, the process to get a fix to the problem could be fast tracked. The board decided to send this issue to the Infrastructure Committee.

North Stafford Gym Floor & Bleachers replacement: Garrisonville Supervior Laura Sellers questioned Maria Perrotte, Stafford County Chief Financial Officer, about why the gym floor and bleachers were being replaced when parents have expressed other priorities should take precedent during the Forge redistricting process. She did not elaborate on what those other priorities were and Ms. Perrotte stated that those type of smaller infrastructure decisions are made by the schools. According to Wendy Maurer and Scott Hirons on a Facebook comments section, this project was funded in the SY 17 budget and should move ahead as planned.

April 6 - Parent Advisory Committee meeting

This committee is not a public one, per se, but as RTMS PTO President I serve on it. The superintendent put this committee together when he arrived in Stafford to elicit feedback from parents about his various plans.

School Year 2019 Calendar Committee: There could be some big changes in store for the Stafford school calendar in 2019. Mainly, the school year could begin well in advance of Labor Day in order to make sure the first semester ends in time for winter break. This would also mean a much earlier end of year release for students. The Calendar Committee is meeting next week to discuss this change and others, like potentially establishing a designated spring break. Dr. Benson was very clear that SCPS wants to get a lot of community input on this before making any changes so that there is numerical data that shows community support. This kind of change to the schedule makes a lot of sense but would be a big one for county residents. Parental reaction to this idea was overwhelmingly positive. We will keep an eye on this issue.

SCPS Capital Improvement Plan (CIP): If you are interested in future High School 6, you will want to read this. SCPS structures the CIP for a 10 year period of time and the way it is currently structured, it would allow for $120 million in improvement expenses for that time frame. It is interesting to note that is the exact number needed to build only High School 6. Obviously, that is not the only improvement we need over a 10 year period of time; Dr. Benson stated we will need Elementary School 18 before then. He suggested that we could have more flexibility in funding IF the CIP is not balanced for expenses, something he has experience with in other districts he has worked for.

For the time being, he has suggested approving the CIP with a "wedge" where all previous projects are listed together without determining the year in which they will occur. Then, SCPS will go through a process of objective prioritization that can be determined after an analysis has occurred. Fortunately, the School Board is working with the BoS to develop a matrix for prioritization. He plans on bringing an outside company into the county to evaluate current buildings, like Ferry Farm Elementary, to determine the expectation for additional life at a cost of about 10K per building. By bringing in an outside team for an objective analysis, the potential for political decisions is removed. This process should begin this spring.

High School #6: - According to Dr. Benson, the current trigger for HS6 is 150% capacity of all high schools. This means that when the SCPS projection hits 150% for all high schools, HS6 should be built by that year. This timeline puts HS6 at the end of a 10 year projection, not anywhere near the timeframe that the public wanted during the Forge redistricting. SCPS has sought the counsel of other rapidly growing districts and they have recommended a much more feasible 115% capacity trigger. The plan is to pitch this new trigger to the BoS but that still puts HS6 at a minimum of 5 years away.

Formal Evaluation Process of Special Programs: - SCPS is beginning the process of the evaluation of its "special programs", like the Governor's School, IB and APPX, among others. This is not just an educational analysis but an outcome analysis, meaning there will be a determination of whether the programs are delivering what they were expected to. The SB will get a report regarding the Governor's School before the school year is out and will tackle IB and APPX next. The plan is to systematically evaluate all of these programs to see if they are delivering the anticipated outcomes. It is important to note that no changes will be made regarding programs until there is hard data.

Redistricting Process: Many have asked if there is not a better way to go about the difficult process of redistricting. Dr. Benson said that he believes the recent Forge redistricting went better than the previous middle school redistricting but that really isn't saying much, the School Board was sued for the last redistricting initiative. He thought the best improvement was the inclusion of community input from the very beginning rather than from a small group of selected individuals. In regards to the likely upcoming elementary school redistricting potential, he stated that SCPS will need to find a way to shift students from less available space on the eastern side of the 610 corridor down towards the western side, where empty seats are available. The likely scenario here is to shift border APU's (Area Planning Units or neighborhoods) to potentially coincide with the opening of the new Anne E. Moncure, which will open at capacity if some changes aren't made. More to come on this.

New Logo: Finally, Dr. Benson revealed the new SCPS logo in the Board Chambers, pictured at the top of the post. This new logo incorporates the colors on the Stafford County Government signs and blends in quite well. It is certainly an improvement over the old logo, which was a door bordered by a brick wall.

That's your weekly roundup, have a great weekend and please leave your thoughts in the comments!