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Weekly Meeting Roundup 5/8: We sit through hours of meetings, you get info in minutes

County government really likes meetings, they have LOTS of meetings. But who can attend them all? BTW spends hours a week at meetings so you can spend minutes getting only the important details. We want to make it easy for the public to stay abreast of what is happening in our county.

House 28 Debate 5/8

While not technically a meeting per se, BTW was at the debate. Find our coverage by clicking the link.

School Board Meeting 5/9

All School Board members were in attendance.

-Budget Decision: A lot was said about the budget at the meeting this week, by both teachers expressing their concern and board members. Check for a full report on all that was said later today. The SB ultimately made the unpleasant decision to approve the budget without the 1% increase to teachers, it passed 6-1 with George Washington Rep McOskar casting the dissenting vote. There was discussion regarding a potential to review finances at mid-year to determine if any extra revenue that might be found could go to teachers. Many SB members expressed an interest in including a base 1% COLA increase for all teachers moving forward, hopefully this will become standard practice beginning next year.

-End-of-Year Infrastructure Projects: The SB also revisited the list of infrastructure projects that could be addressed with end of year savings. Ms. Healy expressed concern that the Forge track was not higher on the list and that it needs to be addressed since Forge can't have track meets in it's current condition.

Mr. McOskar was critical of the list and stated he would not support it moving forward. He was concerned because Ferry Fram Elementary was not on the list at all and he worries that their needs are not being addressed. FFES is one of 3 schools in the county that has not had a major renovation, the other 2 being Hartwood Elementary and Drew Middle. He expressed his concern for these older schools, and FFES in particular. Ms.Healy challenged Mr. McOskar to bring any needs the school may have to the SB because she was"not aware of things not being taken care of in any of our schools."

The SB decided to approve the first 14 improvements on the list and to take a fresh look come September, as things can change over the summer break. The measure was passed 6-1 with Mr. McOskar as the lone hold out.

-SAT Transcript Results: Here is the description of the change in policy from the agenda: "This amended regulation provides flexibility to allow parents to opt-out of including on their child’s transcript standardized test scores, specifically SAT and ACT scores. Previously, SAT and/or ACT scores were required to be included. With this new regulation, parents may opt-out of this requirement so that these scores are not shown on the transcript." This amendment to school policy was unanimously approved.

-Pre-school Classroom Addition: The SB approved the addition of another pre-school classroom to be housed at the Melchers Complex. This classroom was already funded in the budget but Mr. McOskar objected to the addition. He stated that the SB should not be adding any new programs when that same board is telling teachers that they can not get a raise. Mr. Hirons pointed out that the program is a mandated one however, when Ms. Egan asked if the addition of this particular classroom was mandated, the answer from the Virginia Preschool Initiative Director was no. Many of the SB members did express how valuable the program is by preparing students for kindergarden. The SB passed the measure 6-1 with Mr. McOskar casting the dissenting vote.

Parent Advisory Committee Meeting 5/10

-Budget: Dr. Benson spent some time discussing the School Board budget decision, although he didn't really bring any new information to the table. He stated that younger teachers can be amazing, pointing to an example of a young teacher's classroom he recently visited who was doing an incredible job. He also commented that the gap between the highest and lowest paid teachers is over $40K and that that is a very wide gap for people who essentially doing the same job. This comment is in line with what more experienced teachers are feeling in Stafford right now, that they are not highly valued, hopefully that is not what Dr. Benson intended. Dr. Benson was also quick to point out that more experienced teachers have gotten raises over the previous few years, just not at the same level as Stafford's least experienced ones due to how far below market average those salaries were. Look for more on this topic later in the day in the SB budget discussion post.

-Pre-Labor Day Calendar: In case you didn't hear, there was a bit of controversy regarding the survey SCPS sent out to get reactions from people regarding this potential change to the school calendar. Some believed that the questions on the survey were leading and deceptive, since not one out right asked about a pre-labor day start. Also, apparently people were able to take the survey multiple times so the results were considered to be somewhat skewed. In response, the calendar committee has changed it's approach. They are planning 2 versions of the 2018-19 SY Calendar, one with a pre-labor day start and one with a post labor day start. They plan to send an email to all parents via the school system showing both calendars and asking parents to choose. Each email address will only be able to submit the survey once. If you are interested in taking this survey to make your preferences known, it is very important that you make sure your child's school has your current and correct email address. Otherwise, you will not get the survey. Please call your child's front office to update this information.

There are many reasons to adopt a pre-labor day calendar, especially for Stafford's middle and high school students who must contend with exams. By adopting the earlier calendar students will have exams finished before winter break, which means that time can be designated as a "homework-free holiday." Also, this schedule pushes more instruction time ahead of important year end exams that have a national date, like AP exams. The new schedule also sets a fixed spring break, which will land on the last day of the third quarter; at Easter, an extra day off after Easter Sunday would be added for family travel time. Of course, the bad news is that the start date is set for August 13th, which makes for one year with a very short summer. Most feedback received regarding the pre-labor day idea has been positive and Dr. Benson believes that the feedback from the second survey will be similar.

-Updated Exit Survey: SCPS has updated it's teacher exit survey questionnaire in an effort to gather more data regarding why teachers are leaving the school system. This is a trend that has been encouraged at the state level and SCPS is taking it's form from the model questionnaire sent out by VDOE. Dr. Benson stated that he believes the state will be aggregating this data in the future, information which could help keep VA out of stories like this one.

If you have the chance, stop by the Stafford Food Security BBQ fundraiser at Ebenezer church from 5-8PM this Saturday. To learn more about this amazing program, click here.

Have a wonderful weekend!