(These are my personal views and not the official statement or records of the Board. They are not minutes but my personal summary of some of the highlights from the meeting.)
The School Board held its organizational meeting on the evening of Jan. 12. The big news is that the current chair, Justin Castillo, and vice-chair, John Lawrence, were reelected. Mr. Castillo was unanimously elected, and Mr. Lawrence won by a 5-2 vote, with Erin Gill and Phil Reitinger (me) voting for Phil Reitinger.
The main item of business was the first presentation to the Board of the Superintendent’s proposed FY17 budget – that is, for the next school year. The proposed budget can be found here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7vaFg7PcgKyQ2xCQTJtREUyOXM/view. The Superintendent noted that the top priorities for the community, according to the community survey from November, were small class sizes, competitive teacher compensation, increasing the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) curriculum, and increasing staff for specialty areas. The school principals and administration department leaders had asked for an increase of about $4.1 million to meet current needs, especially due to rising enrollment, and the Superintended noted that the City transfer to the schools was still about $1700 below 2006-7, adjusted for inflation.
The City has estimated that increased revenues will allow an increase in the school budget of about $880,000. The Superintendent reported that an increase of this amount would result in class size increases and maintaining the pay gap for teachers with Arlington. She is currently recommending requesting an increase in the City transfer of about $2.1 million, about half of what the principals and key staff requested. A lot of work is yet to come, of course.
There were many other items, including recognition of student athletes from the fall, approval of a few procedural/administrative matters, and opposing a constitutional amendment on charter schools. The School Board liaison assignments to Advisory Committees were approved and can be found here: http://www.boarddocs.com/vsba/fccpsva/Board.nsf/files/A63TAY74F0C1/$file/sbliaisontoadvcomm15.16MtgDates.pdf.
Last, in the general category of future agenda items, I had suggested and submitted proposed changes on three things: (1) modifying the Code of Civility to a Code of Civility and Accountability; (2) requiring an annual survey of school employees especially regarding morale and job satisfaction; and (3) changing the procedure for closed meetings so that any closed session occur near the end of a meeting, if possible, to make it easier for the public to participate. These matters may all be taken up at a future work session.
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