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Wise Choice For Chairman

BUCKINGHAM – With the June 30 retirement of Dr. Gary Blair, Interim Superintendent Joan Staton was at the helm to open the July 11 meeting of the Buckingham County School Board.

After welcoming the audience, Staton proceeded with the board's annual reorganization and opened the floor for nominations for chair.

With a motion by F. Acie Allen, the board unanimously elected H. Ed Wise as its chair for the 2012-13 school year.

Nominations for vice chair resulted in two candidates, Sherry Ragland and David Christian.

Ragland was named vice chair after drawing support from Kathy Midkiff, Thomas Hutcherson, Wise, and herself. Christian, who abstained from the vote, garnered yeas from Allen and Pete Gowin.

The board, in a unanimous vote, elected Sandy Wier, the division's finance manager, as clerk of the school board.

Joan Shumaker, the division's technology coordinator, who regularly attends the meetings in that capacity, was elected as deputy clerk.

With the exception of its December and May meetings, which include student award presentations in the BCHS auditorium, the board voted to continue using the Window Room of the Career and Technical Education Center for its meeting place.

Although the December and May meetings are slated to begin at 1 p.m., the other regular monthly meetings are set for 6 p.m., on the second Wednesday of the month except November when the meeting is scheduled for the first Wednesday, November 7.

The board appointed Hutcherson as its delegate and Wise as alternate for the Virginia School Boards Association Conference in November.

In the last reorganization task, the board reappointed Ragland as its representative on the board for the Governor's School.

Following the reorganization chores, Wise thanked his fellow board members for their confidence in him.

Wise also thanked Allen for his years of service as chair. Addressing Allen, Wise stated, “You've done a super job and we appreciate it very much.”

After the meeting, Wise commented on his new role. “I consider it an honor and a privilege,” he stated. “I will do my very best.”

Project Four

Prior to the public comment segment, Chairman Wise shared that he understood there were parents in the audience concerned about the Project Four preschool program. He stated, “Personally, I would like to assure those concerned that Project Four is very much a concern of this board and we are really looking into it.”

The program is currently set to serve 108 students. However, approximately 28 four-year-olds who registered for the program were not enrolled because of lack of funding for additional teachers and aides.

Approximately a dozen parents were on hand to show their concern that their children would not be able to attend the program unless more classes were added.

Teresa Davis was first to the podium. Sharing that her son was not accepted into the program, she said that although she understood budget constraints and lack of funding, those children who were being denied attendance would be at a disadvantage because they will be a year behind when they begin kindergarten the following year.

Reiterating that she understood the limited funding, Davis said she is concerned about how the determination was made regarding who was accepted into the program and who was not.

Noting that she felt the application was very vague, Davis offered that she understood there was a point system that was supposed to be need-based.

She explained that she felt that based on the application it would be difficult to make an adequate determination. Moreover, Davis shared that she knew children from similar income levels and circumstances who were accepted. “It does not seem fair,” stated Davis.

She encouraged improving the process for next year to include academic and social screenings and evaluations of the children.

Davis offered, “I believe in my heart that if my child wasn't accepted because there was another child that truly needed it, then I would not be upset at all.” She added, “I don't think that was the situation in this particular incidence.”

Jessica Carroll, who recently addressed the board of supervisors about the issue, was next to the podium. Drawing from census figures, she shared statistics indicating 5.5 percent of Buckingham's population is under the age of five.

“That's about 943 kids who over the next five years will be coming to school,” stated Carroll.

Referencing the 20-plus children that will not be able to attend Project Four and the 108 who will, and wondering about the number of those who were not registered, Carroll asked, “What's going to happen next year when it is mandatory that they all go to kindergarten?”

After the comments, the interim superintendent offered, “I, too, would like to say we are very concerned about this and we are looking into it”

According to Staton, the number of children who were registered but are not yet enrolled has dropped to 23 because several were accepted into the Head Start program.

Thanking the parents for sharing their concerns, Staton reiterated, “We are looking into it.”

Early Learning Center

Last month, Dr. Blair advised that the school board was in the process of naming the new early learning center, which will be located in the former Buckingham Primary School. He explained that according to its policy, the board was accepting written suggestions for the name.

At that June meeting, Blair said the name under consideration was the Buckingham Early Learning Center.

However, during the July 11 meeting, Staton said only one written suggestion was submitted and that was Buckingham Preschool. She added that she was recommending the facility be called Buckingham Preschool.

In turn, the board, with a motion by Allen, unanimously agreed.

Speech, Occupational, and Physical Therapies

Thelma Llewellyn, director of student services, asked the board for the opportunity to explore the possibility of hiring speech therapists rather than contracting for the services.

Sharing that the bids for speech therapy came in higher than anticipated, Llewellyn said, “I would like the opportunity to come up with a salary scale, somewhere between $50,000 and $70,000 and look for our own people locally to come in and do this.”

Noting that the speech therapists would be fully licensed, she added, “We put the bids (for speech therapy) on hold. Therefore, if we can't find people we can come back and accept a bid.”

Llewellyn also recommended awarding the contracts for occupational therapy to Progressive Therapy and physical therapy to AIS.

Subsequently, the board concurred with Llewellyn's recommendations regarding the bid awards and the possibility of hiring two speech therapists.

During a discussion on the cost of the therapies, the board talked about billing Medicaid for the services. Christian suggested looking into the feasibility of working with neighboring school divisions for the billing.

Responding, Paul Imig, the division's financial consultant, advised that they were looking at several options.

BCHS Student Parking Fees Increased

BCHS students who drive to school will be paying more to park this year.

After reviewing a request from Principal Roger Coleman to raise the parking permit fee from $5 to $20 per year, the board unanimously approved the increase.

In his letter to Staton, Coleman said the proceeds would be used to supplement the costs of academic jackets, instructional supplies such as math manipulatives, and additional materials and supplies.

With his request, Coleman provided a list of area high schools and their parking permit fees, which ranged from $10 to $75. Four of the nine schools surveyed had a $20 parking fee.

Recommended Financial Procedures Enacted

Concurring with recommendations from an audit completed earlier this year, the board approved the financial procedures as presented.

When making the motion to approve the procedures, Allen noted that there were no major items revealed in the findings and steps were already underway to correct the minor issues.

Some of the recommended procedures include creating a policies and procedures manual documenting the accounting functions; periodic reviews by management and staff of the listing of active employees; and adoption of a formal policy regarding credit card usage.

Rope Bridge Approved for JROTC

Responding to a request from Major James Morley, senior instructor for the BCHS JROTC, for permission to permanently place four telephone poles west of the football field, the board unanimously approved the installation.

In his letter, Morley explained that the poles would be used for rope bridge training, which he said is part of Raider Competitions.

Morley wrote that the competition includes making and crossing a one-rope bridge, land navigation, a physical training test, road march, assessing a casualty and moving the casualty by litter through an obstacle course, and a general knowledge test.

Staton told the board that she had Chip Davis, facilities director, check out the proposed location of the poles and talk with the football staff.

“It appears that it is a great place for it and it shouldn't interfere with anything,” said Staton.

When Christian questioned whether the area would be blocked to keep people off the rope bridge, Davis explained that although the poles will be permanent fixtures, the rope-bridge is put up and taken down as part of the training and does not remain on the field.

What about Gold Hill?

Staton recommended that the board begin discussing the future of the building and grounds at Gold Hill.

Allen suggested that the first thing that needed to be done was to take the signs down.

“It is my opinion that we definitely want to cooperate with the county,” stated Wise. “We need to get out of it as soon as practical.” He added that as long as they were insuring and maintaining the facility they would not recognize the savings they budgeted.

Offering that there is value in the building, Christian stated that they should research that value. He added that they needed to get a breakdown of what it will cost to insure and maintain the property after everything is out of the building.

Davis, noting that currently the focus is on moving into the renovated schools on Route 20, said it would be a couple of months before they could turn their attention to Gold Hill. However, he added that the building was being cleaned and kept in good condition.

Allen suggested each school board member talk with their respective supervisor about possible uses for the building and/or selling it.

On the Move

The discussion on Gold Hill led to a question by Allen about the status of the move to the Carter G. Woodson Education Complex.

Davis said there was still a lot to do but they were finishing-up the work on the interiors and working on the punch lists.

Noting that the work on the outside of the buildings was not as far along as the inside, Davis said it would move quickly now that the outside panels had arrived.

He added that they were putting in the sidewalks and paving was underway. However, he noted that they were not planning to do any planting and seeding until September.

When Ragland asked about training for the cafeteria staff because of the new technology in the kitchen, Davis assured they were going to allot time for that.

Ragland also questioned when teachers would be able to access their classrooms. Staton explained they would not have an occupancy permit until August 13, which is day teachers are scheduled to start their school year.

Davis concluded, “It's a million things coming together right now.”

Allen offered that he did not think a lot of them realized the amount of hours Davis has put in at the two schools. “He's done a herculean job,” said Allen.

In Other Board Action

The board approved its consent agenda as presented. Among the items included were minutes, building and grounds requests, auditing and approval of FY12 and FY13 bills and accounts, the continuation of current food service contracts, and a list of the agent of record vendors for FY13.

After a month to review a long list of VSBA policies, the board approved the policies as presented. During the June meeting, Blair explained the majority of the revisions included General Assembly actions, legal cross references, and updates.

The board approved accepting the high bid for the four surplus mobile classrooms at the former Buckingham Primary School.

Following a closed session, the board approved its personnel agenda including the appointment of Alexandra Crouch as Spanish teacher at BCHS; and Pearl Woodson, cafeteria manager at BCMS.

Additionally, the personnel action included the approval of coaches and their respective compensations for the 2012-13 school year.

The meeting was recessed until Tuesday, July 17, at 6 p.m., when the board will reconvene for a closed session on personnel.