Based on conversations in last night's Board meeting, it does appear that a vast majority of School Board members support the administration's recommendation regarding the proposed $1 billion budget and a declining student enrollment. It appears that a vast majority of the Board supports all employees including the Superintendent and Senior administration to receive a 5% raise.
While I believe that we need to remain competitive in teacher/employee pay in order to recruit and retain employees, I also must consider the burden placed on those whose pockets the money is being taken. I am always aware that the funds being used come from the taxpayer and I take very seriously that fact.
I can't forget that many citizens have suffered over the last year. Businesses have closed and people have lost their jobs. Parents have had to sacrifice financially to be at home with their kids or to pay extra day care costs because our schools have been closed. Housing costs/assessments have increased and put a higher burden on citizens to pay their property taxes.
I pray that we can sustain this level of spending and that it is not a future burden that will be harmful to students.
The results from my poll are below. Unfortunately, I received a low response and we only had a handful of speakers and messages on the budget issue over the last couple of months.
At Tuesday's Board meeting I asked the Superintendent several questions that I have been receiving from the public and I wanted to share the responses with everyone.
1. What are the plans to return all Option 1 Middle and High students to 4-5 day a week in person learning for this school year? Answer-- no plans to do so unless VDH/CDC changes guidelines
2. What plans are being made to return all students to in-person learning this fall? Answer-- cannot make those decisions now
3. What are plans for this year's graduation ceremonies? Answer-- We have reserved the convention center and must give a final answer to them by March. Alternate plans being made by principals at individual schools.
4. When can other in-person activities (non-athletic) resume? The Board will be provided an update on this plan at our board meeting in 2 weeks.
I have received a lot of questions related to the Governor's comments over the last couple of days regarding reopening of schools. Today was the first time I have received any correspondence from the Governor's office on this recent topic. Attached is the letter I received today. I am thankful for this statement by the Governor but I believe it should have come months ago. As he said in his press briefing, our students are suffering from a loss of learning and mental health impacts of isolation (and have been for a while).
At this point, I do not have any further information but I will continue to advocate for our students to get back to school for more in-person learning as soon as possible.
Attached below are a few pages from the SEON (Superintendent's Estimate of Needs). The full document can be found here. First a summary of how the budget process works.
1. Feb 2: The Superintendent along with his staff presents the SEON to the School Board
2. The School Board begins to review the budget documents and to ask questions.
3. Feb 9: The public is provided an opportunity to share their input at a public hearing-- (signups are not yet open but when they are (probably Thurs evening) you can find them at this link). Citizens can also share their input to the whole board via e-mail at email@example.com.
4. Weekly Tuesday workshops are held on the budget topic for Board members to discuss and have questions answered
5. March 2: The Board votes on the Operating Budget and the CIP (Capitol Improvement Program).
I have not had an opportunity to dive into the information yet but here is a brief overview of the proposed SEON:
--All employees: proposed 4.5% Cost of Living increase and a .5% step increase for those reaching or below top of scale.
--Increased allowance for advanced degrees
--Upgrade School Counseling Department Chairs
--Move all custodians up one pay grade
--Additional guidance counselor positions (13 ES and 3 MS)
--Total SEON is just over $1 billion, an increase of almost 10% from last year's budget of $915 million
--2020-21 per pupil expenditure was $13,204. 2021-22 proposed per pupil expenditure is $15,020.
--2019-20 student enrollment was 66,816. 2020-21 enrollment is 63,836
--There is a list of items in the document attached that are not funded in the current proposed SEON. For the last several years I have been advocating for increasing additional duty supplements and this was at the top of my list. It still remains on the Unmet needs list.
When I am reviewing these budget documents, I am trying to balance what is most important for our students and also how it will impact taxpayers. The Superintendent highlighted in his presentation that we have served millions of free meals to the children of our district over the course of the last year. We also have approx 40% of our population on free and reduced lunch. I want to be sure that increased spending does not negatively impact our citizens who are already struggling and the spending must be sustainable.
I also value the community's input on this topic. I just ask that if you are making a request for additional spending, please provide a suggestion on where to find that additional money. I will say up front that I will not support a tax increase with an already 10% budget increase.
Please email the Board with your feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org.
*I will address the CIP (Capital Improvement Plan) separately.
Click on "Education Empowerment Scholarships" below to send prefilled email to all Delegates on the Education Sub-Committee in support of HB 2225. You can also amend the email with your own verbiage. (Please be sure to add your mailing address to the email so they know you are a resident of VA)
In order to provide direct comments on the bill, just go to this website and select the box HB2225 and then press next. You will be able to provide direct comments. Additionally, I have been informed that this will first be heard in subcommittee.
Del Glenn Davis of Va Beach is sponsoring a bill (HB2225) that will allow state tax dollars to follow the student. Specifically, it would allow state money to be allocated to students with special needs and students of active duty military members who choose to remove their children from public school. Currently, the average per student State allocation is approximately $4100.
Students with special needs often do not receive the services they need in order to succeed. Additionally, military students often do not have a choice of what school they can attend and may be forced into failing schools without any other options. Under this legislation, these students would have an option. With these Education Empowerment Scholarships, parents could use this money for their children to attend private school, homeschool, therapy services, tutors, etc.
This legislation will soon be heard in Sub-Committee. Please consider sending an email of support for this legislation. Full bill details can be found here. HB2225.
Summary of 1/12/20 School Board meeting on the topic of returning Option 1 students to school:
* Original motion made was to approve the Superintendent's amended plan that was changed just a few hours prior to the meeting. There was consensus among Board members that we didn't want to give him the authority to make changes to dates that would be set. Original motion was never voted on
* I made a substitute motion to approve the plan presented to the Board last week that has been supported by over 30 local esteemed physicians. Failed 4-7
* Ms. Weems made a substitute motion to approve Dr Spence's amended plan provided a few hours before the meeting to change the start dates by 2 weeks but to remove his authority to change the dates. I made the second to approve. Motion never voted on
* Ms. Owens made another substitute motion passed to her in a note by Bev Anderson. This motion was to approve the amended plan with start dates for first group of Feb 1 and second group Feb 22; however, there are stipulations. All 5 mitigations strategies must be met AND infection rates must have a 7 day decline before students are allowed to return to school. No details were given in the motion regarding the details of how those 7 days are measured. Motion passed 6-5 (nay votes-- Weems, Rye, Manning, Hughes, Franklin).
At the last minute, just hours before the School Board meeting, the Department of Health Director changed her view and stated that she could not support the plan proposed last week because her office could not do proper COVID tracing during the current metrics. Dr Spence told us late in the night that prior to the holiday break, he asked the VB Dept of Health if there was anything that VB Schools could do to help with contact tracing. It is now weeks later and he still has not received an answer from them. I fear that this organization will continue to prevent our students from returning to school and feel that we are letting 1 person's voice drown out the advice from over 30 other physicians who have indicated that students are safer IN school and that they believe community metrics could decline with students back IN school. Additionally, Chesapeake has already begun their employee vaccinations. VB will not even begin for at least 2 more weeks (possibly more) and there must be 4 weeks between the 1st and 2nd dose. City Council in their meeting last night expressed their frustration with the VDH vaccine rollout in VB.
If you want to get students back to school contact your state legislators to let them know this is not acceptable. Legislators on both sides of the aisle have called for not approving additional funding if students do not return to in person learning
I just received permission from these physicians to share this letter publicly. I have received numerous additional letters of support similar to this.
I have received quite a few emails from physicians in support of returning students to the classroom. They have indicated that it is safe for both students and staff. Here is an excerpt from one of the messages I received from a local ER Physician not associated with the current medical team advising our School Board.
There is also another new release from Harvard Doctors on the topic
THERE WERE NO CASES OF CHILD-ADULT WITHIN SCHOOL TRANSMISSION.
From a local ER Physician:
I was actually surprised to find that the evidence is overwhelming in demonstrating that in person learning is SAFE for both students and staff. In fact, a new study just came out on January 8, 2020 in the American Journal of Pediatrics that I believe is very relevant to the opening of schools. I want to the highlight the following from that study:
- This study examined 11 school districts in North Carolina (with nearly 100,000 students/staff) open for 9 weeks of in-person instruction.
- The study tracked secondary transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through the local health department.
- Through contact tracing, NC health department staff determined only 32 out of 773 infections were acquired within schools.
- There were no cases of child-to-adult within-school transmission.This means not a single child gave a teacher an infection.
- Most of the cases of secondary transmission in ABC district were related to absent face coverings.
- The counties housing the school districts had considerable community transmission at the time.
- The author concludes,“Our data indicate that schools can reopen safely if they develop and adhere to specific SARS-CoV-2 prevention policies.”
During an ongoing pandemic with widespread community transmission, cases of COVID-19 will occur regardless of whether schools are in- person or not. A key question exists for the Board: Is the within-school spread of COVID-19 greater, equal to, or less than that observed in the broader community??? I can tell you with certainty that studies unequivocally demonstrate that it is less and it is actually safer for children and teachers to be in school, where mitigation is consistent.
The School Board will meet and discuss proposed changes to the "Fall 2020 Reopening Plan" on Jan 5th at 4pm. The proposed changes have not yet been presented to the Board. However, we have received the demands from the VBEA Union (see below).* The VBEA is a subsidiary of the NEA and has been fighting hard to keep our students out of school. The most recent list of demands are arbitrary, unreasonable and not based in science. Several current School Board members have very close ties to the VBEA including continued membership in the organization.
Multiple physicians recently advised our Board that keeping children out of school is causing harm and that COVID spread is NOT occurring in schools. VBCPS, through the CARES Act, has spent millions of dollars to be able to safely return our students back to school (plexiglass, PPE, cleaning supplies, and more). Yet our classrooms remain empty and our children and families are suffering.
Nowhere in this message below from the VBEA President does it mention the long lasting negative impacts of continued closures on students. Achievement gaps continue to widen, anxiety and depression continue at all time highs and obesity in children will all have a lasting impact.
I do not blame teachers for the decisions that have been made. Most teachers want to be back in the classroom and I do not believe the VBEA represents even close to a majority of teachers. I believe most teachers are making lemonade out of lemons. However, students are continuing to fall behind and are NOT receiving the same type of instruction they would in-person. Especially our students with special needs and students in specialty programs such as Vo-tech.
**** The VBEA wants to "adjust curriculum standards and pacing guides"! Our students are already behind and the VBEA wants to continue to lower the bar??
**** VBEA wants parents/taxpayers to pay for childcare for employees. How many other employers are paying childcare expenses for employees while parents have to be home with their kids? The funding comes out of the taxpayers' pockets--- it doesn't grow on trees! What about parents and students?
You can provide your input regarding the VBEA demands to the School Board at email@example.com.
*I always get comments that state: "VBEA is not a union". They are a subsidiary of the NEA (National Teacher's Union). If you are a member of the VBEA, you are automatically a member of the NEA. See photo
As an athlete and the parent of athletes, I know first hand how important the sports season is to our teens. I fear what will happen if the winter season is canceled. Our teens are already at the brink and many haven't been in a classroom for over 9 months. Parents and coaches, this is a good segment on WAVY to watch.
VBCPS is planning to cancel the winter sports season, a final decision will be made tomorrow.
It is my viewpoint that our youth athletes are safer in school and safer playing their sports. Physicians advising our Board told us that it is causing harm keeping our kids out of school. I have read about teens around the country committing suicide after their sports seasons were canceled.
If you believe our youth should still have a winter sports season (even if you don't have a HS athlete), please email (ASAP) the
VB School Board: firstname.lastname@example.org
Superintendent Aaron Spence: email@example.com
Chief Schools Officer Donald Robertson: firstname.lastname@example.org
MOST IMPORTANT: PLEASE HAVE YOUR ATHLETE SEND AN EMAIL!!!
click "Please allow Winter Sports to Move Forward" below to send an prefilled email.
Physician Presentation-- 3 local doctors on our advisory panel (2 pediatricians and 1 ER physician) are strongly in favor of school reopening. They stated that science now shows closings schools causes harm. Childhood obesity caused by isolation will have long lasting negative impacts on health, ER departments are overflowing with mental health patients due to psychiatric facilities being at their highest levels ever (increasing at the highest rate ever). Pediatric mental health problems, suicides and suicidal ideations are at all time high. They felt that students are safer in school and that they are not transmitting the virus to each other or to staff. They also favor keeping the virtual option and continuing with the mitigations that have been put in place.
Director of VB Dept of Health- Dr Demetria Lindsay also gave her point of view. She said that she wasn't opposed to reopening schools but felt that it had to be done in a measured approach and was concerned about the community numbers.
The Superintendent seems to want to get schools open but also wants the support of Dept of Health. He also presented an idea of having a safety audit team that would monitor schools compliance with mitigation measures. I thought that was a good idea.
Several Board members still seem opposed to reopening.
Sports: A decision will be made by Dec 22nd regarding whether or not to cancel Varsity winter sports. It does not sound promising that they will happen.
The next scheduled school board meeting will not take place until Jan 12th. It was asked if the board could meet sooner and the chair is contemplating that question. If you want our kids back to school asap and want winter sports to continue, please email the school board. email@example.com
This is currently a book that is an approved part of VBCPS 9th grade curriculum. This "short film" was used to introduce the book at one school. I've received complaints from multiple parents at multiple schools who have concerns about their children reading this book. I've read multiple reviews of the book but attached is the most in depth literary review. I've also spoken to a teacher who has read this book (but said would never assign it to students) and the teacher said the review is very accurate.
Here is one excerpt from the book review: Kids at the harvest camp are thrilled to meet Connor, whose reputation precedes him. Risa is assigned to play with the band, which plays on top of the Chop Shop, the building where unwinding takes place. She feels like it’s unethical to watch kids meet their end, but Dalton, a bass player, insists it’s the only way to stay alive. Lev is at the harvest camp too, but for a very different reason. After leaving the Graveyard on the “work call,” people praised Lev and replaced his blood with explosive liquid. He, Mai, and Blaine are now clappers, and plan to blow up the camp. One evening, Roland tries to strangle Connor, but he can’t go through with it. Counselors take him to be unwound the next afternoon. The experience is horrific: he’s awake and terrified the entire time. Word gets out that Connor is slated to go next. Lev insists to Mai and Blaine that they have to act soon so they can save Connor. Lev is late getting to his spot, however, and the Chop Shop explodes just after Connor steps inside. Risa and the band fall when the roof collapses. Though Lev is in excruciating emotional pain, he can’t bring himself to clap, and instead stanches Connor’s bleeding and leads the rescue effort. Connor wakes up in the hospital and learns that nurses have given him a new identity—that of a member of a wealthy local family—which saves him from unwinding and also made him eligible for emergency transplants for his eye and his arm. To his horror, Connor realizes that he received Roland’s arm. He finds Risa and learns that she refused the transplant surgery that would cure the lower body paralysis she sustained in her fall. Now, as a disabled person, she can’t be unwound.
What are your thoughts in the current environment of children struggling with mental health issues?
*** Only comments that include a valid name and email address will be approved on the blog.
Attached is a letter that I sent to my Board colleagues asking they consider my request to reopen our schools. This will be discussed and up for a vote on Tuesday, Dec 1. If you believe our option 1 students should be back in school, please email and call the Board. The only way this will be possible is if the community speaks up. The group email is: firstname.lastname@example.org and the phone numbers can be found here. You may sign up to speak at this link or call the clerk on Monday: 757-263-1016. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdMBT94omFTrkIDZlOn1q_wp_I8f4fONlb_go6_UCRG0wvuIg/viewform
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*user comments on blog posts must have a valid full name and email address or it will not be approved
Thank you to Kerry Dougherty for publishing my article: https://www.kerrydougherty.com/allposts/2020/11/19/reopen-public-schools-or-provide-school-vouchers
I will continue to stand up for our children suffering from mental health issues related to the COVID isolation.
I may not be able to respond to all of the emails and calls that I’m receiving, so I thought I would share my response here regarding the decision to return all students to virtual learning.
It is the prerogative of the Superintendent to make this decision. The Board voted on a reopening plan that included metrics. I did not agree with that plan nor the metrics to be used but it did pass on an 8-3 vote by your elected representatives.
My opinion based upon research, including talking with physicians and mental health providers, is that keeping students out of school has more negative impacts than returning them for in-person learning. According to the CDC, compared with 2019, the proportion of mental health–related emergency department visits during the pandemic for children aged 5–11 and 12–17 years increased approximately 24% and 31%, respectively.
I fear for the mental health well-being of all students. I am also concerned that students with special needs and students whose parents aren’t able to be home with their children will fall farther behind. Additionally, our students who have hands-on learning courses such as the Career and Technical Center, Advanced Technology Center, SECEP, Environmental Studies, courses with labs, etc are being further left behind.
I would like to note that even though we did enter the “Red” metric today for total cases, the VDH did report that their elevated case case count reported today, November 16 is due to a catch-up from the VDH data system being down for upgrades. While I believe any death is a tragedy, we did flatten the curve and hospitalizations and deaths remain low. The graphs shows hospitalizations and deaths for the Eastern Region.
I continue to believe that the cure should not be worse than the disease.
Fortunately, we will be sticking with the plan to return our older students 2 days per week beginning this Thursday. Thank you to Dr Spence and his staff for making the recommendation to stick with the plan.
I brought up the mental health issues that are negatively impacting our community and this must be factored into our decisions. My colleague Kim Melnyk attacked me and said that I should not be using mental health issues as a reason to return our students to school since mental health has always been a problem. I will continue to advocate for our students, especially those suffering from anxiety and depression!!!!
I will be communicating matters related to the school board here on my blog. If you wish to receive an email notification when a new post has been made, just sign up for the newsletter to the right of this post.
It is my goal to keep the public informed regarding issues being discussed by the School Board.