The Rappahannock County Board of Education, meeting for the first time in 2010 Tuesday at the high school, unanimously reelected Wes Mills as its chairman.
The Jackson District’s Mills will lead the board, with Piedmont District member Aline Johnson elected vice-chair, through some challenges that a less-experienced chairman might find daunting, to say the least.
The board is scheduled to start interviewing over the next two months its five final candidates for the job of Superintendent Robert Chappell, who retires in June. (The interviews and candidates identities will remain private, Wills said, until the field is narrowed to two.)
Wills, joined by new board member Elizabeth Hilscher from the Stonewall-Hawthorne District, will continue to serve on a joint countyschool board-citizen committee tasked by the Board of Supervisors with finding solutions to the schools’ increasingly pressing needs for energy-system upgrades.
The solution is a supervisorsmandated alternative to the school board’s proposed solution in 2008: a performance contract with Ameresco that would have allowed projected energy-cost savings to pay down the $2.5 million loan to which the county would have had to commit. Prompted by much public outcry, the supervisors declined and instead formed the joint committee.
Chappell told the school board that the engineering firm hired by the committee to analyze the schools’ energy and electrical systems would be spending yesterday and today at the facilities on their first visit.
Finally, the board has to deal with a budget already slashed by a tumbling economy and an outgoing governor. This budget is sure to be further scrutinized carefully by the incoming governor before Chappell has to come up with an estimate for the board to start working with in earnest.
Gov. Tim Kaine’s proposed budget, Chappell had already informed the board, cut close to $300,000 out of next year’s local school allocation – but this was offset by a new $240,000 supplement for counties with high composite indexes (and thus a low level of state funding). Having the supplement appear in Kaine’s proposed budget was a bit of good news amid otherwise bad news, Chappell said.
“But the bottom line is,” he told the board, “this is not a done deal.”
The board then made plans to visit legislators in Richmond in February. The board decided not to register for sessions at the Virginia School Board Association’s annual conference there at the same time (except possibly an orientation workshop for new member Hilscher) in a full-time effort to lobby for retaining the supplement in the budget.