School board: $150K pledge

The Rappahannock County School Board voted Tuesday to dedicate $150,000 in next year’s budget — and in its budgets for the following nine years — to paying off whatever debts may be incurred to fix energy and environmental problems at the county’s schools.
The unanimously passed motion — which shifts monies principally from the salary and benefits of a retiring teacher’s slot — is more of a symbolic good-will gesture meant to promote cooperation between the school board and the county Board of Supervisors than a practical one. Practically speaking, 80 percent of the school board’s budget has to be approved by the county supervisors. (The other 20 percent comes from the state.)
The week before, the supervisors did just that — voting 3-2 to approve the school system’s $11.5 million 2010-11 budget in total — after failing to approve the budget by specific categories, which would give the county greater control over school spending.
Several supervisors, and vocal citizens, have criticized the schools and retiring Superintendent Bob Chappell for what they saw as mishandling funds that should have gone to building maintenance and operations over the past few years.
The $150,000 pledged to “debt service” by the school board Tuesday will pay for roughly $1 million worth of work, spread over 10 years, said County Administrator John W. McCarthy on Wednesday.
A joint advisory committee will meet again later this month before recommending to the Supervisors the scope and order of school repairs — candidate projects include lighting systems, air-conditioning and heating systems and controls, energy-efficient windows and more.
McCarthy said the supervisors have not yet decided how to finance the work, although the plan will most likely use at least part of a surplus of $1.1 million originally saved up to build county offices on Bank Road. Other parts of the financing, McCarthy said, could include long-term lease/purchase plans or borrowing.
By approving the school budget without categorical restriction, Chappell told the school board Monday, “the Supervisors demonstrated real support for and trust of this school board, and I for one am grateful.”
Before voting to approve the $150,000 pledge, school board member Rosa Crocker cautioned that “this board cannot direct what future school boards will do, so I’m a little bit uncomfortable.”
She also pointed out that, on Chappell’s and the board’s most current list of repairs and capital improvements, cost estimates for the most pressing repairs appeared to total closer to $3 million than the $1 million figure being discussed at the county level.
Chappell, attending his next-to-last school board meeting as superintendent, also expressed concern that the county advisory board’s hired engineering firm, SRP, had estimated that work to repair the pneumatic thermostats and controls of the schools’ HVAC systems would cost $160,000. An earlier estimate, he said, was about $430,000 — “and I tend to think the ultimate cost will be closer to that figure,” he said. “To me, this is the No. 1 priority, these pneumatic systems have got to be dealt with.”
In other action, the board authorized a search for a high school principal to replace Adam Burket, who in April announced his intention to resign at the end of the school year — and then was reassigned a few weeks later to direct the school system’s Special Education Services, a post held by Mike Tupper — who was reassigned the same day to Burket’s job as acting high school principal.
The school system is also searching for a new athletic director and varsity football and basketball coaches, and its first new superintendent in eight years — Aldridge Boone, former superintendent of Appomattox County schools — comes on board July 1.

Roger Piantadosi
About Roger Piantadosi 545 Articles
Former Rappahannock News editor Roger Piantadosi is a writer and works on web and video projects for Rappahannock Media and his own Synergist Media company. Before joining the News in 2009, he was a staff writer, editor and web developer at The Washington Post for almost 30 years.