Funds for schools urged


This story contains two corrections to the Jan. 20 print version. Amy Hitt was referred to as RCSSA’s vice president. She is president of the organization. The School Board was incorrectly referred to as the Board of Education.

Rappahannock County School Board members were urged Tuesday to do what they could to improve the educational offerings to students and give raises to teachers.

The urgings came during the public comment portion of the board’s regular monthly meeting. The board and superintendent are in the process of formulating a budget for the 2011-2012 school year.

The board has budget work sessions on its calendar for Feb. 22 and March 22 with a public hearing on the budget coming in between, on March 8. A joint meeting with the county board of supervisors, which must approve the budget, is set for March 15.

Helen Williams, a now-retired teacher who served as acting superintendent of the county schools system from 2002 to 2003, told the board: “I don’t think it’s a bad thing to review our priorities in deciding what’s best for our children.” She asked the board to “please keep up the diversity of programs and seek to increase them and provide a program of staff development for teachers.”

Bill Dietel of Flint Hill said that while charter schools “have generated a great deal of publicity, their results are a mixed bag at best. The press have failed to point out there is another answer. That is to put more money and imagination into what we already have. The time has come to take a positive stance on our public schools.” He told the board “you have to be advocates for what you want. This is the moment to stand up. I think you’ll find the public is behind you.”

Amy Hitt, president of the Rappahannock County School Sports Association (RCSSA), urged the board “to give teachers a raise. If you don’t give raises, they won’t want to be here very long.”

She also recounted the RCSSA’s efforts on behalf of school sports teams, such as helping get new wrestling mats, a new scoreboard for the gym and lights for the athletic field. But that’s not enough “if we don’t have parents coming to watch and kids to play,” she said.

She urged the board to give attention to the school sports budget.

Superintendent Aldridge Boone noted that he attended a meeting in Richmond earlier this month of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents (VASS), where attendees learned state sales tax revenue is up — a possible good sign for school systems in the state when money is doled out, although Boone said he “heard a lot of maybes.”

There is the prospect that school districts will get enough money to give employees a 3 percent raise but “there is nothing concrete,” Boone said, and districts may have to come up with a share of any raises they grant.

He said there was also discussion at the VASS meeting about getting the Virginia Retirement System fully funded again. He said the retirement fund for public employees has 73.9 percent of the money it needs for retirement payouts. Gov. Bob McDonnell has proposed requiring employees to share in the cost of their retirement program to help close the gap.

Board Vice Chairman Aline Johnson said she sees “a need to go to Richmond” to press legislators on school budget matters and that she “would like to see as many board members go” as possible.

Boone noted that he will be attending a meeting that Del. Todd Gilbert (R-15th) will be having soon, as well as one being hosted by U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor, in February.

In other business, the board approved a change in the school calendar that requires students to attend school on Feb. 21, Presidents Day, instead of having the holiday off. This will make up for a weather-related unscheduled day off in December.

An employee makeup day has been set for April 18.

The board also decided to move its future meetings from the high school band room to the school’s media center instead. It will be a better location to make multimedia presentations and make the setup and breakdown of chairs and tables in the band room for the board members unnecessary, Boone said.

Although Johnson wondered if there would be enough room in the media center for a larger audience than usually attends the meeting, it was decided to at least try the new arrangement.

The board also set its annual structure for the current year. Members will continue to hold their current offices and committee assignments. John Wesley Mills continues as board chairman and Johnson as vice chairman. Mills and Johnson also serve on the board’s budget and finance committee. Mills is also on the facilities committee with Beth Hilscher. Meredith Gorfein and Rosa Crocker are on the strategic planning and policy committee.

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James Ivancic is a reporter for the Fauquier Times in Warrenton, Va. Contact him at