RCPS seek social worker and 4 percent pay raise
Hampton District Supervisor John Lesinski isn’t waiting for the conclusion of the county’s FY20 budget negotiations to announce his support for the Rappahannock Public Schools’ budget request that would bring a full time social worker and 4 percent teacher pay raise to the school district.
Having listened to two dozen county residents argue in favor of restoring $75,000 in funding requested by RCPS to realize both proposals, Lesinski — a former chairman of the county schools board — proclaimed the time was now for the Rappahannock County government to be “more proactive” in supporting its schools, especially when it comes to mental health needs.
“I’m Elizabeth Lee,” one woman had pleaded moments before to the Board of Supervisors, her voice choked with emotion, “and we’re twenty years late to help my son. So please, give us the help that we need.”
Aline Johnson, a former longtime school board member, told the BOS that the county’s “teachers and guidance counselors are not trained to deal with all the concerns and problems that students have today.
“We don’t want to lose anyone,” Johnson cautioned.
Another speaker, former RCPS student Brittany Dwyer, works today as the community outreach coordinator for Mental Health America of Fauquier County, which provides Rappahannock with mental health and addiction resources. Dwyer received a standing ovation when telling the BOS that “many of my former classmates, along with myself, struggled with mental health issues when we were in school.
“And many of us sought professional help at a much later stage in our lives, mostly because help wasn’t available or accessible at the level it should have been in our schools. Having that help come from within our school system would be a huge step forward for us.”
“I want to urge you,” Headwaters Foundation board member Gary Aichele told the BOS, “to restore that [$75,000] so the School Board is not forced to make a choice between two very important items — one is the 4 percent raise, and the other is the full time social worker.”
A proposed “balanced” budget submitted to the board by county Administrator Garrey Curry has left a $75,000 gap with what Dr. Grimsley proposed in her RCPS budget request. It’s now up to the five supervisors to decide whether to restore the funding before approving the county’s 2020 budget, which could require a tax increase.
“The 4 percent raises for our teachers and our staff, that’s non-negotiable for us, we need to do that,” Dr. Grimsley stated point blank when taking her turn at the podium. “In fact, we wish we could do 5, 6, 7 percent to stay on par [with surrounding school districts]. We’re at the bottom.
“And that’s tough, especially since we’re in the top 10 of the wealthiest [Virginia] counties on paper,” she said. “We did make a lot of cuts in this budget. If we have to go back and find $75,000 more it’s going to hurt, it’s going to be tough.”
Flint Hill resident Betsy Dietel asked that the BOS “think about this school [system] as the core of this county. It’s the future for all of us. And I hope that you will rethink the budget that Dr. Grimsley and her board have presented to you.”
Subsequent budget discussions will be held by the supervisors on April 29 at 7 p.m. at the county courthouse and again at their regular board meeting on May 6. Additional budget adoption hearings are slated for May 13 and June 3.