School Board Report – January 2, 2013

School Board Report for January 2, 2013

The meeting began at 7:18 PM.  All members were present.

Editor’s note – the was live blogged on our facebook page (here)

Organizational Meeting

The big event of the night was the appointment of the Woodbridge representative to the school board.  Steve Keen was nominated as approved in a 6 – 1 vote as the Woodbridge representative.  Ms. Jessie (Occoquan) voted against Mr Keen.

Congratulations to Mr Keen!

Dr Otaigbe was nominated and unanimously approved as Vice Chairman of the School Board.

Other nominations and appointments were made, feel free to check out the agenda for the complete list.

Consent Agenda

One item was removed from the Consent Agenda and added to the regular agenda – the Funding Agreement for the Governor’s School at Innovation Park. The remaining items, listed below, were unanimously approved with no questions asked.

  • African-American History Month
  • Career and Technical Education Month
  • National Athletic Training Month
  • National School Counseling Week
  • The Pathway to Baccalaureate Program Memorandum of Understanding
  • Virginia School Principals Week
  • Special Warrant for School Board Review and Approval of November 2012 Payroll
  • Increase the FY 2013 School Operating Fund
  • Signature Authorization for Filing Reports for the Improving America’s Schools Act of 1994, Public Law No. 103-382
  • Increase FY 2013 Budget and Appropriation for The Governor’s School @ Innovation Park, Fund 027
  • Windy Knoll Farm Center for Environmental Education
  • Approval of School Board Meeting Minutes for December 19, 2012
  • Approval of Disciplinary Hearing Minutes from December 12, 2012

Editor’s Note:  I had previously asked a question about the increase in the Operating Fund, namely what effect the receipt of an additional $1.8 million would have on the $12 million projected funding shortfall at the end of this school year.  My question was not asked by any school board members and, clearly, was not answered.

Citizen Comments

There were no citizen comments.

Editor’s Note:  The BOCS allows citizens to comment on agenda items after staff has made their presentation and provides staff with an opportunity to correct misinformation or answer any questions after citizen comments.  This, at least in my opinion, is far superior to the process followed by the PWC School Board.  The School Board expects citizens to comment on agenda items BEFORE staff has made any sort of presentation.  This means that there is no opportunity citizens to ask additional questions based on staff presentations and no opportunity for staff to address concerns or questions raised by citizens.  No matter how well informed School Board members might be, they can’t know everything about everything, and sometimes citizens are better informed about things that are going on in their children’s schools than are School Board members.

The School Board isn’t required to provide an opportunity for citizen comments nor is there any legally mandated format governing the manner or timing of citizen comments, so the School Board could change this, if they so desired.

Regular Meeting

Boundary Recommendation for Loch Lomond, Sinclair, Sudley, West Gate, Mullen, and Ellis Elementary Schools.

The  boundary committee recommended either Plan 2 or 3.  Plan 2 narrowly defeated Plan 3 in the committee vote, though only 5 of the 12 committee members were able to attend to vote.   Both plans provide for balanced enrollment and maintain enrollment at the schools listed above except Ellis at or below capacity with current projections through 2022.  Both plans result in slight overcrowding at Ellis Elementary which will be relieved when the Devlin Road Elementary School opens.  That school is currently scheduled to open in the Fall of 2015.

The boundary changes were the result of a number of additions constructed at the schools listed above.  The school division had previously proposed opening a new school in that area, but the community opposed that idea so they got a bunch of additions instead.

You can find the detailed maps listing which neighborhoods and streets will be moved on the PWCS web site.

Editor’s note:  While I love charts, when they get placed in a power point presentation and displayed in the TV screens at the Kelly Center or on PWCS TV, they are illegible.  Most people watching the meeting don’t have printed copies of the files on hand to reference.  There has to be a way of presenting the charts with financial and enrollment figures in such a way that they can be read by citizens watching the meetings.

Math Instruction in PWCS

Mrs Satterwhite had requested that the school division provide a presentation on Math instruction in the county as a result of the new textbooks several months ago. The school division finally got around to providing that presentation last night.

Staff stressed that the assessments, which govern lesson pacing, were written by PWCS teachers. The pacing of lessons was set by PWCS teachers based on how they felt Math should be taught. PWCS teachers have the autonomy and authority to use any materials they want in any order they want.    If parents have any questions or concerns about the pacing of lessons, use of textbooks or other instructional materials, assessments, or grading, they need to bring those concerns to the attention of their child’s classroom teacher and school Principal as the classroom teachers are responsible for the manner in which Math is being taught in PWCS elementary schools.   Per PWCS, the Math program is all on the classroom teachers. Central office has nothing to do with it other than facilitate teacher learning and professional development.

School board members asked several questions concerning the cost of the program and the pacing of lessons. They were told that our teachers teach the curriculum and everything we do is about the curriculum and not a textbook. School board members praised our teachers and math department for working so hard, doing such a wonderful job, and making math accessible to PWC’s children.

Editor’s Note: I’ll refrain from commenting on this at this time and will save my comments for a subsequent, more detailed, post.

Funding Agreement for the Governor’s School at Innovation Park

Chairman Johns asked that this time be removed from the Consent Agenda for further discussion.  Superintendent Walts stated that the recommendation may have been misleading.  He said the school division, and Manassas and Manassas Park, are trying to lay out a framework where we lock in the number of students we will be responsible for funding and sending to the school. So we’re trying to make sure know how much funding we’ll get from each division for planning and budgeting purposes. Same agreement is at Manassas and Manassas Park. School board will revisit this during budget process and blanks will be filled in. Once that’s done we’ll do a second MOU with GMU that will have the details about costs and responsibilities.

Chairman Johns stated that there isn’t anything in the agreement that authorizes him to do anything. Governor’s school board is comprised of school board representatives from participating divisions.  Johns said his practice is to not sign anything on behalf of Governor’s school that he’s not authorized to sign by the PWC School Board.  Johns also noted that he’d disclose any conflict of interest that existed, as per state law.

Mrs Covingtion asked of a school division agrees to send X number of students and they send 4 less than expected, do they still have to pay the same share?  Answer – yes.  You pay the same share no matter how many students you send.

Mrs Covington asked if another school division could take those slots if they have interested students?  Answer – possibly, which is why we have the working group.

Dr Otiagbe stated that he thinks this school is one of the best kept secrets in PWC. If you have students who love science, this is the way to go. Advantages include half day at GMU where you can interact with college level professors and use their labs. Can get lots of dual credit for college, which is different from AP exams as you may not get credit with AP classes. With college credit you’ll get credit even if you don’t get a 4 or 5 on the AP exam. This is the only Governor’s school that has an agreement with a 4 year state college.

Ms Bell asked for enrollment numbers at the Governor’s school – both number of students projected to attend and number who actually attend.  School division will have to get back to her with those numbers. Editor’s note:  these figures should be available to the public, not just school board members in their board briefing materials.

Editor’s Note: I’d like to know why the Governor’s School at Innovation isn’t considered at STEM school by the Va Dept of Ed. 

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