12/2/14

Recapping last night's budget work session

The School Board held another FY16 operating budget work session last night. They've started earlier this year, holding several work sessions before the Superintendent proposes his budget. At this work session, staff conducted a conversation about expanding full-day kindergarten.  They also provided preliminary funding estimates to reduce average class sizes to the 2009 numbers, which the School Board had requested at their summer work session. The documents presented should be on BoardDocs soon, but were not available online at the time of the meeting.

Dr. Michael Martin started by presenting an updated version of the full-day kindergarten presentation he provided to the Loudoun Education Alliance of Parents (LEAP). Currently, 75.5% of our English Language Learner (ELL) students and 43% of our economically disadvantaged students (of which there is some overlap) receive full-day kindergarten in various forms. In the proposed option, 31 schools that have space for expansion would provide 43 additional FDK classes, giving a potential total of 1600 seats for full-day kindergarten (a little less than 1/3 of the total projected LCPS kindergarten population). This would potentially cover all ELL and economically disadvantaged students plus 284 extra seats for other students. The cost was estimated at $3.5 million.

Superintendent Williams stated that a long-term plan is still needed, but it was not part of this conversation. Dr. Williams said that he is hearing that the School Board is interested in expanding full-day kindergarten incrementally in this fashion, but not to include a plan to get to universal full-day kindergarten in his proposed budget this year. There were no objections to that characterization of the Board's intentions.

The Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) will be discussed again at the regular School Board meeting tonight at 6:30pm, which was delayed due to Thanksgiving. The CIP is expected to be finalized on Dec. 9. Any physical expansion to facilities would need to be in the CIP in order to be accomplished. There is no space for any full-day kindergarten classes in several schools and not enough space to provide full day kindergarten in more than one class in many more with the current boundaries. Read more about it here http://www.sosloudoun.org/2014/11/planning-for-full-day-kindergarten.html

The School Board accepts public comments at 6:30pm at its meeting. To sign up to speak, call (571) 252-1020 or email the Clerk of the Board at Christine.Coleman@lcps.org in advance, or see the clerk prior to 6:30pm at the meeting in Ashburn.

The other area presented was the cost involved to reduce the average class size to FY2009 levels. Overall, it was estimated to cost an additional $17.4 million to reduce elementary average class sizes by 1 student and secondary (middle and high) by 2 students, to reach the goals of 22 elementary, 21.6 middle and 25.9 high school average students per class. If the School Board wanted to reduce class size by 1 student throughout K-12 instead, it was estimated at $10 million.

Neither of these costs were included in the preliminary budget numbers provided to the Board of Supervisors at the beginning of the school year. They were listed as possibilities, but not costed. The County Administrator is currently projecting that returning to last year's tax rate of $1.205 would cover the preliminary budget estimated increase of $67 million without new initiatives. The School Board had said at a prior meeting they planned to ask that $12.5 million be returned to their health insurance fund that was taken in a prior year for county-wide operating funds. If that were funded through real estate taxes, it would bump up the rate to $1.22.

The Board of Supervisors will have their next meeting tomorrow, December 3, at the Government Center in Leesburg. County staff plans to present an information item with history of the schools' health insurance fund at that meeting.

11/17/14

Planning for full-day kindergarten


Loudoun County is 1 of only 3 districts in the state without universal full-day kindergarten. Loudoun County residents and teachers want full-day kindergarten now.

The School Board adopted operating budget last year included an expansion of full-day kindergarten to 5 more Title I eligible schools: Middleburg, Forest Grove, Sterling, Meadowland, and Frederick Douglass at a cost of $895,854. This service expansion was proposed by Sterling School Board member Brenda Sheridan and unanimously approved by the School Board. All of these schools already had the space to support this, so the cost was only to hire teachers. At the many public hearings for the budget with the School Board and Board of Supervisors, this was one of the most mentioned items supported by the speakers. After the Board of Supervisors underfunded the School Board's budget by $38 million, SOS Loudoun asked the community for what your priorities were, in order to further pursue these with the School Board in its reconciliation process. Expanding full-day kindergarten was the 3rd highest vote-getter. The School Board ended up cutting the expansion from the budget, the only improvement SOS Loudoun pushed for that was not funded. Now, only 21% of LCPS kindergarten students receive a full day of kindergarten.

Last week, the Superintendent proposed his Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for fiscal years 2016 - 2020. This is a five-year plan for needed new construction and expansions. Full-day kindergarten didn't make the first draft. It was listed as a possible discussion item. It has been discussed in years past as well. In 2012, LCPS estimated the cost at $51 million to expand existing schools to provide the space for full-day kindergarten. Often, items appear on the CIP to be funded in future years but are never approved for funding or are regularly delayed, such as the recently successfully funded Academies of Loudoun. Full-day kindergarten has yet to make it to a "to be funded" year.

Although it wasn't in the CIPs in prior years, the County was able to fund renovations and expansion to Broad Run High School at a cost of $26 million this year. This was added in its first year to be funded that year and received School Board and Board of Supervisors support after a strong showing at the CIP public hearings by Broad Run High supporters.

Similarly, the School Board's approved CIP last year included a $6 million request for design of the Academies of Loudoun in FY2015 and $108 million for construction of the project in FY2016. The Board of Supervisors then decided to combine both requests into FY2015. We could afford it.

This past week, the School Board voted to request its state delegates change Virginia law so that they can charge parents a user fee for full-day kindergarten. They said that this would cover the cost of facility expansion for full-day kindergarten, which they said we can't currently afford.

The expansion of facilities to support full-day kindergarten was estimated last year to cost in full $53 million. (It gets more expensive every year we wait.) This year's proposed CIP lists $71 million in improvements for FY2016 and only $43 milion in improvements in FY2017. The total CIP cost for all five years is $165 million less than last year's plan. It seems we could easily add the cost of full-day kindergarten expansion to this plan and still be under the recommended debt limits by the Board of Supervisors without any need for user fees.

Do you want full-day kindergarten in Loudoun County? Then we have to start with a plan. Let the School Board know you want that plan to start now, with adding the needed classroom expansion into its Capital Improvement Plan:
  • Public hearings are Monday, November 17 and November 24 at 6:30pm at the School Administration Building at 21000 Education Ct in Ashburn. Call (571) 252-1020 to sign up in advance to speak or sign up in person prior to the meeting.  
  • Contact the School Board at lcsb@lcps.org.
  • Share this with your friends.

9/15/14

Something's different

Wow! Some good news from the Board of Supervisors for a change!

The Board of Supervisors Finance Committee met last week to vote on the preliminary fiscal guidance they would provide the County Administrator in creating the FY16 budget. The last two years, this guidance was to decrease the tax rate to an equalized rate (where the average homeowner would see no tax increase on their increased property value) and to also look at an option of decreasing the tax rate even further, either two or three cents.

This year was different. Broad Run Supervisor Shawn Williams proposed that next year the budget should start with the current tax rate of $1.155, with the option of decreasing the tax rate to the projected equalized rate of $1.13. The motion passed with little comment. And with that, the needle was moved a bit in our direction.

Overall, however, the financial picture at the current tax rate is still grim. The schools would receive only a $36.2 million increase over last year's budget at the $1.155 rate. We need approximately $53.1 million just to maintain the status quo and provide the promised step increases on the newly adopted salary scale. That would mean we are starting $16.9 million in the hole without any improvements or restoration of cuts from the prior years. Based on our real needs, we could be looking at a needed increase of $90 million. It is preliminary though, and much better than the projected deficits of the last few years.

The takeaway from all this? We can make a difference. Keep up the pressure! It's working!

9/2/14

Back to School Part III: What We Need

The Board of Supervisors Finance Committee is planning to provide its preliminary fiscal guidance recommendation for next year's budget at its September 9 meeting. The guidance should then be voted on by the full board at its September 17 meeting.

As you return to school, take a minute to let the Board of Supervisors know what you're looking for in school funding for next year.

Here are some preliminary estimates of costs and items that we'll be looking at for next year's budget.

Enrollment Growth$17.3 million
Staff New Schools$2.8 million
Increased Benefits Costs$10.1 million
Increased Salary Costs from deferred raise$5.7 million
Provide Step Increase$17.2 million
Provide Cost of Living Increase$6.9 million per 1%
"One to the World" initiative? (multi-millions)
Expand full-day kindergarten$1 million
Reduce average class sizes$15 million for 1 student
Replace aging buses$7 million
Restore middle school deans$2.1 million
Start a new elementary school foreign language program?
Provide necessary English Language Learner staffing?
Pilot arts magnet program$50,000

Looking at these preliminary numbers of items we already know our schools need, it would cost around $90 million in new school funding.

To reach your supervisors office, call 703-777-0204. Everyone's supervisor is Scott York plus the representative for your district. The Finance Committee members are starred (*)

  • * Scott York (Chairman, At-Large) Scott.York@loudoun.gov
  • * Shawn Williams (Vice-Chairman, Broad Run) Shawn.Williams@loudoun.gov
  • Suzanne Volpe (Algonkian) Suzanne.Volpe@loudoun.gov
  • * Ralph Buona (Ashburn) Ralph.Buona@loudoun.gov
  • Janet Clarke (Blue Ridge) Janet.Clarke@loudoun.gov
  • Geary Higgins (Catoctin) Geary.Higgins@loudoun.gov
  • * Matthew Letourneau (Dulles) Matt.Letourneau@loudoun.gov
  • * Kenneth Reid (Leesburg) Ken.Reid@loudoun.gov
  • Eugene Delgaudio (Sterling) Eugene.Delgaudio@loudoun.gov


Don't get a response? Try one of their aides.

Let's make sure the Board of Supervisors is thinking of our schools right now, since we all are.

Hope everyone's first day back is great and best wishes for a wonderful year. If you haven't seen it yet, check out this cute video from our new superintendent:

School Begins Tuesday, September 2nd from LCPS-TV on Vimeo.

8/28/14

Back to School Part II: What We Gained

All was not lost in the budget fight for this school year. As we come back to school, we can celebrate the gains that the school system made with our encouragement. Three new schools opened, which helps at the schools nearby by reducing overcrowding: Cardinal Ridge Elementary, Trailside Middle, and Rock Ridge High.

More elementary school teachers were hired above and beyond that for enrollment growth with the intention of decreasing the average elementary school class size by 1 student.

The school system also invested in technology infrastructure improvements. This will be especially important as LCPS works towards its goal of every student having an Internet-connected device.

The schools will be paying their employees more as of November, too.  This will be the first step increase that teachers have received in 5 years. On average, the raise was 2 percent, but the salary scales were also restructured to be more fair, especially to mid-career teachers. (Compare the old vs. new salary scales.)

Your emails, speeches, signatures, and more were instrumental in getting these improvements made. Thank you.

What else have you noticed was improved? Share in the comments below.

Coming next...what we need.

8/27/14

Back to School Part I: What We Lost

Welcome back everyone to a new school year! Back to School nights have already started. As you make your way back, you're going to notice some changes this year, some good, some bad. In this post, we'll talk about what we lost.

If your child needed summer school, that was the first thing you noticed as traditional summer school was eliminated system-wide. If your high school student is on a fall sports team, you likely already noticed that the fee per sport was raised by $50.

As your child starts school though, the most noticeable change to parents and students will likely be the loss of positions. Fortunately, most people who lost their position were able to be placed in another one.

Overall, the school system lost all of its 125 English Limited Learner (ELL) assistants. The district decided to transition ELL support from teacher assistants to only teachers, adding 38 new ELL teacher positions (four of which are still open at this time). We also lost all 8 of our math facilitators and all 33 of our elementary foreign language teachers as those programs were eliminated.

The other big change to positions was implementing a new staffing framework that assigned library assistants, technology assistants, administrative interns, and middle school deans to schools by the number of students in the school.

Here's how the new staffing framework affects your child's school, assuming it follows the proposed staffing framework and enrollment projections from the spring:

Elementary Schools
0-299 - No Library Asst (lost 0.5), no Tech Assistant (lost 1)
Aldie
Banneker
Hamilton
Hillsboro
Lincoln
Lucketts
Waterford

300-599 - 1 Library Asst, .5 Tech (lost .5)
Algonkian
Buffalo Trail
Catoctin
Emerick
Forest Grove
Guilford
Kenneth W. Culbert
Leesburg
Lovettsville
Meadowland
Mountain View
Rolling Ridge
Round Hill
Sterling
Sugarland
Sully

600-799 - 1 Library Asst, 1 Tech
Arcola
Ashburn
Ball's Bluff
Cedar Lane
Cool Spring
Countryside
Discovery
Dominion Trail
Evergreen Mill
Frances Hazel Reid
Frederick Douglass
Hillside
Horizon
John W. Tolbert, Jr.
Lowes Island
Potowmack
Sanders Corner
Sycolin Creek

800-899 - 1 Library Assistant, 1 Tech Assistant, 0.5 Administrative Intern
Belmont Station
Hutchison Farm
Little River
Newton-Lee
Pinebrook
Rosa Lee Carter
Seldens Landing
Steuart Weller

900+ - 1 Library Assistant, 1 Tech Assistant, 1 Administrative Intern
Cardinal Ridge
Creighton's Corner
Legacy
Liberty
Mill Run
Moorefield Station

Middle Schools
Douglass School - 0.5 Tech Assistant

0-1099 - 0.5 Tech Assistant (lost 1), 1 dean (lost 2)
Blue Ridge
Harmony
Harper Park
J. Lupton Simpson
Seneca Ridge
Smart's Mill
Sterling

1100-1299 - 1 Tech Assistant, 2 deans (lost 1)
Belmont Ridge
Eagle Ridge
Farmwell Station
Mercer
River Bend
Trailside

1300+- 1 Tech Assistant, 3 deans
J. Michael Lunsford
Stone Hill

High Schools
Monroe Tech Center - .5 Tech Assistant

0-1399 - 1 Tech Assistant (lost 1)
Heritage
John Champe
Loudoun Valley
Park View
Rock Ridge

1400-1799 - 1.5 Tech Assistant (lost .5)
Dominion
Freedom
Loudoun County
Potomac Falls
Woodgrove

1800+ - 2 Tech Assistant
Briar Woods
Broad Run
Stone Bridge
Tuscarora

What other losses have you noticed? Feel free to share in the comments below.

Coming next...what we gained.

8/18/14

A Busy Summer

There have been a lot of meetings since April with talk about the budget, both the upcoming school year’s (FY15) that is finalized and the following year’s (FY16) that is already being discussed.

At the May 29 Loudoun Education Alliance of Parents (LEAP) meeting, School Board member Kevin Kuesters (Broad Run) said that the Board of Supervisors is focused on an equalized tax rate. He said that if parents don’t think that is right, they need an effective way of communicating that to the Board of Supervisors. But if school spending is the most important thing to you, he suggested you move to Falls Church. He explained, "Falls Church puts a premium on education. They put the tax dollars there. That's what their community does. That's not what the Loudoun County community does." He doesn’t think the Board of Supervisors will go above an equalized tax rate for FY16.


After budget reconciliation, the School Board decided to try to improve the budget process by starting it earlier. They have held work sessions on June 21 and August 14 and plan another in September, with the date to be determined.

At the June session, School Board chair Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) shared a summary of what the overall effect was of this upcoming school year’s budget. After reconciliation, the number of LCPS full-time employees increased by 1.8% even though the school system was expected to grow by 3.4% and they hired more teachers to reduce the average elementary school class size.

At both work sessions, several School Board members commented on the criticisms they had received from the Board of Supervisors during the budget cycle: that the School Board had not spent enough time on their budget and that the School Board’s proposed budget had surprised them with the high cost that the Board of Supervisors hadn’t planned for. School Board Vice Chair Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) said that she felt she had not spent enough time on the budget. School Board member Jeff Morse (Dulles) agreed that he hadn't either.

School Board member Tom Reed (At-Large) said that the School Board needs to provide input to the Board of Supervisors prior to the BoS setting its preliminary fiscal guidance so the supervisors cannot say they are surprised by the school systems’ needs. School Board member Jennifer Bergel (Catoctin) said that the School Board needs to make clear the ramifications of the Board of Supervisors proposed funding on the school system early. The supervisors’ minds never changed from September to April on where the tax rate should be set in this last cycle. Hornberger pointed out that when LCPS received the Board of Supervisors preliminary fiscal guidance of an equalized tax rate back last October, LCPS budget director Leigh Burden had sent them a memo stating that the money provided would be $80 million short even to meet their most basic requirements to maintain services with the expected growth. In fact, the BoS had suggested the equalized tax rate knowing that the preliminary LCPS numbers to sustain the school system with the expected growth would require approximately $47.5 million more than they were providing.

Looking ahead to the FY16 budget, the Board of Supervisors Finance Committee met on July 8 and heard from the County Administrator a preliminary fiscal outlook. While Loudoun unemployment was very low, the national economy was improving, and Loudoun job growth was the highest in 7 years, the County Administrator projected a tight budget year. Supervisor Chair Scott York (At-Large) encouraged the County Administrator to reach out to the new Superintendent to start their relationship off right in hopes of an improvement over the County’s relationship with outgoing superintendent Dr. Hatrick. He said that it will come down to the type of budget the BoS thinks the community can afford. Supervisor Shawn Williams (Broad Run) agreed that the dialog needed to start with telling the School Board what the county could afford. He said, “After three years, I think it’s pretty obvious the will isn’t to raise taxes.” Supervisor Matt Letourneau (Dulles) said that when it came down to it, the BoS didn’t trust the numbers being provided by the School Board.

In that regard, the School Board requested more transparency in the LCPS budget documents and Ms. Burden presented a sample at the August 14 work session. The School Board was pleased with the greater detail. They also received a document outlining a draft elementary school staffing framework, with middle and high school frameworks to come, that explained how the school system decides how many employees to hire based on enrollment.

Ms. Burden also presented a preliminary budget document that new Superintendent Dr. Eric Williams said he had shared with Chairman York and county staff that day. It showed that estimates of additional costs needed for enrollment growth, new schools, salaries and benefits would total $53 million WITHOUT any new initiatives or salary increases. Dr. Williams presented estimates of other possible new costs they had discussed at the prior work session:

  1. A “One to the World” initiative to provide a combination of school-owned and personal technology devices to connect to the internet and the necessary infrastructure support would cost millions.
  2. Class size reductions - Reducing the average class size by 1 student all levels was estimated at $15 million.
  3. Cost of living increase for all employees - $6.9 million per 1% increase.

School Board members requested that LCPS look at restoring some of the cuts from prior years: middle school deans and other reduced staff, summer school, elementary school foreign language, and bus replacements.

The BoS Finance Committee is planning to vote on a preliminary tax rate for the County to use to create its budget at their September 9 meeting. It is expected to be voted on by the Board of Supervisors as a whole on September 17. Will they be paying attention? Will you have let your voice be heard? If they again decide to cut the tax rate and not fund the schools’ needs, will they change their minds before finalizing it in April? We’ll be watching.

4/23/14

Final cut list

The School Board unanimously adopted the proposed list of cuts to their budget last night with a $343,438 deficit left to resolve. Superintendent Hatrick asked them to let LCPS staff finish the final reconciliation and the School Board approved. Given the speed with which they were making changes, staff needs to go back over the numbers anyway to be sure the line items are all correct.

Speaking of that, the School Board was methodically making additions and removals to the cut list all night. With about $1 million left over in the budget, it seemed that the last two additions were meant to be keeping freshman sports and expanding full day kindergarten. However, just before that happened, LCPS staff said that they had made a mistake in calculating the savings from replacing ELL assistants with ELL teachers, and they needed to fix that. Once they did that, the leftover money was gone. Staff said that at this point, they could figure out how to reconcile the $80,000 cut needed. Then, Kevin Kuesters (Broad Run) moved to keep freshman sports. The motion passed and staff said they could still figure out how to cut the final $343,438. Jennifer Bergel then moved to expand full day kindergarten, but that would have added another $900,000 to the budget gap. It failed 3-6 (Sheridan, Bergel, Turgeon in favor). Sad.

By the end of the night, the final list was (please forgive any mistakes - we'll have the official final soon):

Proposed Cuts Unchanged - Will Happen

  1. Eliminate new tech reimbursement plan for teachers - $1,500,000
  2. Increase teaching load of MS SALTs (department chairs) - $900,000 (12 positions)
  3. Increase teaching load of HS department chairs by 1 class; still 1 less than other teachers - $840,000 (11.2 positions)
  4. Remove JV coaching stipends when team is not fielded - $613,000
  5. Eliminate math facilitators - $596,800 (8 positions)
  6. Remove all replacement buses from the budget - 30 school buses, 25 special education large buses, and 11 special education small buses - $7,073,600
  7. Eliminate expansion of full day kindergarten - $895,854 (14 positions)
  8. Eliminate summer school - $820,000
  9. Eliminate hiring new bus drivers - $587,700 (18 positions)
  10. Reduce new positions needed to maintain the level of service due to enrollment growth
    • School Psychologist $86,450 (1 position)
    • Educational Diagnostician $86,450 (1 position)
    • Social Worker $91,850 (1 position)
    • Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist $81,700 (1 position)
    • Speech Language Pathologist $83,100 (1 position)
    • Occupational Therapist $83,100 (1 position)
  11. Eliminate activity buses - $81,000
  12. Halt proposed Musical Theater magnet program
  13. Eliminate FLES and SAMS (Spanish for grades 1-6) - $2,461,800 (33 positions)
  14. Eliminate the 1:1 technology initiative expansion to Eagle Ridge and Sterling Middle Schools - $616,000
  15. Eliminate HS Deans - $149,200 (2 positions)
  16. Eliminate new elementary school language immersion program - $137,000 (3 positions)
  17. Delay the facility usage master plan - $600,000
  18. Eliminate new positions from Support Services -
    • Accounting Specialist $78,700 (1 position)
    • Environmental Specialist $63,800 (1 position)
    • Civil Engineering Coordinator $118,600 (1 position)
    • Telecommunications analyst $78,800 (1 position)
    • Resource Nurse $64,600 (1 position)
  19. Elimination of the new visitor management system for security - $400,000
  20. Reduce new positions in the central office:
    • GIS Specialist - Transportation. $67,200 (1 position)
    • Public Information Secretary $67,200 (1 position)
  21. Remove new Web developer position - $78,550 (1 position)
  22. Remove new position for a Gifted Education specialist - $112,200 (1 position)
  23. Consolidate Kindergarten Office with Elementary Education Office - $97,300 (0.5 position)
  24. Eliminate new Retirement and Disability Specialist - $67,800 (1 position)
  25. Reduction in legal fees from Superintendent's budget - $30,000

New cuts added last night - Will happen

  1. Eliminate all new vehicle replacements - $700,000
  2. Increase student fees for sports from $100 to $150 per sport  (TBD)
  3. Reduce secretaries' work year from 208 to 198 days - $144,000
  4. Reduce staffing at Hillsboro Elementary in line with expected charter proposal - $122,900 (2.5 positions)
  5. Eliminate new technology positions:
    • AV Technician $40,500
    • Computer Technician $136,250
    • Network Specialist $67,200
    • Technical Writer $74,600
    • Systems Specialist $67,200
    • Systems Engineer $78,550
    • Software Engineer $78,500
  6. Delay hiring one Assistant Principal for Rock Ridge High - $130,000
  7. Reduce planning, architectural and engineering budget - $300,000
  8. Eliminate new line items in Support Services - 
    • Automated door operator $209,000 
    • Maintenance Workers  $114,900
    • Vehicles for Maintenance workers $70,000
    • 3 dump trucks $435,000
    • 2 utility service truck with plow $100,000
  9. Reduce Pupil Services O&M $63,000 
  10. Reduce DTS O&M $340,000
  11. Reduce High School O&M $200,000
  12. Reduce Music O&M $50,000
  13. Reduce Technology Resource $50,000
  14. Eliminate Secretary in Pupil Services (existing position) $51,300

Modifications to cuts already on the list - will happen

  1. Delay proposed employee salary scale implementation and step increase until November 1, 2014. - $5.7 million (Changed from October to November to save $2.1 million)
  2. Eliminate K-12 Insight budget (performs community surveys) - $170,000 (Changed from reduced to eliminated to save $70,000)
  3. Reduce technology assistants, library assistants, middle school deans, and administrative interns depending on size of the school. - (savings & positions TBD) (Saved some half and full time positions based on enrollment)
  4. Reduce salaries for long-term substitutes to $154/day - $1,500,000 (Changed from $160 to $154 to save $100,000)
  5. Reduce ELL teacher assistants and increase teachers - $2,500,000 (Incorrect costing fixed by staff)

Cuts restored: (not going to happen)

  1. Eliminate specialized Family Life Education teachers (instead FLE would be taught by regular PE teachers) - $1,417,400 (19 positions)
  2. Elimination of 14 Assistant Athletic Directors - $1,307,500 (14 positions)
  3. Close the remaining four small schools (Hillsboro, Lincoln, Aldie, Hamilton) - $2,000,000
  4. Eliminate bus service to Thomas Jefferson HS - $390,000
  5. Eliminate Freshman sports - $260,000
  6. Eliminate the elementary school class size reduction the School Board added - $2,064,000 (14 positions)
Updated 4/23 8:50am to correct salary scale delay savings

4/22/14

More Back and Forth

The highest ranking staff member of the Loudoun County Public Schools made a statement at the April 8 School Board meeting which triggered a response from the highest ranking staff member of Loudoun County. Let's give a few more details to the discussion.

Following dozens of speakers on the budget mostly pleading with the School Board to avoid making specific proposed cuts, outgoing LCPS superintendent Edgar Hatrick took a "point of privilege" during his scheduled Superintendent's Report and said:

In apparent response to a request from the Board of Supervisors, County Administrator Tim Hemstreet sent the BoS a memo in response to these remarks as well as the systemwide potential Reduction in Force notices that the School Board decided to send out.

In Mr. Hemstreet's memo, he notes that he is only responding to the Leesburg Today reporting of what Dr. Hatrick said, and has not actually talked to Dr. Hatrick at all, so when Dr. Hatrick said that it is "one of the largest gaps between the School Board adopted budget and the its appropriation from the Board of Supervisors that I have seen in my 47 1/2 years in the school system," Mr. Hemstreet says that he is unclear whether Dr. Hatrick meant total money in millions of dollars or percentage cut from original request. He then proceeds to argue both cases:
"Due to the overall dollar amount of the Schools Budget of approximately $921 million (inclusive of bus leases), a $37.7 million difference is a large number. However, in terms of the overall budget, on a percentage basis, it represents a 4% difference. It should be noted that there are at least two years, FY 2009 and FY 2011, where the percentage difference between the School Board’s request and the Board appropriation, as well as the overall dollar difference, were higher than the current year difference, showing a 6.1% difference of $48.7 million in 2009 and 7.1% difference of $54.4 million in 2011." 
To borrow a phrase from Mr. Hemstreet, "in order to place the discussion into context", let's look back at what happened those two years. In FY09, the Board of Supervisors decided to raise the tax rate by 18 cents to $1.14, which required the average homeowner to pay 6.5% more in property taxes that year in order to provide a $55 million increase to the Loudoun County school system budget. The School Board had asked for nearly double that amount and had to reconcile the $48.7 million difference. That was one of the largest gaps, but the context helps to explain that in that year, the low point of the recession, there was an actual budget crisis. The Leesburg Today article covering the final School Board budget adoption: School Board Adopts Budget Cuts; Warns Of Small School Closures

According to the Loudoun Times, in FY11 the School Board had to reconcile a $19.3 million gap due to the Board of Supervisors raising the tax rate by 5.5 cents to $1.30 that year. This is far less than the $54.4 million gap that Mr. Hemstreet cited. Looking further into his memo, you can see there are three asterisks next to the number quoted in his chart for that year, but even with that, it is unclear why the Loudoun Times reporting and his recounting are so far off.

This year, the Board of Supervisors chose to cut the tax rate by 5 cents to $1.155, the equalized tax rate this year, resulting in no increase in the average homeowner's property taxes, reducing the School Board's request by $38 million. This year, incomes in Loudoun County have risen along with property values. Thus, the "artificial crisis" to which Dr. Hatrick refers.

The School Board decided to send out a systemwide Reduction in Force notice at their April 2 meeting, as staff said they required some time to produce them, and they legally must be sent by April 16. They were sent home on April 9, the day before teachers began their Spring Break.  Mr. Hemstreet suggests that the RIF notice could have been given a week later after the School Board made more specific decisions as to which positions may be reduced. Besides this hypothetical notice arriving during Spring Break, when the LCPS administration is also closed, the School Board had not decided a week later what specific positions will be reduced, and still haven't.

Mr. Hemstreet repeats the Board of Supervisors' mantra that the School Board could still give a significant raise of 3% to its employees. He doesn't mention that this is instead of an average 3.9% increase that fixes the salary scale and providing a step increase for teachers for the first time since 2009. The School Board has already proposed delaying this increase until October, 2014, potentially saving $3.6 million.

Additionally, he explains that the new positions needed to address growth in the School Board's proposed budget are greater than the percentage increase in enrollment. He fails to mention that LCPS is opening a new high school, middle school, and elementary school, and the costs involved in staffing those new schools being higher than just an enrollment boost. He does understand though, that the LCPS staff uses a zero-based budget formula, so that they figure out how many positions they need based on this year alone, not in comparison to prior years. In doing so, they go over the enrollment growth, because positions have not kept up with growth in years past. School Board chairman Eric Hornberger explains this here:



The takeaway? There's often more to the story.

Whether this has any effect on the School Board's decisions on how to reconcile the $38 million gap remains to be seen. Perhaps it would only effect budget discussions next year. 

The School Board will continue the budget discussion tonight at their regularly scheduled meeting. If necessary, they will continue the budget discussion tomorrow night at a special budget reconciliation work session. Both meetings are at 6:30pm at the School Administration building in Ashburn. Public input is accepted tonight. Call (571) 252-1020 to sign up to speak in advance or register at the door by 6:30pm.

4/15/14

Leesburg Today gets it wrong

This Leesburg Today editorial gets it wrong.

There are cuts that hopefully can be avoided, but not by spreading the salary scale fix for our teachers and principals over 2-3 years. The School Board's budget includes a 3.9% average raise for employees. The County budget includes a 3% average raise ALONG with a 1.5% raise for those at the lowest and highest pay grades for county employees. Spreading the salary fix over 2-3 years after 5 years of no step increase and raises that haven't covered inflation and rises in healthcare premiums is flat out wrong and Leesburg Today's editors should know better.

Closing small schools is not punitive to the Board of Supervisors. It hurts the kids, parents, and employees of those schools. Just like ending bussing to TJ hurts those kids and parents and bus drivers. And ending summer school hurts kids who need it to keep up. Or not funding needed Special Education experts like school psychologists and occupational therapists hurts those parents and their kids who rely on those services. It goes on and on.

Here's School Board member Bill Fox's letter to the editor in response: http://www.leesburgtoday.com/opinion/letters/letter-bill-fox-leesburg/article_7c62bdd2-c3d8-11e3-8da3-0019bb2963f4.html

The glaring area where the School Board needs to do better is get a formal staff recommendation on how they would close the $38 million gap. Surely they know the areas of spending best.

4/12/14

Enjoy Spring Break and...

Thanks to your support of our schools by reading these updates.

As our schools begin Spring Break, take a minute to take some action to continue to show your support in other ways:

1) Sign the petition asking the School Board to remember our priorities as we fought for their budget and share it with your friends: https://www.change.org/petitions/loudoun-county-school-board-fix-the-salary-scale-improve-bandwidth-reduce-elementary-class-sizes-expand-fdk

2) Let your School Board members know directly your thoughts on closing the $38 million gap. All the ways to contact them are here: http://www.sosloudoun.org/2014/04/what-really-matters.html

3) Commit to fighting for needed investment for our schools in next year's budget, the last before all members of both boards face election. Email info@sosloudoun.org if you'd like to attend an upcoming meeting of our group to organize that effort.

4) Thank Leesburg Supervisor Ken Reid for his support of our schools and/or let your supervisors know what you thought of their vote to lower the tax rate that created the need to cut the budget by $38 million. Contact info is here: http://www.loudoun.gov/index.aspx?NID=2178

5) Put the following dates on your calendar to continue following the process. Plan to attend or speak if you choose. All meetings are at the School Admin Building in Ashburn at 6:30pm:
April 21 public hearing on closing small schools
April 22 regular school board meeting with the budget discussions continued
April 23 special work session to continue budget discussion and possible adoption.

4/9/14

April 8 School Board meeting

The School Board held its regular meeting last night with budget reconciliation on the agenda. They are required to cut $38 million from their adopted budget request due to underfunding from the Board of Supervisors.

In reverse order, here's a recap of the night.

The School Board continued to discuss their proposed cut list (http://www.sosloudoun.org/2014/04/analyzing-cut-list.html). School Board member Kevin Kuesters (Broad Run) was the only member absent. The School Board started the budget discussions with an updated total showing that LCPS staff now estimate their cuts at $2.1 million less than needed to close the underfunding gap. They made a few changes to the list:
  • Proposed replacing all English Limited Learners (ELL) teacher assistants with ELL teachers to save $3.1 million. This was a plan that LCPS had been implementing through attrition (not replacing TAs and instead hiring teachers) but this would mean that the TAs would lose their positions now. 
  • Proposed capping the pay of long-term substitutes at $160/day to save $1.4 million. This keeps LCPS substitute pay competitive with surrounding counties.
  • Replaced the prior proposed cut to salary increases with a new cut that saves more money but still fixes the sag in the salary scale and gives step increases. (For more on this, see here.)

With the changes, the School Board had again covered the $38 million gap in funding from their proposed budget and the Board of Supervisors allocation. They will continue their discussions at a special work session tonight.

LCPS Superintendent Hatrick took a "point of privilege" following the public comment because he wanted the public to know that the proposed cuts are a result of the artificial crisis created by the Board of Supervisors and the School Board is not responsible. He said he was not defending the School Board and people who follow things closely know there is much they don't agree on. But he agrees with them on their adopted budget request. He said that the Board of Supervisors "willfully chose not to listen to the public or the school board about the funding that is needed for this school system." He wants you to understand what happened and hold the Board of Supervisors accountable.  He got a round of applause.

During the public input portion of the meeting, it was clear that some segments of the public had heard about the cuts the School Board has been proposing thus far. There were close to 50 speakers in all and there were many people in attendance who did not speak but showed their support for the speakers.

The largest group was Loudoun County parents whose kids go to TJ HS along with several local TJ students. One of the proposed cuts is to stop providing buses to TJ through LCPS in order to save $390,000.  The School Board believes that they are under a legal requirement to either provide free transportation or none -- they cannot legally charge fees for transportation to and from school. When the cut was proposed, there was a suggestion of asking staff to help facilitate car pools or a private bus service with TJ parents.

Half of the current LCPS Family Life Education Specialists spoke as well. There is a proposed cut to eliminate their positions and instead have PE teachers, who are certified to teach FLE, replace them in that area in order to save $1,417,400. The FLE Specialists made a point that Loudoun's FLE program is very successful and should not be changed.

Several librarians and their assistants asked to look hard at the proposed reduction of library assistants from full to half-time to save $874,650. Many have a heavy workload already and feel this would greatly reduce services to students and teachers. School Board chair Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) mentioned in the later discussion that he is looking at a way to scale technology and library assistants to the enrollment of the school instead of a flat number per school (1 or 0.5), but doesn't have a proposal yet.

A few speakers spoke in hopes of saving small schools, middle school deans, assistant athletic directors, math facilitators, or freshman sports.

One speaker presented the results of the "Don't Touch It" portion of the SOS Loudoun survey and asked the School Board to support those priorities: fixing the salary scale, reducing elementary class sizes, improving technology (especially bandwidth and computers), and expanding full-day kindergarten.

You can show your support for our priorities by signing our petition:
https://www.change.org/petitions/loudoun-county-school-board-fix-the-salary-scale-improve-bandwidth-reduce-elementary-class-sizes-expand-fdk

Once you've signed it, please share it with your friends.

To sign up to speak at the public hearing tonight on the budget cuts, call (571) 252-1020 in advance or register in person before the meeting starts. The meeting and the public input begins at 6:30pm at the School Administration building in Ashburn.

Teachers: There's good news and bad news...

So, teachers, there's good news and bad news. Which do you want first?

The Bad News

Reduction in Force (RIF) notices are expected to go out today systemwide to all teachers and administrators. The School Board is legally required to notify its licensed employees within two weeks of receiving final funding from the Board of Supervisors if they may be planning any RIFs. Since that gives them until April 16, and they are planning to still work out where to make cuts in their proposed budget until April 22, they decided last week to send out this systemwide notification to make sure they meet that legal requirement. 

There are many positions that could be reduced due to proposed cuts including middle school deans, family life education specialists, math facilitators, elementary and sixth grade Spanish teachers, adding extra classroom time to high school and middle school department chairs, and more. If any of these were to be adopted in the final budget, they will try to place anyone whose position is reduced in openings they have within LCPS due to growth or attrition. There are many of these positions expected to be needed, so hopefully any reductions will be absorbed and no one will have to leave due to the proposed cuts.

The Good News

Teachers and administrators have come to expect that they will not get their step increase on the salary scale after not receiving it for the past five years. This year, the School Board proposed fixing the salary scale to fix the sag in the mid-career levels and provide that step increase. One of the proposed cuts though was to cap any raises to 5% in the salary scale fix. This would mean the sag would not be fixed this year. 

School Board chair Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) proposed an alternative to that cut where the salary scale the School Board adopted in January would still go through as planned, but instead implementation would start October 1, 2014. Normally, new salaries would go in place July 1. This would mean that 12-month employees will receive their current salaries for an extra 3 months and 10-month employees would receive their current salaries for an extra month. It saves more than the previously proposed 5% cap. The School Board voted unanimously to replace the proposed "cap" cut with the proposed "delay" cut. It remains to be seen what is adopted in the final budget.

Remember to sign the SOS Loudoun petition to ask the School Board to keep our priorities in the final budget: 
https://www.change.org/petitions/loudoun-county-school-board-fix-the-salary-scale-improve-bandwidth-reduce-elementary-class-sizes-expand-fdk



4/7/14

Analyzing the cut list

As you're looking at the proposed cut list, it might help to see how the cuts affect different areas. This takes a look three different analyses:
  1. Impact: who will notice this most - teachers, parents, too close to call, or central office staff? 
  2. Level: does this affect all levels, only elementary school, only middle school,  only high school, or support services? 
  3. Type: does it affect a new program, an existing program, or the level of service of an existing program impacted by growth? 

Some of these designations were difficult, but the exercise seemed like it may be helpful even if you disagree with some of the categorization.

Within each section, categories are listed from largest to smallest total amount of money saved. Within each category, cuts are listed from largest to smallest amount of money saved.

(Note: The proposed Musical Theater magnet program was not in the initial budget request so would need a vote to be added. It has not been proposed to be added at this time, thus there are no cost savings. If it is added, it will cost $49,533.)



    Impact

    Some of the cuts will have their biggest impact on teachers and school staff, parents and kids, or central office staff. Some are too close to call.

    Cuts teachers and other school staff may notice most - $16,853,350 (43.7%)
    1. (All levels, New) Cap any proposed employee salary raises in the salary scale fix at 5% - $5,900,000
    2. (All levels, Existing) Reduce technology assistants to half-time - $1,785,000 (50 positions)
    3. (All levels, New) Eliminate new tech reimbursement plan for teachers - $1,500,000
    4. (MS, Existing) Eliminate specialized Family Life Education teachers (instead FLE would be taught by regular PE teachers) - $1,417,400 (19 positions)
    5. (HS, Existing) Elimination of 14 Assistant Athletic Directors - $1,307,500 (14 positions)
    6. (ES, Existing) Eliminate administrative interns - $1,119,000 (15 positions)
    7. (MS, Existing) Increase teaching load of MS SALTs (department chairs) - $900,000 (12 positions)
    8. (ES, Existing) Reduce elementary school library assistants from 1.0 per school to 0.5 per school - $874,650 (24.5 positions)
    9. (HS, Existing) Increase teaching load of HS department chairs by 1 class; still 1 less than other teachers - $840,000 (11.2 positions)
    10. (HS, Existing) Remove JV coaching stipends when team is not fielded - $613,000
    11. (ES, Existing) Eliminate math facilitators - $596,800 (8 positions)
    Cuts parents/kids may notice most - $12,620,804 (32.7%)
    1. (All levels, Existing) Remove all replacement buses from the budget - 30 school buses, 25 special education large buses, and 11 special education small buses - $7,073,600
    2. (ES, Existing) Close the remaining four small schools (Hillsboro, Lincoln, Aldie, Hamilton) - $2,000,000
    3. (ES, New) Eliminate expansion of full day kindergarten - $895,854 (14 positions)
    4. (All levels, Existing) Eliminate summer school - $820,000
    5. (All levels, Growth) Eliminate hiring new bus drivers - $587,700 (18 positions)
    6. (All levels, Growth) Reduce new positions needed to maintain the level of service due to enrollment growth
      • School Psychologist $86,450 (1 position)
      • Educational Diagnostician $86,450 (1 position)
      • Social Worker $91,850 (1 position)
      • Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist $81,700 (1 position)
      • Speech Language Pathologist $83,100 (1 position)
      • Occupational Therapist $83,100 (1 position)
    7. (HS, Existing) Eliminate bus service to Thomas Jefferson HS - $390,000
    8. (HS, Existing) Eliminate Freshman sports - $260,000
    9. (All levels, Existing) Eliminate activity buses -$81,000
    10. (MS, Existing) Eliminate College in Six program (cost is for 1 field trip per middle school per year)
    11. (HS, New) Halt proposed Musical Theater magnet program

    Teachers or parents? Too close to call - $7,558,942 (19.6%)
    1. (ES, Existing) Eliminate FLES and SAMS (Spanish for grades 1-6) - $2,461,800 (33 positions)
    2. (MS, Existing) Eliminate Middle School dean positions and add 1 assistant principal to each MS - $2,130,942 million (31 positions) or eliminate house secretaries - $2,400,000 (45 positions)
    3. (ES, Growth) Eliminate the elementary school class size reduction the School Board added, but keep the LCPS proposed reduction - $2,064,000 (14 positions)
    4. (MS, New) Eliminate the 1:1 technology initiative expansion to Eagle Ridge and Sterling Middle Schools - $616,000
    5. (HS, Existing) Eliminate HS Deans - $149,200 (2 positions)
    6. (ES, New) Eliminate new elementary school language immersion program - $137,000 (3 positions)

    Cuts central staff may notice most - $2,024,750 (5.3%)
    1. (Support, Growth) Delay the facility usage master plan - $600,000
    2. (Support, Growth) Eliminate new positions from Support Services -
      1. Accounting Specialist $78,700 (1 position)
      2. Environmental Specialist $63,800 (1 position)
      3. Civil Engineering Coordinator $118,600 (1 position)
      4. Telecommunications analyst $78,800 (1 position)
      5. Resource Nurse $64,600 (1 position)
    3. (All levels, Growth) Elimination of the new visitor management system for security - $400,000
    4. (Support, Existing) Reduce K-12 Insight budget (performs community surveys) - $100,000
    5. (Support, Growth) Reduce new positions in the central office:
      1. GIS Specialist - Transportation. $67,200 (1 position)
      2. Public Information Secretary $67,200 (1 position)
    6. (Support, Growth) Remove new Web developer position - $78,550 (1 position)
    7. (All levels, Growth) Remove new position for a Gifted Education specialist - $112,200 (1 position)
    8. (ES, Existing) Consolidate Kindergarten Office with Elementary Education Office - $97,300 (0.5 position)
    9. (Support, Growth) Eliminate new Retirement and Disability Specialist - $67,800 (1 position)
    10. (Support, Existing) Reduction in legal fees from Superintendent's budget - $30,000


      Level

      Some of the cuts affect all grade levels but some are specific to the elementary, middle or high school level. Some cuts affect the support services provided by the central office and are less clear what level is affected.

      All levels - $18,772,150 (48.7%)
      1. (Existing, Parents) Remove all replacement buses from the budget - 30 school buses, 25 special education large buses, and 11 special education small buses - $7,073,600
      2. (New, Teachers) Cap any proposed employee salary raises in the salary scale fix at 5% - $5,900,000
      3. (Existing, Teachers) Reduce technology assistants to half-time - $1,785,000 (50 positions)
      4. (New, Teachers) Eliminate new tech reimbursement plan for teachers - $1,500,000
      5. (Existing, Parents) Eliminate summer school - $820,000
      6. (Growth, Parents) Eliminate hiring new bus drivers - $587,700 (18 positions)
      7. (Growth, Parents) Reduce new positions needed to maintain the level of service due to enrollment growth
        • School Psychologist $86,450 (1 position)
        • Educational Diagnostician $86,450 (1 position)
        • Social Worker $91,850 (1 position)
        • Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist $81,700 (1 position)
        • Speech Language Pathologist $83,100 (1 position)
        • Occupational Therapist $83,100 (1 position)
      8. (Growth, Central Office) Elimination of the new visitor management system for security - $400,000
      9. (Growth, Central Office) Remove new position for a Gifted Education specialist - $112,200 (1 position)
      10. (Existing, Parents) Eliminate activity buses -$81,000
      Elementary School Specific (34,564 students = 49% of students) - $10,246,404 (26.6%)
      1. (Existing, Teachers/Parents) Eliminate FLES and SAMS (Spanish for grades 1-6) - $2,461,800 (33 positions)
      2. (Growth, Teachers/Parents) Eliminate the elementary school class size reduction the School Board added, but keep the LCPS proposed reduction - $2,064,000 (14 positions)
      3. (Existing, Parents) Close the remaining four small schools (Hillsboro, Lincoln, Aldie, Hamilton) - $2,000,000
      4. (Existing, Teachers) Eliminate administrative interns - $1,119,000 (15 positions)
      5. (New, Parents) Eliminate expansion of full day kindergarten - $895,854 (14 positions)
      6. (Existing, Teachers) Reduce elementary school library assistants from 1.0 per school to 0.5 per school - $874,650 (24.5 positions)
      7. (Existing, Teachers) Eliminate math facilitators - $596,800 (8 positions)
      8. (New, Teachers/Parents) Eliminate new elementary school language immersion program - $137,000 (3 positions)
      9. (Existing, Central Office) Consolidate Kindergarten Office with Elementary Education Office - $97,300 (0.5 position)
      Middle School Specific (16,512 students = 23% of students) - $5,064,342 (13.1%)
      1. (Existing, Teachers/Parents)  Eliminate Middle School dean positions and add 1 assistant principal to each MS - $2,130,942 million (31 positions) or eliminate house secretaries - $2,400,000 (45 positions)
      2. (Existing, Teachers) Eliminate specialized Family Life Education teachers (instead FLE would be taught by regular PE teachers) - $1,417,400 (19 positions)
      3. (Existing, Teachers) Increase teaching load of MS SALTs (department chairs) - $900,000 (12 positions)
      4. (New, Teachers/Parents) Eliminate the 1:1 technology initiative expansion to Eagle Ridge and Sterling Middle Schools - $616,000
      5. (Existing, Parents) Eliminate College in Six program (cost is for 1 field trip per middle school per year)
      High School Specific (19,782 students = 28%) - $3,559,700 (9.2%)
      1. (Existing, Teachers) Elimination of 14 Assistant Athletic Directors - $1,307,500 (14 positions)
      2. (Existing, Teachers) Increase teaching load of HS department chairs by 1 class; still 1 less than other teachers - $840,000 (11.2 positions)
      3. (Existing, Teachers) Remove JV coaching stipends when team is not fielded - $613,000
      4. (Existing, Parents) Eliminate bus service to Thomas Jefferson HS - $390,000
      5. (Existing, Parents) Eliminate Freshman sports - $260,000
      6. (Existing, Teachers/Parents) Eliminate HS Deans - $149,200 (2 positions)
      7. (New, Parents) Halt proposed Musical Theater magnet program
      Support Services - $1,415,250 (3.67%)
      1. (Growth, Central Office) Delay the facility usage master plan - $600,000
      2. (Growth, Central Office) Eliminate new positions from Support Services -
        1. Accounting Specialist $78,700 (1 position)
        2. Environmental Specialist $63,800 (1 position)
        3. Civil Engineering Coordinator $118,600 (1 position)
        4. Telecommunications analyst $78,800 (1 position)
        5. Resource Nurse $64,600 (1 position)
      3. (Growth, Central Office) Reduce new positions in the central office:
        • GIS Specialist - Transportation. $67,200 (1 position)
        • Public Information Secretary $67,200 (1 position)
      4. (Existing, Central Office) Reduce K-12 Insight budget (performs community surveys) - $100,000
      5. (Growth, Central Office) Remove new Web developer position - $78,550 (1 position)
      6. (Growth, Central Office) Eliminate new Retirement and Disability Specialist - $67,800 (1 position)
      7. (Existing, Central Office) Reduction in legal fees from Superintendent's budget - $30,000

      Type

      Some cuts are to new initiatives or improvements to existing programs but some are cuts to existing services. Still others are cuts to the level of service of existing programs by not adding to them to mitigate the effect of growth.

      Existing Programs - $25,047,192 (65.0%)
      1. (Parents, All levels) Remove all replacement buses from the budget - 30 school buses, 25 special education large buses, and 11 special education small buses - $7,073,600
      2. (Teachers/Parents, ES) Eliminate FLES and SAMS (Spanish for grades 1-6) - $2,461,800 (33 positions)
      3. (Teachers/Parents, MS) Eliminate Middle School dean positions and add 1 assistant principal to each MS - $2,130,942 million (31 positions) or eliminate MS house secretaries - $2,400,000 (45 positions)
      4. (Parents, ES) Close the remaining four small schools (Hillsboro, Lincoln, Aldie, Hamilton) - $2,000,000
      5. (Teachers, All levels) Reduce technology assistants to half-time - $1,785,000 (50 positions)
      6. (Teachers, MS) Eliminate specialized Family Life Education teachers (instead FLE would be taught by regular PE teachers) - $1,417,400 (19 positions)
      7. (Teachers, HS) Elimination of 14 Assistant Athletic Directors - $1,307,500 (14 positions)
      8. (Teachers, ES) Eliminate administrative interns - $1,119,000 (15 positions)
      9. (Teachers, MS) Increase teaching load of MS SALTs (department chairs) - $900,000 (12 positions)
      10. (Teachers, ES) Reduce elementary school library assistants from 1.0 per school to 0.5 per school - $874,650 (24.5 positions)
      11. (Teachers, HS) Increase teaching load of HS department chairs by 1 class; still 1 less than other teachers - $840,000 (11.2 positions)
      12. (Parents, All levels) Eliminate summer school - $820,000
      13. (Teachers, HS) Remove JV coaching stipends when team is not fielded - $613,000
      14. (Teachers, ES) Eliminate math facilitators - $596,800 (8 positions)
      15. (Parents, HS) Eliminate bus service to Thomas Jefferson HS - $390,000
      16. (Parents, HS) Eliminate Freshman sports - $260,000
      17. (Teachers/Parents, HS) Eliminate HS Deans - $149,200 (2 positions)
      18. (Central Office, Support) Reduce K-12 Insight budget (performs community surveys) - $100,000
      19. (Central Office, ES) Consolidate Kindergarten Office with Elementary Education Office - $97,300 (0.5 position)
      20. (Parents, All levels) Eliminate activity buses -$81,000
      21. (Central Office, Support) Reduction in legal fees from Superintendent's budget - $30,000
      22. (Parents, MS) Eliminate College in Six program (cost is for 1 field trip per middle school per year)
      New - $11,112,854 (28.8%)
      1. (Teachers, All levels) Cap any proposed employee salary raises in the salary scale fix at 5% - $5,900,000
      2. (Teachers/Parents, Elem) Eliminate the elementary school class size reduction the School Board added, but keep the LCPS proposed reduction - $2,064,000 (14 positions)
      3. (Teachers, All levels) Eliminate new tech reimbursement plan for teachers - $1,500,000
      4. (Parents, Elem) Eliminate expansion of full day kindergarten - $895,854 (14 positions)
      5. (Teachers/Parents, Middle) Eliminate the 1:1 technology initiative expansion to Eagle Ridge and Sterling Middle Schools - $616,000
      6. (Teachers/Parents, Elem) Eliminate new elementary school language immersion program - $137,000 (3 positions)
      7. (Parents, High) Halt proposed Musical Theater magnet program
      Needed for Growth in Existing Programs - $2,897,800 (7.5%)
      1. (Central Office, Support) Delay the facility usage master plan - $600,000
      2. (Parents, All levels) Eliminate hiring new bus drivers - $587,700 (18 positions)
      3. (Parents, All levels) Reduce new positions needed to maintain the level of service due to enrollment growth
        • School Psychologist $86,450 (1 position)
        • Educational Diagnostician $86,450 (1 position)
        • Social Worker $91,850 (1 position)
        • Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist $81,700 (1 position)
        • Speech Language Pathologist $83,100 (1 position)
        • Occupational Therapist $83,100 (1 position)
      4. (Central Office, Support) Eliminate new positions from Support Services -
        1. Accounting Specialist $78,700 (1 position)
        2. Environmental Specialist $63,800 (1 position)
        3. Civil Engineering Coordinator $118,600 (1 position)
        4. Telecommunications analyst $78,800 (1 position)
        5. Resource Nurse $64,600 (1 position)
        • (Central Office, All levels) Elimination of the new visitor management system for security - $400,000
        • (Central Office, Support) Reduce new positions in the central office:
          • GIS Specialist - Transportation. $67,200 (1 position)
          • Public Information Secretary $67,200 (1 position)
        • (Central Office, All levels) Remove new position for a Gifted Education specialist - $112,200 (1 position)
        • (Central Office, Support) Remove new Web developer position - $78,550 (1 position)
        • (Central Office, Support) Eliminate new Retirement and Disability Specialist - $67,800 (1 position)

        If you're looking for alternate cuts to propose, there have been some cuts floated that have not been proposed:
        Raise class size average in MS by 1 - $1.8 million
        Raise class size average in HS by 0.5 - $1 million
        Eliminate all stipends for co-curricular activities such as coaching, sponsoring activities, and taking on additional responsibilities - $3.9 million
        Reduce athletic offerings (not costed)
        Eliminate all bussing outside of transportation to/from school (not costed)

        4/6/14

        What really matters

        Six months ago, Support Our Schools - Loudoun was formed after the Board of Supervisors first announced its intention to set the tax rate at the equalized rate or lower. We started by getting informed on the budget process in October and asked the Board of Supervisors to advertise a tax rate that would give the Board flexibility to invest more in our schools. Then the LCPS staff proposed its budget, and we lobbied the School Board to pass many of the needed improvements through. Both efforts were successful, and we gathered even more supporters to lobby the Board of Supervisors to fully fund the proposed School Board budget. That effort failed.

        Now, we are left to help the School Board decide where to cut $38 million from the budget we fought so hard for. It's difficult for us and for them. There are no easy cuts. Everything affects somebody.

        Still, at the public hearings for both boards, there were themes heard over and over: raise teachers salaries, expand full day kindergarten to more schools, improve bandwidth at all schools, and reduce elementary school class sizes.

        Remind them of our priorities. Make sure to let your School Board members know what they are whether the items are currently on the proposed cut list or not. If you don't want them cutting something that's not on the cut list, still let them know that. If you don't want them cutting something that is on the cut list, it'd be a great help to let them know a new item not on the list you'd cut instead.

        The School Board will continue their budget reconciliation discussion on Tuesday, April 8 at the regular School Board meeting. Public input is accepted at that meeting. Additionally, a public hearing and work session is scheduled for Wednesday, April 9 as needed. If additional meetings are needed after that, they will be scheduled at a later date. Both meetings are at 6:30pm at the School Admin building in Ashburn. To sign up to speak either night, call (571) 252-1020 in advance or register at the door prior to 6:30pm.

        You can also reach your School Board members by phone or email and some on Facebook. School Board member Tom Reed represents everyone, otherwise they each represent their voting district. If emailing, you may want to also cc the whole School Board at lcsb@lcps.org.

        Eric Hornberger (Chair), Ashburn District 571-291-5685 Eric.Hornberger@lcps.org
        Jill Turgeon (Vice Chair), Blue Ridge District 571-420-3818 Jill.Turgeon@lcps.org
        Debbie Rose, Algonkian District 571-291-5983 Debbie.Rose@lcps.org
        Kevin Kuesters, Broad Run District 571-420-1818 Kevin.Kuesters@lcps.org
        Jennifer Bergel, Catoctin District 571-223-9724 Jennifer.Bergel@lcps.org
        Jeff Morse, Dulles District 571-420-2243 Jeff.Morse@lcps.org
        Bill Fox, Leesburg District 571-420-0721 Bill.Fox@lcps.org
        Brenda Sheridan, Sterling District 571-233-0307 Brenda.Sheridan@lcps.org
        Thomas Reed, At Large 571-223-9928 Thomas.Reed@lcps.org


        4/4/14

        Busy, sad day

        Wednesday, April 2 was a busy, sad day.

        The afternoon began with a statement sent out from Board of Supervisors chairman Scott York (at-large) on the School Board's work session from the previous night. York wrote:
        "Based on the actions of the School Board last night, I felt compelled to send this email. I am weary and quite frankly disappointed in their manipulation of the public and the emotional blackmail." 
        He then proceeded to once again explain how the School Board can do everything they want if they just followed the Board of Supervisors' suggestions.

        Later that evening, dozens of people who support our schools came out to the Board of Supervisors meeting in Leesburg to watch them finalize the budget and ask one more time to give the schools more funding than the supervisors had proposed. The BoS remained unconvinced.

        They voted 5-3-1 to reduce the schools budget by $38 million and reduce the tax rate by five cents to $1.155. At the lowered tax rate, the average homeowner will see no increase in their property taxes this year from last. Supervisors Eugene Delgaudio (Sterling) and Suzanne Volpe (Algonkian) voted against the budget because they wanted more cuts to the schools. Supervisor Ken Reid (Leesburg) voted against the budget because he wanted more funding for the schools. Be sure to thank Mr. Reid. Supervisor Janet Clarke (Blue Ridge) was absent from the meeting. In his comments prior to the vote, York made it clear what the people who asked him to support our schools should do next:
        "If you don't like what the individual is doing, you come and vote." 
        The Washington Post has an excellent recap of the meeting.

        Thank you to everyone who has come out to speak at public hearings, spoken individually to your supervisors, called your supervisors, rallied your friends, sent emails, and more in support of our schools. The vote was not unexpected but it was disappointing to see the Board of Supervisors choose a manufactured crisis in funding over the public's desire to invest in our schools.

        At the same time in Ashburn, the School Board held a work session continuing their discussion of how to reconcile the budget. The Board of Supervisors was just about to confirm the School Board would have to cut $38 million from their proposed budget.

        But first, the School Board announced the hiring of a new superintendent, Dr. Eric Williams, as current superintendent Dr. Edgar Hatrick is retiring at the end of this school year. It appears Dr. Williams may be familiar with days like today, albeit on a much smaller scale.

        The revised cut list from the work session follows. Changes made since the April 1 meeting are highlighted in yellow.

        Total proposed cuts: $38,557,046
        • Eliminate the 1:1 technology initiative expansion to Eagle Ridge and Sterling Middle Schools - $616,000
        • Eliminate specialized Family Life Education teachers (instead FLE would be taught by regular PE teachers) - $1,417,400 (19 positions)
        • Increase teaching load of HS department chairs by 1 class; still 1 less than other teachers - $840,000 (11.2 positions)
        • Increase teaching load of MS SALTs (department chairs) - $900,000 (12 positions)
        • Elimination of the new visitor management system for security - $400,000
        • Eliminate new tech reimbursement plan for teachers - $1.5 million
        • Eliminate Middle School dean positions and add 1 assistant principal to each MS - $2,130,942 million (31 positions)
        • Eliminate the elementary school class size reduction the School Board added, but keep the LCPS proposed reduction - $2,064,000 (14 positions)
        • Eliminate administrative interns - $1,119,000 (15 positions)
        • Eliminate new elementary school language immersion program - $137,000 (3 positions)
        • Reduce K-12 Insight budget (performs community surveys) - $100,000
        • Close the remaining four small schools (Hillsboro, Lincoln, Aldie, Hamilton) - $2,000,000 - Public hearing on closure and boundaries scheduled for Mon, April 21 
        • Eliminate summer school - $820,000 (This reduction was adjusted to exclude $800,000 ESY and $680,000 revenue.)
        • Delay the facility usage master plan - $600,000
        • Reduce new positions in the central office:
          • GIS Specialist - Transportation. $67,200 (1 position)
          • Public Information Secretary $67,200 (1 position)
        • Reduce new positions needed to maintain the level of service due to enrollment growth
          • School Psychologist $86,450 (1 position)
          • Educational Diagnostician $86,450 (1 position)
          • Social Worker $91,850 (1 position)
          • Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist $81,700 (1 position)
          • Speech Language Pathologist $83,100 (1 position)
          • Occupational Therapist $83,100 (1 position)
        • Reduction in legal fees from Superintendent's budget - $30,000
        • Remove coaching stipends for sports with no JV teams - $613,000
        • Remove 1 Web developer position - $78,550 (1 position)
        • Remove newly proposed position for a Gifted Education specialist - $112,200 (1 position)
        • Eliminate FLES and SAMS (Spanish for grades 1-6) - $2,461,800 (33 positions)
        • Eliminate bus service to Thomas Jefferson HS ($390,000) (the amount is now calculated)
        • Eliminate activity buses -$81,000 (Ms. Rose clarified she wanted to maintain funding for field trip and athletic bus service)
        • Reduce elementary school library assistants from 1.0 per school to 0.5 per school - $874,650 (24.5 positions) (corrected savings amount)
        • Musical Theater magnet was not in the proposed budget. A straw vote was taken 4/1 whether to add it. It failed 1-7-1 with Rose in favor and Kuesters absent. Staff was directed to halt its implementation as of now.
        • Eliminate expansion of full day kindergarten - $895,854 (14 positions) (savings corrected)
        • Reduce technology assistants to half-time - $1,785,000 (50 positions)
        • Eliminate hiring new bus drivers - $587,700 (18 positions)
        • Eliminate Freshman sports - $260,000
        • Eliminate College in Six program (cost is for 1 field trip per middle school per year)
        • Elimination of 14 Assistant Athletic Directors - $1,307,500 (14 positions)
        • Cap any proposed employee salary raises in the salary scale fix at 5% - $5,900,000
        • Eliminate new positions from Support Services -
          • Accounting Specialist $78,700 (1 position)
          • Environmental Specialist $63,800 (1 position)
          • Civil Engineering Coordinator $118,600 (1 position)
          • Telecommunications analyst $78,800 (1 position)
          • Resource Nurse $64,600 (1 position)
        • Eliminate math facilitators - $596,800 (8 positions)
        • Eliminate HS Deans - $149,200 (2 positions)
        • Eliminate new Retirement and Disability Specialist - $67,800 (1 position)
        • Remove all replacement buses from the budget - 30 school buses, 25 special education large buses, and 11 special education small buses - $7,073,600
        • Alternative to elimination of middle school deans: eliminate house secretaries - $2,400,000 (45 positions)
        The topics discussed at the meeting were bus service outside of to/from school, technology assistant reductions and what they are vs. Technology Resource Teachers, middle school deans, and special education positions. 

        The School Board decided to move forward with the process of closing small schools by scheduling a public hearing on closing the remaining small schools and boundary adjustments needed for Monday, April 21 at 6:30pm at the School Admin Building in Ashburn. A straw vote was taken to move forward and it passed 6-3 with Fox, Bergel, and Turgeon opposed.

        The School Board also decided to send out system-wide RIF (reduction-in-force aka layoff) notifications to its employees. It is possible that approximately 200 positions may be reduced due to the budget cuts. The School Board is legally required to notify employees of potential RIFs in the next two weeks. Since they are unsure where the positions might be, it was decided it would be better to do a system-wide notification than wait for specifics to be calculated. The vote was 5-2-2 with Hornberger and Rose against, Reed and Morse absent (they had left the meeting already not expecting any more votes). 

        During discussion of the RIF notification, it was clear that the School Board had checked on the Board of Supervisors meeting progress during their breaks. Jennifer Bergel seemed to respond to Scott York's statement sent out earlier that day. Bergel said,
        "We know what happened tonight. We know we were not funded at the level at which we proposed. It was real. It is real. We have to make this real. It is not any sort of emotional thing. This is reality.”
        Finally, the School Board set the schedule for finalizing the budget reconciliation process. The discussion will continue Tuesday, April 8 at the regular School Board meeting. Public input is accepted at that meeting. Additionally, a public hearing and work session is scheduled for Wednesday, April 9 as needed. If additional meetings are needed after that, they will be scheduled at a later date. Both meetings are at 6:30pm at the School Admin building in Ashburn. To sign up to speak either night, call (571) 252-1020 in advance or register at the door prior to 6:30pm.

        4/2/14

        School Board 4/1 work session recap

        The School Board's first work session to reconcile their budget with the reduction in funding from the Board of Supervisors was held at Farmwell Station Middle School, Tuesday, April 1. The regular School Administration Building was already scheduled for a Step Up Loudoun event so the meeting was not broadcast. The webcast should be available shortly though. School Board member Kevin Kuesters (Broad Run) was absent from the meeting.

        Fifty-four people signed up to speak. Two speakers asked the School Board to keep the proposed increase in teacher salaries. Two speakers asked to keep middle school deans along with speaking on another issue. Four speakers asked to keep the stipend for National Board Certified teachers (apparently that worked - it wasn't proposed to be cut.) Two speakers asked not to cut freshman sports or assistant athletic directors. One speaker asked not to cut freshman sports. One speaker advocated for not cutting any sports and was disgusted people were advocating for one sport over another. That was directed to the approximately 40 people who asked the School Board not to cut high school swimming (it also was not proposed for a cut). Loudoun Education Association president Joey Matthews urged those in attendance to go to the Board of Supervisors meeting Wednesday, April 2, at 4pm no matter what the reason the speakers were there in support of increasing funding to our schools. It's your last chance.

        School Board chair Eric Hornberger began the meeting by explaining his responsibility for the swim team supporters coming out. He had sent an email asking staff how much swimming costs. The answer was approximately $60,000-$70,000 and serves approximately 600 students. Based on the response, he was not considering it for a cut. He then set up the plan and rules for the night: each School Board member could propose a cut in the hopes of getting to the expected $38 million in reductions necessary to reconcile their budget with the funding provided by the Board of Supervisors. Any proposal would need a second by another School Board member. Final votes on the cuts would not be taken until next week at the earliest.

        A total of $41,560,906 in cuts were proposed. However, there is overlap in some of them and further research required in many to find out the actual costs. They were as follows, listed with the expected cost reduction and any positions that would be eliminated if known. Any position costs listed include both salary and benefits.

        • Eliminate the 1:1 technology initiative expansion to Eagle Ridge and Sterling Middle Schools - $616,000
        • Eliminate specialized Family Life Education teachers (instead FLE would be taught by regular PE teachers)  - $1,417,400 (19 positions)
        • Increase teaching load of HS department chairs by 1 class; still 1 less than other teachers - $840,000
        • Increase teaching load of MS SALTs (department chairs) - $900,000
        • Elimination of the new visitor management system for security - $400,000
        • Eliminate new tech reimbursement plan for teachers - $1.5 million
        • Eliminate Middle School dean positions and add 1 assistant principal to each MS - $2,130,942 million (31 positions)
        • Eliminate the elementary school class size reduction the School Board added, but keep the LCPS proposed reduction - $2,064,000
        • Eliminate administrative interns - $1,119,000 (15 positions)
        • Eliminate new elementary school language immersion program - $137,000 (3 positions)
        • Reduce K-12 Insight budget (performs community surveys) - $100,000
        • Close the remaining four small schools (Hillsboro, Lincoln, Aldie, Hamilton) - $2,000,000 - would require boundary process and public hearings
        • Eliminate summer school - $1,800,000 (some may be required for special education or elementary education)
        • Delay the facility usage master plan - $600,000
        • Reduce new positions in the central office:
          • GIS Specialist - Transportation. $67,200
          • Public Information Secretary $67,200
        • Reduce new positions needed to maintain the level of service due to enrollment growth
          • School Psychologist $86,450
          • Educational Diagnostician $86,450
          • Social Worker $91,850
          • Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist $81,700
          • Speech Language Pathologist $83,100
          • Occupational Therapist $83,100
        • Reduction in legal fees from Superintendent's budget - $30,000
        • Remove coaching stipends for sports with no JV teams - $613,000
        • Remove 1 Web developer position
        • Remove newly proposed position for a Gifted Education specialist - $112,200
        • Eliminate FLES and SAMS (Spanish for grades 1-6) - $2,461,800
        • Cut bus service to Thomas Jefferson HS (cost TBD)
        • Eliminate buses outside of transportation to/from school - $2,178,000 - the School Board would like various uses costed separately (field trips vs. after school activities, etc.)
        • Reduce elementary school library assistants from 1.0 per school to 0.5 per school - $1,200,000 (24.5 positions)
        • Musical Theater magnet was not in the proposed budget. A straw vote was taken whether to add it. It failed. Staff was directed to halt its implementation as of now.
        • Eliminate expansion of full day kindergarten - $887,454 (14 positions)
        • Reduce technology assistants to half-time - $1,785,000 (50 positions)
        • Eliminate hiring new bus drivers - $587,700 (18 positions)
        • Eliminate Freshman sports - $260,000
        • Eliminate College in Six program (cost is for 1 field trip per middle school per year)
        • Elimination of 14 Assistant Athletic Directors - $1,307,500 (15 positions)
        • Cap any proposed employee salary raises in the salary scale fix at 5% - $5,900,000
        • Eliminate new positions from Support Services -
          • Accounting Specialist $78,700
          • Environmental Specialist $63,800
          • Civil Engineering Coordinator $118,600
          • Telecommunications analyst $78,800
          • Resource Nurse $96,900
        • Eliminate math facilitators - $596,800 
        • Eliminate HS Deans - $149,200  (2 positions)
        • Eliminate new Retirement and Disability Specialist - $67,800 (1 position)
        • Remove all replacement buses from the budget - 30 school buses, 25 special education large buses, and 11 special education small buses - $7,073,600


        At the end of the meeting, School Board members had time to make statements if they chose. School Board members Sheridan, Bergel, and Reed all asked you to attend the Board of Supervisors meeting April 2 at 4pm in Leesburg. The BoS will finalize the $38 million in cuts to the schools budget. It's your last chance to change their minds. Sheridan and Bergel made pleas to the sports supporters there to tell the Board of Supervisors to increase their funding before final budget adoption. Mr. Reed suggested you call your supervisors and insist on speaking to them directly. The Board of Supervisors can be reached at (703) 777-0204 and loudounbudget@loudoun.gov. To sign up to speak at the Board of Supervisors April 2 meeting, call (703) 777-0200 by noon or sign up in person at the meeting. Last year, the Board of Supervisors adopted the final budget prior to the public input portion of the meeting, so plan to get there at 4pm for a final show of support.

        School Board chair Eric Hornberger ended the night by explaining that the School Board will hold another work session April 2 which will include an update on the Superintendent search as well as further budget reconciliation work. It will be at 6:30pm in the School Administration building. However, no public input will be accepted since the Board of Supervisors will be accepting public input at that time. Notifications for any reductions in force (layoffs/RIFs) will likely have to be voted on at the next regular School Board meeting on Tuesday, April 8 due to legal deadlines for notifications. Further work sessions, with another opportunity for public input expected, will occur after next Tuesday, dates TBD.