Hi everyone! This is my first time posting for SOS Loudoun. I am excited to help Joy while she is otherwise consumed shaking hands, ringing doorbells, and kissing babies. Our paths crossed at 21000 Education Court attending School Board meetings. As a past chair of the LCPS Special Education Advisory Committee, I am familiar with our district’s programs and services and share Joy’s passion for a quality education for every student.
Now on to the really good stuff -- what happened at Wednesday’s School Board work session on preliminary planning for the FY17 budget? Participating in the work session were key administrative staff and the School Board, minus members Turgeon and Rose. The two-hour session began by recapping the FY16 process. There was unusual agreement among the School Board that the FY16 budget process was an improvement. School Board member Kevin Kuesters said that LCPS was the only area jurisdiction that did not need to reconcile their budget. Some members attributed the better budget process to engaging all of the stakeholders - including the community and the Board of Supervisors. Superintendent Williams received praise for putting together a budget framework early on and for providing a greater amount of supporting documentation.
After discussing the technicalities of changing the budget format, the meeting got interesting. They assembled a need-to-know list. These are items that the School Board wants to have conversations about before the Superintendent creates his proposed budget in January. Dr. Williams went first by putting staffing standards, bus replacements (analysis already underway), technology, and full-day kindergarten (FDK) expansion options on the need-to-know list.
FDK options presented later this year will include scenarios for expanding with as well as without capital improvements. School Board chair Eric Hornberger cautioned moving too quickly towards FDK without understanding the possible implications for existing programs such as Futura or the impact on the ability to reduce class sizes. Sam Adamo provided a presentation on elementary school facility space and the potential of FDK implementation. This was Dr. Adamo’s first time using a ‘clicker’ for a PowerPoint. Not too shabby. The first slide addressed Hornberger’s request for understanding school facility usage by identification of specialized programs that are housed in various schools. These programs include Futura, Head Start, special education, and other programs. Adamo said that there is currently an 18-19% enrollment increase between K and 1st grade, mostly because of students who are enrolled in private FDK programs. Staff plans to use an estimate of a 20% enrollment increase in kindergarten students for 2016-17 when looking at offering FDK. Adamo hopes that this year’s FDK experience will give them data to pin down future projections between K and 1st grade as FDK expands. Check out the presentation, Elementary School Facility Spaces and Potential FDK Implementation, here http://www.boarddocs.com/vsba/loudoun/Board.nsf/files/9X6CDF749CFF/$file/June%203%202015%20ES%20Classrooms%20FDK%20%20Final.pdf.
Then, Dr. Williams asked what other issues School Board members wanted to add to the need-to-know list. My ears perked up when I heard School Board member Bill Fox ask them to bring back the conversation from two years ago for a pilot program in the performing arts and a pilot program for elementary dual language immersion. School Board member Brenda Sheridan proposed looking at staff incentive pay for schools that have a high percentage of at-risk students (Title I schools) as well as the schools they feed into. Hornberger wants to look at the costs to reduce elementary class size averages to 22:1. Hornberger also wants to look at more localization of Futura programs and a remedy for the mathematics programs that identifies tangible steps to improve this academic area.
The dark side of the need-to-know list. The thorny items for the list include a projected $13 million VRS increase and a buyout plan proposed by School Board member Tom Reed for teachers eligible for retirement.
Next up on the budget: staff will present a preliminary FY17 budget outlook in August.