On the Albemarle County School Budget

I whipped my last letter together in about 10 minutes before I went to my daughter’s soccer practice, and after reviewing it, I made some errors.  Where ever I wrote BOS (Board of Supervisors), I meant the School Board.  The BOS appears to be listening to the will of the people which is why there is discussion of a rate cut.  I have no confidence in the school board, superintendent, or the downtown administration.  By the way, I’m more than willing to pay more for school if there is accountability.  There is no accountability here, just speculation and excuses with no data.

That being said, for the last few days we’ve been receiving these emails about supporting what I consider, ridiculous spending.  I wasn’t trying to start some deep discussion or controversy over the subject, I was just curious if there were other recipients that disagreed as I did.  Most times when there is discussion about school spending, it doesn’t get my attention.  This one did.  Doesn’t mean I’m wrong or right, just that I disagree.  And if you’re going to send political email to my house, and you’re welcome to, if I disagree, I’m going to let you know.

So my message was quickly written and I need to clarify a few things.  Recognizing that we have so many of our local teacher and administrators on this distribution list, I wanted to say that even though I think this spending is out of control and needs to be reigned in, I don’t think the problem is at the school level.  Living with my wife, I don’t think too much of No Child Left Behind, but I don’t believe it’s the budget buster that is being portrayed here.  I think the problem is all down town.  I think we need more information on what goes on down town, who works down town, and what they do.  It’s my opinion that this is where the waste is, but if anyone can get this information, please share it.  How many failing teacher and administrators have they created new positions for down town?  How much does the county spend on bringing in some specialist contractors to tell or teachers the new metho d they will be using to teach our kids?

I believe (and I admittedly don’t have the information because it’s not available) if we eliminated 50-70% of the people downtown, and allowed our teachers to teach, we would have smarter kids, a better environmental, and fiscally responsible education.  To have the increases that we are having, something is wrong, and it’s not happening at the school level.

The other thing that bothered me is the intentionally misleading data that we have seen in these emails  Then there’s the, I’m not sure what you would call it…..shakedown?  They always say if they don’t get the money they want, they will have to cut teachers.  It’s always the teachers that must go first.  In reality, they have plenty of fat to trim down town and other places, but instead they throw this emotional blackmail at the parents.

I looked at the data again.  It was a 63% increase in school budget from 2000 to 2007 with a 2% growth.  I’m not saying anyone is not informed on their decisions.  I just think that kind of increase is absurd, and NCLB and 2% growth doesn’t explain it.  All I’m saying is we need to stop giving this irresponsible school board and superintendent a rubber stamp to whatever they want.  I want a better explanation.  I think we should call them on it.

By the way, none of this gets me angry and as far as the growth goes, I have participated in that process too, speaking at the Old Trail Planning Commission meeting, working on the Crozet Park Board etc..

My apologies to the superb teachers, administrators (local) and employees if I offended you.  It was not my intention.  Nor was it my intention to enflame anyone.  I just wanted to see if anyone else was thinking the way I was.  And you’re right Patty, I don’t need to sign the petition.  I’ll just write directly to my supervisor.

ed note: The above is courtesy of Brian Campbell. This type of discussion is part of the reason that this blog was started. Please feel free to contribute to the conversation or submit stories candidly, not everything will be published, but please do contribute. Accountability and transparency qualify as “good things.” The more discussion and oversight by the citizens, the better.

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Redistricting nears in Crozet

From today’s DP.

One of the most telling lines of this story, detailing the impending moves of 90+ kids was the last line of this quote depicting Crozet’s nearing self-sufficiency:

“Our biggest concern is that we’re being separated from the community that we live in and are a part of,” said Kathy Rainey, whose two children at Crozet would be moved to Meriwether. “Where we live, we are part of the Crozet community. To send us to Meriwether Lewis is taking us out of where our teams, churches and volunteer work are. We don’t normally go into Charlottesville to recreate.” (bolding mine)

We’re getting close. Once the Old Trail Town Center (please don’t call it the Shoppes of Old Trail, or something equally contrived!) comes online, the sidewalks are built to facilitate walking and Downtown’s resurgence continues, why would anyone go to Charlottesville?

More information at Albemarle County’s site and Brian Wheeler’s SchoolMatters site.

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Redistricting in Crozet

Crozet children and their families are facing another redistricting.

NBC 29 reports and the Daily Progress has more information.

From the DP:

The number of students who will be redistricted will be decided by Jan. 15, and school administrators will present parents with new boundary options the division is considering, said Diane Behrens, director of support and planning services for county schools.

The School Board will hold a public hearing in early March before it votes on the options.

Current elementary school districts are shown here on Albemarle’s website (PDF)

Crozet’s School Board representative can be reached here:

Barbara Massie Mouly
265 Newtown Road
Greenwood, VA 22943

Update: I neglected to mention that Brian Wheeler is also our school board representative, by virtue of his being the At-Large member of the School Board. I have said many times before that Brian’s openness and level of communication (and methods) ought to be emulated by more politicians.

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Continue reading “Redistricting in Crozet”

Loss of a school site in Crozet

School Board member Brian Wheeler’s comments.

Mr. Franco just said the previous plan was up around 400 [units] for a neighborhood model development, keep in mind that the School Division’s long range plans that are in the Crozet Master Plan are based on a population of 12,000 people.  That elementary school site was to serve that level of population.  And my understanding is that the housing recently approved in Crozet would already exceed that [population] if it was all built and all the people moved in.

Read them all.

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Crozet School growth

For those of you who don’t read Brian Wheeler’s School Matters blog, you should. He has done a tremendous service with his most recent post regarding the potential for school overcrowding in Crozet. Take the time to read it all as well as the attachments. You’ll be better informed citizens and parents for it.

Make no mistake, even if you do not have children in the County school system, what happens to our schools affects all facets of our lives, from our houses’ values to the basic quality of life in Crozet and beyond. If only more public servants were as capable and as open as Mr. Wheeler.

Our representative for the White Hall District is:

Barbara Massie Mouly
265 Newtown Road
Greenwood, VA 22943

Update 11/29/2006: Brian Wheeler has a story about the now-upcoming addition to Brownsville Elementary, among other developments.

Muddle for Middle Schoolers? – Readers’ forum

Proposed Changes to the High School Program of Studies At a meeting 11/13 at WAHS, Don Vale presented proposals for changes to the High School “Program of Studies” (POS) to a large group of parents and high school students. The program of studies sets forth the core offerings for students and states the grading and testing procedures. The POS is reviewed and approved by the Board every year.

Under the steering committee’s proposal, changes would be made in the following areas: grade point average (GPA); placement levels in core courses; grading scale and exams. See handout (PDF).

While all of the proposals generated some controversy, the most troubling to the attendees at WAHS was the change from the current system of weighting GPA [a greater value is given to more difficult levels of courses] to the proposed non-weighting GPA [an A in a standard course and an A in an AP course are given the same point value] with no class ranking.

If approved, these changes would affect those students entering WAHS (and all division High Schools) in Fall 2007—that is, this year’s 8th grade students. I was impressed by the dozens of high school students in attendance, many of whom spoke with passion and eloquence against the proposal. They sited the requirements of college applications (which often seek class rank) as well as their experience that having the additional value on difficult course material was an incentive to challenge themselves toward more vigorous course work. Parents were concerned that the reason behind making the changes has not been clearly articulated. In response to a question, Mr. Vale conceded that teachers at WAHS are against the proposal. Again and again, the success of students at WAHS and its reputation among colleges and universities in the Commonwealth was reiterated. The consensus at WAHS was: “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

I’m concerned that parents of middle school kids, who will be the first to experience these changes, have not been made aware of the issues. The Steering Committee’s website includes (as of today) 15 pdf downloads and a monitored discussion board. Also see the Daily Progress article (11/11/06).
An additional information session will be held 7:30 p.m. Thursday 11/16 at Monticello High. A date for a session Albemarle High has not yet been scheduled (per DP article). The recommendations will be submitted to Superintendent Pam Moran for review. If the Superintendent endorses the proposal, the School Board will vote on this matter in December. Once again, it is incumbent on parents to know the issues and speak out for their child(ren).


Ed. note: More information may be found at Brian Wheeler’s blog. If you don’t know, Brian is helping to set the standard for what government should be – one that listens, is open and responsive.

Note #2 – if you want to write for realcrozetva, even if it’s just one story, please email me.

Update 11/18/2006: This is a relevant Washington Post article with one of our own educators from Western Albemarle High School, pointed out by an astute reader.

Crozet’s crowded buses

Sanitized for the author’s protection:

A letter to the Albemarle County school transportation division:

I am writing now to inquire if there are any plans to add an additional bus for service in this area. My daughters advise that the bus is crowded, and they frequently must sit 3 students to a seat, which is uncomfortable (for adolescents) and possibly unsafe.

As you know, the area around Crozet Park is part of the Crozet  Master Plan and has seen an increase in development/residents. Currently under construction is the “Westhall” subdivision at the end of Park Street. Students living there would also be on the #208 bus.

(The bus driver) does an  excellent job as the driver, but I believe it is time to study whether an additional bus is warranted to alleviate the crowding. I would hope that this could be looked at over the summer months.

One suggestion would be to  have one bus for high school, one for middle school. Or, in the alternative,  divide the area of the route into two sections.

And the response:

Thank you for your concern with the overcrowding on bus 91/208. We will take a hard look at the routes in the Crozet area this summer.

This needs to be addressed one way or another.