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Mark Fernandes (our convocation speaker this year) is returning to Goochland on January 30 to meet with faculty and staff serving in leadership roles to continue our conversation on Values Based Leadership.  Even though we have asked some of our teacher leaders to attend, we want to open this session to anyone that would like to join us as well.  As a team member that started after convocation, I have been inspired by Mark’s work outside of Goochland and hope that this session will ignite our discussions as we formulate a team to draft an updated strategic plan for GCPS beginning in February. We hope to see you there!

The school board held their first budget workshop since the presentation of the Superintendent’s proposed budget.  At the workshop, the board members took the time to discuss the budget line by line with each of the principals and directors in the school division.  This detailed analysis is the first time that Goochland board members have discussed the budget at this level of detail.  Additionally, principals and directors shared with board members that they appreciated the collaborative approach we have taken to develop the budget.  We have tried to make sure that all stakeholder voices are heard in developing a fiscal plan for the next school year.  Please come out to our public hearing on January 22, our last workshop on January 29, or on February 5 when we adopt the FY14 GCPS Budget!

Mr. Lumpkins worked with our high school and middle school principal to gain insight into our Secondary programs.

Mrs. Hardy worked with Dr. Geyer and our Elementary principals:

Mr. Wright discusses our Administrative budget (with a view of all 5 break-out sessions):

One more reminder… the public hearing on the budget will be Tuesday, January 22 in our new location in the County Administration Building at our new time of 6:30 p.m.  See you then!

We held our “annual meeting” as part of the regular school board meeting this week.  We are excited announce school board leadership for 2013 – Mr. Wright (District 5) was elected chairman and Mr. Payne (District 1) was elected vice-chairman.  The school board also agreed to hold all future school board meetings at 6:30pm instead of 7pm. (with a closed meeting at 6pm if there is a need to discuss personnel, discipline, or legal matters). Additionally, we will begin holding school board meetings at the County Administration Building beginning January 22 (with the exception of February 5).  A full schedule of our board meetings is posted here.  Lastly, the board set some tentative “themes” for workshop meetings and those topics are posted here.

One of our new additions to the board meetings is called “Reflections.”  During this time, we will highlight a program from each school every month.  Dr. Geyer wrote about our latest reflection and how it stole the show!

This week we welcomed our students back from the Winter Break.  I was so impressed to see our students engaged is high-impact activities immediately upon our return!

Often times, we talk in terms of the 5 schools that we have in Goochland, but really we have many more school opportunities for our students, including our two Governor’s School Opportunities – Blue Ridge and Maggie Walker.  On Thursday, Mr. Hazzard (District 2 School Board Member), Ms. Hardy (District 4 School Board Member), and I had the opportunity to have an in-depth tour of the school, but one highlight was the opportunity to eat lunch with a few of our local Governor’s School students to learn more about the program.  The students spoke at length about how hard, yet rewarding, the program is.  We hope that everyone thinks of Maggie Walker as one of their schools!  The school board has committed to increase our enrollment by 3 additional students per year over a four year period to a total of 28 students by 2017.

We also began the process of meeting with each school to discuss data and how we can better meet the needs of ALL our students.  After each data meeting, we spent time visiting classes and I was so impressed to see a safety lesson being presented through a partnership with our Fire and Rescue Department.  Earl Taylor leads this discussion and we were so impressed about how he taught safety in an engaging way with our students.

Last week, I shared that Governor McDonnell visited Goochand.  On Wednesday of this week, the Governor presented his annual State of the Commonwealth.  As a “thank you” for hosting him in Goochland (and for John Lumpkins (District 3) speaking at his first press conference), the Governor asked Mr. Lumpkins and I to sit in the gallery of the General Assembly to view the State of the Commonwealth speech.  I have seen these speeches on TV in the past and it was an honor to have been asked to be there in person.  While there, though, we ran into Alex Herrera, the Goochland student chosen to serve as a Page in the House of Delegates.

Ms. East, our assistant principal at GMS, shared this post about an iBook about nature that Bea Cantor, our instructional technology resource teacher, published on iTunes!

If you are a user of social media, Mr. Hendron created this document to explain all of the ways that you can engage with Goochland County Public Schools.   He also created this video about how to get all of your favorite blogs (i.e. your child’s teachers) into an email digest.

The GHS Fall Athletic Awards program was held Thursday evening.  Congratulations to all of our Fall programs and to our numerous district champions including Cross Country, Volleyball, JV Football, and Cheerleading!  Of course, congratulations to our State Champion High School football team!

Lastly, please don’t forget we have our workshop on the budget this Wednesday, January 16, at 6:30pm at GHS!

At the school board meeting on January 8, we presented the proposed budget to the school board as part of their regular business meeting.  Please click HERE to view our budget calendar and to see the documents we have prepared thus far in our budget process.  We plan to share budget information in a transparent manner, so we will also date each of the documents as we post them.  My recommendation is that you click on the most recent documents.  Other than the presentation that I prepared as a summary for the board, there are four other documents to view:

The proposed budget is based on level funding as requested by our county leadership and a 9.2% reduction in all federal programs if sequestration occurs; however, we are extremely excited to announce that we were able to bring many updates to our budget, including:

  • We added a Title I Pre-K Classroom at Byrd Elementary meaning that we will now be able to offer free early childhood education for 18 of our most needy 4-year old students each year (approximately 36% percent of families with 4-year olds in the Byrd District)
  • Our Career and Technical Education program is expanding through additional equipment funding to bring us from 10 to 12 Career Pathways that will be offered at Goochland High School
  • We will complete the state-mandated phase-in of the new VRS rates immediately rather than continuing to phase over the next 3 years.  Teachers and all VRS eligible staff will now pay an additional 4% (for a total of 5%) of their salary as a VRS contribution, but we are going to match that with a 4.66% pay increase for all teachers to make sure that their take-home pay is not impacted
  • We reinstated the funding for the Summer Regional Governor’s School
  • Many other line-item adjustments were made to provide programmatic support for our teachers, such as funds for science lab equipment, band uniforms, etc.

The proposed budget does not call for a salary increase for faculty/staff above and beyond the VRS-based increase listed above.  In a letter from county administration, we were asked to provide the cost of a 1% salary increase as a figure above and beyond our budget.  My presentation provides this figure along with a figure necessary to fund the local match of the Governor’s proposed 2% pay increase – we would have to request an additional $222,000.

To see detail on all of these programs and other items proposed in our budget, the copy of the presentation that I made to the board is posted here.

We want our budget to be reflective of the needs of our schools and the innovations sought by our community.  For this reason, if you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to email or call me at any time!

Happy New Year to all!  I hope that you had a restful and relaxing Winter break.  We have spent much of the break focused on our proposed budget.  Please take note that the Superintendent’s Proposed Budget will be presented to the school board tomorrow (Tuesday, January 8) at 7pm at GHS during our regular board meeting.  I will write a blog post later this week with specific budget details, but please join us if you want to hear the update in person.  After each public meeting, we will post our budget details on the school division website HERE.  Please check back either Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning to see a copy of my presentation and the budget detail documents.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at any time!

Also, last month, we introduced the idea of moving our board meetings to 6:30pm and to the County Administration building.  The school board will vote on that measure tomorrow night and if approved, we will have our first meeting in the new location at the new time on January 22.

For clarification, budget meetings this month will be:

  • January 8 – 7pm – GHS – Superintendent’s Proposed Budget
  • January 16 – 6:30pm – GHS – Budget Workshop
  • January 22 – 6:30pm – County Admin Bldg – Budget Public Hearing
  • January 29 – 6:30pm – County Admin Bldg – Budget Workshop
  • February 5 – 6:30pm – GHS*** – Final Budget Approval by the School Board (***County Admin Bldg was not available)
We will also be adopting our Capital Improvement Plan on February 5 and have vacancies available if any citizens would like to serve on the Facilities Committee.  If you live in Districts 2, 4, or 5, please contact Dr. Gretz for more information.

Governor McDonnell visits Goochland Middle School!

The other major news from the break was the visit by Governor Bob McDonnell.  The Governor chose Goochland Middle School to release his education-related legislative agenda.   The full press release from the Governor’s Office is located HERE.  Mrs. Burdette and I were honored to have been asked to speak at the press conference, a copy of the comments that I gave are posted HERE.  Thank you so much to the numerous parents and citizens that attended to support us!  Also, all five of our school board members and numerous other local officials (including four members of our Board of Supervisors) were in attendance and we thank them for taking the time out of their schedules.

Governor McDonnell, we would like to thank you, Secretary Fornash, and Deputy Secretary Siddiqi for choosing our county for this announcement!

Here is the full-length video of the press conference. We posted the full un-edited stream, please jump to 9:22 to see the beginning with the Governor’s entrance and Secretary Fornash’s introduction of Mrs. Burdette.  Mrs. Burdette begins speaking at 11:22.  Governor McDonnell begins at 13:33.  My speech begins at 35:08.  Thanks to Mr. Hendron for many of the pictures and for posting this video!

The Governor Arrives at GMS/GHS.

The Governor Meets Our Impressive Students.

Mrs. Burdette Introduces the Governor.

We were all so honored to be on stage with the Governor.

Thank you so much to everyone from Goochland that joined us in the audience!

Look at all of our proud parents!

Finally, it has been a couple weeks now, but I just have to highlight a few activities from before the holidays.  At Goochland Elementary School, Mrs. McCay shared with me that we had books donated by the Delta Kappa Gamma Chapter of Alpha Epsilon to our Headstart Program.  The students were so happy to receive their books and we thank you so much for your donation!

I was also impressed to see this post about brain-based learning from Amie Potter, one of our GIST facilitators.

Lastly, many of you know that our Goochland Bulldogs won their State Football Championship, but we are also proud to announce that the Touchdown Club of Richmond named Coach Fowler as his group’s Coach of the Year!!  He will be honored at a reception later this month, please wish him congratulations!

Have a great new year and an amazing 2nd semester!

Governor McDonnell, on behalf of the Goochland School Board and the Board of Supervisors and our Community, we want to thank you for being here to share your message with us this afternoon.  I am so impressed with the number of teachers, students, and community members that have come today and I cannot begin to tell you how much your support of our schools means to our school division.  We are an innovative school division and your presence here today affirms our efforts to build a model rural school division with world-class schools are beginning to reach outside of our county lines.    We also believe Goochland is primed for greater economic development and we know our schools are the key to building a stronger economy in Goochland and in the Richmond-metro region.

We would like to commend you on your proposal to implement the K-12 Red Tape Reduction Act.  Furthermore, the additional staffing flexibility you have proposed will free up funding for small rural schools to target specific needs, especially those we see in our own school division.  We know our students.  Any move to bring more local control regarding what is best for our students should be looked upon favorably.  The flexibility you have proposed will provide Goochland an easier path towards implementing new innovative initiatives that may not be permitted in the current state regulations.  We realize that greater flexibility will lead to greater accountability, but we are confident we can demonstrate that making allowances for innovation will also lead to more opportunities and higher achievement.

We also appreciate your efforts to bring the focus back to literacy in the early grades.  The educational research is clear on the importance of reading on grade level by the end of 3rd grade.  Your proposal to give struggling schools the flexibility to focus on reading and reduce the number of SOL tests given to students is a very strong step in the right direction.  We share the belief that social studies and science are extremely important and must remain a focus, but we would like to see these tests removed permanently from the 3rd grade in all schools.  We realize that Goochland’s schools are high-performing and will not qualify for this funding and flexibility this year, but we view your proposal today as a move towards offering this flexibility to all schools in the near future.  Furthermore, reading specialists are absolutely essential at the elementary level and we are supportive of your decision to provide funding for these vital positions and hope they become a permanent fixture in the Standards of Quality with funding for all schools in the future.

We also believe that Algebra Readiness is a key component in improving graduation rates and college success.  For this reason, Goochland implemented an initiative to have all 8th grade students complete Algebra and even with the new and more rigorous SOLs, 92% of our 8th graders met the mark.  We hope that your Algebra Readiness initiative will give us the support needed to reach those last few students and we thank you for making this a focus.

Lastly, one of our school board members, John Lumpkins spoke last month in support of your proposal to increase the teacher probationary period and fix the grievance process and we continue to support your efforts to reform teacher contract legislation while protecting the due process rights of our teachers.

Thank you again for coming to Goochland, we have a small gift for you to help you remember your time at one of the best schools in the world.