There has been a lot taking place over the past several weeks as we have been working to develop our proposed budget for next year. Much of this work concluded with action taken by the School Board at their meeting last night. I wanted to provide you with a summary of their action.
I am excited to inform you that last night our School Board approved the 2017-2018 Operating Budget for Goochland County Public Schools. This operating budget is a culmination of months of collaboration and dialogue among staff, community members, and our School Board. I am excited for what it will allow us to do to continue the great work of our division as we continually work to inspire our next generation to make a positive impact and maximize the potential of every learner.
This proposed budget will be presented to the Goochland County Board of Supervisors at their next meeting on February 21. It reinforces our commitment to quality instruction and efficient operations within our division. Among the highlights are raises for all employees, including a revised teacher salary scale, that will place Goochland County at or above the median salary at all pay levels for teachers in the central Virginia region. These raises are not offset by an increase in health care costs, as we were able to maintain our competitive benefits without any premium increase for this year. We are very happy to take care of our great teachers and staff in this manner.
Our budget also provides funding to add several instructional positions, including additional support in mathematics, added computer science classes, and an instructional technology coach, who will serve students and teachers in modeling deeper, engaged learning as we move into our first year of our one to one laptop initiative at the high school. Our budget will also add preschool instructors and a gifted resource teacher at the secondary complex to meet the needs of our middle and high students.
We are able to accomplish these and several other goals in our balanced 2017-2018 operating budget with thoughtful work in evaluating current programming, abandoning practices that have outlived their usefulness, and gathering feedback from all stakeholders. Links to an executive summary of the approved budget and additional detail can be found on the School Board’s February 14 meeting agenda.
School Board Streaming Update
Recently, school divisions across the nation have been cited by the U.S. Department of Education and the Office for Civil Rights for a failure to provide adequate accessibility to individuals with disabilities on school and school division websites. Our staff, led by Dr. John Hendron, has worked to make our website a model in accessibility so that all of our viewers can easily access the information we make available. We have been working with the Office for Civil Rights for feedback as we continue to monitor our online presence and ensure accessibility.
Unfortunately, the requirements for accessibility to bring our current live streaming application of our Goochland County School Board meetings into compliance are cost and labor prohibitive. The ongoing, annual cost of streaming and archiving video that is accessible using closed captioning was over $10,000. Viewership statistics also indicate that the live stream has dwindled in usage in the past few years. The Board has decided that these funds can be better used in support of our instructional initiatives. Our School Board and staff have discussed several alternatives to the current streaming service that will accomplish the goals of maintaining transparency while still meeting the accessibility requirements of the Office for Civil Rights.
We will continue to make all of our meeting agendas available at our website, which includes links to all available presentations and documents. Meetings are, of course, open to the public. Citizens and staff are welcome to attend. In lieu of our live streaming, which ended with yesterday evening’s live stream, we will post detailed minutes of each School Board meeting online once they are approved by the Board. We regret to have to end the live stream but the usage data clearly indicated that the cost could not be justified, and we are confident that our meetings will continue to operate in the same spirit of transparency that has defined the work of our School Board for the past five years.
Our School Board approved the 2017-2018 GCPS School Calendar at yesterday evening’s meeting. Our calendar has been developed and reviewed by instructional staff, parents, and division staff in cooperation with the School Board, and I am excited that our calendar will provide our staff with the much-needed time to collaborate, plan, and grow through more frequent staff development and planning time. The approved calendar is reflective of our division’s leadership as an innovative school division as we capitalize upon our instructional time for learning by reducing the frequency of assessments delivered to students. In December and June, there are no designated days for midterm and final exams. The days at the end of the semester and the end of the year are full days, not early dismissals. Instructional staff will continue to have the autonomy and flexibility to assess students and their knowledge during these times and throughout the school year. Additionally, the approved calendar will maintain many of the traditional timelines for starting school, holiday breaks, and the last day of school that have been a part of past calendars. The approved 2017-2018 calendar can be found here. Highlights are below:
- August 7 – New Teachers Report
- August 14 – All Teacher Report
- August 21 – First Day of School
- October 23 – Parent Conferences
- November 22 to 24 – Thanksgiving Holiday
- December 20 to January 1 – Winter Break
- April 2 to April 6 – Spring Break
- June 5 – Last day of School
Thank you for everything that you do to support and make a difference in our community’s future, our students. I am thankful and grateful for your investment of time, effort, and energy!