IW school board OKs budget, early retirement

Published 10:26 am Monday, March 13, 2017

Isle of Wight County’s school board voted unanimously to approve its proposed fiscal year 2017-2018 $59.8M operational budget and early retirement incentive program during their Thursday meeting.

The members also voted unanimously to formally accept the first $1 million of Smithfield Foods’ $3 million donation. The rest of which will be given to the division over the next three academic years to partially fund the division’s proposed in-house career and technical education courses and high school renovations.

According to Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton, the biggest change in the division’s 2017-2018 operational budget over that of the 2016-2017 school year is raises for teachers ranging from 2 to 7 percent, the funding for which will come from the state for five months and the division’s funds for the remaining seven months. The budget also includes a 10 percent increase in the cost of its employee health insurance plan, which the division will absorb at no additional cost to school personnel.

The now-approved early retirement incentive program will allow retirees to remain on their employee health insurance plans for up to five years if they substitute for the division for at least 25 days per year.

The board also discussed the comments made by Paul D. Camp Community College President Dr. Dan Lufkin at the last Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors meeting and reiterated the reasons for wanting to move the career and technical education courses in house.

“We didn’t have a CTE program on-site that we could control; if we moved to Paul D. Camp, that doesn’t change the problem,” said Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum/Instruction Heather Tuck. “Once we have the facilities in place, we plan to redesign the schedule.

“This would be an intensive, hands-on schedule where students will do real projects. Students in culinary arts would run the cafeteria that serves our children. Our students in landscaping will take care of our own grounds. These are all things that would only take place by redesigning our schedule that is unique to us and would not fit with a community college.

“We were made out to be the bad guys when Paul D. Camp presented [at the last Board of Supervisors meeting.] I really resent the corner I feel we were backed into. A partnership is only a partnership if it works for both of us.”

Tuck added that she hopes the division will still be able to partner with Paul D. Camp in offering dual-enrollment credits for the high school’s new CTE courses and to open the division’s new facilities up to Paul D. Camp’s instructors during the evening for adult education classes.

“But we can’t move forward before we have the facilities available in the E building,” she said.

Thornton added that he had met with Lufkin back in October 2016 to discuss some of the proposed CTE courses and facilities the division planned to offer, and that Lufkin had not offered any alternatives until speaking at the Board of Supervisors meeting.

During citizens’ time, Charles Greene, a retired Marine and police officer, expressed concerns he and his neighbors had over what impact the proposed $10 million plan would have on their taxes, and also voiced concerns that the division was not paying wages in compliance with the Davis-Bacon Act.

“I think the roll out was kind of as bad as [President Donald] Trump’s immigration roll out,” he said.

Additional citizens’ time speakers included Mike Uzzell, who asked for more details on the division’s transportation department maintenance; former school board member Herb DeGroft, who took issue with the methods used for the division’s efficiency study; and Laura Zabinski and her daughter, Katherine, a senior at Windsor High School, who both expressed concerns over how the division determines high school valedictorians and salutatorians.

“My guidance counselor called me in the beginning of August to say that in this school year, dual enrollment classes will be counted for a 5.0 credit and after the first semester, we will be calculating your year-long AP (advanced placement) classes,” Katherine Zabinski said. “This was under the pretense that in years past the valedictorian and salutatorian have not been true, and at the end of the year sometimes all the class ranks move because they don’t calculate AP classes … . About two weeks ago, when they announced the valedictorian and salutatorian, I was third, and they finally admitted that none of my APs counted.”

In other business, the board viewed a presentation by students at Carrsville Elementary students who are working on writing a book, which will be published professionally at the end of the school year, and announced that the division’s special education plan is now available for viewing at the Carrollton, Smithfield and Windsor public libraries, as well as at the two high schools.