Education Beat: Albemarle school board begins cuts

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Last week members of the Charlottesville High School Orchestra played on the Downtown Mall to raise awareness of their upcoming trip to France. Photo: Tim Shea Last week members of the Charlottesville High School Orchestra played on the Downtown Mall to raise awareness of their upcoming trip to France. Photo: Tim Shea

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors last week adopted a tax rate of 79.9 cents per $100 of assessed real estate value—a 3.3-cent increase over the previous rate of 76.6 cents—but even with the hike, the county schools are $3.9 million short of their $164.3 million funding request.

During a work session last week, the Albemarle County School Board voted to increase class size averages, reduce the salary increases it had budgeted for staff, and cut discretionary funds for all schools and departments by 5 percent. The votes taken last week were not final, and the board has until April 24 to adopt a budget.

The board voted 4-3 in favor of increasing class size averages by 0.2 students. Eric Strucko, Jason Buyaki, and Ned Gallaway voted against the motion. Albemarle Spokesman Phil Giaramita said the increase would impact between eight and nine full-time equivalent positions, but that it is unlikely any individuals would be let go immediately. “It’s more likely to impact a teacher who would go from full- to part-time,” Giaramita said. However, Giaramita added, 77 teachers have already received Reduction in Force letters, and some of those might not be called back in this summer. Historically, the division distributes about 80 RIF letters per year. As enrollment numbers firm up over the summer, most of those teachers are given contracts.

The board also voted unanimously to reduce the 2 percent raise it had budgeted for staff to 1 percent, which saves $1.1 million. Additionally, the board voted 4-3 to cut discretionary budgets for all schools and departments by 5 percent. Pam Moynihan, Kate Acuff, and Steve Koleszar voted against the motion.

Other reductions included initiatives like interpretation services, a move to paperless evaluations, and restorations to the learning resources, professional development, and athletics budgets. The board also voted to remove $289,754 for the Bright Stars pre-K program from its budget.

Another $125,000 earmarked for lab renovations for Western Albemarle High School’s new Environmental Sciences Academy survived the chopping block, as did $137,132 and two full-time equivalents to grow the world languages pilot at Cale Elementary School. The school board will meet next on April 24.

Albemarle High School to offer artistic focus

Albemarle High School will soon offer its students a new way to organize some of their courses. Beginning this fall, what school officials are calling a Fine Arts Pathway will allow incoming freshman and rising sophomores the opportunity to focus their high school electives in the fine and performing arts.

Within the pathway, students can choose from eight strands, or areas of focus: art, ceramics, photography, band, orchestra, chorus, creative writing, and theater. Each strand is composed of five traditional classroom courses, but the program will also require students to take their passions outside of the school building.

In 10th grade, students will complete 10 hours of a community learning experience, where they shadow someone in a career that relates to their focus. Albemarle is hoping these community learning projects lead to the internships students will have to complete in 11th grade. Additionally, students will have to present a 12th grade capstone project that wraps up their four years in the program.

Albemarle is estimating that next year, about 75 students will participate in the program, which will only be available to Albemarle High School students. Principal Jay Thomas said he’s shared the model with the other high schools. “I’m trying to get away from the ‘One school has this, and one has that’ idea,” he said.

Thomas said the variety of academies now being offered, and the quality of the fine and performing arts program at AHS sparked the idea. Students who simply want to take one of the courses, but not pursue the entire pathway are welcome too.

David Glover. Contributed photo.

MEET YOUR EDUCATOR

David Glover, English Teacher, Monticello High School

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

Time management and learning how to prioritize. Finding enough time during the day to complete every to-do list and agenda item is a constant battle.

What’s the most common misconception about your job?

That the majority of my day is spent delivering content. Teaching involves dozens of jobs. My role can change from minute to minute each day.

Where do you see the teaching field in five years?

Digital resources will replace textbooks and social media will continue to break down the barriers of traditional classroom walls. I imagine scenarios where teachers will be able to provide virtual tours for their students using virtual reality headsets, and the majority of all K-12 students will have access to inexpensive connected devices. We’re living in a truly amazing time.

What outside experience prepared you best to become a teacher?

When I’m not teaching English, T.V. production, and digital music, I’m at home writing lyrics, working on my videography portfolio, and recording music in a home studio. I teach what I love. I think that is vital for any educator.

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