Education Beat: Supes want clearer picture of school cuts

UVA Latino Student Alliance’s Kim Rivera volunteers at Albemarle County’s annual field trip for Latino children and their families. Photo: Tim Shea UVA Latino Student Alliance’s Kim Rivera volunteers at Albemarle County’s annual field trip for Latino children and their families. Photo: Tim Shea

Our Education Beat coverage appears thanks to a partnership with Charlottesville Tomorrow.

Albemarle County’s budget deadline is nearing, but the fiscal waters aren’t becoming any less muddy for the school division. Exactly what the schools plan to cut if their funding request isn’t fully met is what Albemarle Supervisor Liz Palmer wanted to know during a meeting last week.

School Board Chair Ned Gallaway said that’s a tough task until the division has a clearer revenue picture. “It’s very difficult for the school board to go there, because in the universe of cuts that we provided, it’s probably not going to be the nature of what we cut, it’s going to be how much we cut,” Gallaway said.

In past years, a tiered list of possible reductions would accompany the school board’s funding request to the county government, and offer a sense of where the schools would cut, if necessary. This February, due to the large size of the then-$6.8 million deficit, the board sent one long list of cuts.

“When you face a $5 million deficit…you might make different cuts than if you face a $3 million deficit,” division spokesman Phil Giaramita said.

Currently, the schools need $5.8 million to balance their funding request. The supervisors have advertised a 4.2 cent tax increase that, if adopted in full, would raise taxes to 80.8 cents per $100 of assessed value, but would still leave the division $2.4 million short.

Supervisor and former school board member Diantha McKeel suggested forming an independent committee to examine the division’s funding situation. Potential dates for an initial meeting with the school board will be discussed at the supervisors’ next meeting in May. The Board of Supervisors is slated to adopt a final budget on Tuesday, April 15.

Innovations at Monticello High School library

Monticello High School’s library is called the Learning Commons, but its name isn’t the only nontraditional aspect of the space. Librarians Joan Ackroyd and Ida Mae Craddock are rethinking the library’s role in changing education at the Albemarle school.

In alignment with the county’s “maker curriculum” philosophy, Ackroyd and Craddock’s focus has been on creating spaces to facilitate active instruction and learning that isn’t possible in a traditional classroom. Today, the Learning Commons features a long list of flexible spaces that include reading lounges, digital studios, and instructional/collaborative spaces.

The librarians are excited to see the effect of the changes in the enthusiasm of teachers and students, and they feel that working in this space prepares students for the reality of modern work spaces, where employees are expected to think critically and collaborate with diverse groups.

“It used to be you go to the library and check out a book on how to sew things,” Craddock said. “Now you will get the book, and sit down at the sewing machine in the library and make something.”

County names new Meriwether Lewis principal

Albemarle County Public Schools have named Michael Irani as the new principal of Meriwether Lewis Elementary School. Irani’s prior experience includes a four-year stint as Charlottesville High School’s assistant principal. Currently, he is the assistant principal at Cale Elementary School. He will begin his new tenure on May 1.

“One thing that I hold dear is that while students might come from different backgrounds, every parent wants the same thing, and any leader of a school needs to keep that in mind,” Irani said.

Ida Mae Craddock

MEET YOUR EDUCATOR: Ida Mae Craddock, Librarian, Monticello High School

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

Meeting the needs of such a diverse group of curious students. Finding the time, resources, and equipment necessary is not always easy, but is an amazing and wonderful professional challenge.

What’s the most common misconception about your job?

That we shush people. Our spaces allow for quite a diverse level of noise. Some areas are quiet—others can be quite active. Shushing people is neither practical nor in line with our philosophy of creative common space.

What outside experience prepared you best for your position?

A research background (I know! You thought I was going to say technology, right?). According to Moore’s law, everything we know now about technology will be out of date every 18 months or so. While based on the size of superconductors, this law broadly applies to technology and technological knowledge. So, having a strong technology background would only hold me for two years, maybe. However, being able to find the answers I need from reliable sources quickly and efficiently is a skill that is absolutely invaluable. It’s also a skill that will take our students forward into industry, technology, education, and life and a skill I am always happy to pass along.