The Education Beat: Price of lab projects up, students on the school board

Stone-Robinson Elementary School students surprised teacher Patsy Reardon with a song and flash mob in the cafeteria this week. Reardon is retiring after 36 years at the school. Photo: Tim Shea. Stone-Robinson Elementary School students surprised teacher Patsy Reardon with a song and flash mob in the cafeteria this week. Reardon is retiring after 36 years at the school. Photo: Tim Shea.

C-VILLE is partnering with Charlottesville Tomorrow to bring you the latest local education news—briefs from school board meetings, updates from the classroom, and interviews with educators. Look for our first Education Beat in Tuesday’s paper.

Price tag of Buford’s science labs doubles

City staff told the Charlottesville School Board last week that the price tag for new science labs at Buford Middle School had increased by more than $700,000. The project, which includes renovations to four labs and the adjacent corridor, was originally slated to cost $692,000, part of a $3.6 million, multi-phase project to build new and upgraded labs at Buford and Charlottesville High School. City Council allocated $3 million for the build in January. The expected cost of the Buford project alone is now at $1.42 million.

Staff members said the price increase is due to necessary updates to the school’s electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems, and increased prices due to the rebound in the construction market. They added that it’s likely construction companies passed on the project due to the short bidding period and quick turnaround time, resulting in a lack of competition in the bidding pool.

Richmond-based Caspian Construction won the bid for the project. Students are scheduled to be in the new Buford labs when they return to school in August.

County students gain a seat on School Board

Starting this fall, members of the County Student Advisory Council, a group of 9th–12th graders who represent the students from all of the county’s high schools, will represent their peers at the Albemarle School Board’s business meetings.

The result of a May 23 request to improve communication with the Board, the new dialogue will include a rotating CSAC member weighing in on agenda items of interest at the Board’s business meetings and rotating Board members attending CSAC’s monthly meetings. Student representatives will not have the power to vote.

The new relationship is being written into policy and it will be presented to the Board later this summer. Learn more at

Acuff enters county School Board race

Katherine Acuff, vice president of the board of Mental Health America Albemarle/Charlottesville, announced her candidacy last week for the Jack Jouett District’s seat on the Albemarle County School Board. Running on a platform of “science and health-related education,” Acuff said that all community members are stakeholders in our public schools, which provide for “cultural health,” and which draw economic development to a community.

The candidate holds a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center, a PhD from the School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, and an MS from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.

School Board elections will be held on November 5, 2013.

Zoe Padron, Clark Elementary School. Photo: Zoe Padron.

MEET YOUR EDUCATOR: Zoe Padron, Clark  Elementary School

Q: What’s your favorite part of classroom teaching?

A: My favorite part is the excitement children get when they make connections between ideas and their own lives. It’s like they have learned there is a new color in the world, and they never saw it before. I love being a part of that.

Q: What’s your favorite example of a rewarding experience you’ve had in the field of education?

The biggest reward in teaching is watching the growth that my students make from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. I always have them set a goal at the beginning of the year and then at the end of the year we check to see if they made that goal. Invariably, they make it. That is reward enough.

Q: If you had to pick one, what do you think is the single most important issue facing public schools today?

I think one of the largest issues has to do with whether or not high-stakes testing is really an indicator of student learning, and if so, whether the learning it assesses is the kind of learning needed in the 21st century, given the incredible poverty and disparity our students have when they come into the schools.