School board punishes teachers, students for its own mistakes

Floyd County’s beleaguered school board — under fire for its fast and loose budget practices — decided Monday to punish teachers and student for its mistakes — avoiding the real issues that have placed the system in financial distress.

The board will eliminated 21 full time positions and lay off five teacher assistants and one other employee because the board of supervisors had the gall to keep the system’s budget at the same level as the current fiscal year.

And the system will not fill two special education jobs, hire teachers for vacant positions in math, physical education art positions along with two elementary school jobs.  Also, the system will eliminate six positions it filled last year with federal stimulus money that was a one-time deal.

The action, taken at a five-hour meeting Monday that included a long, closed-door “executive session,” will be ratified at a second meeting this morning.

The decision can easily be viewed as a callous act designed to generate public anger towards the board of supervisors instead of focusing on the real problem: the school board’s mismanagement and lack of honesty with the public over the rapidly escalating cost of the administrative operation.

(This article is based on a story in The Roanoke Times and conversations with attendees at the meeting.)

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16 thoughts on “School board punishes teachers, students for its own mistakes”

  1. What did you expect The School Board to cut? The largest expense in most organizations is payroll. The shortfall in funding for Floyd County Schools is due to a combination of reduced state funding, reduced federal funding and a declining student population.

    Had all of the members of the Board of Supervisors met with the school Superintendent (some declined to do so on numerous occasions) and learned the nuances of the school budget and its processes, they may not have arranged for the timely ambush of the Superintendent last week. Katelyn Polantz wrote those “revealing” articles in the Roanoke Times (amazingly the same week the Board of Supervisors voted on fund allocations) and then referred back to them in her current pieces without letting the reader know she was the one who wrote the articles. Now if that doesn’t appear to be disingenuous, I don’t know what is – talk about the pot calling the kettle black! That is like me writing a Wiki article and then using it as a reference in a research paper.

    The School Board and Superintendent do deserve some of the blame. Due to the lack of transparency in dealing with the Superintendent’s salary, they opened the door for the scrutiny they now find themselves facing. The teachers and students will be suffering because the Board of Supervisors had an agenda and used the press to ambush the school system. I work for the school system, and I witness every day the hours and dedication the staff and teachers devote to the children of this county. Yes, the children will ultimately be the ones who suffer here. The district’s staff will be in our 4th year of no salary increases while the costs of everything around us continue to skyrocket but at least most of the staff will still have jobs.

    So where does all this leave the school system? We will have the school system’s budget micromanaged by the Board of Supervisors who have no idea how the school budget works, (maybe they should have met with the Superintendant ? ) and we will have to hire a new Superintendant. Somehow, I doubt they will be able to hire a new one without coming close to what they were already paying the current Superintendent. The only difference is the one we are losing has 18 years experience – good luck finding a new one with anywhere near that experience for the same amount of compensation. The Federal government has already mortgaged these children’s futures and now the Board of Supervisors is making it harder for them to get a good education. If the goal of the ambush was to hurt our children’s chances for a successful future then it was an unqualified success.

    • Thank you, Emmette for posting an articulate response and also for defending the students, faculty and staff of this school district.

      After the stimulus money ran out and with reduced funding from the state, it was up to out local government to step in and take responsibility in appropriating a level of funding that would ensure the continued success of our children and school district.

      Moreover, roughly eighty-percent of the school district’s budget goes to personnel. So, to reiterate Emmette’s reply, “What did you expect the School Board to cut?”

      Dear Board of Supervisors,

      Thank you for raising my taxes as I have not had a pay raise in four years. Yes, I’m a local public employee. And, yes, I work for the school district as do many of your constituents. I can’t wait until next year’s budget.

      Oh, and have fun micromanaging the district’s budget.

      But seriously, in the future please put “children first”?

      Michael W.

    • Emmette-Perhaps the SBO could look at programs that are outside of the school day, in these financially tight times? Athletics, instead of the art, music and PE positions that were not rehired? Additionally, the people of Floyd were misled, I believe, by the BOS, who in raising the real estate tax and the personal property tax, said this would be for education, as well as for other necessary community services. Sadly, as you point out, it is the children of Floyd County who ultimately will pay the price for the grownups’ mishandling of the situation- with higher class sizes, less support from instructional aides and fewer class options in elementary as well as high school.

  2. I agree, this is a tactic commonly used by governmental entities to coerce support for their causes. Instead of looking at cutting people as a last resort, as they should, the use the threat as a weapon to get what they want. They need to let Terry go sooner rather than later (money saved); there are plenty of qualified people in the state who would like to have the job (well, unless they don’t want to work for this school board).

  3. Writing from afar, I can feel the collective angst of the community on this issue.

    We go through the same nonsense in Clark County, Washington. There seems to be endless intrigues surrounding school board issues regardless of the district and their tax base either rich or poor.

    I think most boards have a tendency to degenerate into gool ol’ boy and gal networks surrounding personalities of influence. The recent intrigue concerning Terry Arbogast’s pay is an example. For a community the size of Floyd his compensation and percs are obscene to say the least.

    You are far too kind Doug Thompson in allowing the word ‘mistakes’ to allow them some slack. Conspiracy does exist even at the lowest levels of our nation’s government, regulating boards and school boards. Give enough power to a bunch of ‘billybobs and marysues’ without adequate oversight and they’ll surely figure out a way to clip the taxpayers and even steal money outright. The temptation is simply too great. I’ve been following this Arbogast story and quite possibly someone needs to go to jail too. The question is who’s going to do the criminal/civil investigation that’s necessary on these type issues? Exposure in the press doesn’t mean diddly in these times. / : |

    Carl Nemo **==

  4. Terry should know that you can’t fund permanent jobs with temporary money. If he was smart enough to know, then he must have intended all along to lay off the people in the jobs created with the stimulus money once the money was gone, or to use the layoff threats to get the BOS to replace the stimulus funds with tax increases. Cute.

  5. From Terry:
    “I would like to notify all staff of the action taken by the School Board at their meeting today in adopting the budget for the 2011-2012 school year. We will now submit the adopted budget to the Bd. of Supervisors for their categorical appropriation. With a budget revenue shortfall of almost $800,000 and no additional funding from the Bd. of Supervisors, the School Board had difficult decisions to make to balance the budget. The following positions that are vacant will not be filled:

    2 Elementary teaching positions, 2 Special Education teaching positions, 1 Secondary Math teaching position, 1 Secondary Physical Education teaching position, 1 Art teaching position, 1 part-time Speech position, 1 part-time Music position, 2 Instructional Assistant positions, and 1 part-time Psychologist position. They also approved a reduction in 1 Gifted teaching position, the proposed additional Maintenance Supervisor position, and 5 Instructional Assistant positions. The School Board discussed at great length on how we could incorporate a raise into the budget for all staff for next year and realized that it would be necessary to eliminate more positions, therefore they did not feel it was the prudent thing to do.

    I wanted to get this information to all staff as soon as possible because I recognize that staff are anxiously awaiting the budget results. ”

    Terry Arbogast, Ed.D.
    140 Harris Hart Rd.
    Floyd, Va. 24091

  6. What? Cutting Math but no cuts in athletics? Where are the priorities? Oh, wait; I forgot this is Floyd County. I wonder how many of those positions are currently occupied by women vs. men? Curious minds want to know.

  7. It is time to really think about all of the elementary schools in the county and decided to close Indian Valley. The lines are always being redistricted to pull new students to a school with disregard to how long a child rides the bus. They would be able to shift teachers and staff to other schools to keep everyone employed.

  8. Diane/Emmette

    The original school budget presented to the BOS had 59 elementry teachers and a student teacher ratio of 21.1 to 1. The new budget presented yesterday, the 10th, had 61 elementry teachers and a student teacher ratio of 20.6 to 1.

    It has never been my intention for the children to suffer, in fact, I have been a champion for the children and the teachers and have been trying to ensure they get ALL they deserve and that we allocate in their name…this is why we now have control of the budget by catagory. However, if you fact-check the newest budget from the School board, you will see that while the belt tightening has been going on at the teachers expense the ADMIN catagory actually saw an increase in funding.

    I always appreciate anyones opinion, but facts should be accurate before critisizing those who are trying to serve their community.

    • Mr. Clinger,

      A quick look at the budget years 2009-2010, 2010-2011, and 2011-2012 shows that between the budget years of 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 (the current school year) Administrative expenses actually decreased. As you mentioned the budget presented yesterday for 2011-2012 actually increases the Administrative category by $30,000 and reduces the instructional category by $700,000 (back to 2005-2006 budget levels) However, even with the increase in the Administrative category in this budget (2011-2012) it is at the lowest level since the 2007-2008 school years budget.

      I fail to see how setting the school system back 7 years in funding is a win for the children of this county. It certainly isn’t a win for the employees that lost their jobs or for the rest of the employees who are stuck at a 2007 salary level. What the students will face now is more crowded classrooms, less support staff to help in the classroom and some teachers who will be teaching grades they are unaccustomed to teaching due the instructional staff not being replaced this coming year.

      I’m glad you appreciate listening to anyone’s opinion. Because according to the budget numbers you so graciously wanted me to study in my opinion all I see is a recipe for disaster. If your idea of being a” champion for the children” is measured by reducing school funding, staffing and overcrowding classrooms then I’m thrilled you want the children to get ALL they deserve.

  9. We need to remember that the budgets are not set yet. Everything is still in the planning stages. If there is something that anyone would like to change I would suggest attending the next budget meeting and speaking during the public comment period.
    From what Dr. Arbogast said at the last Board of Supervisors meeting I was under the impression that class room sizes would actually come down from what had earlier been predicted. Also most of the positions that would be lost were positions that were already vacant so hopefully no one will lose their job.
    This is a very complicated issue. Floyd is not a wealthy county and most likely will not be for the foreseeable future. With the school system using more then 80% of the county’s entire budget they unfortunately bear the brunt of state funding reductions. As long as the state continues to pass down unfunded mandates I’m afraid this trend will continue.

  10. One point that keeps getting lost is the Board of Supervisors has proposed level funding in local money.The cuts to the school budget are in state money. If state cuts were not happening there would not be lost jobs. If we must point a finger, then we must point at who keeps sending these people to Richmond. To do that we must first look in the mirror and then point.

    • Jerry, a good portion of the reduction in state money is due to the fact that the school-age population in Floyd decreased, and the state allocates money based on student population. So, it is logical that if there are fewer students then fewer teachers are needed. Also, don’t forget that Obama and ilk provided a temporary ‘stimulus’ that was used to hire full-time teachers; Washington took that money away, not Richmond (Terry should have used this temporary money to give bonuses to teachers, buy needed equipment, building improvements, etc.).

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