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This year, the Hanover School Board presented stakeholders with more time to weigh in on spending plan priorities for the upcoming budget process.
The Board held a pre-budget public hearing Oct. 8 to allow community members to share their opinions on the proposed goals for the next school year’s financial plan. More than 50 people attended and about nine supported the current priorities.
Patti Davis, a mother of five children in the school system, said that teachers who have been “loyal” despite the poor economy should be “rewarded.”
“We need again to show the teachers that they are valued,” said Davis. “They are what make our school system great.”
The Board hopes to provide a competitive salary and benefit plan for employees for the next school year. Speakers stressed the importance of this objective, urging the board to make sure this remains central in the upcoming spending plan.
“Without the teachers, no amount of technology will get our children where they need to be,” Davis said.
Randy Sherrod, president of Friends of Hanover Schools, thanked the Board for making teachers’ salaries and class sizes its main concerns.
“When class sizes increase, the quality of education and opportunities for our children will erode,” Sherrod said.
Sherrod pointed out that teachers’ increasing responsibilities are often the result of larger class loads. For instance, some reading specialists are teaching English as a Second Language.
He emphasized the need for more money in each school’s spending plan. Sherrod said each school is only allotted a small sum of money to use for a range of materials and supplies and teachers receive a small amount for classroom supply purchases. Sherrod said teachers often end up paying for some supplies themselves. Sherrod said he is aware of this because his wife, who is a teacher, often pays for supplies.
When teachers cannot afford smaller supplies like hand sanitizer or tissues, Sherrod said that Parent Teacher Associations and parents have to buy those materials, noting that parents then won’t have money to spend on graduation items for their children, for example.
“The biggest concern here is that our students and teachers aren’t being given the resources they need to augment the learning they desperately deserve,” Sherrod said.
Angela Downer, president of Hanover Professional Educators, highlighted the need for quality healthcare.
“As the Hanover school division transitions to the Affordable Healthcare Act, the district needs to maintain high-quality and affordable healthcare options for its employees,” said Downer. “Quality health insurance is critical not only to our members but also to the Hanover school division’s ability to recruit and retain the best teachers and other staff.”
Later in the meeting, the staff asked the Board to opt out of Hanover schools’ participation in the Virginia Local Disability program, which provides benefits for those with both short-term and long-term disabilities as long as the employer participates in the Virginia Retirement System.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jamelle Wilson pointed out that both school and county officials recommend going with a private provider for all employees.
The Virginia General Assembly created the program in 2012 and requires that employers, who choose not to participate, find a benefit program that is “comparable” to the state’s program.
The School Board has not yet finalized their 2014-2015 budget goals, but is expected to do so at its November meeting.