Aubel: ‘School system needs your help’
Published 1:47 pm Wednesday, May 24, 2017
On March 30, the Lunenburg County School Board held its annual meeting with the Lunenburg Board of Supervisors to present the 2017-18 school budget. School Superintendent Charles Berkley presented to the supervisors a dire need for support that without, there will be consequences for the educational programs offered to the students.
Berkley outlined an almost $800,000 shortfall for the budget. This included $530,000 in mandatory increases for state benefits and employee health insurance, $230,000 for a much-needed and very minimal two percent salary increase and needed repairs to our aging buildings, instructional materials, and telecommunications upgrades. Berkley noted that this is the basic need to operate the school system through 2018 and there is nothing here to increase the level of educational services offered. No request for hiring new teachers. Nothing to make our school better, only maintain what we have.
So how did we get here? Why is the school system always crying for money? Simply put … in 2000, the county gave the school system $3.2 million in operating money. This money was used to provide a level of education to students while paying a respectable salary to teachers and administrators based on surrounding counties. Today, in 2017, the supervisors approved $3.2 million in operational monies for the school system. This means the school system has not received any increase in 17 years. Therefore, with the cost of inflation, that money today only covers $1.8 million worth of services.
This is particularly troubling because the public school system is the foundation of any community, especially in a rural community.
Think about that; Lunenburg graduates are the backbone of our community.
They are our firefighters and police, store clerks and business owners, our doctors and lawyers. They are our teachers and town managers, our town council, school board, and yes, even our board of supervisors are made up mostly of Lunenburg graduates.
The graduates today will be the leaders of our community in years to come. So a “No” vote by our supervisors to support our school is a “No” vote for the future of our community. Worse yet, they voted “No” for 17 years in a row, and there is no reason this year will be any different.
To confront this, the school board, has worked very hard over the last 17 years to continue giving the same level of education to the students. But unfortunately school leaders have had to make tough decisions with the increasing lack of support from the county.
Instead of reducing the level of education, the school board opted instead to reduce the number of teachers and administrators.
This places much more responsibility on the remaining staff. Teachers work through planning periods and lunch, and administrators take on the responsibilities of two or three people. Furthermore, all school employees have gone four years without a salary increase.
This has saved the school $1.5 million, making up the $1.4 million loss due to inflation from the counties offering.
Now it has come to this. The school board, if the budget is not funded, will be forced to make changes to the educational programs offered. This could be any of the following: higher fees for core classes, parents being more financially responsible for CTE classes, elective classes and off campus-programs like duel enrollment and governor’s school. If these courses are not funded, they may be cut.
The school system needs your help to right the course we are on. Teachers and parents, community leaders and land owners, we need Lunenburg alumni to contact your supervisor and tell them you are in favor of the county fully funding the purposed school budget.
Even better, come to the Supervisors meeting June 1 at 6 p.m. in the courtroom and tell them in person.
Doug Aubel is a resident of Kenbridge. His email address is email@example.com.