Thursday, February 11, 2010

Chesterfield County: Education in the Crosshairs

The Chesterfield County School System appears to be taking it on the chin these days. Whether its community officials slamming the system and its leadership for irresponsible budgeting or citizens steaming over delayed school cancellations resulting from the snow early yesterday that had the High Schools in and the others out for the day.

It was not the fact that the County closed the Elementary and Middle schools but like everything else these days the late call made by the County to do so. If you were standing in the Starbucks line in Chesterfield yesterday, undoubtedly the conversation for alot of parents was the snow and the schools.

It is ironic that at a time where Chesterfield County faces its biggest shortfall (potentially now 46 million) for its school system that Governor McDonnell unvieled his education reform package yesterday. While I agree with much that he is proposing in his reform package, especially charter schools it is apparent that a great number of Virginia localities are facing an inability to implement any real reform at the school level at this time given current budget woes. many would suspect that the State would pick up the tab for such reforms, but the State as well is in the midst of facing some really hard budget considerations. In fact, this week we learned that if the State changes the funding formula for school divsions that Chesterfield would likely lose an additional 4 million on top of the stimulus funding that never came as a result of Gov. Kaine's withholding the funds.

"The Opportunity to Learn" is the new mantra of Governor McDonnell's reform package and yet here in Chesterfield it very well may be the "Lack of Opportunity"- to play athletics, to participate in school play, to join a foriegn langauge club, to take behind the wheel and drivers education or even apply for the Governor's School. The latter is very ironic in that a school such as the Governor's School program that is to reward those students that are achieving at a high level and yet as our very own Governor talks about rewarding those students our own County could be withdrawing from participation altogether.

It really makes you wonder if the local State leaders such as Loupassi, Ware, Watkins and Martin representing all or parts of Chesterfield are communicating with the Governor regarding the crisis faced by the school system and whether such reforms such as the funding formula are the best thing to do right now. I understand that many us realize that there is hardly a great time for reform otherwise why on earth would it be neccessary, but during this crisis it a matter of the quality of education that Chesterfield has always sustained that is coming into question.

Are we telling our students that they can do with less or are we saying to the System they need to make more with less. Teachers will be facing at the very least a 3% paycut, the classes are definitely going to be raised by at least one possible two students and right now it looks as if some 38 elementary school secretary positions will be eliminated.

And yet NONE of what you are hearing in the news addresses the biggest long term issue of all facing the County and thats the retirement/benefit for local government employees. With a large number of teachers in Chesterfield approaching retirement for example, how can the County hope to replace many of these retireees with what will surely be a reduced compensation package. Why would not a new teacher prefer to locate in Hanover or other Virginia locality where pay is comparable but class sizes much smaller where they can focus more on teaching and less on logistics and administration on a daily basis? Is anyone even really sure what the retirement, pension, benefits ect is going to cost Chesterfield over the next ten years as these teachers and other school system employees retire? You would think that would play a part in any long term plan to dig the schools out of this shortfall.

Right now, the County is keeping its eye on the ball to simply get this next fiscal year planned and paid for, but the long term issues are still going to be there when they come together again next year with even less State funding to work with and potentially less Federal money for such programs as No Child Left Behind and other Department of Education programs.

The question remains just how far the Board of Supervisors are willing to bleed the CCPS regarding programs and staffing. I can tell you this much, if the Board of Supervisors creates a funding scenario where Chesterfield County Schools cuts its athletic programs than you can pretty much guarantee such a backlash that the next election cycle will repeat the results of 2007.

If you recall, in 2007 the County Board of Supervisors experienced sweeping change on the backs of the 2006 pickup victories at the Congressional level throughout the country as national approval ratings for the GOP plummeted. 2007 was the step off again for Democrats in a backlash election against the GOP that springboarded the complete control of Congress with pickups in Virginia in both the House and Senate as well as the Presidency of course.

If anyone has been paying attention to Washington lately or the economy, 2011 could very well be the springboard to 2012 nationally as voters reject the Democrats. I doubt local Supervisors want to participate in that firestorm, but if they allow things like athletics, music and art get cut along with school clubs.......they will certainly be collateral damage to an already poor climate for incumbancy!!!!

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

Lee Ware's indifference is shocking. Per his columns in the Observer and the Midlo Exchange, he is totally disinterested in the funding shortfalls at the CCPS.

The four million of CCPS funding going to NOVA is raising eyebrows. Ware could face the political wrath next year. Voters are in a foul mood. What happened to the Dems in Mass could happen to Ware in Chesterfield in 2011. Folks are tired of the party hacks who have gerrymandered districts. These politicans also a higher occurance of corruption both moral and legal.

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J.Scott said...

Ware certainly has his own issues in the Assembly to deal with as well to be fair. He should at the very least step up to the plate and hold a town hall meeting in his area to assist in getting citizen feedback that he can pass along to the Supervisors.

In fact, maybe there should be a joint town hall with Ware and Watkins and even Martin given each of these men have consituents sharing the same concern over CCPS funding.

Ware could address concerns by informing citizens why it is Kaine withheld the stimulus funding for Chesterfield and where that money went instead. He could also inform citizens just what the Assembly budget will look like and whether he plans on endorsing the new school funding formula that would strip Chesterfield of another 4 million that it already had counted on in its current proposed budget.

These are the times when citizens demand information from its elected officials and want to know how these leaders are manking the determinations that very well may limit the funding of Chesterfield.

Anonymous said...

Richmond Regional Planning Commission is opposing reforming the composite index used to fund schools in Virginia and is asking for the Assembly to "freeze" the formula so the Governor's plan can be examined.

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JoeinBonAir said...

Town Hall would be great Scott. If our elected officials do not think that this crisis should permit voters to communicate in open dialogue with them than they should all be voted out.

A Town Hall would prove whether these are simply members serving our community at large our true blooded politicians at heart!

Anonymous said...

A town hall would be great. The Assembly members, BOS, and School Board should all attend.

Tape should be applied to Radja's and Durfree's mouth.

Anonymous said...

Durfee and Gecker are on the hot seat. Campaign promises often times have a real funny way of having blowback when you fail not to deliver BUT even attempt to deliver on them.

The tape thing is kinda funny though.

Anonymous said...

Any seat that Durfree is on will be hot due to the friction in the air from the non-stop motion of her mouth.

Anonymous said...

To be serious, Durfree is miscast as an elected official. She is best suited to be a citizen activist.

She has no understanding of decorum. Every and I mean every liason comm. goes off course due to her rants and ravings.
She is doing a great disservive to the County and our schools. What a control freak. She also does not return citizen emails and phone calls.

Jody L. Wilcox said...

There definately needs to be a change on the BOS especially in Matoaca since the current supervisor is being an obstructionist for obstructionist sake. There is a difference between doing what is best for the county and just being difficult...one is admirable the other is selfish

Alter of Freedom said...

Thanks for linking up on the facebook group Jody. Feel free to post on that whenever you get the urge to do so.

I think there needs to be a push to begin the process of finding Durfee's successor to be sure. This Spring will be crucial to the future of Chesterfield. The budget crisis was predicted by some here and on your blog Jody. The writing has been there with an over dependence on Richmond for some time. The certainly counted on funds not in hand and thats dangerous. Its one thing to forecast revevue from taxes, but its entirely different to assume anything from the Assembly when doing the budgets.

I said it back then and I will say it again....if people like Daniel Gecker and Marlene Durfee think that the education provided to our children in trailers is no different than that provided in real classrooms than why on earth did we need 70 million dollar high schools (Cosby for example)? Could we not have had two 35 million schools like Cosby and Clover Hill built new? I mean if its acceptable to educate middle schoolers and some high schoolers in trailers in some parts of the County do we really need all the bells and whistles of a Cosby?

This people have lost step with any kind of fical responsibility. gecker and Durfee both love to shift the blame to others if you watch carefully, but people need to understand that Gecker and even Gulley on the Planning Commission are responsible for the fact that our schools are overcrowded in the first place through neglectful Comprehensive Planning. Gecker has been involved for almost ten years now and we routinely see him cast aside any responsibility which is astonishing.

Jody L. Wilcox said...

Amen Brother! We have never agreed more strongly on a topic than this one

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Anonymous said...

I am beginning to think about supporting high speed rail. It seems to be the fastest way to send Marleen the Mouth out of Chesterfield.

Anonymous said...

Tomahawk MS is also full of bells and whisteles. Not just any bells and whistles either. The best.

Schools today have to be more complex than those of years ago agreed. I just think that Tomahawk and Davis MS are a little over the top.

Midlo MS has a horrible HVAC system.

Anonymous said...

When you are talking about school construction or any other funding matter associated with the CIP, we must all undertand there is very little community involvement in the process. The County contracts everything out and it usually is the finsihed product must citizens see but no the process by which the County engages in such contracts.

TC Robinson said...

I don't think anything says Marleen Durfee is more out of touch than her statement regarding the property tax rate in the latest Chesterfield Observer: “I haven’t decided yet,” answered Durfee. “I’m still working on the budgets and the CIPs [capital improvement programs] to determine what our spending should be.”

Um, don't you normally have to have a decided tax rate before you can determine how much you can spend?

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Durfee Must Go!!!

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