Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Save Our Schools: Greenfield Elementary March 17, 2010

It was not really a hard choice to make tonight; sit through another evening of American Idol or head on out to Greenfield Elementary tonight and try and get a handle on exactly what the issues are that face the Chesterfield County School System.

Its no longer new news, but the County is in trouble. This kind of trouble is not going to simply vanish in the coming years either. The trouble we face is certainly financially rooted, but I have come in recent months to determine the County is also philosophically in trouble.

Tonight was more of a brief explanation of the roles of both the Board of Supervisors as well as the School Board than I would characterize it as a meeting to reveal the issues within the budget itself. We all know the School System has a pending shortfall, but tonight there was not really a true examination as to WHAT would be cut. It was briefly revealed in a PowerPoint presentation, but CUTS were either intentionally left out of the elected officials analysis or things just wandered of course during Q &A. Not unlike County funding I might add.

The County at this point is funding schools with about 58% of its revenues. There is a proposal created by the County Administrator to help the School Board with an added 6 million from the General fund, but as of yet the Board has not voted on the proposal and Gecker neither showed his hand or that of the other Supervisors.

The shortfall our schools face is a product of many factors. One of which was blatantly absent from tonight's meeting and that is the State Legislature. Richmond has sought to cut levels in statewide education at unprecedented levels in order to cure its own shortfalls at the State level. That said, we really did not get any real admission from Supervisor Daniel Gecker regarding his role in the crisis we face.

I tend to give School Board members a pass when it comes to these things centered around overcrowding or school construction. My reasoning is the School Board must be a reactionary body. Of course they should be proactive regarding its own budget and cut where it can cut in both good and lean times, but the reality is much of what they must respond to has to do with enrollment. The School Board has little control or even participation in the process that contributes to overcrowding in our schools. Overcrowding is a product of poor comprehensive planning and that falls right smack down on Mr. Gecker's lap.

No matter how many times Supervisor Marlene Durfee over in Matoaca rants about how the schools should be "redistricted" to curb the overcrowding, these elected officials never seem to want to take responsibility for the fact it is their obsession with growth that perpetuates this continual overcrowding issue.

Tonight, Mr. Gecker alluded to a post-2000 period that has created much of the mandates in education (a direct smack at George Bush and No Child Left Behind) that have in his opinion actually lowered the level of quality in our schools and specifically Crestwood Elementary where his children have been enrolled over the years. Whether that is true or not I leave to others to debate, but what I will say is that many of the classroom issues we face have a direct correlation with growth in the County. Excessive zoning approvals to take advantage of the booming housing markets of 2005 thru 2007 resulted in attracting new families to the County and thus raising the level of enrollment. Mind you, the County was already sitting at maxed levels before this boom and the result was once again the County finding itself behind the growth curve in terms of seats available in the classrooms throughout the County.

The one point I wanted everyone in attendance tonight to hear but did not get the chance and a point I want all the readers of this blog to grasp is simply illustrated by my own experience:

** I first entered Chesterfield County Public Schools in 1982. I was one of the first classes to suffer with having classes in dreadful trailers- you remember them- no heat or no ac. In the early 1980's citizens like my parents were told by the Board (not the School Board mind you) that the trailers were a necessity due to the rapid growth the County was experiencing. This was a time where the County went from having a Sheriff's Department to having a Police Department and Sheriff's Department. Forget about the fact the State picks up a lot of the tab for the Sheriffs Department but again that is another issue. Flash forward almost thirty years AND


Why? Well, you will get no admission from people like Mr. Gecker but if you simply take a look at the numbers during that same period he referred as post-2000 he has been involved in every major zoning development before either the Planning Commission or the Board of Supervisors.

Remember "Field of Dreams"? If you build it he will come. Well Mr. Gecker, with all due respect if YOU ZONE IT, developers will built it and THEY WILL COME!!! Look at how many new schools have been required to meet this growth in our schools. Was such growth necessary? Did this growth pay for itself? Apparently not folks.

Board members and Mr. Gecker can pass along blame all they want regarding the School Board, but certainly they and specifically Mr. Gecker bear some responsibility regarding the challenges the school faces in terms of enrollment. Gecker act this evening as though the slowing housing market was some sort of savior, but whats lost is these developments are still zoned and approved. Once this market turns around, the County will be right back where it started without enough seats in the classrooms. I bet we will be having this same overcrowding debate in five years.

So what has this planning brought us? Even in the midst of explosive growth our schools ARE the best. Our children ARE being provided a quality education (regardless of what Mr. Gecker thinks) by dedicated staff. Again, much of what are schools must deal with is in reaction to policies, especially planning, that the Board of Supervisors seeks to implement.

Most people do not think of "sprawl" being associated with schools. It usually gets linked with commercial enterprises, but if you look at what has happened to schools in certain older areas of the County versus say Mataoca or Midlothian it is easy to see how planning has played an integral part is destroying the high traditions of those schools while more money was focused on the "new" and less money was allocated to update and modernize the "old".

The message that is being lost on the Board of Supervisors is not one regarding taxes or tax hikes but the simple message of "SLOW DOWN" and "WORK TOGETHER". Allow the housing course to play out and cease zoning approvals in areas where we TODAY do not have seats in our classrooms for new enrollment. Period.

I wish I could speak to cuts and services on the chopping block but in reality I do not think anyone tonight learned anything other than the fact that the School Board has determined that it requires 548 million to provide the quality of education in Chesterfield it is committed to. We also learned that the Supervisors apparently do not endorse said number. Regardless, the School System will be looking at a budget likely to fall closer to the 520 level or even lower come 2012.

Mr. Gecker challenged all in attendance to contact their State Delegation and raise awareness regarding the impact of the measures they are undertaking and while certainly appropriate I do not suspect that those attending tonight wanted yet another buck to be passed.

As one attending leaned in and ask me...."so do we know if they are cutting the athletic program or what?" I guess they will approve the budget before we will really understand what is being cut. Kinda reminds you of Washington doesn't it?


Anonymous said...

Genial fill someone in on and this fill someone in on helped me alot in my college assignement. Say thank you you on your information.

Anonymous said...

Here is a list I have compiled

Godaddy domain coupons, including renewals
rad7 : 30% off .com domains
gda348s : 30% off
goaz006q : 30% off

Godaddy hosting coupons:
MOP20 : 20% Off Hosting (1,2,3 yr accounts)
MOP1 : 10% Off Monthly hosting accounts

More based on order size:

RUSH2 : $5 off if $30 or more
MOPOFF : $10 off order of $40 or more
gda3315 : $15 off if $50 or more
RAD5 : 10% Off order
MOP15 : 15% off order of $75 or more
nd75c : 20% off order of $60 or more
gdm1129h : 25% off order of $75 or more

Unique coupons:
MOPSSL : $12.99 SSL ( 56% Off )
AUCTION12 : 50% Off Auction accounts

These do not expire.

Anonymous said...

I just do not understand why it is the Supervisors do not seem inclined at all to fight for our children.

I was shocked at the low opinion that Supervisor Gecker has for our school system and in particular Crestwood.

I do not recall there being a single person from the Crestwood school in the audience either and that is where Supervisor Gecker's children attend. It must have been easy to lay down charges of ineptitude given there was no one there from the school to speak out.

I found it to be rather discouraging to listen to the characterization being provided. It was evening that could mostly be described as going through the motions. Zero solutions were offered up and as the post states very little detail was provided as to exactly where these cuts will be.

The biggest thing that stuck to me was that Supervisor Gecker never acknowledged that number provided by Mr. Myers regarding the minimum the School Board feels is required to run the system. Mrs. Carpenter seem to be aligned with the number provided by Mr. Myer, but there was never any comment provided from Supervisor Gecker that it supported the number let alone endorsed it.

If we cannot even decide how much it costs to run our school system maybe these officials could tell us how in the end we are going to make any progress.

Bill Garnett said...

While poll watching at Robius a few years ago I had a long conversation with the head of their PTA. I was amazed at the full time county policeman who spent his entire week ensconced in a small room at that school monitoring a multimillion dollar security system that "spied" on students throughout the school via all pervasive video cameras.

We both felt it was a poor use of education funds - particularly glaring knowing that out back of the school were rows of ramshackle trailer classrooms.

The county school superintendent makes a quarter of a million dollars a year and many principals make over a hundred thousand. One would expect these handsomely paid professionals to be able to provide the "reading, writing, and 'rithemetic" expected in our community.

While we dance 'round in these endless political squabbles, indifference from parents, unmotivated students, and a blasé community posture, the reality is that we are, year by year, becoming less and less competitive in the new global economy. And we are raising a generation of youth who will hardly have a chance to reach their potential.

What was an educational system when I went to Manchester in the 1960's has become an education industry with too many having vested self interests only vaguely related to educating our youth in the context of the world of 2010.

Anonymous said...

I had heard that turnout was relatively low. Then of course we most figure most of us have had our fill of Gecker these last few years.

His "Planning not Politics" creed is complete hogwash. I was told he basically attacked the school system at the meeting.

Maybe he ought to not throw stones. Thats glass house called County Government he is responsible for is a house of cards ever but as much as the School Board is.

4,000 employees in County Government- thats non-school related. Yet we have 1 Supervisor per 60-65K residents. Umm. Dop really really need 4K government employees Mr. Gecker?

Bill Garnett said...

And I see this excellent blog still countenances anonymous comments from those who have the audacity of speaking of “throwing stones” while they hide behind the cloak of anonymity as they themselves throw stones.

Why do we celebrate the likes of Patrick Henry, who risked being drawn and quartered for speaking out at Saint Johns Church, and yet in 2010 allow this new KKK to run rampant on the Internet. What an example for our children!

JoeinBonAir said...

One simple reason Mr. Garnett; retaliation thats why. Look at some of the Tea Party folks and how they have been treated. Some have even lost their jobs. Why must we have a sign in sheet at an event such as a town hall? Why must we provide our name? Is it so they can find us afterward?
Gecker even said as much when he said "I researched a constituent after he commented and found out he did not live in the district".

Why did he research him?

J. Scott said...

Yes Bill, it is true those voices are still permitted and in fact encouraged. Call it therapuetic I guess for those who wish to let off a bit under the muse of anonynimity. We all should know that know one is ever truly anonymous on the internet by now but no harm no foul.

Anonymous said...

i without a doubt love all your posting kind, very exciting.
don't quit and keep penning for the simple reason that it simply worth to read it,
impatient to look into a whole lot more of your web content, have a good one :)

Anonymous said...

Gecker "researched" a constituent? You have got to be kidding that he admitted this in an open forum. I have no idea what the context could have been, but this kind of admission reveals character or lack there of.

I supported Gecker over Don Sowder mostly because I wanted to send a message and want some change from the Old Guard of the Republican network, but little has changed. In fact, its got worse. Our roads are the worst in three decades. Our schools are beginning to lose accredidation. Our government seems bent on caterign to those who are not even living here yet in attracting them by keeping the business fees, taxes,proffers etc extremely low compared to other areas at the expense of those families who already reside here in the County.

I find it rather intriguing that both Gecker and Durfee back in 2006 for chiming about our taxes being "too high" as they tried to use it as an election ploy and then when elected lower the taxes and now two years later we are faced with shortfalls as well as lower assessments.

Where would we be if they had left the tax rate alone and not lowered it merely for political purposes?

Bill Garnett said...

JoeinBonAir: I appreciate your comment. And certainly I am not naïve that being personally identified with one’s statements, positions, arguments, and facts can have repercussions. Traditionally newspapers, including our own in Richmond, required that letters to the editor be signed. Perhaps we are moving into a period where discussions or debates will be carried out electronically by avatars of actual human beings who reside in anonymity.

But we already have a glimpse of what that portends. The quality of the debate, that otherwise might be civil and Socratic, becomes emotional and insensitive. And the opportunities for game playing are as obvious as they are with the real online games using avatars.

I would think that the quality of the conversation is also important. That courage should be praised rather than anonymity protected. That transparency is a disinfectant.

I suggest that the paranoia of identification is far out of sync with the reality. All too often we let the exception be argued as being the rule.

And where in our long national tradition have we ever defended the anonymous voice behind the curtain over those who have the courage to take a public stand.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect to Bill Garnett, the reason why RTD and other papers require a name, address and phone number is to protect themselves not for any true sense of disclosure for disclosure sake. They want to make sure that if they publish something that people are aware it is the view not of the paper but of the individual. Its a different media than the internet all together. While it is less likely for an individual to be sued for comments or slander for example, a publisher is more likely frankly.

The bigger question is why was your Supervisor looking into his constituent? For what purpose and what was his desired outcome? Was he merely trying to identify the individual or was he planning on taking it a step further.

I say this because there is a gentleman named Joe Cacciotti who has been banned from the Richmond Tea Party, Federation etc for speaking out about how the movement is being morphed by GOP interests in Virginia and has become highly politicized. Baning someone from posting or speaking at events or even contributing to the process is the direct result of people trying to control speech and message. They want to act as if they are an open tent, but when one in the ranks points out that the people behind the curtian have conflicts of interest with lobby groups and companies like consulting arms they shut you down.

Thats the new reality. If we are not careful the seeds of a 1920ish Germany are being planted today and in ten years or so we will truly have a real crisis/revolt in this country. The similarities between what is happening with government; take over after take over, nationalizing healthcare , and other programs and Germany are striking.

Yet of course it will go under reported.Why? Frankly, most of those that saw it first hand or even can remember the cause and effect of the Germany sitting between the two World Wars are mostly gone. We have a generation in this country that is so disconnected from the trials of their fathers and grandfathers generation that they have forgotten or chosen to ignore the writing on the wall.

Remember, most of these politicians today are the product of our 60's culture. Yeah, chiokens have come home to roost for sure.

Anonymous said...

The problem with the CCPS is Marcus Newsome and his lackeys.

Did you know that the former finance director promoted her husband? How can this be allowed? Rumour has it that she has a multi hundred thousand dollar consulting contract with the CCPS.

Rumour also has it that Newsome's total current contract is worth over 2,500,000 with all post employment consulting and fringe benefits built in.

Bill Garnett said...

To Anonymous: It seems ironic, even hypocritical, that so far in these comments you have attacked several individuals by name, with rumor and innuendo, yet you have not the courage to name yourself. I, for one, find this type of behavior in a person rather repugnant.

Anonymous said...

My name is Tom,

I'm excited to be part of this large and growing forum of great people and thankyou all for making me feel welcome. I just joined today.

My special interests or skills are:
- Web design
- Internet business

I am happy to help others that need it and offer advice where possible :)

Take care!

JoeinBonAir said...

Excuse me, but at least Mr. Newsome recognizes that you must lead from the front and he himself put his on salary on the block.

How many people have the integrity out there to volunarily reduce their salary? Not many. Of course he could have gone the easy route and simply demanded cuts from others but he didn't. The view that Newsome is the problem is misguided and misplaced.

The probelm is you have a Board of Supervisers that as Omar on the SB commented could care less about youth.

Has any Supervisor offered up a plan at all to fill the gap othern than for merely one year? Where are the cuts on the County side? 4,000 employees. Where is the balance in that given we have more employees per poulation than other large localities.

Niether Gecker nor the Dale Supervisor offered up any solutions at the meetings held last week. They pointed the finger. Thats not leadership; thats politics.

Supervisor Holland appears the only legitimate leader on this Board who is putting the County above special interets and politics. I do not leave in his district but recognize the effort he has been making on behalf of the entire County.

Yes the Supervisors control the purse strings, but those strings are funded by us as taxpayers.

There are many issues before this Board coming that are vital. Do not be distracted by the likes of Mr. Gecker's statements that he was the lone voice on the Board for a higher rate for property tax. He simply wanted to advertise a higher rate that could be considered but that does not mean that he would have endorsed the end result in April. he could have sought an advertised rate of 1.00 and then endorsed a rate increase to say .97 if he chose to do so.

Should not our leaders be tasked with making the case to the people? Why have the Supervisors merely acted as if this is the School Boards problem? Its a Chesterfield problem.

I for one will work to unseat these members in 2011. Eash and every one of them who has demonstrated they will not put the interests of greater Chesterfield above their own.

Gecker, Durfee, and Warren should all be put on notice.

Not that Joe, Alter.

Anonymous said...

Newsome is the reason the BOS is holding money back from the schools. Why is the CCPS the only school system around that has a Chief Operating Officer?

There have been alot of fiscal shenigans going on since Newsome arrived. Granted, it has improved with the arrival of the new finance director but the amount of expenditues for things such as public relations is obsence. Why does the CCPS give out the most car allowances of any school system in VA?

Academics-ask any teacher what they think of Newsome. The middle school 8th algebra implementation is a total disaster.

Our school dollars can be way better managed. I am glad CPA Holland is on the case.

Anonymous said...

Nio doubt they can be "better" managed, but are you complaining about the results or the expense associated with getting those results.

Newsome has had a direct impact on elevating the school system into a top tier system. Not just in Virginia, but the entire nation. The CCPS System has garnered dozens of accolades in the last five or ten years and the system is producing collectively a top notch product and a competetive one at that for our youth.

Yes there are opportunities within the system and schools that are lagging in achievement, but for Mr. Gecker to act as if No Child Left Behind has not helped CCPS achieve its position as a first tier system is ludicrous and borders arrogance.

Gecker is a liberal Democrat who took the opportunity to take a shot at Bush once again on Wednesday night at Greenfield. He completely dismissed the teachers who are in the trenches and would know if NCLB was working. Gecker, like most Democrats fail to look at true outcomes. Its easier to point fingers the SB or Newsome than take responsibility for solutions.

Mr. Gecker will be shown the door come the next election. Why? He has failed Midlothian at large and will be seen as someone who delivered to small few like the developers with his low ball proffer rate after pledging to bring the ratio of commercial to residential contribition closer to 60/40 from 80/20 his actions on the Board have contributed to an even greater disparity in reality thus failing in his promise.

Anonymous said...

Ищете, где купить заклепки стальные ГОСТ 10299, 10300?
Компания ООО Мегапром - поставщик стальных заклепок от лучших производителей на территории России.
Вся продукция сертифицирована и имеет необходимые маркировки.

chesterfieldtaxpayer said...

Janet W. said...

We saw this coming ChesterfieldTaxpayer. None of the Supervisors will even concede they know what the real number is. The School Boards people think it is 548 million wich is much less than we have been spending.

You seem to endorse the 500m level. Where do the Supervisors come down? It appears as though they are saying that if the SB gets say 520m they should make do with it instead of coming out publically and stating what they think the level truly is.

As AofF states thats simply just politics!!

Anonymous said...

The previous 2 school supeers are the ones who lead the CCPS to higher levels.

The BOS did not decide to build country club schools instead of maintaing current schools.

The BOS did not tell the CCPS to print catalogs and then destro them.

The BOS did not tell the CCPS to double pay for Cosby construction.

This County is going nowhere because people want to put party labels before the common good. If Gecker were part of the GOP he would be hailed as the savior.

JoeinBonAir said...

Anonymous is absolutely wrong in the previos post and obviously did not attend any of the preliminary meetings regarding Cosby and how the bids were examined as to how/whom would be contracted to do the work and what the costs would be.

Is the BOS involved with Clover Hill High (the new one)? ou dam right they are. They have to approve it not just the School Board. Why? Because the SB has no taxing authority and thus no means of paying anything except from the by your leave from the Board.

The BOS was involived in every aspect of what the previous poster comments on, except maybe the catalogs. The BOS also votes on the funding for the CIP which is what is used to funding new school construction for the most part. If you look at the last proposed CIP you will see proposed new schools and remodeling of schools in it. The School Board is not in that loop until the BOS approves funding or the CIP in general.

If the BOS was not responsible or involved it is doubtful that Marlene Durfee would be speaking out as much as she is. She knows in the end the BOS will be held accountable.

midlomom said...

Having recently discovered this blog ,I found it very informative yet also extremely frustrating.
I am one of two Greenfield Elementary moms who organized the Save Our Schools Event on March 17.We worked very hard to contact and inform as many school PTAs, teachers, and parents in the surrounding area about this event in hope that more people in the community would become INFORMED and INVOLVED.(Crestwood Elementary was not on our list) Our efforts were with very little to no help from the GF PTA. In fact,if you were there you may have noticed the PTA president had not only failed to mention our names, but acted as though this event happened out of thin air! Tina Martin (principal)was gracious enough to provide the space and set-up.
It took a lot of effort to coordinate the speakers,create flyers and emails, make signs and many phone calls ALL FOR YOU! I am amazed to read these great opinions (for those of you that were there) that failed to be heard at this event, yet are ON THIS BLOG! Perhaps you did not realize how important of an opportunity it was that night to let your voices be heard! I for one could have benefited greatly from your insight-in fact if I knew where you were sitting that night, I would have gladly taken your information and pressed Dan Gecker for more questions and information.