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Education Roundup
County, city school divisions grapple with budgets & other school news
20140226-Charlottesville High School Treadmill Desk
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CHS 11th grader Tianna Washington works at a treadmill desk during her economics and personal finance class.
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by Tim Shea | Wednesday, March 05, 2014 at 12:01 a.m.

Albemarle County Public Schools parents and teachers spoke out in support of the school board’s $164.3 million funding request last week before the Albemarle Board of Supervisors.

The division is $5.8 million short of what the school board says it needs.

Cale Elementary principal Lisa Jones said failing to fully fund the schools could put innovative programming at risk.

Among those programs is an expansion of Cale’s Spanish language instruction.

Currently, all of Cale’s kindergarten and first-grade students receive two hours per week of instruction in Spanish, and Jones hopes to roll-out a Spanish immersion program next year.

Anne Geraty, who teaches at Meriwether Lewis Elementary, advocated for full funding, but warned against upping class sizes to save money--a move the division is considering.

“It boils down to teachers who are, child by child, building relationships,” Geraty said. “That is simply not possible with large class sizes.”

Not all were in favor of fully funding the School Board’s request.

County resident Robert Hogue said that both the school division and county government should make spending cuts, arguing that neighboring localities envy Albemarle’s pay rates, and that the parents of student athletes should fund the athletics budget, rather than the schools.

The School Board is expected to adopt a budget, based upon input from the Board of Supervisors, in April.

The Charlottesville City School Board last week adopted its funding request of $73,213,082—about a four percent jump from last years’ overall budget.

Within that total, the Board hopes $45,830,289 million will come from City Council, which represents about a $1.7 million increase from last year’s ask.

The budget, which is balanced to expected revenues, proposes a net increase of 5.44 new full-time employees.

About one percent of the budget—approximately $500,000—is for new initiatives.

The most significant new initiative revamps professional development by relocating curriculum and teaching specialists from central office to the schools.

The move, which comes with a $93,000 price tag, would cut 6.8 administrative coordinators and add 10 instructional coaches who would work with teachers across the division.

Each of the elementary schools, Walker Upper Elementary, and Buford Middle would house one coach who would focus on reading and math. Charlottesville High School would house two coaches, one who would focus on math. The second content area is yet to be determined.

CHS teacher Margaret Thornton said the structural change could lead to a lack of continuity.

Her own research on the coaching model showed most coaches had 20 to 30 teachers under their purview.

“At CHS, if you assigned two coaches to this school of one-hundred ninety-something teachers, we’d have almost 100 teachers to a coordinator,” Thornton added, “and I think it would become very difficult to have that continuity between grade levels, and we certainly wouldn’t have that continuity between schools.”

Bonnie Yoder, a teacher at Jackson-Via Elementary School, agreed, and said that letting academic coordinators go, rather than shifting them into coaching positions, was not the way to go.

School Board member Jennifer McKeever—the budget’s only ‘no’ vote on the professional development move—also expressed concern about the change.

“If we could have everything we want, we could have both,” Superintendent Rosa Atkins said. “But the reality is that the funds and resources we have today don’t allow us to do both.”

Charlottesville presented their funding request to City Council on Monday, March 3. City Council is expected to adopt a finalized budget in April.


CHS students stay active during class

Students at Charlottesville High School are walking on treadmills, pedaling small exercise bikes, and sitting on yoga balls while completing coursework.

The equipment, awarded to marketing teacher Megan Maynard’s classroom by a grant from the school’s PTO, is aimed at promoting health inside the school day.

“It can help with cognition, it can help with focus and concentration, not to mention students who are active learners and like to be moving,” Maynard said.

Eleventh grader Tianna Washington is one of those students.

“I like having the pedals because we sit down all day,” Washington said.

Eleventh grader Alejandra Cole said she likes using the equipment in class, but also comes to Maynard’s room during lunch.

“It’s fun because of the different things you can do,” Cole said. “You’re basically working out when you’re in class.”

Maynard said adults nag youth for only playing video games, but when given opportunities, students jump at chances to be active.

“They’ve asked important questions like ‘How many calories have I burned?’ and ‘What does it means that my heart rate is a certain level?’” Maynard said. “Important questions for health.”

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