School Board Requests County Funds for Buses, Textbooks, Turf

If Loudoun’s public schools get a share of the county surplus, the School Board wants to purchase new buses, textbooks and an artificial turf field for Heritage High School, in that order.

At its meeting Tuesday, the board adopted a funding wish list to be sent over to county leaders, who have indicated they may give as much as $7.5 million in leftover funds from last fiscal year to the school system.

Two weeks ago, the School Board was split over whether to take artificial turf fields off the list of funding priorities to make room for new textbooks, to replace outdated books. “We have old textbooks. I don’t think math textbooks have been adopted since 2006 or 2005 and some standards are changed,” Cynthia Ambrose, assistant superintendent of instruction, told the board at its Oct. 11 meeting.

After that discussion, Superintendent Eric Williams returned to the board Tuesday to present a new list of staff recommendations. He reduced the request for new buses by half and nixed a $2 million request for technology infrastructure, both to make room for $1.5 million to purchase new textbooks and possibly other digital learning resources.

The list also requests $4.08 million to buy 34 new buses and $1.9 million to replace Heritage’s natural grass field with synthetic turf.

Darius Fraser, a student representative on the School Board, chimed in and questioned the board’s decision to spend so much money on a new athletic field.

School Board member Debbie Rose (Algonkian) challenged Fraser, who is in drama at Loudoun Valley, to imagine that every time it rains he could not rehearse or perform.

“Would it put your drama department at a disadvantage when you go to compete?” she said, noting that could ultimately hurt a student’s résumé and chance to win scholarships. She agreed that textbooks are important, but said a new field should not be considered a “fluff” item. “That is a distinct disadvantage when you’re one of four out of 15 that doesn’t have this benefit,” she said, referring to Dominion High School in her district.

Tom Marshall (Leesburg) also addressed Fraser and noted that his school, Loudoun Valley, has two brand new artificial turf fields. “Heritage High School in my district has none,” he added.

Dominion, Heritage, Briar Woods, and Freedom are the last Loudoun high schools still with natural grass athletic fields. Several members agreed that the board should continue to work with the Board of Supervisors toward installing new fields in the last four high schools that do not have artificial turf, ideally one a year.

dnadler@loudounnow.com
twitter.com/danielle_nadler

4 thoughts on “School Board Requests County Funds for Buses, Textbooks, Turf

  • 2016-10-27 at 9:48 am
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    A school that funds turf before textbooks doesn’t deserve a single dollar. Apparently, they don’t understand they are an educational institution.

  • 2016-10-27 at 3:07 am
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    Several more thoughts from the turf vs textbooks discussion.

    1. Darius Fraser, a student school board representative, is my new hero. He spoke out for LCSB spending funds on textbooks (many don’t exist, others are 10+ years old) over turf fields. It’s shocking that we needed a student to speak out for this. But then, Debbie Rose tries to shout down and shame Fraser for simply suggesting textbooks are more important than turf fields!! Fraser, no shrinking violet, reiterated his support for educational expenditures before the board took its final vote. You can see the full discussion here.

    2. From the East is correct in noting LCSB is asking for $90M in additional funds in FY18. This is terribly exaggerated and bloated. One gimmick they use is to take the per pupil spending from previous years and extrapolate it to account for enrollment growth. This might be understandable if they stopped there. But they throw in all kinds of extras like “new school funding” and “bus purchases”. That’s blatant double-counting as seen by the graphic on this post. LCSB didn’t ask to replace FY17’s $1.7M “new school” request with a $1.8M one. They wanted to keep the $1.7M again in FY18’s budget, expand it by 3% enrollment growth, and then add additional FY18 “new school” funds on top of that. Never mind the “new schools” of FY17 are covered by normal operational costs now – they want it all again this year. And this is also how they keep adding administrative layers. If we hire 500 new teachers, do we really need to hire additional middle management at the same percentage? Pretty soon, they will need a bigger admin building to house them all, folks.

    3. Tonight at the MSAAC meeting, Supt Eric Williams said it was “unacceptable” if our teachers were paid any less than teachers from the highest cost-of-living districts in NOVA like Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax. Unacceptable! Already, teachers transfer from Fairfax to Loudoun at 3x (or higher) the rate they from Loudoun to Fairfax. Loudoun has higher starting salaries than ANY district in NOVA. Teaching candidates are so oversubscribed to LCPS positions, many don’t even get an interview. And yet teachers capable of retiring at 52 yrs old with a $50K/yr pension forever are paid at “unacceptably” low rates according to our Supt?! Get out your tax checkbooks folks, Phyllis Randall and company are about to expropriate more of your own money to give to their political allies.

    4. Finally, LCSB tried to deflect the criticism they received from comparing textbooks to turf fields. Now, they say they can buy “both”! You don’t even have to choose. But I’ve noted they need to spend at least $8M (likely much more) to refresh their textbooks. This request on Tuesday included less than $2M. So where will they get the extra funds to pay for all those needed textbooks? Why just listen to Jeff Morse at the very end of the Fund Balance discussion (back up a few minutes from this point in the video – a link to the next topic). He says LCSB will come ask for more money in the spring because they intentionally are underestimating the textbook cost now. He didn’t mention the second part because he’s not really an honest guy but that’s the short of it. Ever wonder why they need to exaggerate the budget in #2 above? Why, so they can purchase goodies with free money “found” unused in the Fund Balance at the end of the year.

    Most of this board is corrupt to the core. We should throw them out now. Sure hope they get voted out next local election.

  • 2016-10-26 at 9:37 pm
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    This continues to show how the School Board is out of control with their spending habits. Having to beg for surplus money for School Buses and Text Books is quite simply a disgrace. Oh, and by the way, a recent report said they are coming for another $90,000,000 in requests this year. Buses and books should be a normal part of the budget and not a sudden request for county surplus funds.

    Like Mrs. Volpe’s request several years ago to update the locker room at Potomac Falls, another example of poor budgeting by the school system. Keep your eyes open folks, they say they do this for the kids, well they are sucking the county dry and taxing us to death. Next they will mirror Fairfax and come back for a meal’s tax, “All for the children”

    The system is heavy with Middle Management that does little. I find it hard to believe that a Budget of just over 1 Billion Last year and they come for more. It is time to take a serious look at the way our tax dollars are spent.

  • 2016-10-26 at 3:30 pm
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    Rose is simply not credible. A few practices (when there are lots of things they can do indoors to train) will not significantly hurt anyone’s scholarships. It appears we need a student representative to bring up the elephant in the room: several board members have the wrong priorities.

    Have we ever heard Rose bring up more resources for FRL students? Like those in Leesburg’s schools with 35% ESL or FRL rates? Have we heard Rose ask that LCSB rezone Sterling so that schools are integrated? No. Rose can’t be bothered with the important issues as she is too focused on getting turf fields. Maybe she should spend more time correcting the accounting fraud in the LCPS budgets.

    What a joke.

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