Fifteen people spoke to the superintendent’s recommended budget tonight, and most of them showed up to voice their support for school theater programs.
It was the Loudoun County School Board’s final public hearing on the $1.124 billion spending plan proposed by Superintendent Eric Williams. The board is scheduled to adopt a final fiscal year 2018 budget Thursday evening.
The line item that got the most attention during the public hearing was a recommendation to spend $123,000 to create a new position, a performing arts specialist. Almost a dozen speakers told the School Board that an administration position that would oversee all of the county’s theater programs is worth every penny.
Several parents and theater teachers said that drama throughout the county’s middle and high schools is a bit of a hodgepodge, varying widely depending on a program’s support from the school’s principal and parents.
Parent Wendy Marco said there needs to be clear countywide policies about how late theater teachers can keep students for rehearsals—sometimes it stretches past midnight—to who can operate expensive and dangerous equipment, such as power saws.
She also said that every one of the teachers has said they want more ongoing training to keep their classroom curriculum up to date. “The last time they had professional training in Loudoun County was eight years ago—eight years ago,” she said.
Other speakers at the hearing asked for more funding to support special education services, and urged the board to provide raises for every employee.
Williams is recommending a budget that is $93.6 million, or 9.1 percent, more than the current fiscal year’s budget.
The growing costs are, in large part, related to enrollment growth, which he expects will cost $32.3 million, and employees’ salary and benefits, at $38.7 million. Projections show the school system will grow by almost 3,000 and reach a total student population of 81,622. The budget also includes money to expand full-day kindergarten, improve mental health services in high schools, and increase bus drivers’ pay and hours.