Fifty speakers, most of them school system employees, lined up Wednesday evening to make their budget priorities known to the Loudoun County School Board.
The board faces the difficult task of trimming its adopted fiscal year 2017 budget by $16.9 million. It is scheduled to adopt a reconciled budget tomorrow.
Superintendent Eric Williams presented the board last week with recommendations on how to close the gap between the $1.07 billion budget and the allocation approved by the county Board of Supervisors.
Many of items on the proposed cut list were the focus of the speakers who addressed the board at the public hearing Wednesday. Continuing to provide stipends for National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and keeping Family Life Education teachers gained the most support.
Among the superintendent’s suggested budget cuts is having physical education instructors teach sex education instead of FLE teachers. It would save about $1.8 million, and likely result in 12 teachers receiving “Reduction in Force” notifications, according to the superintendent. Some of them would be reassigned within the division, he said.
In their comments, at least a few of the FLE teachers offered board members a glimpse of what they teach Loudoun students.
“Did you know one out of every two sexually active youth will have an STD by the time they’re 25?” FLE instructor Deborah Richardson said, followed by other sobering statistics. “Have you ever tried teaching a classroom of seventh grade boys about these topics? We do it every day and we maintain complete classroom control so that students can learn.”
“Teaching about puberty, reproduction, sexually transmitted disease, relationships and boundaries is not simply a unit of production to go over,” her colleague Amy Sibley added. “It takes someone special, known as a specialist.”
Several FLE teachers recounted stories of teens leaving unhealthy relationships or even feeling safe enough to speak up about sexual abuse they were enduring.
“They feel they can express their questions and their concerns to us. Dee Jefferson said, in tears. “We never embarrass; we empower.”
At least two dozen of the county’s national board certified teachers made their support known for the $5,000-a-year stipend to receive the certification. The superintendent recommended cutting the stipends in half, to save about $318,150. Completely getting rid of the stipends on his list of other possible cuts.
Husband-and-wife Greg and Lauren Mihalik, both Loudoun elementary school teachers who earned their national certification, urged the board to keep the stipends in place. Unlike work done toward graduate degrees or many other certifications, “the work is directly connected to what we do in the classroom,” Greg Mihalik said.
Other line items that speakers asked the board to keep retain were: the restoration of middle school deans; maintaining classroom sizes; the restructuring of the salary scale to make pay for mid-level teachers more competitive; the expansion of full-day kindergarten; and more maintenance employees to serve the growing number of school buildings.
The board will meet at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow to hash out the budget reductions and adopt a spending plan.