Joint School Board, Supervisors Committee to Focus on Cooperation

The Joint School Board/Board of Supervisors Committee, a long-standing but previously seldom-meeting committee made up of members from both bodies, has laid out its goals for the new term.

In years past, the committee was scheduled to meet quarterly, and those meetings were sometimes cancelled.

But at their first meeting since the 2019 local elections, the new members laid out a set of goals to bring the two boards—and the two administrations—closer together.

Last Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors signed off on a work plan for the joint committee. Those discussions will include examining several ideas for combining their operations—such as joint contracting, joint land acquisition, shared office space, and jointly administering insurance plans between the county government and school system.

One idea in particular would be to bring members of the two bodies closer together—the possibility of shared district offices, in which supervisors and School Board members would get office space in county-owned buildings in or near their districts.

“Some board members, especially the eastern district members, were interested in having district offices if the county could afford it,” said committee co-chair Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg). School Board members started approaching supervisors interested in having a space, too.

However, she said, that is still just an idea, and a long way off from happening for now.

“This is not going to happen, obviously, in this upcoming budget year, because of COVID-19 and the impact on the economy,” Umstattd said. “I don’t expect it to happen the next year either, and we’ll just have to see what happens after that.” And even though she said she was “skeptical we’ll have the financial ability to do it within this board’s term,” she said the offices could be placed within other county facilities, and doing so would bring Loudoun more in line with Fairfax and Prince William Counties.

Supervisors, in turn, would like the school system to allow school staff members to attend meetings attended by county supervisors. Umstattd said she first became aware of the policy through Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) and County Administrator Tim Hemstreet.

Umstattd said she learned that Superintendent Eric Williams does not allow school staff to attend community meetings with county supervisors, for fear they would be perceived to be speaking for the School Board.

“Our perspective on the Board of Supervisors side is that there are issues where it would be really helpful to have, for example, someone from school transportation there, because if we’re thinking about putting in a crosswalk for safety, where’s the best location?” Umstattd said.

And supervisors would like to be briefed on the school system’s annual budget work earlier in the process, Umstattd said. She suggested Williams could brief the Board of Supervisors nearer the time he gives School Board members their first briefings on budget work.

“I have found in general, in government, the earlier you can educate elected officials as to what is coming, the better it is, the more they can begin to mentally plan for whatever the needs are.” Umstattd said.

The joint committee, like most committees during the COVID-19 pandemic, will have to wait a little longer to start on those goals. Its next quarterly meeting, on April 13, has already been cancelled.

3 thoughts on “Joint School Board, Supervisors Committee to Focus on Cooperation

  • 2020-03-30 at 5:00 pm

    In wake of being unable to institute online learning for students? Why is LCPS so deficient in instituting online distance learning in wake of the Coronavirus shuttering of the schools? Wasnt Eric Williams hired primarily due to his technology savvy? Why isn’t Umstattd’s committee asking these questions instead of being concerned about providing more office and staff space for themselves?

    • 2020-04-01 at 12:56 am

      Their goal is not to effectively educate students. It is to employ adults and build their empire. We (students, parents, taxpayers) would be much better off giving all students a $15K stipend to get an effective education. Maybe the good teachers could use those skills to earn more money. The bad teachers, well, they can look for new work. They can join the incompetent admins looking for a job where they accept incompetence.

  • 2020-04-06 at 2:06 pm

    I realize this is a REALLY tough concept for the BOS to accept but shouldn’t they provide guidance in the form of conditions when they agree to a budget. All parents and children LIVE in the county so they should want the best education that is efficiently managed. Why doesn’t the BOS demand some form of efficiency along with its OK to a $1.4 billion budget and another $3 billion in school construction capital funding? Why doesn’t the School Board demand some metrics of efficiency as mandated by the Law (Statute 22.1-76) that provides the school board it’s authority over the school system? Is lethargy that dominant or just the politics of go along to get along as long as taxpayers don’t mind paying over 33% more than the rest of Virginia?

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