Highland County Joins The Virginia Small and Rural School Division Coalition
Highland County has added its name to a list of cities and counties that are joining The Virginia Small and Rural School Division Coalition. Superintendent Dr. Thomas Schott mentioned this Coalition at the December 14, 2017 School Board Meeting. According to printed information from the Coalition, small, rural school divisions across Virginia continue to face declining student enrollments, difficulty competing for high-quality teachers, inadequate facility and capital projects funding, and pressure from unfunded mandates at both state and federal levels, placing them at a significant financial disadvantage with larger school divisions.
The Small and Rural School Division Coalition was established in 2017 to provide divisions with a strong, collaborative partnership. Insisting on a “hold harmless” approach to legislation and policy impacting non-participating divisions, the Coalition seeks to better advocate for the students, teachers, staff and stake holders of small and rural communities.
During its inaugural meeting, a steering committee was created to guide the work of the participating divisions and to streamline communication of the group’s efforts. The eight-person steering committee is comprised of one superintendent from each Virginia superintendent’s region.
Four areas of primary focus will guide the Coalition’s work in 2018. These areas are teacher recruitment and retention, enrollment loss, school construction funding, and unfunded mandates.
There is also an issue of immediate importance to the Coalition: at-risk funding. According to the Coalition, while the Governor has recommended additional funding to support divisions addressing the needs of at-risk student populations, there are amendments proposed to increase that funding above the original recommendation. All schools in the Commonwealth will benefit, and small and rural divisions are treated more equitably through this additional support. By providing flexibility to use the funding for recruiting and retaining great teachers, small and rural divisions have a better chance of providing high quality instruction and deeper student learning.
Allegheny Mountain Radio will provide listeners with information about future endeavors of The Virginia Small and Rural School Division Coalition as it becomes available.