Highland School Board Facing Further Cuts This Year
Monterey, VA – The Highland County School Board will be dealing with the school system budget soon. They have to wait until the state legislature finishes with the state budget to see what the funding from the state will be for next year. The Governor’s budget cuts 7% from the school system while the general assembly’s budget cuts only 3%.
The School Board has scheduled a public meeting on the budget for March 2 at 4 PM. By that time, the state budget numbers should be available. It is likely that there will be reductions in state funding for the school system again this year. The school system has lost about 20% of its state funding over the past 3 years.
Another challenging issue for the School Board this year will be to replace Superintendent Nowlin, who is retiring at the end of June. The school budget does not have sufficient funds for a full-time superintendent. State policies are confusing with regard to whether Highland can combine the superintendent position with the high school principal position. Board chairman Kirk Billingsley discusses this matter.
“We instructed Mr. Nowlin to go ahead and send a letter to the [Virginia] Board of Education, ask them for the waiver to combine the High School Principal and the part time Superintendant into one position, which we discussed two years ago at the [state] Board of Education office” says Billingsley. “However we received a letter since then instructing us that it doesn’t meet the current Standards of Learning, and that the Board of Education said don’t bother with coming down and requesting for that because we can’t grant that. As part of the Standards of Learning, it’s actually state law, and they can’t grant us an exemption from state law.”
Mr. Nowlin pointed out that it is the State Board of Education that will make the final decision, not the Department of Education, so the Highland School Board will have to seek clarification of the state policies, before determining what kind of search they will need to do this summer to replace Superintendent Nowlin.
In other business, Information Technology Director Gary Lane reported on the current status of the air conditioning installations.
“They have started to install units in the rooms” he says. “There’s an electrical upgrade that we’re going to have to do for the high school. The kitchen area, we’re planning to install over the spring break. Room one in the elementary [school] is nearing completion; the other two are fully installed except for the electrical wiring.”
Mr. Lane also made a report on the current Technology situation. At present there are 373 computers and 22 printers on the school network. Planned improvements for next year include a wireless upgrade to support electronic textbooks. Netbooks or IPADs will be available for student use.
The student and faculty handbooks will be available on cd and online next year. This will save the cost of printing hundreds of copies. Mr. Lane notes that there are changes in data reporting requirements coming soon.
“The state is really pushing for more and more data collection” he says. “The big thing right now is they want to link student progress to teacher evaluation. So we’re going to have start collecting a lot more data for teachers and they’ll be linked up in the power school server for reports to demonstrate how well that student is doing in that teachers classroom.”