Highland Schools Receive National Blue Ribbon Award
Monterey, VA – At the Highland County School Board meeting Tuesday evening, Principal Kelly Wilmore reported that the Highland School System completed the final requirement in its quest for recognition as a national Blue Ribbon School. School officials will travel to Washington DC November 15th and 16th for the award ceremony. Mr. Wilmore is planning a special celebration at the school when he returns from Washington. Only 7 out of 132 of Virginia’s public school divisions received Blue Ribbon designation this year.
Three teachers, Marty Leech, Jeannie Whitecotton and Carolyn Botkin, gave the Highland County Education Association report. The Association thanked teachers, staff, students and parents for their hard work and cooperation that made the Blue Ribbon award possible.
In other news from the association, there is a federal Education Jobs Program that may be a source for additional funds for teacher and staff salaries. Jeannie Whitecotton reported that Highland could receive as much as $50,000 to supplement teacher and staff salaries. Superintendent Nowlin will look into this program and make sure that Highland receives its share of the funding.
Carolyn Botkin made a request on behalf of the Highland County Education Association that the Board use this additional funding to reinstate the 2 step increases in teacher salaries and also increase other staff salaries. School salaries have been frozen for three years now due to state budget cuts.
Board member Kirk Billingsley thanked the three teachers for “resurrecting” the Highland County Education Association. He says he’s also pleased with the Blue Ribbon Award announcement.
Sara Irvin of the Highland Education Foundation presented grant awards to three teachers. Fourth grade teacher Marty Leech received $800 to support her class trip to Williamsburg this year. Science teacher Ginny Neil received $227 to support her trout in the classroom program, and Steve Heavner, the FFA sponsor, received $257 to buy FFA manuals on veterinary science and agricultural mechanics for students in the FFA program.
In his remarks, Superintendent Nowlin noted that the Highland School system faces major budget challenges in the coming years.
“If we don’t get any changes in the funding formula or any state help and we get no flat local funding [from the Highland Supervisors], we’re looking at about a $250,000.00 cut” says Nowlin.
That deficit will grow to over $500,000 by 2015 unless more money can be found for the school system. Finding ways to stabilize the school system funding will require help from the state department of education, the legislature and the board of supervisors.
“We can’t keep going and keep receiving all these cuts and provide the type of program that the county expects” says Nowlin. “We probably need to work on the legislators in October to get ahead of everybody else.”
Mr. Nowlin goes on to recommend how some additional federal funds should be spent.
“There’s a possibility that we may get some stimulus money; I recommend that we use the money for the two steps” he says. “We’re going on three years actually with no increase and we’ve lost the steps. Here is a real opportunity to obtain additional funding through the federal government that we didn’t count on.”