, 2014

School officials hear from disgruntled public

by Audrey Thomasson

KILMARNOCK—The Lancaster County School Board and superintendent faced sharp criticism Monday from a public disgruntled over not adhering to laws and policies, diversity, bad publicity and loss of favor with the board of supervisors.

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The unfavorable comments started after the Pledge of Allegiance and continued to the end of the meeting when a board member lashed out against the people responsible for yard signs critical of the superintendent.

One citizen said with all the problems and contention being reported, it was difficult to differentiate between the school board and the town of Kilmarnock.

Bob Mathers, whose three children were educated in Lancaster County, said he has concerns about how his taxes “are spent or wasted.”

“I would like to see this board follow and strongly enforce the board policy even if the policy is bad. You follow the policy until it is changed,” he said. “As a retired police officer, I expect laws to be obeyed. I expect our government to use common sense. We can’t fund teaching positions but we can afford two school buses that weren’t in the budget.”

Mathers said he understands the budgeting process, but that budgets are in place for a reason. “Teachers are underpaid and still having to take money out of their own pockets to pay for supplies for their classrooms,” he said. “I personally could not spend some of these dollars and sleep at night...”

Mathers told the board he expected them to do the job they campaigned for and won.

District 5 supervisor Alex Fleet offered the only response, saying the board’s attorney, Patrick Lacy, told them the laws were not broken when Lukich paid teachers who were working without contract.

C.D. Hathaway agreed with Mathers, adding the school officials don’t appear to be handling matters in a transparent way.

“It appears...that things aren’t necessarily on the table. This board worked hard to gain the trust of supervisors, but I was at the past supervisors’ meeting and that was not the impression I got.”

The school board should have addressed the budget cuts back in July and August and not two weeks into the school year, he said.

“Supervisors think the tail is wagging the dog,” said Hathaway. He called on the board to end the contentious relationship with the county. “They carry a very big bat,” he said.

Kenya Moody and Lloyd Hill expressed concern about efforts to provide diversity in the teaching staff.

Moody said public concern should not be on spending, but on the children and the lack of diversity. She claimed there is a “major disproportion” between white and black children in Standards of Learning (SOL) scores and discipline referrals at each of the schools that has been going on long before the superintendent arrived. Moody asked why the administrators are not out recruiting black teachers to the county so that her three children could have role models. She said black students were not getting the same education as white students.

“I see nothing being done. We’re fighting about money. We need to be fighting about our children,” she said.

George Bott argued school administrators were charging for information that should be available to the public without excessive fees. He said he was charged $39.34 and the Rappahannock Record was charged $69.52 for information the school already had compiled in reports.

“This is problematic for four reasons,” he said. First, he said getting access to board members is difficult because the school website does not list contact information. Second, there is no policy on releasing information under the Freedom of Information Act. Third, the public has a right to information, and fourth, charging the public for administration time to compile information is being charged twice since they are already being paid by taxpayers.

He offered his check, which District 5 supervisor Alex Fleet was quick to accept.

“Since you’ve taken my check, and thus charged me twice, I’m going to ask supervisors to reduce your budget $108.

District 3 supervisor Donald McCann leveled his disdain for yellow yard signs appearing around the county that call for the removal of Lukich as superintendent.

“...Strategically placed signs that I feel are extremely inappropriate and a public cesspool of vitriol that I feel is unabashed character assassination of our superintendent,” McCann said. “I’m not happy with it. It is not, in my mind, a reflection of what the people of this county was (sic) about. I’m not sure who’s responsible for it but I’m embarrassed at (sic) them. I’m ashamed that somebody, a resident of this county, if they can’t stand up and say they don’t care for our superintendent can’t do so. That is a cowardly approach of going about assassinating this man and it really disturbs me mightily.”

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