, 2014

Budget concerns are presented
to Northumberland school board

by Shannon Rice

LOTTSBURG—Budget considerations and concerns topped the priority list for the Northumberland school board on Monday.

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Mya Bundy received a certificate from school board vice chairman Dick Saxer recognizing her award winning entry at the state level of the International Lions Club Peace Poster contest.

Although the usual request for teacher salary raises was returned to the wish list, most budget requests focused on reading and math remediation resources.

Speaking on her own behalf, Thirza Trant asked that her position as the reading enrichments program instructor be made into a full-time position. Currently, she serves in this role on a part-time basis.

“I started working last year with students right around the end of the second nine weeks and there were four class periods, which was 27 students. The pass rate for the 27 students in 2011 was 53%. After I worked with them, the pass rate for the same students was almost 70%. Additionally, 100% of the seventh-graders that I worked with improved on their reading SOLs,” said Trant.

Reading continues to be an area of concern since low student performance on the reading SOL is what placed Northumberland Elementary School on the list of focus schools requiring improvement plans.

In response to “less than spectacular” overall student performance on math SOLs, third-grade teacher Christopher Barnes asked the board to consider hiring a math specialist or curriculum coordinator. In years past, Amy Lamb filled that role, but since her leave there has been no such position at the schools.

Barnes noted 47% of the fifth-grade students at NES are performing at a lower than average rate in math compared to students nationally.

“We are very lucky in our county that we have some very successful reading programs. We have Wilson. We have Reading Recovery. We have the Reading Partners programs, all of which are research-based, all of which are drawing from templates that are coming to us from universities and I believe that they are the reason that our reading scores on the MAP assessment are better than they have been. We are making progress in reading but not enough. But we have no equivalent math intervention programs,” said Barnes.

He suggested the school board hire a math specialist to coordinate kindergarten through eighth-grade math to ensure consistent instruction, to gather information on intervention programs and oversee their implementation and to attend math and intervention conferences.

Barnes also noted that in a survey of Virginia schools that achieved a 70% or higher pass rate on the math SOL after the standards had changed this year, coordinated leadership was cited as the primary supporting influence. Barnes said there is also a recommendation from the Virginia Board of Education that a math specialist be required for every 1,000 students in grades K through eight.

“It might behoove us to get that position in place before the hammer comes down and says you must,” said Barnes.

Representing bus drivers, Kim Reid proposed a new policy to provide incentives for good attendance. She suggested bus drivers be paid $35 per day for up to seven days of unused sick leave. Additionally she proposed that drivers be allowed to accumulate up to 100 sick days per career and then upon retirement be paid $35 per day for unused sick leave. Other adjustments requested by Reid included two days of personal leave for drivers and a 3% increase in salary to account for the fiscal cliff agreement which calls for a 2% increase in Social Security contributions.

During a re-organization of the board on Monday, Betty Christopher was re-elected chairman and Dick Saxer was re-elected vice-chairman.

Eighth-grader Mya Bundy was awarded a certificate for her achievement in the International Lion’s Club Peace Poster Contest. Bundy won the state level contest and her entry will continue on to the national level.

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