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IW supervisors grant extra funds to schools

Published 10:55am Friday, April 26, 2013

BY STEPHEN H. COWLES/CONTRIBUTING WRITER
Playback58@gmail.com

ISLE OF WIGHT—Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors unanimously granted $676,201 to the county school system on Thursday morning. That amount, said School Superintendent Katrise Perera, would enable her department to finish out the school year. The money didn’t come without comment first. Chairwoman JoAnn Hall of the Hardy District, for one, had something to say.

Reading from prepared remarks, Hall said she called the emergency assembly in response to the board’s meeting on April 18. She said that when the $750,000 was granted to the schools then, the board was under the impression that money would last at least through May.

Christina Berta, acting Chief Financial Officer for the schools, had requested last week $2.3 million in carryover funds from fiscal year 2012-13. A motion on the supervisors’ side to grant $1.4 million was defeated, with the $750,000 finally given as a compromise.

“All of were caught blindsided,” Hall said about the response both by the school system and the public. For example, the school board held an emergency meeting early Monday morning on how to keep the schools open with the money allotted.

After reviewing the situation, Perera that day was given the authority to cancel contracts for landscaping and purchase orders, stop or reduce custodial services, reduce all employee pay with one to 12 furlough days, and reduce the number of kindergarten aides as of Wednesday, May 1. All that was contingent on what the supervisors would do next.

On Monday evening, members of both boards answered questions about the budget situation from parents and teachers at The Smithfield Center.

“Call me naïve, and perhaps I am, but we need to do what’s necessary so our children can continue their education without any more turmoil,” said Hall on Thursday. “But I’m not so naïve about politics.”

Specifically, she said the schools have been held hostage with the threat of cuts, furloughs and schools closing early. “It makes me sick,” Hall said.

She later said that if she were a businessman and saw in the newspapers what was going on in Isle of Wight, “there’s no way I’d come here.”

She added that her daughter said her teachers have told the girl the school situation is Hall’s fault.

Turning to the proposed $63.5 million budget for fiscal year 2013-14, the chairwoman said the school board needs to come up with a different plan.

“There’s no way we can do a 22-cent tax hike. Even a flat budget from last year is optimistic,” Hall said. She added that while technology can be great, it’s an extravagance when compared to other needs.

“Let’s see some common sense,” Hall said about the budget.

“It’s been a tough week for all of us, and we need to make amends to the children,” said Supervisor Delores “Dee Dee” Darden of the Windsor District. She added she was “tired of the games and being manipulated by the school superintendent and board.”

“We’ve lost focus on the children and what’s important,” she said, adding that she doesn’t want to see the kindergarten aides, for example, lose their jobs.

Supervisor Byron Bailey of the Newport District said he didn’t want to “cast aspersions” on anyone of the school board, adding praise to Herb DeGroft as “one of the smartest men I know.”

Bailey called for categorical funding in the school budget, which he said would prevent the shortfall from ever repeating, and “so we know each and every teacher and aide gets paid.”

Supervisor Al Casteen said he shared Hall’s sense of frustration, and like other board members has gotten a large number of phone calls from residents.

“People felt like victims in the process and their hands were tied to comment publicly,” said Casteen, adding that if categorical funding had been adapted last year, the shortfall wouldn’t have occurred.

He also said he was “disgusted” that teachers and others were “used as pawns to get more money. I regret schools are punishing teachers, aides and students.”

“I lament it has come to this,” said Supervisor Rex Alphin of the Carrsville District. “I lament there have been a lot of rumors and innuendoes.”

Alphin called the situation “fairly adversarial,” but added, “We do have great schools.”

Budget and Finance Director Michael Terry for the county said April payroll has been made and May will be met.

DeGroft said his fellow board members will “take a hard look” at 2013-14 and anything that’s not focused on students.

Hall asked for assurance there would be no layoffs if the money’s granted.

“Absolutely,” Perera said.

With that, the vote was made and then the meeting adjourned.

  • ron0435

    I commend Chairwomen Hall and the Board of Supervisors for their work. Clearly the School Board and the Superintendent are out of control. I am not confident that the School Board can control the Superintendent. I also believe an independent special audit is needed to show the public where the money went and why there are shortfalls.

    Suggest Removal

    • SlimPickens

      Good luck on ever getting a independent audit, much less ever hearing the truth about what goes on. The School Board and Board of Supervisors have NEVER agreed on much of anything but to be fair neither side is without fault. We pay our Supt. of Schools way too much money and to boot they provide too many additional perks. Schools deserve top billing, the classrooms do, not the administration. They are not the ones who make our schools as good as they are. Then our B.O.S tries to fool us into believing they gave parks and rec $200K for the Baseball complex in Smithfield but think we are too stupid to realize the money really went to Smithfield Athletic Assoc, a private entity. Someone needs to be run out of town over that one. This money could have eased the burden on the county when they ponied up the other $650K to ensure the schools stayed open thru the end of the year. The County has better EMS equipment than Va. Beach yet they continue to spend every year like we need to invest in Fire Equipment and Ambulances. Most County residents would be amazed at the arsenal of Fire/Rescue vehicles, boats, trucks, and other equipment the County has purchased. Sure support the VFD’s but c’mon, enough is enough!!! Our residents had better be speaking out before our taxes get to be 80 some cents on the hundred. It’s coming too, way sooner than anyone thinks.

      Suggest Removal

  • stirit

    That is the new political way. Threaten to furlough everyone and then get the special interest groups to work the phones all day till you get what you want. It works for the Federal Government so why not the Schools.

    Suggest Removal

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