Sat04192014

Last updateTue, 04 Nov 2014 9pm

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Brown tells Board: No RIFs

But Paulsen & Kilbourn say:  Stimulus funds can’t go into operating budget

   King George division Superintendent Candace Brown told Supervisor Cedell Brooks, Jr., and the rest of the county Board of Supervisors last week that no teachers would be laid off next year.
   Brooks’ question and Brown’s answer came at last Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Supervisors following a detailed presentation by Director of Finance/Deputy County Administrator Donita Harper about the use of federal stimulus funding coming through the state.
   King George is expecting $1,319,038 in stimulus funds for 2009-10, and a like amount for 2010-11, which all must be obligated by September 30, 2011.
 
The question came up when Brown was asked by Brooks about letters she had sent out the previous week to first-year employees saying they might lose their jobs.
  
76 such letters were mailed, saying, “Due to a substantial reduction in state funding, and an anticipated substantial reduction in local funding for the 2009-10 school year, King George Public Schools faces the possible elimination of several positions in our school system.  I regret to inform you that because of this budget crisis, you may not be employed for the next school year (2009-10).”
  
Brown also sent an additional 83 letters to 12-month and 220-day employees saying their positions were safe, but there could be, “a reduction in the number of days worked and consequently at a reduced rate of pay.”
  
~ QUESTION & ANSWER    Brooks specifically inquired of Brown last Tuesday, “Letters went out to teachers, so does this mean that they will not lose their jobs?”
  
Brown responded, “That’s correct.  Ms. Harper is correct.  This is information she and I received.”
  
Chairman Joe Grzeika cautioned, “I’ve been tracking it as well.  And you have to make sure which fund you are discussing.  Each fund is different and has different conditions.  But the stabilization fund is the one we are focused on tonight.”
   Brown stated, “From everything we have, we believe that the stabilization fund can be used for operating expenses.  The caution from the federal government and of course from the state government is - what are you going to do in two years when those funds are gone.  So that’s just something we have to think about.”
   Brown also said to Supervisors of Harper’s presentation, “She’s addressed the maintenance of effort issue, she’s addressed the 90 percent cost.  We think we are okay in those areas and we believe from everything that we’ve been reading that we can use all of those funds for operating costs for the upcoming school year.”
Brown added to Brooks, “So, the answer to you is –we would not be in a situation where we would have to lay off teachers, if in fact we use all of that money.”
   ~ DISCONNECT?    There would seem to be a disconnect between what Brown said to Supervisors and what some members of the School Board and the public say they have heard from her.
   The next evening at a School Board meeting on April 8, Brown described Harper’s presentation to the School as, “a very accurate, comprehensive presentation.” 
   The conversation took a turn after that, with a distinct emphasis on not using stimulus funds in the operating budget.
   School Board member Dennis Paulsen inquired of Brown, “I don’t quite understand how if we add the $1.3M of stimulus funds, when very rightly so, we can’t use those stimulus funds in our operating budget?”
   Brown said, “We can transfer expenditures in our operating budget for next year into the stabilization portion of the stimulus funds.” 
But Brown stressed the following, saying, “There is that continued caution under guiding principles from the state that says ‘make sure you don’t transfer anything into those funds unless there is a plan for sustaining those expenditures at the end of two years when the funds are eliminated’.”
   Brown added, “They also are suggesting that they are spent on one-time cost items, if you will, that goes into the renovation and modernization.  It does state that you can use them to save jobs.  The guidance we’ve received from the state superintendent is that salaries that we put in there should be used for positions that will be eliminated by attrition over the next two years.”
   Paulsen said, “Everything that I’ve read with the stimulus package, everything I’ve seen, everything I’ve read says don’t use it for your operating budget.”
School Board member Payne Kilbourn concurred, saying, “I’ve been talking to Dr. Brown at length about this and really studying this legislation, such as it is.  It’s clearly meant to be stimulative.  It’s meant to be, essentially in addition to most things, although there is some discussion about using it to take care of some teacher salaries and positions and so forth.”
   Kilbourn continued, saying, “But I’m very, very concerned that the county’s perception that we can just plug this wholesale into our budget is very naïve, probably illegal, is going to put Dr. Brown and our accounting people in a real bind, because what they are just doing now is gaming this money, shifting it around, putting labels on it, to try to use it to fill a very large budget deficit that they are handing us.”
   Kilbourn added, “It’s clearly not intended to do with it what they are suggesting we do with it and as I suggested, it might be illegal.”
   Kilbourn is correct in saying it cannot be simply plugged into the budget.  Division central office administrators must develop a spending plan/application for use of the funds, spend it, then get reimbursed.
   ~ PUBLIC COMMENT    During last Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Supervisors, two members of the public also spoke on the topic during public comment, prior to the presentation. 
   Resident Terri Rinko, mother of three and PTA President at King George Elementary School asked Supervisors to “level-fund the School Board this year.”
   She added, “From what I understand, the recovery stimulus plan we accepted is so full of stipulations and strings attached, it is unrealistic to believe we can use it to fund important school system recurring costs such as returning first-year teachers salaries, benefits, and our participation in such invaluable programs as Head    Start, sports and after-school activities, and the Commonwealth and Chesapeake Bay Governor’s schools.”
Resident Robert Kruger also urged level-funding for the upcoming year, saying that if not granted, three of four special education teachers were facing potential job loss.
   ~ LEVEL FUNDING AND STIMULUS FUNDING REQUESTED    Instead of having to use the federal stimulus money as it was designed to be used, the School Board instead wants the Board of Supervisors to allocate more money in local funding.   
   Brown submitted a revised proposed budget after the stimulus funds were approved by the state, which simply added the $1.3M to the School Board’s request, in addition to $1,676,619 more in local funding than the state says the county needs to provide.
   If the county provided that, then Brown and her central office staff would not have to devise a spending plan and request the federal stimulus funds.  They could use some of it or just leave the federal money on the table. 
   Members of the School Board appear concerned about using any portion of the stimulus funding to go toward the costs for any salaries over the next two years, since the federal funding evaporates in 2011. 
   So, they may decide to simply cut positions next year, instead of using the stimulus funding it as it is designed to be used to stave off cuts for at least two years.   

By Phyllis Cook
Staff Reporter

 

King George resident living the simple life swaps out his wife; trades her for high maintenance society belle

    King George, Va.  --  King George resident Steve Hickman decided to trade off his wife DeLaura Padovan earlier this year. But he didn’t get a choice in the swap. His replacement wife was selected for him by the producers of ABC TV’s Wife Swap.
    The intent of the show is to match up participants that live extremely different lifestyles. DeLaura lauded the producers saying in her case, “They selected almost total polar opposites.”
She was whisked off to the suburbs of New Jersey. Here she found a large house with a crystal chandelier prominently displayed so it was visible to even those passing by on the street. And in a few short days she was plunged into the lifestyle of a very high maintenance suburbanite, who was concerned with living a rather opulent lifestyle.
After attempting to walk in her high-heeled shoes, DeLaura’s impression of Shannon Nicole Burroughs was that she was definitely a material girl. She along with husband Shannon Michael and their 6-year-old twins Nicolas and Alexa live a very different life than the one DeLaura’s family lives in King George.
    Steve and DeLaura are musicians. And along with their daughters Tara and Maren Padovan-Hickman, 11 and 8 respectively, who are seasoned folk dancers they form a family musical troupe.
    But the family unit also lives the simple life residing in a small log cabin nestled on 57 acres of woods at the end of a long winding dirt and gravel driveway
    After I wended my way through the woods to their home, I was greeted by the family’s chickens. They are gentle creatures and the laying hens provide a good portion of the family’s diet.
But according to DeLaura and Steve they have learned that there are sometimes interesting crumbs left around cars. So they were not so much my welcoming party, but rather a scavenging team. The goats that are corralled in a small area in front of their house for the most part completely ignored my presence.
However, I was warmly welcomed into their home by the couple and their children. A row of windows and skylights along the gabled roof let sunbeams dance across the rafters and the floor. But there are no electrical lights in the home and by all accounts, the family lives like our American pioneer ancestors.
The entire first floor of the house is probably no larger than a great room in many homes in local subdivisions. There is a lower level and a loft atop a narrow steep staircase overlooking the main living area.
Their home is simple, with no frills but it is comfortable, and definitely filed with love. And that love reaches across generations with Steve having spent the winter gingerly hand stitching two quilts that had been assembled by the matriarchs of his family. He will be passing them on to his daughters along with his heritage.
Tara and Maren are home schooled and Steve explained that a good portion of the family life revolves around the kitchen table. “We make everything from scratch and we all work together as a team,” he said.
And the girls help with the chores on their mini farm, including feeding the goats and chickens and planting and harvesting their garden. Steve and DeLaura have sold their crops at farmers markets in the area and have also participated in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). They lead a lifestyle that leaves behind a very small carbon footprint.
But the couple also works outside the home. As professional musicians Steve and DeLaura earn their living by performing. He plays violin and harmonica and is the nation’s foremost Ham Bone artist and can be seen on various YouTube postings. He teaches at Picker’s Supply in Fredericksburg once a week.
DeLaura plays guitar and ukulele. She conducts a Music Together program for young children to help develop rhythm and tonal competency at St. John’s Parish Hall in King George. Early this month she also began a program in Fredericksburg.
But they also perform as a family at music camps and other venues. Given that, although a TV production set is not the usual stage upon which the family performs, it is not unusual for them to reply to ads soliciting talent.
On first glance it is somewhat amazing that this family that hasn’t owned a television set since the mid 1980’s were even aware of the Wife Swap show. It is even more astonishing when you add in the lack of electrical power at their home that they would even respond to an ad to participate in a reality television program.
But after answering the ad from a friend’s laptop computer, according to DeLaura the ABC representatives responded back in about 2 minutes.
That was last August. They borrowed a camera and prepared a home video that was accepted by ABC in October. Then the producers sent a TV crew out and after spending several days at their home the family’s forays into the world of the small screen was in progress.
She said they looked at it as a learning experience for their home schooled children and an interesting life adventure for the family. And as a professional musician, Steve said, “A gig is a gig.”
According to DeLaura the process was like a roller coaster ride with many highs and lows and constant motion. However, she and her husband had nothing but the highest praise for the production crews, saying they were very receptive about changing schedules to meet any needs of the family. But on April 17, when the episode featuring the family airs, that will all be history.
The only visible remnants of their adventure is the set of rules that still hang on the kitchen wall and a somewhat out of place looking crystal chandelier.
But the three 60 watt bulbs in the fixture suspended above the kitchen table have been replaced with small votive light candles.
Although Steve says it gives off a softer light as the flames dance off the reflective crystals creating a peaceful ambiance, they are not sure whether they will keep it. For now the family has reverted back to a life described by DeLaura and Steve as “serendipity” and “uncomplicated happiness.”
The episode was filmed in February, so life has quieted back down. Steve said if they had been asked 48 hours after production concluded if they would do it again, he would have definitely responded in the negative. But as time has passed, he thinks he might consider participating in another production.
 The family will be hosting a neighborhood viewing of the show at the King George Community Center on Apr. 17.
Since they down own a TV, they will be having one brought in from Fredericksburg’s Rent-A-Center. The family is requesting a donation of a food item as admission. All donated items will be given to the local food bank and popcorn and lemonade will be sold to benefit King George Parks and Recreation.
For information about Wife Swap visit www.abc.go.com/primetime/wifeswap/. To find out more about DeLaura’s Music Together program and to contact the family via e-mail visit her at www.singdanceandplay.com
 

School division committee looking at alternative grading scale

King George resident Brian Jackson seems to have helped spark the establishment of a committee to investigate changing the grading scale used in the King George school division, particularly at the high school.
Parent Beckey Gallamore first publicly brought the topic up during public comment at a School Board meeting last August 13 and asked the division to look into changing it.
On February 10, Jackson’s email on the topic to Superintendent Candace Brown and other central office administrators seemed to get the ball rolling.
Two committee meetings have been held so far, on March 9 and March 30, with the next one set for April 27.  
The committee is headed up by Supervisor of Curriculum Ann Cocke and includes a mix of division staff and community members.   
The minutes of the first meeting state the committee’s purpose is to review the current grading scale and research grading scales from other divisions, then make recommendations concerning the grading scale.
With the current grading scale, it takes a 94 to earn an “A,” and an 86 for a “B.”  
But Jackson notes that in most high schools nationwide a 90 is an “A” and an 80 is a “B.”  
In both cases, an A receives 4 points and a B gets 3 when calculating grade point averages (GPAs).
Jackson said in his February 10 email to Brown, “As a parent of two middle school students who expect to attend college, I am very concerned over our county’s antiquated grading scale.  My children will soon compete for limited out-of-state admission opportunities but our current grading scale will place them at a distinct disadvantage when competing against students from school divisions using a 10-point scale and greater weights for advanced courses.”
Jackson noted that a recent Fairfax County Public Schools investigation into school grading policies reveals that contrary to what parents and students have been told, 55 percent of colleges surveyed do not recalculate grades and 89 percent compare individual applicants against their entire applicant pool.
Because letter grades are the #1 factor for college admissions, Jackson says the current King George grading scale is limiting the college choices available to county students.
“Our lower GPAs matter not only in terms of college admissions, but also acceptance into Honors programs, discounts on auto insurance, and awards of Merit Scholarships,” Jackson said.
He provided the example that Fairfax County discovered.  
“At many universities, a student simply needs a 3.5 GPA and a solid SAT Score to be eligible for an automatic, merit scholarship that may total thousands of dollars.  Overall, this GPA inequity could realistically cost King George families in terms of state college admissions, academic/ merit scholarships, college honors programs, and good student driver discounts. In this current economic crisis, it is an unfair burden to not permit King George County students to compete on a level playing field,” Jackson said.
Jackson pushed for the hard look at what’s happening across the state and nation with grading scales, saying, “I would like to begin a serious discussion about following Fairfax County’s lead and join the majority of American high schools who have implemented the more commonly used 10-point grading scale, with added weights for Honors and AP/IB classes. The Stafford County School Board has already voted to change their grading system to a 10-point scale and on 28 January, a majority of Loudoun County school board members expressed their support to change their 7-point grading scale. I am not alone in thinking that it is time for us to make the change as well.”
That discussion is now in the hands of that division committee.  No set timeline has been established for reporting.  The committee looked at the proposed 10-point grading scale, which provides grades as follows:  90-100=A, 80-89=B, 70-79=C, 60-69=D, Below 60=F.
The committee is developing surveys designed to elicit input from teachers, staff, and parents/guardians.
Jackson told The Journal, “At first blush, you may say a higher standard is desirable and it’s good that we have a tough grading scale because it raises expectations and makes our kids work harder.”
But he added, “While this sentiment may or may not be true, the point here isn’t higher standards, but rather that our present grading scale places King George students at a disadvantage when seeking college admission, merit scholarships, and good driver discounts.”
Jackson said he’d be fine with a grading scale if all the other divisions had the same scale.  
But they don’t.  
“GPA is a standard measurement of a student’s grades and academic achievement. When that standard is different from King George, it’s an inaccurate representation of the hard work a King George student does.”
Jackson noted that Fairfax County’s study produced an extensive investigation prior to a vote by its School Board to go to the new grading scale this fall at the beginning of next school year.  (The Fairfax report can be found on our website at www.journalpress.com accompanying this article online.)
Jackson also noted that the Fairfax County School board investigation found that the actual high school grades (A, B, C, or D) are the MOST important factor in college admissions.  
That finding is repeatedly acknowledged in the report with citations from the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC), the College Board, and the Fairfax County School Board’s own college survey conducted for the report.
Jackson found that the Fairfax report notes the following highlights of its study of grading scales:  ~ Fairfax’s  old six-point scale resulted in Fairfax students having notably lower GPAs than non-Fairfax students with similar SAT scores but graded on a 10-point scale, thereby putting Fairfax students at a competitive disadvantage for college admissions.
~ 75 school systems in 12 different states have adopted the 10-point scale in the last few years.
~ No evidence supports the current six-point scale in Fairfax.
~ On page 49, Figure 6, of the investigation report, it states that changing both the weights for advanced classes and the grading scale benefits all students, especially those with GPAs below 3.75.
~ The grading scale has no bearing on a high school’s academic standards.  A vast majority of our nation’s very best high schools use the 10-point scale (see the 2008 Gold Medal Winner High Schools).
 ~ A school district’s academic standards are measured by their four-year college attendance rates for high school graduates, mean SAT scores and Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate class participation and performance.
Jackson said, “If a student is taking the same courses and delivering the same performance in our county and it’s giving him a 3.5 average, and if he were simply in Stafford County or Spotsylvania county, his GPA would be a 3.9, then that’s patently wrong.  This uneven playing field places our kids at a distinct disadvantage and could potentially cost parents money and lost opportunities for our kids - this needs to change.”

fairfax county investigation report_120 pages.pdf

KG Parks & Rec Kite Day

It is an annual rite of Spring - the Kite Fly at Litchfield Farm, sponsored by King George Parks & Rec. Everyone had fun, and unusual kites abounded!

Bid awarded for $1,502,000 for construction of animal pound

Bids for Sheriff’s office also lower than estimated 

The King George Board of Supervisors voted last week on March 17 to award a contract to Gulf Seaboard General Contractors, Inc., in the amount of $1,502,000 for construction of a new county animal pound. 
The best news is that there were numerous bidders and all the qualified bids came in substantially under the cost estimate provide by URS for the construction project, which was $2.75M, for the base bid and the alternate.
Supervisor Dale Sisson pointed that out, saying, “This is a really good-news story.” 
Chairman Joe Grzeika commented that with the amount of the bid, they would get the full build-out to include the alternate of an expanded number of dog runs to 24, instead of 16 as contained in the base bid. 
Supervisor Jim Howard stated, “This is something that we have needed in King George for a long time.”
County Administrator Travis Quesenberry also had good news regarding the bids opened that day for construction of a 42K square foot Sheriff’s Department.
Quesenberry that the bids on the Sheriff’s Department needed to be checked for completeness and accuracy, but the initial tabulation indicated that of the 14 bids received, the apparent low bid came in at $7.335M.
That bid was almost $6M less than the cost estimate of $13M.  The high bid of $8.7M for the Sheriff’s project was also well below the cost estimate.
Both facilities will be constructed at the site planned for a new government center on Route 3, east of Route 205 at Purkins Corner and next to the YMCA.
~ FUNDING    Action was taken on November 4 by Supervisors to approve a resolution for a loan from the Virginia Resources Authority (VRA) for about $25M for the two buildings, in addition to other funds rolled in to refinance a couple of other smaller loan balances.
Grzeika stated, “Again, it is the time, and it is the best use of taxpayer dollars at this time.”
Supervisor Dale Sisson said, “I would never had guessed it would be that low.” 
Grzeika agreed, saying, “That is really astonishing.”
~ OTHER PROJECTS?    The news of the low bids may mean that remaining funding can go toward one or more other construction projects planned by the county. 
Under strong consideration could be expansion of the Smoot Library estimated at $4.5M and/or a new stadium estimated at $3M. 
Sisson said as much, stating, “We have the library expansion and maybe we can apply some of it to the stadium at this point.”
Supervisor Cedell Brooks, Jr., was also interested in what the remaining funds could be spent on, saying, “By saving so much, can we use that money for other things?”
Two other planned government center buildings are also on hold.  Those include an operations center and a health and human services building.
Grzeika directed Quesenberry, saying, “Let us know what our legal abilities are.”
Quesenberry said, “We’ll check that and bring back to the board some options.  There were certain things in that bond issuance that we were restricted to use the money for.”
Grzeika noted that construction prices could now start going up, saying, “If you put out bids now, I don’t think there will be as good as prices were now.  There will be stimulus money out there that will bring it back into more normalcy.”
He added, “We hit it right at the sweet spot.  This one really was a home run.  We rolled the dice on this and it really came out in our favor.”
~ CONTRACTOR    The approved contractor for the animal pound, Gulf Seaboard, is a commercial construction company established in 1982 and located in Ashland. 
The contract is expected to be executed by the end of next week, when the notice to proceed will be given. 
The language in the contract agreement provides for slightly less than 6 months to achieve final completion of the construction project.
The would put completion of the animal pound in the end of September, with the contract providing 127 days to reach substantial and another 45 days to reach final completion.
~ SPECS    Supervisors had reviewed and approved a design in October 2007.  The animal pound will be about 5,500 square feet for the building, along with 24 outside dog runs.
The new pound will replace the existing one. 
Its construction and design will meet requirements of the state veterinarian for such facilities, with floors and walls to resist bacteria growth, 10 air changes per hour for the mechanical system, and a pressure washer system for cleanliness. 
~ BIDS    24 bids were submitted for the animal pound project with two rejected as incomplete.  Gulf Seaboard was selected as the apparent responsible and responsive low bidder out of a total of 24 companies responding.  The bids were opened on March 3.  The bids ranged up to a high of $2,230,000. 
The architectural firm which designed the animal pound, Dominion Seven Architects, recommended the contractor be awarded the bid following a complete review of the contractor’s bid and qualifications.

 

By Phyllis Cook
Staff Reporter

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