REGULAR MEETING OF THE ALLEGHANY COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD
May 16, 2005
The Alleghany County School Board held its regular meeting on May 16, 2005, at 6:00 p.m., in the Hodnett Hall Auditorium at Alleghany High School.
PRESENT: R. Wayne Botkins; H. Hunter Fridley; Robert A. Fridley; David W. Halsey; Randall S. Tucker, Vice Chairman, and Michael L. Whitehead, Chairman. Also present: Robert P. Grimesey, Superintendent/Clerk and Terrie S. Wright, Deputy Clerk
ABSENT: R. Joe Anderson
Chairman Whitehead presided and called the meeting to order at 5:45 p.m. The call to order was followed by a moment of silence and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
(05-273) APPROVAL OF MINUTES OF MAY 9, 2005, REGULAR MEETING
MOTION: That the Board approve the minutes of the May 9, 2005 meeting.
MOTION: Mr. Tucker
SECOND: Mr. H. Fridley
(05-274) Opening remarks and welcome by R. Kenneth Higgins, Principal, Alleghany High School
Mr. Kenny Higgins, Principal, Alleghany High School, welcomed everyone in attendance to the “Home of the Mountaineers.” He said that we have a lot to be proud of, such as academics, band, sports and the arts second to none and we will stand firm on that. He also thanked the Board and added, “you give us the opportunity to give our students the best education we can possibly give them. “
SUPERINTENDENT’S REPORTS & RECOMMENDATIONS
(05-275) Review of current Five-Year Capital Improvement Plan and process for update and revision ATTACHMENT I
Alex Kessinger, Director of Administrative Services, said he appreciated all the citizens that came out for tours of the high school that took place prior to the meeting. He reviewed the current version of the Alleghany County Public Schools’ Five-Year Capital Improvement Plan. There are numerous capital improvement needs, he reported. One of the necessary improvements is to relocate the central office to the old Central Elementary School in Low Moor. He expects this project to be finished in the spring of 2006. The needs at Alleghany High School are many, such as a new parking lot, a new lock system, roof repairs, air conditioning, additional physical education and athletic facilities to come into compliance with Title IX to make sure we have equal facilities for boys and girls, a new intercom system and telephone service with voicemail to all classrooms and instructional areas. There are also recommendations for improvements to the other buildings, such as the need for a cafeteria or enlarged gymnasium with two enclosed classrooms at Boiling Spring Elementary.
(05-276) Report by Alleghany High School Facility Evaluation Committee Mr. Charlie Kahle, spokesperson for the Alleghany High School Facility Evaluation Committee, gave a brief history of Alleghany High School. The school was built in 1962 on the banks of the Jackson River. There have been renovations over the years and a lot of citizens volunteered and built the football and baseball press boxes and helped with the grounds, among other things. The AHS evaluation committee challenges citizens to maintain excellence. The twenty-five-member committee identified the deficiencies that the teachers and students must overcome. After the committee was formed, they took a tour of the building and talked to students, parents
and employees. The committee commended the excellence of academic achievement at the high school in spite of the building’s condition. The committee reported on numerous building deficiencies. Special education teachers must move from room to room carrying their student’s confidential file with them. Classes must be held in the auditorium. The cafeteria, which was built for three lunch shifts, but modern academic demands require that the entire student body eat lunch in two shifts, which creates overcrowding. The cafeteria also must be used for a wrestling room and the symphonic band room. The weight room doubles as a dressing room for both boys and girls. The gym will only seat 800 and is inadequate for tournament play and physical education. There are more computers than there are computer drops. The electrical system is maximized. The boiler room has no modern controls and it costs more to heat AHS than Mountain View and Clifton Middle School combined. In conclusion, the committee felt that building AHS on the present site in 1962 was a poor decision. Mr. Kahle encouraged everyone to become informed and to contact the School Board and the Board of Supervisors. He said the community at large needs to work together, as all voices need to be heard.
As an introduction to the public hearing, Mr. Whitehead explained that the school board has two primary concerns this week: (1.) gaining input on the school division’s capital improvement plan with special attention to the future of Alleghany High School; and (2) the more immediate concern is that the Board of Supervisors approve full funding of the 2005-06 school board budget so we will be able to send contracts out before the close of school and our people will feel secure in their jobs. He encouraged everyone to attend the Board of Supervisors meeting the next night at 7:00 p.m. There will be no need to speak, he said, but it will show the Supervisors your support of the school budget.
Public Hearing: Public input on revisions to Five-Year Capital Improvement Plan and possible renovation or replacement of Alleghany High School
Open to the Public:
Scott Humphries, band director, thanked the board for their support in the past. He indicated that there was not enough storage space for instruments and other materials. He said that the band will be larger next year by about 40 students and expected three more years of growth. The music library is inadequate as is the practicing space.
Tracie Buchanan, special education teacher, said that the special education department has gone through a lot of changes. Offices are in closets and storage areas. Teachers carry confidential documents with them from room to room. Meeting room for IEP meetings is in a former storage closet. The privacy room used for the students with multi-disabilities is not equipped with a kitchen, phone, washer/dryer that is necessary to teach these students life skills.
Michael Martin, senior student and SCA president, thanked parents and citizens for coming out. He reflected on his years at AHS and the changes. He mentioned the cracks in the walls, tiles missing in the ceiling, uncovered light bulbs, not enough outlets for computers, the parking lot floods easily and the cars have to be moved. “We have a school built in the 1960’s trying to incorporate 21st century technology.” Sand bags have to be placed at the doors to keep the water out. This has happened several times this year. Students shouldn’t have to be faced with this. Michael said “it was hard for the students to have school spirit when the school was not presentable to the public.” He said the faculty is the best. There is no question but to build a new school, he said.
Lee Ann Gray, chairperson for the Alleghany County Council of PTOs/PTAs that represents all schools, truly appreciated the turnout. She asked all who believe that Alleghany High School is in need of replacement or substantial renovation to stand. The vast majority of the 300 members of the audience stood. She said that we, as a group, need an adequate facility. “We recognize the sacrifice and will support 100%.” She said, “we should put on our hardhats, take out our shovels and let’s build a high school that we can be proud of.”
Donna Vaughn, director of guidance, said there was no adequate file storage. “Rooms are small and other people can hear your conversation.” They play 60’s music outside doors to keep privacy. A small conference room is used for social services, probation, health department, ESL students, college interviews, job interviews, testing, tutoring, etc. There is no heat in one of the counselor’s offices. A water pipe goes under that office and the floor has to be pulled up to access it. The odor is terrible. There is no space for a modern career center. “Students deserve more than we can give them,” she said.
Jeff Bartley, social studies teacher, has taught for 29 years. Security is an issue. “Anyone at anytime can get in to any classroom,” he said. There is no intercom to send messages. The public address system doesn’t work in every room. There is only one way in and one way out of the building; in case of an emergency, there is a logjam. Lockers are too small for the size of books. Backpacks are in the aisles, as students have to carry most of their books. He questioned what might be brought in to school, in the backpacks.
Bonnie Murray, teacher/parent, was thankful for all the information that has been provided to the public about the problems at AHS and this public hearing. She said that the bathrooms have no privacy, and for public events, there are not adequate bathrooms. Lunchroom space is not adequate. During the “Celebration of the Arts” program in March, the glass from the windows began falling into the auditorium. Mrs. Murray also had concerns about the air quality for children with allergies. She said the consensus of the group was that the multiple number of issues that face us at the high school, along with the flooding issues, really leave us with no alternative but to construct a new school. “We don’t feel that renovation would be a good use of public funds and the group would support building a new school.” She asked, “what if we have flooding, do we have a contingency plan?”
Dr. Grimesey interjected with the comment that the board received a contingency plan in the event of sudden flooding of AHS at their last board meeting. That plan is available upon request to Mr. Higgins and Mr. Kessinger.
Martha Carter, president of Callaghan PTO, said that Alleghany County was faced with a decision as education needs have changed. Alleghany High School is becoming less conducive to the quality of education to its students. The students and the faculty are the greatest; however the high school has become outdated and is in serious need of replacement or repair. “We need a school that prepares students for college or the workforce for the 21st century,” she said. Mrs. Carter then presented a petition that was signed by 55 parents and teachers of Callaghan Elementary School community. She said “putting money into the existing school is like putting a band aid on a broken hip.” Times are different than when the building was built in 1963. It is time that we stand and meet these challenges.
Sammie Franson, teacher, Callaghan Elementary. Mrs. Franson showed a used folder to demonstrate that at one time the folder and AHS were new, but with wear and tear, time has weakened both structures. “A quick fix is possible to hold its contents, but it will not be the same as new,” she said. She said that the Callaghan faculty supports offering our students the best education in a safe location.
Lee Ann Bowling-Angle, science teacher at AHS. The science department is located on the second floor where the temperature can be 95-100 degrees during the months of May – September. These conditions are not conducive to teaching and not safe to store the chemicals used in class. The electrical system is not capable of supporting the use of hot plates, etc. Some of the lab is now used for math classes, which is a safety concern. In the event of an emergency upstairs, there is no means to call for help.
Robert Tucker, Vice President of the AHS PTSA, teacher and parent. He started off by saying, “I love my job, and I love this building. She may be too cold, she may be too hot, she may be covered with mold and fungus and the electricity doesn’t work, but I will do anything to save her and I do. I scrub down my room with Clorox to make it bearable. But I have come to the realization that she is dying.” He said “that was not the Jackson River out there but the river of death.” When the river takes the building, AHS will run from 3:00 – 10:00 pm at CMS and Mt. View. The sports, clubs and the community will die with the building. “What if industry wants to come into our area and wants to inquire about our high school?” he asked. “Do we tell them, we don’t have one? We need a new, safe and flood-free school.”
Daryl Shreve, art teacher and parent, said that our students have won many competitions. His concern is about the deteriorating conditions of the school. One of the art rooms has been taken for a special education class. Moving from two rooms into one doesn’t leave much space. He has 27 students attempt to clean brushes and containers in one sink. Students seated close to the kiln are in danger. The roof in the art room leaks and has leaked onto some students’ artwork. Half of the computers have had to be removed because of fire code violations due to the electrical system. Many students are gifted in art, but they must have a studio environment conducive to learning.
Anita Proffitt, English teacher, said that some would consider her “old,” as she was one of the last graduates of an old high school in Charlottesville; but she had attended a new state of the art middle school, and therefore, she is looking forward to working in a new high school. She said that there was a need for a journalism-writing lab. As the yearbook advisor, she believes there are a lot of problems with our situation. “Our publication is submitted on the Josten Publication website and the room is not set up for the publication needs,” she said. She has 35 students working on 7-8 computers. Jack Baker, AHS teacher and coach, discussed the athletic facilities. He talked about the need for a second gym. The practice schedules are constantly moving around due to a lack of facilities. The track has deteriorated due to flooding and lots of use over during the last 20 years and needs to be resurfaced. The field house and locker room doubles as weight room. Need to have facilities for both men and women. The locker has no benches and the students sit on the weight equipment. There is a need for more shower facilities. Coaches and athletes need to be especially careful to avoid staph infections. They spend a lot of time cleaning and washing uniforms.
Tammy Burdette, librarian, thanked the board for the opportunity to speak. Her first concern was about the electrical system. As librarian, she is the person responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of a lot of equipment. A lot of equipment is returned to the library due to bulbs burning out as a result of power surges. Many computers have been added and the electrical system is not adequate as there are not enough outlets. Overcrowding is a problem. The library has to be shut down and used as a testing site and a club meeting place. She knows the library floor is sturdy, because in times of potential flooding, all equipment, office records, guidance records and band instruments are carried up to the 2nd floor library. That, again, shuts the library down until everything could be put back in place.
Bob Umstead, teacher and AEA President, said that the AEA executive committee voted unanimously in strong support of improvements of working conditions at AHS. Working conditions need to improve for education. If teachers are going to be expected to help our students meet the SOLs, then they should be provided with working conditions that are of high enough quality to help them meet those expectations.
Bob Putman, AHS band booster president, said that the band needs more space, storage, chairs, stands, etc. The band has outgrown any other club in the school. He thanked everyone for being in support of the band. He thanked Dr. Grimesey and the School Board for the previous support on the band uniforms. He showed the trophy that the band won in competition in Myrtle Beach, SC.
Tom Murray, parent, has taken several tours of the school. He was appalled at the conditions he found. As an engineer, to sink money into this building doesn’t make any sense. Listening to the other people, he has learned of conditions that he was not aware of. It made him even more concerned.
Robin Ratliff a parent, nurse and AHS graduate. “I have heard all the concerns voiced here tonight and am amazed, appalled, shocked and have been very educated about the conditions that everyone is working under,” she aid. She is a public nurse and is most concerned about the school’s mold and indoor air quality. She said there are currently 343 students in the Alleghany County Schools with asthma. Eighty-nine of those are in AHS. Asthma is a challenge and getting to the bottom of it is impossible. Children spend a great deal of time in school, and the atmosphere in the schools needs to be clean. Youngsters with asthma miss twice as much time as other students. We need to make sure that the air quality in the building is pristine.
Patty Cody, parent, said that our students can receive a quality education in AHS, but she can’t help but wonder what it could have been if the infrastructure and the building could have been of higher standards. Students should not have to worry about flooding, and if the band instruments are safe from the environment, and how hot or cold the classrooms are. The school building should enhance the school experience rather than be a barrier that must be overcome. She said that she was not in favor of repairs but supports construction of a new high school.
Stephen Hodges, teacher and former student, the coaching staff here at AHS has a passion that runs deep in their hearts. Unfortunately, the field house is lacking in modernization. It has become a health issue. He said the School Board needs to consider a new facility.
Lisa Walker, AHS choir booster, and is also involved with the band. She noted that the auditorium is the choir classroom. The choir has one six-foot closet to store performance uniforms. Uniforms in the closet are often moved to the second floor due to flooding concerns. The school building has not grown to accommodate needs. The light boxes are antiquated. The students and teachers are doing a great job. As a physical therapist and an employee of Alleghany Regional Hospital, Mrs. Walker said recruitment of health care professionals is difficult. If a potential interviewee comes, she hopes they don’t ask for a trip to the high school. She said the best we can do is build a new building.
Rev. Robert Geer, member of the Concerned Citizens of the Alleghany County. Rev. Geer said the School Board has inherited a situation where good business practices and good decisions have not been made. He said there were two courses of action. To make the best of a bad situation and fix what could be fixed. Or bite the bullet and make the tough decision to do what is right and what would be good sound business practice, which would entail construction of a new high school, and not throw away good money. He said he knows it will be a tough decision, but we should not stick with the status quo. Education represents the future, opportunity and hope, he said. He then concluded by encouraging the Board to cast a bold vision for building a new high school.
Jackie Cheatham, AHS vocational education teacher. She is part of a diverse department that teaches 45% of the school population, from special education to college bound students, life skills that carry over into every day life. The department teaches a broad spectrum of courses. They are teaching in labs and classrooms that were built in the 1960’s and are not functional now. They need rooms and labs of high technology standards to be in the 21st century. All four departments have experienced the loss of equipment and supplies due to flooding. Several times during the school year, computers and supplies have had to be moved to the second floor, which is very stressful and time consuming and takes away from instructional time.
Donna Beirne, English teacher, said that this hearing was being conducted in her drama classroom. She described a typical day in the AHS auditorium. It starts with early morning student-directed bible study, followed by drama classes, choir classes, rehearsals for plays and musicals, and cheerleading practices. In other schools, the auditorium is a pristine room. In our school, it takes a beating. It needed to be renovated 20 years ago. It is difficult and frustrating to stage performance at AHS. There is no space to store costumes or for students to wait for their cues. Two rooms originally designed for dressing and applying makeup are now used for special education. No access is permitted to those rooms because of confidential records that are stored there. The stage floor is a hazard. The light boxes are antiquated and parts are not available. They are not up to code. AHS has a lot of bright and talented students who go on to compete with students in Northern Virginia. She encouraged Board members to “help us help the students to excel in the 21st century.”
Barbara Wygal, choral director, said the staff’s expression of concern should not be understood to means that AHS students cannot compete statewide. AHS music students have accomplished great things here at school, district wide and on the state level in spite of the drawbacks of the facility. The stage should be reserved for programs. Almost all modern high schools have more labs. Writing grants for piano lab is easy, but there is nowhere to put it. In 2002, when the high school underwent an SACs review, the first thing an evaluator said was, ”this school needs a choir room.” Now we are saying we all need a new school.
Katie Mooney, representing the student body, said that some students, athletes and non-athletes, feel embarrassed about the school’s condition, when other school teams come here to compete. For instance, the track is falling apart and is short two lanes. Also, several students have expressed a need for an outdoor eating area due to the fact that the cafeteria is over crowded. The only decent bathroom is the one in the lobby, and that is because it is the one that visitors use, but the students use all the bathrooms. There are only four sets of bathrooms in the building and they are not in good repair. There is also the parking problem. All of this could be fixed with a lot of time, money and effort, but it would be a waste as the school is built in a flood plain, she concluded.
Margaret Sizemore, representing the Falling Spring faculty, shared an anecdote and added that the AHS building issue reminded her of a movie. “’The Good, The Bad and the Ugly,’ where the ‘good’ is teachers and administrators who always do excellent jobs; ‘The bad’ is the social problems; and ‘the ugly’ are the concerns that have been presented by the many speakers.” “This is our children’s education and future,” she concluded. “What are we willing to pay for excellence?”
Calvin Robinson, AHS sophomore student. In reference to the County’s contingency plan for sudden flood loss of AHS, he asked, “if we go to school from 3:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., will we have places to store our things? When we ride buses at night, would you feel your child is safe walking home?”
Cindy Sites, representing the Falling Spring PTSA, said that the high school is not a healthy environment for children. The air quality is not good. The teachers do a remarkable job. She asked, “how can standards be met if materials are lost?” “A school may be just a building,” she concluded, “but it holds the future inside.”
Dr. Jim Ballou said that every thing had already been said. He pledged his support as best as he could. “This is an expensive proposition,” he said. “Everybody has to be willing to pay to make it happen. As a citizen who wants to see things get better, I encourage everyone to go out and stick together and convince others of what needs to be done.”
Valerie Humphries, teacher, Boiling Spring Elementary, said it was imperative that we build a new school. It is amazing that the AHS teachers can do what they do. She asked that we move ahead so Boiling Spring can receive the help that it needs. Quality of education should not be sacrificed due to the lack of space.
David Crizer, representing the MAC Club, said that the MAC Club has put money into the athletic facilities. He added that most of his concerns already had been addressed. He said knows that renovations are too costly for the current site, so he endorses building a new school.
Eddie Rhea, a former assistant principal at AHS, took a tour of the building with Mr. Kessinger. He saw many problems, but said that input from the staff has been ignored. This meeting is a wonderful start, but more planning is needed. He said that the cracks in the floor and walls have existed for 25 years. He asked several questions: (1) Can we afford a new school; (2) what will happen to this school; and (3) will teachers sacrifice salaries for a new building. Hs stated that a new school is in our future, and should be in the five-year plan, but some things need to be fixed now.
Kenny Higgins, Principal, said he appreciated all the support and is proud to be from Alleghany County. He has been a student, coach, teacher and now a principal. He was here during the 1985 flood and saw 16 inches of water in the building. He saw the teachers put on a different set of clothes to help get students get back in school. The football field looked like a gravel pit, but we came together and that is what we need today. Every time it rains, we think of 1985 and move things upstairs. It takes a day to get it back in order. “Don’t sell our students short,” he said. “Put them on an equal academic and athletic playing field.”
Tonya Holly, Boiling Spring PTA, said we are in desperate need to build a new high school. She also reminded the Board that Boiling Spring students eat at their desks where they sit all day long. She encouraged the Board to remember Boiling Spring when it approved the capital improvement plan.
(05-277) School Board member comments and questions
Mr. Hunter Fridley thanked everyone for coming. He said that this had been an education for him. He said he liked the humor. “Everybody wants a new school but financing will be a problem,” he said “If you can find a way, let us know how to go.”
Mr. Botkins said, “You have been heard. The greatest gift one to another is education. It is our future.”
Mr. Tucker indicated that there was a cross section of the community present. Other schools come to see our system. We have quality students and education. He said that he had visited a new school and he had visited one that was 25 years old. The 25-year-old building was better than what we have. We need to make sure our students have what they need. If the community wants a new building, then the Board will work toward that goal. He said a lot of things had changed since he attended school at AHS. He thanked everyone for their support.
Mr. Rob Fridley thanked Dr. Grimesey and his staff for getting the facts out to the public He also thanked Cletus Nicely, Carolyn Barnette and Mac Campbell, members of the Board of Supervisors, for being in attendance. He hoped that they would take the word back to their colleagues. Mr. Fridley thanked the staff for their support. He also enjoyed the humor brought out in the presentations and said that in the presentations he had heard things like, health and sanitation conditions, sewer smells, security, air-quality and mold. “Our staff and students have made a lot of sacrifices and it is time to move on,” he said. “Our children are our best hope.”
Mr. Halsey thanked everyone for coming. He said that he had toured the school one year ago, and when he took another tour recently he noted that conditions had deteriorated further. “We can’t stop the rain, it is going to come,” he concluded. “It will flood again.”
Dr. Grimesey reviewed the process for the Board’s assessment of the current draft of the capital improvement plan. He stated that he hoped to provide the Board with a final draft in August or September for final review so that it could then be submitted to the Board of Supervisors in September or October. He encouraged all citizens to maintain their active participation in the process.
Mr. Whitehead thanked Mr. Higgins. We are blessed to have a staff that has a love and care for our children. He said, “How do we pay for a new high school? I don’t know. There is very little economic development going on in our community. There is a group of concerned citizens saying negative things about our supervisors, and tearing down our community. A select few are running our county. He asked everyone to go to the supervisor’s meeting to show our support for them. They need it.”
SUPERINTENDENT’S REPORTS & RECOMMENDATIONS
(05-278) Authorization to request proposals for formal architectural and engineering analysis of Alleghany High School
MOTION: That the School Board authorize the administration to request formal proposals to conduct architectural and engineering analysis of Alleghany High School
MOTION: Mr. Tucker
SECOND: Mr. Halsey
(05-279) CODE OF VIRGINIA: PERSONNEL 2.2-3711.A.1 & Real Property 2.2-3711.A.3
MOTION: That the School Board enter closed session to discuss Personnel 2.2-3711A.1 & Real Property, 2.2-3711.A.3
MOTION: Mr. Rob Fridley
SECOND: Mr. Halsey
TIME: 8:37 p.m.
MOTION: That the School Board return to open session from closed session.
MOTION: Mr. Hunter Fridley
SECOND: Mr. Rob Fridley
TIME: 8:59 p.m.
CERTIFICATION OF EXECUTIVE SESSION
WHEREAS, the Alleghany County School Board has convened an executive meeting on this date pursuant to an affirmative recorded vote and in accordance with the provisions of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act; and
WHEREAS, Section 2.2-3712.D of the Code of Virginia requires that a recorded vote of this School Board be conducted in order to certify that the executive meeting was conducted in conformity with Virginia Law;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Alleghany County School Board hereby certifies that, to the best of each member’s knowledge, (1.) only public business matters lawfully exempted from open meeting requirements under the law were discussed; and (2.) only such public business matters as were identified in the motion by which the closed meeting was convened were heard, discussed or considered in the meeting by the public session.
MOTION: Mr. Rob Fridley
SECOND: Mr. Halsey
ROLL CALL VOTE: 6 “yes,” 0 “no,” 1 absent
TIME: 9:00 p.m.
(05-280) PERSONNEL ATTACHMENT II
MOTION: That the Board approve the personnel recommendations as presented by the Superintendent.
MOTION: Mr. Botkins
SECOND: Mr. Halsey
MOTION: That the May 16, 2005 meeting of the Alleghany County School Board be adjourned.
MOTION: Mr. Rob Fridley
SECOND: Mr. Halsey
; TIME: 9:02 p.m.