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New Tech may be in works for BHS

Friday, October 4, 2013

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

The Henry County School Board on Thursday awarded a $20,350 contract to RRMM Architects to conduct a feasibility study for a New Tech Center at Bassett High School.

No time-table has been set for possibly trying to open a New Tech Center at BHS, said Schools Superintendent Jared Cotton.

“We want to get the conversation started,” he said.

Warrior Tech, the first New Tech Network school in Virginia, opened at Magna Vista High School in August, and some school officials have said they would like the division to seek funding to open one at BHS. In July, Magna Vista’s Warrior Tech Academy was expected to cost $869,469.49 in startup and ongoing costs.

Project-based learning is at the heart of New Tech Network’s instructional approach, according to its website. Students learn through doing projects on an issue or challenge. The students work in groups, and teachers guide them. Projects require problem solving, critical thinking and communication.

Cotton said at Thursday’s board meeting that he originally had thought having one New Tech Network school in the division would be enough, but now he believes there’s plenty of student interest to open one at Bassett as well.

RRMM Architects of Roanoke will meet with members of the BHS administration “to define the program for the space involved and to document the condition of the existing space for the location of the New Tech Center,” according to a school board document.

“One area of the school will be studied to develop a possible option for the location of the New Tech Center. The study will produce a diagrammatic floor plan and walk-through computer graphics illustrating the overall design concept to be pursued as well as a project cost estimate,” the document adds.

In other business Thursday, Marnie Mills of the American Heart Association presented a Jump Rope for Heart award honoring Axton, Campbell Court, Drewry Mason, Mount Olivet, Rich Acres, Sanville and Stanleytown elementary schools for having the event’s highest student participation in Virginia, raising a total of $19,894, according to Melany Stowe, the division’s coordinator of parent and community outreach.

“This is really exciting,” Stowe said.

She added that the program was carried out by physical education teachers. These teachers were recognized at the meeting: Darick Thomas, Axton; Eric Seiy, Campbell Court; Jennifer Gunter, Drewry Mason; Amanda Pulliam, Mount Olivet; Joseph Fielder, Rich Acres; Rachel Parks, Sanville; and Jay Joyce, Stanleytown.

“Your physical education teachers are unbelievable ... really engaging students and the community,” Mills said.

In other business, the school board:

• Approved a resolution honoring Trey Harris, a music teacher and band director at Bassett High School, as the 2014 Region VI Teacher of the Year. This is the first time a teacher from Henry County Schools has received that honor. Harris is one of eight teachers in the running for Virginia Teacher of the Year, which will be announced next week.

• Approved revisions to the board’s policy on professional staff probationary terms and continuing contracts. The 2013 Virginia General Assembly approved Senate Bill 1223 to amend the Code of Virginia, allowing school boards the ability to lengthen the amount of service required from three years to up to five years before obtaining continuing contract status. The Henry County School Board’s action Thursday leaves the probationary term of service at three years before a teacher is issued a continuing contract.

Another change is that a teacher with a continuing contract from another state now has to work two years of a probationary term instead of one before being offered a continuing contract.

• Voted to extend the contract between the school division and Davenport Energy for providing heating fuel oil to schools. The contract, which will expire Nov. 14, will be extended to June 30. Davenport Energy has agreed to stay with the same vendor markup through June 30, which is 0.129. The annual cost of the contract is expected to be $200,000, according to a board document.

• Voted not to participate in the Virginia Local Disability Program. Employees hired after Jan. 1, 2014, without eligible retirement service in the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) are required by state law to participate in the newly created VRS Hybrid Plan. The new plan is a combination of a defined benefit and defined contribution plan partnered with a short-term and long-term disability plan. The Virginia Local Disability Plan (VLDP) will be offered by VRS, but localities are allowed to obtain their own disability plans on the open market as long as the plan meets or exceeds the benefits provided under VLDP.

Rather than participate in VLDP, the Henry County School Board approved VACORP/The Standard as the vendor for VLDP comparable coverage insurance because that plan’s rates are lower than the VLDP, and the VACORP/The Standard guarantees the rate for three years whereas the VLDP plan guarantees the rate for only six months.


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