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Student ranks drop in county
Fewer pupils mean less money; spending monitored

Friday, May 2, 2014

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Henry County Public Schools is monitoring its finances because of a decrease in student enrollment, resulting in less state funds.

Dawn Lawson, the school division’s chief financial officer, told the county school board at its meeting Thursday that the current fiscal year’s (2013-14) budget was based on 7,064 students. However, as of March 31, the school division had 6,987 students, she said.

As of that date, the school division’s revised 2013-14 budget was $74,789,990, Lawson said. The division had spent and obligated a total of $51,772,334.32, leaving an available budget of $23,017,655.41 for the rest of the fiscal year, she said.

Lawson said her office is watching closely the school division’s finances. She did not provide an estimate of how much state revenue the school division may lose as a result of the enrollment decrease.

In other business, the school board:

• Approved a resolution commemorating the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which struck down “separate but equal” segregation in public education.

The resolution states, among other things, “The court’s decision has had a profound, significant and beneficial impact on all aspects of life in the United States.” It says, “... The School Board of Henry County encourages direct student participation through essays, creative arts, lectures, research and writing, community projects, and other activities to foster personal commitment to democracy.”

The resolution encourages the recognition of contributions of “civil rights leaders and volunteers, parents and students ... for it is only through their courage, conviction and sacrifice that Brown v. Board of Education became a reality ....”

• Approved the purchase of robotics equipment for Laurel Park and Fieldale-Collinsville middle schools at a cost of $30,000, pending the availability of 2013-14 funds.

• Approved an additional appropriation of $429,013.86 and forwarded an appropriation request to the Henry County Board of Supervisors. This is a result of an increase in students registering for dual enrollment courses.

Beginning with the 2013-14 school year, a cooperative agreement between Patrick Henry Community College and Henry County Public Schools eliminated the tuition cost for students taking dual enrollment courses. Patrick Henry reimburses HCPS for courses taught by Henry County personnel. The $429,013.86 is reimbursement to the school division and will be used to pay tuition for students to take dual enrollment courses, officials said.

• Approved the 2014-15 Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) application, which would involve $1,398,631 in state funding and $443,370 in local match. The school division operates 18 VPI classrooms for the most needy children, said DeWitt House, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning.

• Approved and appropriated the “2014-15 Special Education Annual Plan/Part B Flow-Though Application and Section 619 Preschool Grant Application.” Preliminary estimates are the school division will receive $1,991,027 in Title VI-B federal funds, a decrease of $161,663 from this year, and that the school division will receive $79,919 in Section 619 Preschool federal funds, a decrease of $2,728. Officials didn’t say why funds are decreasing.

• Approved continuing employee health insurance coverage with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which will cost an additional approximately $478,179 based on an 8 percent increase in health insurance premiums. The school division will continue paying 100 percent of the single subscriber premium for active employees.

The action is contingent upon the school board and the county board of supervisors approving a memorandum of understanding as they move into a self-insurance program in hopes of eventually saving money.

• Approved continuing property/casualty and worker’s compensation insurance coverages with VACo Risk Management Programs for fiscal 2015 at a cost of $418,310. “The total increase in our property/casualty/worker’s compensation premium is $90,783,” Lawson said.

• Heard a report about Understanding by Design (UbD), a tool the school division is using as it continues to revise its curriculum. UbD is “a framework for planning, curriculum, assessment and instruction,” according to the presentation given.

UbD focuses on what a school division wants students to know, how it will determine that they know it and how it will teach them.

The presentation said, “The focus is on what we want students, in the end, to be able to do with what they have learned. The point of school is to be able to use one’s learning in other settings. Factual knowledge and skills are not taught for their own sake, but as a means to larger ends.”

Janet Lewis, curriculum specialist for HCPS, said UbD has been used successfully throughout the country and world.


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