Local school board member featured in statewide press conference

^ Posted Apr. 5

By Kim Walter

Warren County's schools were represented on Thursday during the Virginia School Board Association's press conference in Charlottesville, as local school board member Roy Boyles also serves as the VSBA president.

The conference was held so that school officials could comment on the impact new legislation will have on the future of public education in the state.

Boyles, along with the VSBA's executive director and federal relations chair, highlighted benefits and drawbacks of the legislation.

Juandiego Wade, the federal relations chair, first brought up the trouble with an A-F grading system for schools. The legislation has raised concern across the state.

Wade noted that parents and community members currently have access to all the details that go into rating a school's success. He said the "simplistic" grading system will not accurately represent a school's status or progress.

"A single grade doesn't provide parents and partners with adequate and transparent information that they need," Wade said Thursday. "Labeling a school with a single grade will mask the successes and challenges that stakeholders need to be aware of to foster continual improvement."

While Boyles didn't comment on that particular legislation on Thursday, he agreed with Wade's sentiments during a Friday phone interview.

"No two schools are the same," he said. "There are so many factors - economic and social - that impact student achievement."

Boyles said that perhaps lawmakers felt the public didn't easily comprehend the current information, but he said he felt that was "selling [the public] short."

Thankfully, Boyles added, all schools in the Shenandoah Valley are set to have grades ranging from A to C, "which is a good thing."

During the press conference, Boyles reflected on his time on the Warren County School Board. He said he's just as proud of that position as he is of being the VSBA president.

"As a local school board member since 2002, there have been many challenges," he said. "With dwindling resources, rising expenses, and ever-changing requirements, school board members work diligently to ensure that they will make the best decisions for their local communities."

Boyles voiced support for the proposed 2 percent salary increase for Standards of Quality positions, as "teachers are the best assets to increase student achievement." He called the legislation a "positive step."

Warren County Public Schools, among other school divisions in the area, have included the raise in its budget. Boyles said he's thankful that the Warren County Board of Supervisors is one that is working to help support the raise through matching local funds.

"I know the relationship between our boards in Warren County is one that isn't necessarily common," he said Friday. "We're lucky that the Board of Supervisors has that commitment to public education, and as a school board we have always been transparent about our needs."

The supervisors will vote to approve the budget, including the schools' request, this month.

Boyles also spoke in favor of the revised Teacher Fairness Act, which elongates the probationary period for new teachers from three years to five. He said originally the legislation raised concern, as the wording suggested that it might be easier to fire teachers.

"I think the way it stands now will actually enhance a division's ability to keep teachers," he said. "There's also a lot of clarification as to what is expected of a teacher. When a new teacher graduates, there's definitely a learning curve there, and only experience in the classroom will produce success, so giving them more time is definitely a good thing."

However, Boyles worries that the Opportunity Education Institution contains "certain constitutional issues."

"This statewide program is modeled after one in Louisiana, which has fallen short of expectations in that state," he said. "It's just another layer of bureaucracy with no proven turnaround or success ... three-fourths of schools in Louisiana are still failing eight years after the state took control."

Boyles will travel to San Diego next week for the National School Board Association's annual conference. There, he will represent Virginia as well as Warren County.

Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or kwalter@nvdaily.com

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