Boundary adjustments among budget priorities

WOODSTOCK — Transportation, personnel and district boundary adjustments needs are among top priorities for the 2016-2017 Shenandoah County schools budget.

At a work session on Thursday, Superintendent Jeremy Raley said the budget is part of a continuous improvement process and represents a budget based on the current needs of the school division.

“We’ve never been satisfied with the status quo,” he said.

He added that the school division needs to change and plan budgets around the 21st century students entering the schools as “education has changed.”

He asked board members what they consider to be priorities to be considered before the budget is presented at the next meeting.

Board member Katheryn Freakley said transportation needs are a priority for her, but also said that the budget needs to be well-rounded.

Board member Sonya Williams-Giersch said that the school division needs to remain competitive in regard to salaries and benefits and the budget should reflect this.

Board member Cynthia Walsh added that the custodial and nursing staff have a lot to handle and could use some extra help and support.

Board Chairwoman Karen Whetzel said that she believes the biomedical program has been a success and should continue on for another year and that should be included in the budget.

An unknown to the budget will be results of the boundary adjustments.

Raley said that personnel needs and other needs related to boundary changes will need to be considered as well as time goes on.

“Equity needs to be important,” he said. There are resources that are needed at each school and must be carefully weighed in the budget making process.

Also at Thursday’s School Board meeting, the board heard reports on special education and guidance counseling programs.

Gina Stetter, director of special education, reported that as of Dec. 1, there were 733 students with disabilities in the public schools.   This number is down from last year’s total of 752, but she said it still represents 12 percent of the school’s population.

“If they are a student with a disability and they live in our county, we are required to provide them services,” she said. These are students from zero to 21 years of age.

Kate Rice, supervisor of STEM and career and technical education, presented information on the schools’ guidance program.

“A major job of our school counselors is to help students learn how to cope with whatever baggage they happen to carry,” she said.

She noted there are 5,947 students, and 15.5 counselors available to these students. This is a ratio of 384 students for each counselor.

The following are dates and times for the next steering committee meeting, community dialogue meeting and School Board meeting;

  • Jan. 25: Second steering committee meeting, 6 p.m. in the County Board Room.
  • Feb. 10: Community dialogue meeting at 6 p.m. in the Central High School Cafeteria.
  • (There may be an additional meeting added between the Jan. 25 and Feb. 10 for the steering committee.)
  • Feb. 11: Shenandoah County School Board meeting, 7 p.m. in the County Board Room.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or