Board talks facilities, school improvement

WOODSTOCK – Shenandoah Public Schools Superintendent Mark Johnston recommended Thursday that the School Board accept a proposed long-term facilities master plan.

The system of four elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools would cost the district an estimated $188,700,726. Costs for replacement buildings in 15 years or later are not included.

School Board member Katheryn Freakley said the plan emphasizes improving the educational adequacy of the buildings in order to provide better educational opportunities to students.

Board member Cynthia Walsh added that while “change is difficult,” it is also needed.

The plan was previously recommended by consultants Tracey Richter, CEO of DeJong-Richter, and Mike Ross, of HBA Architecture, along with Matt Sachs, a GIS analyst with DeJong-Richter.

The detailed plan can be found on the school division website at http://shenandoah.k12.va.us/. The board will decide whether or not to accept the plan at its November meeting.

Also at the meeting, the board discussed school improvement plans.

All nine district schools were accredited for the 2016-2017 school year, student assessment coordinator Gabrielle Ryman reported at the meeting, but improvements still need to be made.

Improvement plans include providing instructional coaching, creating more efficient lesson plan designs, receiving feedback on professional development and implementing effective interventions for English Language Learners and Special Education students, said Evelyn Linaburg, assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction and assessment.

But because English and reading sections of the Standards of Learning tests reflected the lowest scores, Linaburg advised that improvement plans already formulated by struggling schools aren’t enough.

The division also needs to develop a district-wide K-12 writing program, she said.

Improving on education is about more than increasing test scores, she said.

“Although, I have to admit I really want all of our schools to be fully accredited,” she said. “But it’s also looking at what is best for our students.”

Barbara Stombock, director of finance, proposed a calendar for the development of the 2017-2018 budget. The board’s first budget work session is proposed for January, with its final budget adoption scheduled for May.

Freakley noted that the Board of Supervisors has planned its tax rate approval meeting in March and encouraged the community to voice opinions prior to the meeting. The tax rate will impact the school division’s budget, she said.

Also at the meeting:

• Johnston recommended the board approve Feb. 20, 2017, as a regular school day for students and staff and Jan. 2, 2017, as a holiday for students and staff. The board approved his recommendation.

• North Fork Middle School students discussed how the school is using aquaponics, a regenerating biological system where fish waste is extracted and then used to grow plants.

• Reporting on an EdLeader21 conference in Denver this month, Strasburg High School Principal Morgan Saeler, Director of Middle and Secondary Education David Hinegardner, and Johnston said they gathered ideas to improve teaching today’s students and got feedback from students on how they want to be taught and tested.

• Gina Stetter, director of special education, spoke on the Special Education Local Determination and Performance Report, explaining how the school division met requirements.

• During public comment, Gene Putkowski, of Star Tannery, spoke on the danger that a lack of air conditioning in school buses on hot and humid days can have on students, as well as on bus drivers, like himself.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com.