Warren School Board considers questionnaire on funding increases

FRONT ROYAL — The Warren County Public Schools may send out a questionnaire to community members in order to gauge support for increasing district funding, amid concern from district officials about teacher retention figures.

During a retreat of the Warren County School Board on Wednesday, Superintendent Greg Drescher said that the district’s test scores have been falling relative to other schools in the region and that he suspects that low teacher salaries and school funding are to blame.

He has been aiming for test scores that will place the district outside of the bottom three districts in the region, which includes Warren, Rappahannock, Shenandoah, Fauquier, Frederick, Clarke and Page counties and the City of Winchester. But for a number of subjects, that hasn’t been happening.

“We are falling more and more into that bottom three,” Drescher said. “Now, based on what we spend on education, we should always be in the bottom three.”

Drescher has long stated that the district’s teacher salaries, which run lower than most counties in the region, make it difficult to retain teachers.

Drescher displayed data during Wednesday’s meeting that showed the district has had difficulties holding onto teachers for more than a few years. At Skyline Middle School, Drescher said, there was only one teacher last year who had more than five years of experience.

Drescher said that the teacher retention difficulties have affected the district’s performance, saying that more experienced teachers do a better job of teaching students than newer teachers.

The  board did not vote on whether or not  to  approve sending out a questionnaire to community members. During Wednesday’s retreat, Drescher said that he hoped to have them discuss the topic in more depth during their next work session in August.

After that discussion, the district will still need to finalize the questionnaire. The district has written up a questionnaire but Drescher stressed during the retreat that it is a draft.

In addition to salaries, the draft questionnaire states that funding levels have been affecting a number of services, including the district’s ability to replace its buses and maintain its buildings.