I am responding to a letter you published online by Dr. Stephen Curtis, DVM, March 4, 2019. Dr. Curtis draws numerous conclusions from observations gleaned by attending two School Board meetings and one budget work session. The work session occurred two days after my proposed budget and was dedicated to a review of unknowns to include the largest revenue source to the school division, the state revenue, as well as our annual insurance renewal. What Dr. Curtis did not know, is that I had met with one absent board member prior to the proposed budget work session since she was overseas for a world competition for which her daughter qualified after the meeting was set. I also prepared for the work session by meeting the previous week with three committees of the board (Finance, Personnel, and Building and Grounds). One board member, who was hospitalized, even had asked for and was given materials to be reviewed from a hospital bed.

Had Dr. Curtis attended the Feb. 28 work session he would know that we have a reduction in state revenue of $191,000 and an insurance renewal rate of 20.4 percent. Dr. Curtis would have seen the board and staff grappling and going back and forth. And yes, sometimes with passion due to the high stakes discussion about how to address a 20.4 percent increase in annual health insurance renewal, which, even with full funding, will result in increased health insurance premiums that could mean employees having less annual gross take-home pay, even with a raise!

While there are some in our community that seem to believe that the publicly elected School Board and their superintendent are not doing their jobs unless they are arguing or impugning one another publicly. I hold a different view. We set an example for our children of what dedicated, functional public service should look like through respectful discussions in public. I will continue to ensure that our School Board is informed by the best and most accurate information it needs, to make good decisions on behalf of the children of Shenandoah County, even if we may disagree.

Mark A. Johnston, Ph.D.

Superintendent, Shenandoah County

Public Schools