While it wish I didn't have to make these cuts, I think staff has made this as easy for us as they could. I understand the thought that went into the recommendation to increase average class sizes, but I just can't support it. That adds back in over $10 million right there. I'll also be fighting to have a dean for every grade at all our middle schools.
Some things I don't expect to be fighting to keep in the budget that I want to explain:
- The Performing Arts Magnet - This was a plan for a musical theater magnet program at Heritage High School for 30 juniors and seniors. I still believe with all my heart we need this program. I just also believe that this is not the year. The plans that had come out just weren't good enough, in my opinion. And don't just ask me, the parent who originally advocated for this is also asking us to cut it. It's just not ready. But I will keep working until it is. We can do better and we will.
- Launching the Academy of Engineering & Technology two years early: This is a flagship advanced program focusing on mathematics as its foundation. Staff has been working overtime and weekends in order to get this ready for the fall after the prior board pushed them to open it two years early. They budgeted hiring a director of the academy but it's in the recommended reductions. We don't have the curriculum fully developed yet. I feel confident staff will be working round the clock to have it ready, but I also feel a bit like the musical theater magnet: we can take more time and do better. If we spend this year preparing, it would still open a year early! Again, I don't take this lightly. I already heard from one of the parents who worked on the committee that came up with the Academies of Loudoun that she thinks we should wait.
- The proposed 75% coverage for full-day kindergarten: I want a plan in place now to get us to universal full-day kindergarten. Dr. Williams and his staff have been working on that plan for months now behind the scenes. It will be a strategic action we approve soon. I feel certain that we can reduce the expansion this year and still get it done. Having 75% coverage was more than I expected Dr. Williams to be able to do this upcoming year when he first proposed it. We can cover 53% instead and go for 75% next year with existing space. In our Ashburn Village and Broadlands schools, I don't believe the reduction will even change much if any of the number of FDK classes we can offer. We just don't have the space after the Madison's Trust elementary rezoning the prior board approved last December. We will have a realistic, working plan. It's coming.
- The full teacher salary restructure: I can support the reduction that Dr. Williams proposed. We will still be providing step increases, one-time increases for those not eligible for step increases, and addressing our competitiveness and retention with targeted adjustments to the teacher salary scale. I hope to adopt the proposed strategic action to set our goal as 3rd in the Washington area for teacher salaries later this year.
Take a look at the adjustment list yourself. This is Dr. Williams first reconciliation and I think it just shows how to do this right. But, don't hesitate to let me know what you think as well.
The ONLY public hearing on the budget cuts is Wednesday, April 13 at 6:30pm at the Admin Building, 21000 Education Ct, Broadlands, VA 20148. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and the entire board at email@example.com.