School board passes budget, revisits middle school schedule

The Montgomery County School Board passed its $94,688,186 budget for Fiscal Year 2013-14 at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Board member Drema Foster voted against the proposed budget, citing she didn’t agree with the middle school schedule change. The rest of the board voted yes.

“I’m really pleased that we can give our increase this year to all of our employees, I wish it were more …” board member Phyllis Albritton said.

She also reminded everyone to continue to write to their legislators to get more funding. She called Virginia the richest state.

Board member Penny Franklin echoed Albritton by saying Virginia is in the top 10 wealthiest states, and said the U.S. is supposedly the richest country. If that is the case, she feels they shouldn’t have to beg to fund their schools. She also addressed the concerns of people who feel the schools don’t need as much money as they’ve asked for.

“A couple million dollars does not help educate our students the way they should be educated, and it does not compensate our employees the way they deserve to be compensated,” Franklin said.

Chair of the board, B. Wendell Jones, added that the school board has had to contend with unfunded mandates that he believes add up to about $2.2 million in the budget. In order to give school employees a raise this year, he said they had to pick up $1.6 million of the cost.

The overall mood of the board was summed up by Superintendent Brenda Blackburn, who said it felt good to move forward.

The school board may have to revisit an item on their budget, even though they have already voted in favor of it. Several residents spoke during the public address portion of the meeting to express their distress that the new schedule decided on by the middle schools might cut physical education hours.

Retired MCPS teacher and Radford University professor Susan Miller was the first to speak.

“We have engineered the leaving of physical education from our system. It will never be the same,” she said.

Although the board could not respond to her during the public address portion, Miller asked that they respond to some questions regarding the new middle school schedule via email.

Kyle Curran of Radford, who is a part-time physical and health educator at Auburn Middle School explained that he got into the field because both of his parents died at a realtively young age due to health-related issues, and he wants to prevent that from happening to other people.

“By reducing physical and health education at our schools, it will only increase these issues,” he said.

He and a few other speakers said there is evidence that places with lower obesity rates tend to have higher test scores.

Brian Wimmer, a 13-year-old student at AMS said that with the new schedule PE will be an elective for 8th grade students.

He asked the board how this will teach the importance of physical activity, and he followed by asking what will happen if students didn’t choose PE as an elective.

“What do you think first lady Michelle Obama would think of all of this?” Wimmer said.

Another student of AMS, Eddie Tickle, added to Wimmer’s point by saying it is estimated that children need between 30-60 minutes of physical activity per day, and some children don’t have time after school for such activity because of extracurriculars.

The strong support for physical and health education hit close to home for some of the school board members.

Franklin said it was not the school board’s decision to change the physical education requirements. She did not agree with the schedule change, and she definitely doesn’t agree with middle schools not having PE every day.

“I have always been overweight, but when it came to the atlhetic field it didn’t matter,” Franklin said.

Board member Jamie Bond agreed, she said she has always been supportive of physical education and athletics, and talked about the good it has done for her own daughter.

“I don’t want to make it hard on administration, but we’ve got to find a way to have PE in our schools every day,” Bond said.

During the meeting, Blackburn didn’t have many hard facts about the schedule to share with the board, but said she will definitely have them by the next meeting.

Jones said that if he knew the new schedule would harm physical education, he would never have voted to approve it.

“We’ve pretty much destroyed the arts trying to get more instructional time, now we’re going to destroy physical education,” Jones said.

While no action could be taken on the subject during Tuesday night’s meeting, the board agreed that the middle school schedule portion of the budget may need to be amended in order to keep students in PE as much as possible.

By Deanna J.P. Clark