Budget wish lists include more teachers


PTA leaders and parents were armed with wish lists at the Alexandria City Public Schools FY 2009 Operating Budget Public Hearing and School Board Meeting, Thurs., Sept. 20, with a general theme of more manpower throughout the school system. A science teacher at Charles Barrett Elementary would make a world of difference, said PTA member Lorraine Freeman. A PE teacher was on Rebecca Hirschs list for Hammond Middle School. It sends the wrong message to our students that PE is expendable, she said. For Kelly Smith, the PTA president at Maury Elementary, the 37 percent increase in students sends the message we need dedicated people, she said.

One speaker who did not come with a wish list was Mercedes Huffman, a math teacher at T.C. Williams who was worried about the school systems performance on recent tests, and notification of those results. The adequate yearly progress reports were one example of data that is not being available to parents in a clear, concise manner, Huffman said. They should receive information about their childrens school system, good or bad, she said.

Stephanie Stevenson, a parent, moved to Alexandria because of the schools. She was surprised when she had to hear bad news about the school performance from the news media. We should lead with the hard news, she said.

Timeline short
The School Board took in all the requests, and laid out the plan for the FY 2009 budget, using a schedule developed by the ACPS budget expert Leslie Peterson with three scenarios. Each juggled days around the winter holiday season and the City Council. The board revised the calendar to vote on the target for FY 2009 to late November which is late for their usual budget procedure, and this was done because City Council moved their first legislative meeting from November 13-19.
In each option, the board is scheduled to approve the FY 2009 operating budget on Jan. 31.

The timeline is short, Superintendent Rebecca Perry said.

The board will be meeting at a budget work session on Sept. 27, and the board will address the budget in-depth at the School Board Retreat, Sept. 29-30, Perry noted. The retreat schedule is another item discussed at the meeting, and board chairman Claire Eberwein went over the retreat schedule. On Saturday, Sept. 29, the topics to be covered will discuss curriculum, human resources, facilities and technology. The future of Jefferson Houston is one item they will address during the facilities discussion that day. The following day was saved for budget discussions and potential shortfalls. The public is invited to the retreat meetings as well. Perry will recommend the preliminary FY 2009 budget forecast at a regular school board meeting on Oct. 4, followed by the City Council public hearing on Oct. 13.

Before the budget hit the docket at the meeting, the board honored Suzanne Lank, a reading teacher from Maury Elementary who was named region four Teacher of the Year, and is a finalist for Virginia Teacher of the Year. I can think of no one more deserving, Perry said.