The Chesterfield County Public Schools board approved revised attendance zones for students at Ettrick, Gates and Matoaca elementaries last week.
The changes will take effect in the fall of 2020 with the opening of a new Matoaca Elementary School.
The “spot redistricting” will affect about 10 percent of the students in those areas, according to a school board document.
Matoaca Elementary’s capacity will increase from less than 400 students to 750 when the new school opens. The school is slated to add 97 students from Ettrick and 71 from Gates.
Per school district policy, rising fifth-graders will be allowed to submit a waiver to remain at their current school as long as their parents provide transportation.
The Dec. 8 meeting marked the final regular school board meeting for all five board members as none sought re-election.
Bermuda District member Carrie Coyner will become a state representative when the General Assembly convenes Jan. 8.
“It’s really hard being a board member and a parent,” she said. ‘It’s hard because you don’t always get to say what you want, and when you do, it gets you in trouble.”
Coyner encouraged incoming board members to focus on equity.
“We inherited quite a few skeletons (from previous boards),” said Coyner, who along with Clover Hill District member Diane Smith served eight years.
Coyner’s comment followed that of Midlothian District member Javaid Siddiqi, who said, “We leave no skeletons. We came in, we found a few skeletons. Maintenance is a big deal, but you know about it.” Siddiqi served one four-year term. He ran for supervisor but was defeated Nov. 5 by incumbent Leslie Haley.
Dale District board member John Erbach noted the board had four superintendents in four years.
Matoaca District board member and board chairman Rob Thompson used his farewell to castigate several community members whom he said call themselves watchdogs.
“We have a select few that do nothing more than strive to get their names in the paper,” he said. Thompson said they bully school staff verbally and in writing.
“We’ve had multiple senior staff members in their exit interviews mention that the negativity of having to deal with those watchdogs increased their desire to leave CCPS,” Thompson said. “They use their three minutes each month (during public comment) to target CCPS employees by name because they don’t agree with how CCPS is running things. In my book, they’re cowards because they know CCPS employees cannot get up and respond to their remarks. They often talk about subjects where they have about 25 percent of the information, but they deem themselves experts. I encouraged each to run for a school board seat, but I’m sure it’s a lot easier to sit out in the audience and cast stones.”
Thompson said he does recognize the need for FOIA, but noted that, during his four years on the board, the school district received 2,252 Freedom of Information Act requests. Ron Hayes submitted 1,064, and Brenda Stewart made 790, Thompson said. The remaining 398 requests were filed by others.
“The FOIA process has been hijacked by the select few,” Thompson said, referring to at least some of the requests as “frivolous.” He said CCPS needs to find a way to recoup the hundreds of hours wasted by staff on “meaningless” requests.
“Our board has worked tirelessly to fix systemic issues that have plagued CCPS for years,” he said. “I feel that we’re passing on a school system in a better place than when we got here.”
During public comment, Matoaca High Spanish teacher Christine Melendez said the school district started the 2019-20 school year with 43 bus driver vacancies and still had 39 as of last week. She said school district employees are asking for a 5-percent raise for all staff.
School district spokesman Shawn Smith said the state board of education is requesting nearly $1 billion of increased funding in the upcoming General Assembly session. “We support the recommendation, but also want to be realistic,” he said, noting the state doesn’t have $1 billion.
He noted that Virginia’s teachers are paid an average salary of $51,265, which is 34th in the nation, nearly $9,200 below the national average.
In other news, the board approved a multi-award contract with four HVAC contractors: Southern Air, Colonial Webb, Cii Services and Daikin Applied Americas. The contract did not have a funding request, but states that awards would be based on available funds. The companies would perform preventative maintenance, minor repairs and complete HVAC replacement.
The board also promoted Jason Crowder to preventative maintenance manager of the district’s Facilities and Maintenance Department.