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Teachers’ Pay, Boundaries Dominate '04

School Board tackles a number of issues as Loudoun grows at unprecedented rate.

Superintendent of Schools Edgar Hatrick made an unprecedented recommendation in December to increase the starting pay for new teachers to $40,000.

The Loudoun Education Association and the School Board welcomed the proposal, but a decision won’t be made until the fiscal year 2006 budget is finalized. Hatrick said the increase would serve as an incentive in filling the growing number of teacher slots each year.

He recommended raising the salary from $35,784 to $40,000. To compensate for the pay hike, the board would reduce some of the step increases. The proposal would provide step increases for satisfactory performance ranging from a low of 2.5 percent for administrators to a high of 4 percent for teachers. The average improvement to the teachers, administrators, classified and auxiliary scale would be 4.7 percent based on the cost of living increase and market adjustment.

Enrollment is expected to reach 47,467 students by FY06, up from 19,967 in FY96. Loudoun County Public Schools hired 725 new teachers for this school year and another 800 to 900 new teachers will be needed in FY06.

WITH LOUDOUN COUNTY growth at an unprecedented rate, more schools were needed. With every new school, the School Board must redraw boundaries, deciding which students must move to another facility.

Parents turned out for public meetings to address Pinebrook, Newton-Lee and Legacy elementary schools’ proposed boundaries.

The School Board supported the boundary lines recommended by the staff, with three exceptions.

* Students west of Route 659 and south of the Greenway will remain at Hillside Elementary School.

* Students west of South Riding Boulevard, plus those living on Hiddenwood, Racefield and Youngwood Lane, will go to Pinebrook Elementary School.

* Students in a triangular area north of Tall Cedars Parkway and east of South Riding Boulevard will remain at Hutchison Farm Elementary School.

The parents of 82 students in Ridings of Blue Springs failed to persuade the School Board to not move their children to Pinebrook Elementary School, which is in Aldie’s Kirkpatrick Farms. Newton-Lee is near the Belmont Country Club in Ashburn, and Legacy is in Brambleton.

THE BOARD supported the option of increasing the middle school capacity from 1,184 students to a maximum of 1,350 and the high school capacity from 1,600 to 1,800 students. The elementary school capacity is 875 students. The board members set those numbers as enrollment caps that cannot be exceeded without their approval.

They also supported a decrease in classroom size when they set the FY05 budget. The number of students in a high-school class declined from an average of 26.6 to 26.1 or half a student. To accomplish this, the school district had to hire an average of 12.8 additional teachers. The middle-school classroom size decreased from 22 to 21 students. The elementary school average of 22.5 students per classroom remained the same.

IN APRIL, the School Board came under fire for proposing to increase class size and to eliminate a long list of extra-curricular activities.

Parents, educators and some supervisors objected to the maneuver, characterized as a “scare tactic” in response to a supervisors’ mandated $12 million cut in the FY05 budget. Supervisor Lori Waters (R-Broad Run) said there was ample cushion in the budget to not eliminate the programs. “Let me tell you how outraged I am,” she said at a Board of Supervisor’s meeting in April. “You are purposely inciting fear in our parents.”

School Board Chairman John Andrews (Potomac Falls) said he did not agree with all of the proposed cuts, “but I operate on a democracy.”

TO HELP ADDRESS overcrowding, the board gave parents the opportunity to enroll their children in western schools where class sizes are small. The new policy was approved in December as an alternative only for students at overcrowded schools.

The objective of the transfers was to balance enrollment. Students at schools with enrollment in excess of 95 percent of its capacity will be given preference. Parents must provide transportation. The application for special permission must be made within the first 10 days of the school year.

SEVEN SCHOOLS avoided serious sanctions after failing to make “adequate yearly progress” as defined by the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

Seven out of 59 schools failed last school year compared to 10 out of 54 in 2002-2003. No Child Left Behind provides a snapshot of student achievement by separating the Standards of Learning test scores by ethnicity, limited English proficiency, low income, and special education. Gaps in student achievement were in the forefront, because it was only the second time the schools had been tested, and 2004 marked the anniversary of Brown v. the Board of Education, which ended segregation in public schools.

While recognizing the failure, top educators applauded the school district’s improvements. Eighty-nine percent of the schools passed, compared to 82 percent during the 2002-2003 school year. The goal is to have 100 percent pass by 2014.

The schools that did not make adequate yearly progress were Harmony Intermediate, Senecca Ridge and Sterling middle schools, Dominion, Heritage, Park View, and Potomac high schools.

Heritage, Park View, and Potomac Falls high schools and Sterling Middle School failed two consecutive years. Forest Grove and Guilford elementary schools, Broad Run, Loudoun County, Loudoun Valley, and Stone Bridge high schools failed the first time around, but received passing marks this time.

“I have strong feelings about any child in any school we are not serving adequately,” said School Board member J. Warren Geurin (Sterling).

DESPITE high school policies prohibiting the practice, students continued to “freak” dance at proms and homecomings. Chaperones were on hand to intervene when the rules were broken.

Freak dancing simulates sexual acts. Parents and students first brought complaints about the issue to the School Board after the Loudoun Valley High School prom. Board Chairman John Andrews voiced his objections. “Dancing that occurs in night clubs is not appropriate for high schools,” he said.

The school superintendent’s office issued contracts in April, advising students would be sent home if they did any “freak” dancing or wore inappropriate clothing. Students and their parents had to sign the contracts.

THE BOARD SET new goals in September to use as a foundation for the FY06 budget.

The board created a new category “Health, Safety and Wellness,” with the objective to promote programs focusing on those concerns. Bullying and abolishing obesity were among the new goals.

Other objectives included developing academy/magnet school programs to serve students with special interests and abilities; support increased student participation in school-sponsored, co-curricular activities; provide means to include parental input in assessment of school performance; and develop content and maintenance standards for individual school Web sites to ensure that students and parents have access to information they need for academic success.

THE BOARD SUPPORTED a new policy in May barring people from paying to have a school facility named after them. At the same time, the members voted in favor of allowing themselves to assign names on a temporary basis if someone contributes a significant amount of money.

The board named gymnasiums, playing fields and libraries as examples.

Schools can be named after people, but the practice is not connected to monetary contributions.