Potowmack Elementary School librarian Michelle Copeland said she has to budget wisely in order to raise her family in their Countryside townhouse. But she doesn’t mind counting her pennies, she said, as long as her child receives "top-quality education."
"I don’t think that the children of Loudoun County should have to settle for less than top quality because the Board of Supervisors believes that Loudoun voters are unwilling to pay for a reasonable tax increase," she said.
Copeland said she drives a 10-year-old Honda with more than 200,000 miles on it so she doesn’t have to make a car payment. She works odd jobs.
"My son’s bedroom used to be a walk-in closet," she said.
COPELAND SPOKE in favor of Hatrick’s proposed 6.5 percent salary increase, which includes a 3.5 percent cost of living increase, for classified workers.
"This rate is critical because good salaries attract and retain top-quality educators like me," Copeland said.
Copeland has raised more than $5,000 from fund-raisers for the school and received $6,000 from grants she wrote for her school this year alone.
She said her experience with the schools should be rewarded with a pay increase.
"If you want quality, you must pay for it," she said.
Copeland was one of several teachers who spoke out in favor of Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick’s proposed operating budget at last week’s School Board meeting and public hearing in Ashburn.
Broad Run High School teacher Sharon Cunningham agreed with Copeland. She has worked in schools for 32 years.
"I am not marking time until my retirement," she said. "I am not a lame duck teacher."
Cunningham questioned why salary step increases stop after 23 years of service to the county.
"We don’t stop learning new teaching techniques. We don’t stop trying to make our classrooms more interesting and exciting. We don’t stop trying to instill a love of learning in our students. We don’t stop," she said.
MORE THAN 40 percent of Hatrick’s proposed budget is dedicated to growth issues, like the building of new schools and hiring new teachers and staff. Some parents fear little money will be left for new initiatives.
Susan Buckley, a member of the Eastern Loudoun Schools Association, said she is worried about the quality of education her children receive in a growing school system.
"Yes, we’re growing bigger, but are we growing better?" she said.
Hatrick is asking for a long list of technological improvements to the school system this year.
Some initiatives are a must, he said, like bringing 25 schools up to date with new printers, scanners and wireless technology equipment.
While some things like printers seem like a necessity, Hatrick has made it his personal goal to install SMART Boards in every "regular size" high-school classroom.
A SMART Board is an interactive white board teachers can hook up to a computer and a data projector. The touch-sensitive screen allows teachers to navigate the Web through the white board, use digital ink and save their work for later.
Hatrick said it is a long-term goal of his to install an interactive white board in every classroom in the county and hopes to "build them into new schools."
He also proposed a few new programs, including a Latin cultures music class that would cost the county $33,000 for teachers, books and materials. He also proposed allocating $75,000 additional dollars to the county’s marching band program, for more personnel, instruments, uniforms and other materials.
ROSSLYN JAMESON noticed one thing missing from Hatrick’s proposed budget, more money for special education.
Jameson is the grandmother of four Loudoun County Public School students. Three of them have Individualized Educational Programs (IEPs), or paperwork that sets specific targets for children, and are enrolled in the county’s special-education program.
Jameson’s oldest grandson goes to school in Annandale. Jameson wakes her grandson up at 5 a.m., puts him on a school bus at 6:20 a.m., to get to school by 8 a.m.
Jameson said she worries about her grandson’s hour-and-45-minute commute to and from school.
"Why do we have to be bussed out?" she said.
Jameson asked the superintendent and the School Board to include families with students in the special-education program into the budget.
"They need care too," she said. "We pay taxes just like everybody else."