Drastic changes are taking place at Maury Elementary School. That's an obvious assumption from the giant "Fully Accredited" banner visible from Russell Road, but it's also true to the bureaucrats who administer federal funds under the No Child Left Behind Act. On Saturday, Superintendent Rebecca Perry warned City Council members that Maury could loose the funding it receives under Title 1 of the 2001 legislation because of changing demographics.
"The kids aren't any richer," Perry said. "But the neighborhood is."
The superintendent told City Council members that the imperiled funding pays for a reading teacher and a math teacher, two staffing positions she said she was not willing to do without. Title 1, which is now incorporated into the No Child Left Behind Act, creates federal grants for distributing and targeting resources sufficiently to make a difference to local educational agencies and schools where needs are greatest. A school could qualify many reasons, but it's typically tied to a substantial population of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch. Bean counters in Richmond are still trying to figure out if Maury is still eligible for the Title 1 money.
"This could be an addition to our budget forecast," Perry told the Council members. "We are looking for savings and efficiencies, but we're also going to see some additions."
Pots and Pans
The last time that Ingred Sandon used pieces from her stainless-steel set of cookware, they were deployed to make a batch of brownies. But last week, her shiny set was put to an altogether different use. Sandon, a Cameron Station resident, used them to display her anger at Virginia Paving, the west-end asphalt plant that some west-end residents say is a health hazard in their midst.
First she held a tablespoon to represent that amount of asphalt that was produced at the plant since 1960. Then she proceeded to wave successively larger pieces of cookware in the air, culminating in a commercial-sized mixing bowl that was supposed to represent the level of production in 2006.
"I call that the bucket," said Penny Waite, another Cameron Street resident who was there to testify against Virginia Paving at the School Board on Thursday.
The two women were there to encourage School Board members to consider what the health impacts of allowing the increased levels of production might be if Virginia Paving were to double its operation. The City Council deferred making a decision about the asphalt plant's special-use permit last month specifically to get input from the schools. When asked if he was confident that the school was safe for students, School Board Chairman Arthur Peabody was noncommittal.
"We're monitoring the situation," Peabody said.
Don't Silence the Teachers
During a work session Monday night at City Hall, Vice Mayor Andrew Macdonald confronted Superintendent Rebecca Perry about an accusation that she had warned staff members into silence. Macdonald said that he had been approached by a teacher at Tucker Elementary School who said that Perry had warned staff members not to express an opinion on Virginia Paving, the controversial asphalt plant that is seeking to increase its west-end operation. Macdonald asked if it was school policy that staff members were forbidden from testifying at the Oct. 14 public hearing.
"That's absolutely not true," Perry said. "No one has ever said 'don't complain.' That would be like lighting a fire under a teacher."