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School Board Briefed On Efficiency Study

During its special end of the fiscal year meeting Monday night, the Halifax County School Board heard an overview of the school efficiency review program offered by the Virginia Department of Planning and Budget (DPB).

John Ringer, DPB associate director, explained the efficiency review program to the board members, saying a study could possibly be conducted in the Halifax County School Division during school year 2011-1012. Studies are conducted on a first-come, first-serve basis, and there currently are seven school divisions ahead of Halifax County, he said.

Two of the school divisions ahead of Halifax County, Staunton and Washington County, are not in the position to have efficiency studies conducted any time soon, Ringer said.

To date, 34 school divisions have had studies conducted through the DPB, including Mecklenburg County in 2007 and Campbell County in 2005. Hanover is scheduled to begin its study this fall, along with Arlington and possibly Fairfax counties.

Ringer explained DPB hires consulting firms to conduct the actual studies in the school system. The local school system pays 25 percent of the cost with the remaining cost paid by DPB with funds provided by the General Assembly. The average cost of the most recent two studies was $110,000 per study, with the school division paying one-fourth of the cost, he added.

The review begins about the time school begins for the year and concludes with the final report of recommendations to the school board in March, Ringer said. The total savings for all 34 reviews to date total $40,391,697 with the average annual savings per review of $1,154,048, he explained.

The General Assembly has set an implementation target of 50 percent of the recommendations within a two-year period after a study or 50 percent of the anticipated savings, Ringer said. School divisions are implementing 92 percent of recommendations made in the studies, and all divisions plan to implement more than 75 percent of the recommendations made to them, he explained.

Board member Joe Gasperini asked if the school system could get its efficiency study completed this year by going through DPB to hire the consulting firm but with the school division paying the entire cost of the study itself. Ringer said Halifax County could be on the list this fall of studies to be conducted, if the division wanted to pay for the entire study.

“The reason we have a waiting list is that we have a limited amount of state funding, and we’re going through that list as soon as we have funds available,” Ringer said. “If you choose to do that on your own, choose to come up with the whole amount, then we could hire the consulting firm and run the project just like any other project.”
Ringer explained the reason school divisions like the DPB program is because the consulting firm works for DPB and not the school division, so the study is impartial.

Board member Dr. Roger Long reminded his fellow board members of the internal study to be conducted by the individual building principals this school year. He said the school system could have a study conducted by the Virginia Association of School Superintendents (VASS), along with the internal study this year, and then come back the following year with the more in-depth study conducted through the DPB program.

The board took no action on the efficiency study following the work session with Ringer.

Earlier in the Monday meeting, board members approved the local consolidated application for federal funds for 2010-2011. Valdivia Marshall, executive director of federal programs for the school division, explained the application request for funds represents level funding from this past school year.

Marshall said the consolidated application includes grant applications for $1,488,345.33 from Title I, $4,143.73 from Title III and $337,244.82 from Title II.

Title I supports the pre-kindergarten program, supplemental reading and math, parental involvement and instructional coaches, she said.
Title III funds will be used to provide academic tutorial assistance to English language learners. Marshall said there are approximately 50 students in the county’s schools where English is not the primary language spoken in their homes.

Title II funds will be used to support teacher quality, including class size reduction, one and a half instructional coach positions and two technology specialists, Marshall explained.

The board also approved payment of end of the year bills submitted by Chief Financial Officer Bill Covington, who explained there would be some carryover of funds from this year’s budget to begin the new fiscal year.

Covington said the board of supervisors approved a resolution allowing for the carryover of unspent funds due to the economic conditions. He explained the amount to be rolled over would be approximately in the range of $400,000.

Covington explained the payment of $11,859 to Virginia Advanced Study Strategies (VASS) for materials and supplies to help fund the students who took the 176 AP tests this year. He said that comes out to $67.39 per test.

Covington also explained $1,118,087.60 paid by the school system to the community colleges for dual enrollment classes. He also said the school division received 98 percent of that amount or $1,095,725.85 from the community colleges. He said 3,018 dual enrollment students (with duplication enrollment) took dual enrollment classes at a per student cost of $7.41.

Superintendent Paul Stapleton said both programs are a good bargain for the school system. “The students are given the best of both worlds,” he said. “We’ll be able to erase that 2 percent they’re charging when we sign the new contracts next year, but it’s still a good bargain for you as a board when you think about what the students are getting.”

Following the work session with Ringer, the board went into executive session to discuss personnel matters. The board took no action when it returned to open session.

The regular meeting for July is set for 7 p.m. on Monday, July 12, in the public meeting room at the Mary Bethune Complex.