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Chuck WinklerSuperintendent Chuck Winkler was forthright with the Fluvanna County School Board at the Board’s seminar Wednesday morning (July 26).

“We are failing our students in special education,” Winkler said. “We are fully accredited. We should be proud of that. Are we fully staffed in special education? As far as the regulations are concerned, yes. As far as the needs of our students? No.“

Brenda Gilliam, executive director of instruction and finance, showed the Board preliminary Standards of Learning (SOL) results that show all Fluvanna schools will be fully accredited.

However, when it came to federal monitoring of the SOLs, in which students are broken down into groups by race, disabilities, economic disadvantage and English as a second language, the picture isn’t as rosy.

Consistently throughout grade levels, disadvantaged and disabled students don’t hit federal benchmarks. Social issues
Board member Charles Rittenhouse (Cunningham) said he thinks too much emphasis is being put on social issues. Earlier, Winkler reported they were having trouble finding a qualified psychologist. He said ideally, he’d love to have one at every school.
Rittenhouse seized on that.

“A psychiatrist at every school? Why has society created this?” he said. “In my mind kids have lost their sense of reality due to TV and video games. No one ever gets kicked out of school anymore. Schools as a whole deal with education, not social issues. When I grew up, school was a privilege, not a right. And I believe that.”

Winkler said the reality is schools must handle multiple issues. “It is incumbent on us now to deal with all those issues,” Winkler said. “With public education we can’t say no because it is a right. And it’s a privilege and honor.”

Gilliam presented data concerning SAT scores. In critical reading, Fluvanna students averaged a score of 569, which is above the state and national average. In math, Fluvanna students scored just one point lower than the state but beat the national average.

Gilliam said 450 students took the SAT.

More students than ever took industry credentialing tests in more than 25 areas of study as varied as QuickBooks, greenhouse operators, culinary, and pesticide application. They had a pass rate of 99.29 percent for the 839 students.

In the 2017 graduation class, 95.62 percent graduated. “That the highest rate we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Gilliam said.

Board goals
Winkler began the seminar by asking each member of the Board why they wanted to serve and what issues are most important to them.

Brenda Pace (Palmyra) said she has a heart for students who are struggling. “I want to make sure we are reaching these children who are having issues – emotional and mental health issues,” Pace said.
Board Chair Carol Carr (Rivanna) wanted to “bring excellence to the schools.”

“I feel I’ve begun to reach that goal with the focus on technology – we have increased funding and even have [it as] a line item in the capital improvements plan,” Carr said. “An area I didn’t realize was so important is career and technical education and how it has been incorporated into our curriculum.”

Perrie Johnson (Fork Union) agreed with Pace about meeting students’ social and emotional needs, but she thinks teachers are the most important key to a child’s learning.
“I focus on meaningful education and an effective teacher is key to that,” Johnson said. “The best way to insure that is to include teachers in decision making. My second priority is to provide a safe and nurturing environment.”

Rittenhouse said when he ran for the School Board funding was being cut. “But now we’re up to nearly $40 million,” Rittenhouse said. “I’m interested in children getting the education they should and it being a quality education.”

Board member Camilla Washington (Columbia) was not at the seminar because she had a previous commitment.