Challenges ahead for Westmoreland schools

Posted on Monday, July 8, 2013 at 9:59 am

The summer time will be a challenge for both local county government and school division after federal cuts and mandates this year.  As a result, officials will continue to squeeze pennies and maybe more so the school system.

Superintendent Rebecca Lowry, of Westmoreland Public Schools, was relieved to the have the budget passed. Still the sacrifices weigh upon her and challenges remain ahead.

“We tried not to eliminate anything, but we did have to make reductions,” Lowry said.

Some areas that were reduced came in the areas of custodial services, transportation, extra curricular activities, sports stipends and early retirement programs. Cuts came in the school division’s areas of paraprofessionals and three teaching positions. All of the teachers soon retired.

“That’s the hardest part of the job to make that painful decision,” Lowry said.

The goal of the school board was to increase student achievement as outlined in their approved budget. Lowry pointed out that instruction increased by four percent for the next school cycle following an expected $1.8 million decrease in revenue this upcoming fiscal year. A $2 million combined impact along with increase in health insurance costs.

“For schools, we’re labor intensive. It’s not just pen and paper,” Lowry said.

Still volunteers and more help will be needed, Lowry said, adding that the board will soon be launching a volunteer planning tee. Volunteer programs in the past have been used in such schools as Washington District, Lowry pointed out, and she hopes it will continue after interest into a committee presented itself in March.

“We always support and sincerely appreciate the volunteer tutorial programs and centers that serve the children and parents of Westmoreland County.  It is especially commendable that such tutorial assistance is provided at no cost to our parents; and that our students can receive homework assistance which provides that added support and boost to what is learned in the classroom,” Lowry said.

In particular, the superintendent said she was in favor of the tutorial program that is being arranged by middle school assistant principal Michael Ransome.

“One of our goals for the upcoming (2013-14) school year is to increase volunteerism in our schools and to offer more opportunities like this through community, business, and faith based organizations.” Lowry said.

A formal invitation for the volunteer planning committee is expected to be held at the seventh annual Back to School Awareness in August.

Westmoreland County native Jeffrey Smith will return to his hometown later this summer to help kick-start the new school year.

On Aug. 24 from 2-6 p.m., the seventh annual back to school awareness program will be held at Montross Middle School sponsored by the Westmoreland County NAACP and in partnership with the Westmoreland County School System.

“We’re very happy to have him,” NAACP Chapter President Gladys Johnson said. “We hope to have some attendance.”
Preschool students will have their view altered a bit leaving Washington District Elementary for Cople in the coming school year. This comes after representatives of Northern Neck Head Start explained it would require more space for their operations.

Lowry said she understands the sacrifices and losses will come with the change. She also saw the move as a benefit for parents and guardians closer in Cople.

In other matters, tuition waivers are still under discussion by the school board. If approved, a fee of $500 will be waived for the upcoming school year.

Work will begin into developing plans for the new high school on July 15 during a special meeting from 1-3 p.m. Lowry said a first report will be given for the school division facilities. The regular school board meeting will follow at 6 p.m.

“We’re just going to go look at some new constructions and even possible renovations,” Lowry said.
The board is also expected to approve at a later date the school division’s 2013-2018 strategic plan.

On Aug. 24 from 2-6 p.m., the seventh annual back to school awareness program will be held at Montross Middle School sponsored by the Westmoreland County NAACP and in partnership with the Westmoreland County School System.
“We’re very happy to have him,” NAACP Chapter President Gladys Johnson said. “We hope to have some attendance.”
Last year over 200 individuals were in attendance seated and standing along the walls.  Booth’s will be set up to meet members of the school division faculty, NAACP chapter, and health and government organizations. Door prizes and food will also be provided.

If there are any motorcycle riders, contact Carey Parker at 804-761-7652 or Roy Tate at 540-226-2774.

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