School Board takes early questions, comments on budget

Staff writer

Early questions and comments about the proposed budget were a focal point of the Jan. 22 meeting of the Williamsburg-James City County School Board.

As part of a public hearing on the proposed 2019-2020 budget being drawn up by W-JCC school officials, several people came forward to express thoughts, concerns and even hopes for the eventual budget.

First to speak was Sandra Currin, a teacher’s assistant attending not in her capacity as an educator, but as a parent. She spoke about gym conditions at Warhill High School and the need for a potential auxiliary gym, similar to those at Lafayette and Jamestown high schools.

“Myself and others have begged you for months for additional gym space at Warhill High School,” Currin said. “We need it, and our students deserve it.”

Later during the meeting, Jamestown board member Jim Kelly addressed this directly.

“We’ve been working with the school, with parents and students to get feedback on the gym, and we think we did a good job of taking all of that into account preparing the new budget,” Kelly said. “If that means its easier for a few more students and parents to come out for a basketball game, hey, all the better.”

Kimberley Hundley, president of the WJCC chapter of Teachers Education Association, commended the board on doing an excellent job and expressed praise for the new budget, particularly the proposed pay raise for teachers and the increase in funds to be directed toward special education.

“Our members are going to be excited to hear more about salary and staffing, and as our ESL and special education population grows, we hope to see both budgets and staff numbers grow with it,” Hundley said. “Education is not about building walls, it’s about building bridges, and we do this for the children.”

During public comments, Susan Hildum, speaking on behalf of the NAACP education committee, said she hopes the final budget will include funds for minority hiring and increasing diversity among teachers. She also joined several parents expressing concerns about James Blair Middle School.

“We are concerned about race relations, as well as increasing harassment and bullying at schools like James Blair Middle School,” Hildrum said. “We urge an increase of hiring teachers who are persons of color within W-JCC, and hope the budget takes that into account.”

The next School Board work session will be 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, at the W-JCC Central Office on Ironbound Road, with another budget discussion meeting to precede it at 4 p.m.

Sean CW Korsgaard can be reached at 757-968-1529, by email sean.korsgaard@vagazette.com, and on Twitter @SCWKorsgaard.

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