The Williamsburg-James City County School Board discussed government grants for special and technical education, and purchasing new school buses and algebra textbooks at its April 9 meeting.
For special education, the grant money is especially critical — of the 115 W-JCC teachers working in special education, the salaries of 21 of them are paid with this money; the remaining 94 are paid with local funds. The funds also pay to employ five speech-language pathologists and six special education paraprofessionals.
One significant addition this year would be a grant worth $26,476 to fund hiring a school nurse in the Bright Beginnings program. Several School Board members commented that as the number of students in special education increases, so too does additional funding.
“Nationally and locally, I think everyone is seeing an increase in under 6-year-olds who are qualified for special ed services,” said board member James Beers. “I know that we’re also seeing an increase in the number of special ed preschools, so while I know that $26,000 doesn’t seem like a lot, every little bit helps.”
Regarding technical education, while the amount of funding requested remains unchanged at $145,917.48, the focus may not be. The main plan of study for 2019-2020 will be pushing teaching/teaching education, as well as seeking to increase the one area where career prep fell below state average in W-JCC: non-traditional career preparation.
More than 1,231 total career and higher education credentials have been earned by W-JCC students, the majority of which were earned through W-JCC’s three high schools, with others earned through either dual enrollment or the New Horizons Career and Technical Education Center, ranging from firefighting to cosmetology.
Other items discussed included the purchase of six new school buses, which will replace several of the older buses at a cost of $658,548, as well as the adoption and purchase of new Algebra I textbooks at a cost of $113,575.
The sole speaker during public comments, teacher Andrew Archibald, told the School Board that while offering more money to teachers is nice, they need to consider working conditions and ensuring the schools offer a welcoming work environment, perhaps more than they need to be offering teachers a raise.
“I have heard time and time again from this board that we need to increase teacher pay, but I am here to say that pay is not the only issue,” Archibald said. “When you spend all day teaching 30 kids, something as small as a working copier can make a difference, or as big as making sure that teachers feel supported, respected and listened to by school officials. Teachers have enough on their plates, and efforts to make our jobs easier are needed as much as any raise.”
The next meeting of the W-JCC School Board will be at 6:30 p.m. April 23 in City Council Chambers at the Stryker Center on 412 N. Boundary St.
Sean CW Korsgaard can be reached at 757-968-1529, by email firstname.lastname@example.org, and on Twitter @SCWKorsgaard.