Dunning Says Superintendent to Blame for Low Scores, Not Budget

The Clarke County Board of Supervisors discussed concerns on Tuesday about funding and performance under the tenure of Clarke County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Murphy. The Supervisors discussed social and economic conditions in Clarke County that make school funding increases unlikely in the foreseeable future and one Supervisor stopped just short of calling for the Superintendent’s firing.

“If the County Administrator did what the Superintendent of schools is doing – working to cause divisions among the school board and not supporting them all equally – I’d fire him” said White Post Supervisor Pete Dunning. “What he’s doing is divisive and wrong.”

Dunning’s remarks referenced a  recent Clarke County School Board planning meeting in which School Board members convened a special session to develop goals for its final few months in office. When one School Board member, Robina Bouffault (White Post) attempted to add an in-depth discussion of student performance, vocational programs and advanced education programs in relation to trimming school operating costs to the agenda, Bouffault was blocked by other School Board members.

Bouffault has also recently led a public campaign criticizing Murphy’s leadership of the Clarke County

“Student scores have gone down under Dr. Murphy’s leadership,” Dunning said. “The schools have too much high-paid administration and they’re the ones responsible for poor student grades, not the Board of Supervisors.”

Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors’ work session discussions were a rehash of concerns that any additional funding requests from new soon-to-be-elected Clarke County School Board would only be possible through a tax hike, a move that the Supervisors appear unwilling to consider.

Dunning’s comments came after a bleak school funding fiscal report presented by Joint Administrative Services director Tom Judge. Judge said that although the coming CCPS fiscal year will be helped by the addition of approximately $480K in one-time state funding, the Commonwealth’s overall funding for Virginia public schools has declined with no immediate prospects for budgetary improvement on the horizon.

“The state has added back $360K from the jobs fund plus an additional $120K of one-time money,” Judge told the Supervisors. “Even so we’re still at about $1M less than the funding level from 2007.”

Supervisor Dunning used Judge’s budgetary briefing to voice his concerns about future school budget increase requests being required to improve student performance.

“I had a call this morning from a School Board member who said that you had done a very good job in a diplomatic way of saying that things are going to be very tight next year,” Dunning said to Judge. “And with the Superintendent flinging his hands in all directions – he’s had a three year drop as far as grades are concerned and I think that what you are going to see is [School Board] coming in here and saying that you’re not giving us enough money, you’ve underfunded us – that here we are with low SOL’s, low test scores and the only good school in the whole system is Boyce Elementary School and it’s all because of money.”

“But the real truth,” Dunning continued “is it’s all because the Superintendent, in my opinion, came in here with a very good sales pitch and has been a failure. And I want to put that on the record. I don’t have very much confidence in this guy. He talks a good game but when you get down to the facts he’s going to raise holy Hell because he’s underfunded next year. And he’s going to say that that’s why the school scores are down and that’s why we’re in trouble and so forth. And I think that the public should learn that they’ve got, in my opinion, a questionable character at the top running this operation. I think that he has great difficulty in cutting people and getting down to the meat of the situation.”

As part of a recent budget deal to provide a one-time salary bonus to Clarke County Public School employees, the Supervisors required that the School Board stipulate that there were no better uses for the funds. The move was a clear message that future school funding requests would face tough fiscal scrutiny by the Supervisors due to challenging economic conditions.

Supervisor David Weiss (Buckmarsh) said that taxpayers need to face the reality that the County cannot continue to provide the same level of services without increasing taxes.

“Whoever comes in and asks for more money, what would the citizens have us do? Would they have us raise their taxes? We’ve cut our expenses at the County level as far as we can. In my mind the revenue is not coming in because the economy is what it is and will remain that way for the foreseeable future. So I’m not sure what people would have us do.”

Weiss continued, “To me there are only two choices; you either raise taxes or you hold the line on what we are doing. We’re doing the best that we can with what we have and that’s just the way it is.”

“What is it, 15% or 20% of people in our County have children in our school system?” Supervisor Barbara Byrd (Russell) interjected.

“I got it from a School Board member this morning who said that it was closer to 85%,” said Dunning.

“I’m not sure where you would go with kind of a statement,” Supervisor Michael Hobert (Berryville) responded to Byrd.

“Well, I’m just trying to think about David’s [Weiss] comment,” Byrd replied. “What does the County wish us to do as a whole?

“My answer to that is they wish us to do what we’re doing,” Weiss responded. “The people that talk to me are satisfied and they understand the issues that we are facing. Maybe they’re not thrilled that Social Services isn’t getting enough money or that the schools aren’t getting enough money but they seem to understand that we’ve budgeted these things appropriately with our revenue and that we’re all committed, particularly in this year, not to raise taxes and I think that will be an ongoing trend.”

Weiss continued; “There’s going to be a point in our society where we have to accept less in services from our county governments  and other governments and we are going to have to do more on our own. Part of the problem in school systems is that parents want their children educated, which is reasonable and expected, but I’m not sure that it was ever intended that there would be no personal money put in aside from what came from the tax rolls into public education. Way back they tried to put a book fee in and that was turned down by public uproar. There’s going to have to be a shift where people put more of their own money in to meet some of these needs that can’t be met on an overall tax basis.”

“We all have to pay a little bit more for the services that we provide,” Weiss said. “That’s my personal opinion.”

Barbara Byrd recounted that a book fee was in place as a child in the Clarke County Public School system when she was a child. Byrd said that she and her classmates spent one full class period dedicated to covering books with paper to preserve the books for future classmates.

“Is there any way that we can check to see how many people have been laid off in our County, how many people are out of work and how many are worried about losing their jobs at this present time or being downgraded to a part-time position?” Byrd asked.

“We have 4.9% unemployment,” replied Hobert.

“4.9% in our County?” Byrd replied. “Now, that’s out of work?”

“Your point, too, about the covering of the books,” Hobert replied. “There are a lot of teachers and people who contribute so that children can have school supplies. A lot of the supplies that are used in schools are not paid for by government, they are paid for by teachers, by PTA’s. So there is an effort by the entire community to subsidize this important function of educating our children.”

“Although it may not be where a lot of people would like it to be per pupil, the bottom line, adjusted for inflation, per-pupil spending has been going up. Not a lot, but it’s been going up,” said Supervisor John Staelin (Millwood). “In actual dollars it has gone up more dramatically, but adjusted for inflation it has been going up. On the state’s side, my view is that it’s tough for them, they have got to cut. My biggest objection is that they don’t admit what they’re doing. They don’t tell people ‘We’re cutting this and forcing this unto localities’. They act as if they have been so smart and managed through the crisis. What the state has done is gone into pension funds which are eventually going to come back and hit localities and the school boards.”

“It’s those kinds of things that they’ve done where they haven’t been up front with people about what’s going on,” Staelin said. “And that’s my objection with the state. I just wish that they would fess up and say ‘We’re cutting this and we’re sorry. It’s tough all over’ but they don’t do that.”

David Weiss concluded by saying that he didn’t feel like it was his place to criticize Dr. Murphy or the School Board.

“I don’t know the ins and outs of all that he’s doing, but I don’t think that it’s my place to say whether he’s doing it right or wrong. It seems to me that he’s working hard and if the School Board doesn’t agree with the decisions that he puts forth then that’s what they are there for – to point him in different directions.”

“In my opinion he is bad news for Clarke County,” Dunning retorted.

“One last thing, you have to think about the future,” said Byrd. “[County Administrator] David Ash compares to the Superintendent of Schools. He takes direction from his board. He does not tell his board what to do, he only advises them because knows the procedures.”

Comments

  1. dontaskme says:

    isn’t dunning finished? who cares what he thinks. his position is NOT a place to air what appear to be personal vendettas of his and likely the former chair of the school board’s. He’s gone, he should just shut up. As for bad news for Clarke, is that the pot calling the kettle black? I agree with Weiss’ comment/reaction to the vitriol

    “I don’t know the ins and outs of all that he’s doing but I don’t think that it’s my place to say whether he’s doing it right or wrong. It seems to me that he’s working hard and if the School Board doesn’t agree with the decisions that he puts forth then that’s what they are there for – to point him in different directions.”

  2. CCHS Parent says:

    I want to know where they get that teachers pay for most supplies. As a parent, I get EVERY year a list of supplies that are needed. I spend ALOT of money on these supplies, money that I really don’t have. Most of the stuff is NEVER used. As a parent, you have to pay for just about EVERYTHING that you child uses in school already. Half of the books, kids are not allowed to even bring home, so how in the world would you charge a text book fee. Bottom line is parents are just as strapped as everyone else. We pay our fair share for having kids in the school system!!

    • Elizabeth says:

      I know elementary school parents get supply list, but this doesn’t happen in the HS very much, if at all. Most teachers there buy extra markers for their boards, pencils and paper to give students that don’t have any, tissues, glue sticks, markers and printer ink. Teachers get a small (like $50.00) to spend out of department budgets in the county store for “supplies” for the next year. Everything else is out of pocket. Books stay in school because students aren’t responsible enough to bring them everyday and teachers can’t penalize them for not having a book. Plus, many books are hopelessly out of date or beat up. Teachers are good-hearted people, but we have to stop expecting them to act like Mother Teresa–they have families of their own to feed.

      • CCHS Parent says:

        Well so does the Middle School. Had to purchase a SPECIFIC USB drive that was NEVER used last year. I am not putting down the teachers, they are awesome people!! But we can’t keep putting everything back on the parents. It is my responsiblity to make sure that my child HAS what they need to use in school, and when stuff is not used, it is frustating when you didn’t really have the money for it in the first place. I wish more thought went into these lists for reasonable items that students should have. And I know exactly what I pay for with two children in the school system.

        As a parent how are we supposed to help our kids learn if there are not books for us to use to help them. That is one of the problems with LOW scores. Students have nothing to study anymore so how the heck can they get higher scores if there are not text books for them to bring home so they can actually learn out of the classroom!! I used to study for tests all the time!! Now students have study guides that really DO NOT have the answers to the questions in them.

        • The textbook issue is a problem- and as a parent I agree it would be ideal if students brought home books for study (I’d love to see what units are being covered!)… But after following this particular problem for a few years I have discovered that the serious underfunding of our schools is definitely the root of the problem.

          Some teachers in Clarke are fortunate to have “currently” published textbooks, but often only one full set is purchased and students have to share them (as books are kept in the classroom)….

          Lockers are too small, students at the HS can’t carry backpacks, so nowhere for books to be stored.

          Updating textbook series is a serious problem in Clarke, the School board is doing the best they can with what little money they have, but ultimately the teachers use other sources from which to teach current information (worksheet packets, online lessons etc.)

          Same issue with the library….. very few books, not enough money, depending on other sources for information.

          Lets hope our community starts to support public education- with the opening of the new high school is the perfect opportunity to create an awareness of educational needs…

    • Exactly! It just goes to show that they have no clue about what goes on in our school systems! They don’t know where half of the stuff comes from or who pays for it!

  3. “…“Student scores have gone down under Dr. Murphy’s leadership” Dunning said. “The schools have too much high-paid administration and they’re the ones responsible for poor student grades, not the Board of Supervisors.”

    Hey Pete, you and your cronies approved the budget for all those “high-paid administrators”. Remember? The School Board has to come to YOU and the BOS to get their funding. You’re just ticked that your attack dog Robina hasn’t been able to get the rest of the School Board to go (or get) along with her.

    “…“What is it, 15% or 20% of people in our County have children in our school system?” Supervisor Barbara Byrd (Russell) interjected….”

    Her cluelessness is mind boggling.

    “…Weiss continued; “There’s going to be a point in our society where we have to accept less in services from our county governments and other governments and we are going to have to do more on our own. Part of the problem in school systems is that parents want their children educated, which is reasonable and expected, but I’m not sure that it was ever intended that there would be no personal money put in aside from what came from the tax rolls into public education. Way back they tried to put a book fee in and that was turned down by public uproar. There’s going to have to be a shift where people put more of their own money in to meet some of these needs that can’t be met on an overall tax basis.”

    Ahh, so Weiss wants only the people who have children in the public school system to pay for it?

    “…“Although it may not be where a lot of people would like it to be per pupil, the bottom line, adjusted for inflation, per-pupil spending has been going up. Not a lot, but it’s been going up” said Supervisor John Staelin (Millwood). “In actual dollars it has gone up more dramatically, but adjusted for inflation it has been going up. On the state’s side, my view is that it’s tough for them, they have got to cut. My biggest objection is that they don’t admit what they’re doing. They don’t tell people ‘We’re cutting this and forcing this unto localities’. They act as if they have been so smart and managed through the crisis. What the state has done is gone into pension funds which are eventually going to come back and hit localities and the school boards.”

    Well John, when the state cuts back the funding, the localities have to make it up somehow. Stop protecting the landed gentry for starters, that’s what is really hurting our funding. Either raise the taxes, or increase the tax base.

  4. ““What is it, 15% or 20% of people in our County have children in our school system?” Supervisor Barbara Byrd (Russell) interjected.”

    OMG!

    And does this lead to the conclusion that only those 15 or 20% should be taxed for our schools? Does it mean that as a society, we should shift the financial burden of educating our nation’s children, our nation’s future no less, on only their parents?

    I can’t believe a county supervisor, other than Dunning, would say such a thing.

    Thank you for your voice of reason Mr. Hobert! As for the other four school haters on our board of supervisors – shame on you, shame on you all.

  5. “In my opinion he is bad news for Clarke County” Dunning retorted.

    This is the feeling about you from every other voting district in Clarke County! Not sure what has been in the White Post water for all these years?

    Good Riddance Dunning! Your services are no longer wanted in Clarke anyway!

  6. Clarke Life says:

    Wow! Once again Pete Dunning has made himself look like a complete baffoon! From the people I know that work for CCPS they all like and respect him…. Why is it that everything that comes out of White Post is always negative???? Please voters, vote for Sprouse or this non-sense will keep happening. And to Dr. Murphy, pleae know you have a ton of community support and don’t listen to Pete Dunning. He is trying to run you out of the county because you speak up against the opposition, and you see how they respond when anyone does that…….

  7. cheap shot says:

    I think the only question, having read this story on the leaders of our county and their latest “summit meeting”, is whether or not this will break the all-time CDN record for number of posts, (I hope mike & ed keep such records)and judging by the number of posts since the story was put up, we are well on the way. Thank God for david Weiss and Mike Hobert-2 voices of reason crying out in an idea-less wilderness of anti-school prejudice. The others speak like, well, candidates running without opposition, which they are, and I am glad they have let us know right where they stand. They hated the last superintendent, too-when the scores were higher, so it can’t be the scores. It is Dr. Murphy’s job to speak out, but speaking out, even if youre arguably right, gets you fired around these parts. there can be no discussion or compromise. If you force out another superintendent now, how are you going to hire another one? by offering combat pay? We are now paying for the BOS’s refusal to expand the commercial base a decade ago when times were good, a decision (or lack of one) that can’t be blamed on Dr. murphy. What’s next, the BOS dangling the carrot of a few hundred thousand more in the next budget in return for Dr. murphy’s head?

  8. Exactly! So I ask…Please White Post….Don’t mess this thing up again!

  9. And who knew when Robina skirted normal hiring practices at the beginning of her stint on the SB that her hand-picked superintendent would ultimately see through much of her and Mr. Dunning’s charade about being remotely concerned about the education of the county’s children.

    Karma… it’s a bitch sometimes.

  10. http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/51/51043.html

    According to the 2010 census (above) 21.4% of the population of Clarke County Virginia is under 18, of which 4.8% is under 5, so approximately 16.60% of the county population is between 5 and 18, aka the school age population. So while Barbara Byrd may have mis-spoke about the number of households that have school age population, she is fairly correct on the percent of the population.

    • Roscoe Evans says:

      So, her numbers are correct, but she has no point? Great, and unfortunately, typical.

      This woman would not have a position of authority in Clarke County were it not for her last name. She’s made it clear beyond doubt that she (like far too many of Clarke’s populace), care more about the county’s abandoned dogs and neglected horses than they do about its poorly educated children. This superintendent of schools, like the previous one, will fail simply because this is the mindset of the county.

    • Former Candidate says:

      Can’t we all just get along? As a former candidate in the last election many of these issues where pointed out before as a long term problem. They didn’t just crop up under Dr Murphy. The changes in the school board at the time where only part of the changes that needed to be made. The others where in the County BOS and other powers that be. I wonder how many of you that are complaining now actually got out and supported a replacement. Did you even vote? If you didn’t ….well shame on you.

      More to the point. When looking at school enrollment one needs to consider that taxes for education covers a larger period than just the current period for which a student is enrolled and it is spread across the entire community because they may have had children that have already been thru the school system or may be coming. Because it costs more per year per student to educate a child than is taken in thru taxes per household, these costs….thru taxation, must be collected in advance or in arrears as the case may be so everyone pays. Unless you are one of the more fortunate that sent their kids to private school (who now wants to tell you whats right and wrong for your children in public school) this is what you have to deal with. If you don’t didn’t or won’t have students in the Clarke system chances are you had students in another system in another county or state. Its the way the system is set up. So to act like this issue only effects 15-16% of the population is a ludicrous statement. Also to vilify Dr Murphy (who I admit I have not met and don’t know how he is doing) based on statistics which are easy to manipulate (see above 15-16%) is another fallacy. I stated during my campaign that it appeared the focus in our past administration was to focus on the statistics and how to make the numbers look good more than the actual quality of the education and the needs of the student/family. That the numbers dropped after the change in administration is not surprising. It could be that’s because there is less focus on bolstering the statistics and more on solving the problems.. I don’t know. But would like to think so. Focus less on the statistics and more on making whatever improvements YOU can. When its working you will know it.

      Whats obvious is that there is a problem that needs to be solved and its a tough economy every where. People should be doing everything they can to work together in spite of there differences. Not wasting time and money fighting and bickering to no end. Don’t be afraid to stand up but stand up with a solution and ignore the people who just like to toot their own horn or be disruptive. If your supervisor is unresponsive or out of touch with your community then replace them. If you can’t find someone in your community to do a better job then run yourself. People should be tired of unresponsive government or government that only serves the elite of the population. We may not all agree all the time but we have to find a way to work together to overcome the problem. So if the goal is to improve what we have with the income we have and we all focus on that instead of all this sniping etc then we will succeed. Education comes in many forms……I wonder what our children learn from when we are being disrespectful or condescending or snooty or whining or corrupt or whatever behavior it is. What do you want them to learn from you? Money is just money there are a lot of things it can’t buy. I don’t begrudge anyone who has money that right if they came by it honestly . Unfortunately in this country it is becoming less and less the case with rampant corruption that most don’t even try and hide anymore. Turn off the TV, don’t expect anyone else to do it for you, roll up your sleeves and get involved solely with the focus of making better. Find those you can align with and work with them. Include everyone you can even if you all don’t agree on all the same things. Ignore those who choose to be ignorant or push their own agenda and if your elected representative is not aligned with the populace then work to replace them. But keep in mind they represent more than one person (hopefully with all in mind). Find where you are aligned and have common ground and start from there. Then resolve to work together to overcome the issues where you differ. Its up to all of us to put “community” back in our communities.

      Oh and Vote Ron Paul in 2012 lest we just have more of the same be it from the Democrats or the Republicans . Most of the current bunch are only serving serving their own or corporate interests much like what is being said about our current administration in the county.

  11. Bill Templeton says:

    Mr. Dunning, your overheated hyperbole and slanderous insults only further paint you as someone who does not deserve to serve on that board. Was Dr. Murphy there to hear you say this? If not, you’re a coward.

    The school system HAS cut positions – 10 positions between last year and this one. Class sizes at the middle school and high school have gone up; my kids tell me that they have classes of 28, 30, 31, 29 (these are core classes like math, as well as foreign language classes…not just band or PE). This has had, and still IS going to have, an impact on scores. So, too, are things like outdated textbooks and resources. Dr. Murphy may not be perfect, but he has done a lot of good for this division. Yes, positions were cut, but I don’t think my kids’ schools are admin-heavy. I do give him, and his team, credit that more people didn’t lose their jobs in this tough time.

    Seriously, while you are entitled to your opinion, you should follow the advice of Mr. Lincoln: “‘Tis better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove any doubt.”

    Same for you, Mrs. Byrd. What, pray tell, did you mean with your snooty, blue-blood-elitist comment about only “15%-20%” of the population has kids in the schools? You, who came from more modest beginnings but married awfully well, want to go there? Really? Schools are to be supported by the locality and the state because it’s one of those things that is a greater need than individuals alone can handle. Still, that’s why there are fundraisers (which means that parents and those in the community pay the money), the bluegrass concert series (supported by money from individuals in the community to benefit the schools), and other sources in addition to all that we parents DO pay out of pocket directly so our kids have what they need (and maybe have some extras there for folks who can’t afford them).

    Thank you, Mr. Weiss and Mr. Hobert, for your voices of calm reason and sanity. The other 3 should be ashamed.

  12. Any chance Ms. Byrd’s offspring and their kids actually attend or attended public schools in the County?

    • Bill Templeton says:

      Nope. Only Mr. Hobert sent his kids through the public school system. Mrs. Byrd worked for a public school system, briefly, before she married into the Byrd clan.

  13. Dr. Murphy Fan says:

    Pete Dunning says that Dr. Murphy is bad for Clarke County……

    Are you kidding me?? You have spent your entire tenure destroying this County Mr. Dunning! Only to keep it the way you and your neighbors see fit!

    If the voters of White Post vote in your Minnie Me, Bev McKay this will all stay the same!!!!! I beg and plead with White Post to please stop voting these people into office…… This should serve as your wake-up call people….

    And to Dr. Murphy, please know that you have the support of most in this county. Don’t let the select few run you out of town. Thank you for speaking up and doing a great job with what you have. Maybe if the Scrooge’s would let some tax revenue into this county we wouldn’t be constantly fighting over the numbers as we do each and every year..

  14. Nancy Martin says:

    Why don’t we question the acreage and taxes of these BOS? And where their children go to school? Mr. Dunning, Mr. Weiss – full disclosure: where did /do your children/grandchildren go to school? And why did you make those decisions? And how are they repaying now? How are they increasing your estate? How long until they have to sell off to the family estate to maintain the lifestyle you are accostumed? What do they do then?

  15. Peace Monger says:

    It is truly saddening that our children should be caught in the middle of such political wrangling. Happily few are aware of the self serving people who attempt to use them as pawns in their subterfuge. I have spoken with Dr. Murphy on several occasions and have seen him consistently support what is good for the county schools and students. The county supervisors should get their own house in order instead of trying to divert attention by fabricating allegations and disparaging the character of those who are working hard to make our schools the best they can be in the trying times we face.
    A quote comes to mind that I think shows this petty sort of conspired attack to actually be a form of flattery. Jonathan Swift said; “When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.” Well it seems this confederacy is evidence that Swift would have thought Dr. Murphy quite exceptional. I don’t know if he is a genius but he has served his tenure thus far as a capable administrator.

  16. Crazytrain says:

    Funding in general has always been a heated topic in Clarke County. It is hard for me to be sympathetic to the school system when funding is the issue. My family has financial difficulties just like everyone else, but we make sacrifices so that my children can go to a private church school. In my opinion the education is superior even though the cost per child is far less than that paid by the public school system. Perhaps the school administration should take a good hard look at why the cost is so high, yet the quality of the education is falling. The curriculum may be part of the problem. Just a thought.

    • Former Candidate says:

      Perhaps you could too! Maybe you could help. Just another thought. There are some problems inherent in the school systems that may come from burdening and useless regulation and manipulation from unaffected individuals. The case of tenure comes to mind. Keeping non performing or incapable instructors just because of their tenure is probably not a problem in the system your child attends. I’m sure there are many more.

  17. goodgracious says:

    What a shameful display by Pete Dunning. Not the first, but hopefully the last

  18. bystander says:

    So [redacted] thinks the schools are heavy on the administrative side. Has anyone looked at the money we spend on the planning department? Clarke County plans for nothing, builds nothing and yet Clarke County spends more on their planning department then Winchester City and Frederick County….and these two localities plan and build. Maybe a little self evaluation is in order by the BOS.

  19. I don’t see how this assertion is valid. The school board makes the polices, not the superintendent so I don’t see how this makes sense.

  20. The Real Truth says:

    The truth is that this is our THIRD year of less than stellar student scores on many levels. It did not happen overnight, or this last September.

    Who is to blame?

    Me and you. We did (en masse) vote out a previous school board forcing the resignation of a seasoned superintendent .

    What were we thinking?

    The new school board , with NO experience, hired a superintendent with NO experience as a division superintendent, and offered him a job as an Officer of the Commonwealth having NO idea of the educational provisions as outlined in the Code of Virgina.

    I think Dunning’s point is valid on this one, and it’s Murphy’s natural inate defense to balme poor scores
    on something or someone else.

    Someone has to be held accountable: is it the BOS or the School Board?

  21. Pete’s repugnant comments, while not out of character, drop him to a new low even for Ol’ Funnelhead. Clearly, he’s peeved that his mouthpiece on the School Board isn’t getting her way anymore. Both of them have begun a pretty tight character assasination on the current super. They did the same thing to the former super.

  22. Exactly! You would expect more from a man that wears a bow-tie everyday! (More Class that is)

  23. Say What?! says:

    For the record, these expensive administration salaries Dunning is speaking of is in itself a joke. 15 year teachers with a PhD make more in 9 months than the principals do here. And it is still sad the county cuts costs by making the two elementary schools share the head position (then question falling scores) and under pay the assistants that actually run the schools. Then taking 20 years to build a school and cut corners on that. Sticking the kids in decrepit trailers, unstable walkways, exposed wiring, cluttered halls and zero storage. Look at the boiler room windows at the School Board Annex. Just SAD and EMBARRASSING. Even the Superintendent is in a Trailer! Lacking playground equipment for the schools, lacking creative outlets in electives like cooking, fashion, automotive… other than AP classes and sports, or not even providing a gym for 30 years at Cooley. Technology and Computer Labs are using old outdated equipment. Ashamed! How are our kids going to be the best of the best, or remotely competitive, if you treat the staff like crap, withhold funds, fail to upgrade them? Increase my taxes if the youth will benefit.

    Teachers put out hundreds of dollars on stuff they cannot ask the parents/students to supply.

    He is clueless sitting on his big farm in Boyce surrounded by the likes of Robina and other estates. Get facts, not your skewed opinion. And goodbye! C ya. Hopefully a normal working class person will be elected in Boyce and not a rich landowner. And Stalen needs to move on too. Heck even Byrd appears clueless (sitting on her big farm) oooh and Weiss (sitting on his big farm). TERM LIMITS!

  24. Concerned says:

    Hmmmmm….Dunning may have just done Mike Murphy a huge favor without even knowing it, how many people will gravitate to him now? 🙂 I doubt any one point is the reason for falling test scores in our county. I also doubt that Pete or Robina are going to solve the problem on their way out of office. Hopefully, when our new supervisor and new school board members come on board, these issues can be addressed until there are results. As citizens, to help solve this issue, we need to start attending school board meetings. Yes, some are boring and long; but our kids are worth it. They are at night so one parent or another should be able to attend without too much trouble. Let’s help our kids, let’s make our voices heard; this is what is needed to help our education system.

  25. Tony Parrott says:

    This is typical Pete Dunning but even worse is this just goes to show the level of toxicity towards public education in Clarke County by certain people. Looking back over the past ten plus years Robina has relentlessly attacked the school board, superintendants, administrators and teachers with lawsuits and just plan “bullying”. And all of this has been with the blessing of Pete “The Don” Dunning.

    What I will refer to as the WPM or White Post Mafia, will tell you the trouble with our schools are the test scores, Jay Mathis Index, acceleration of students, lack of vocational, IB, AP, too many administrators, declining student population, composite index, and twenty other things I can’t even recall. But folks I will tell you now that the WPM cares nothing about these things. I would almost say they have no vested interest in the schools but they do; the root of all evil, money. When Dr. Murphy cut the school budget down to the bone at the request of the BOS he was their guy. Now that he needs more funding he has got to go. The WPM has issued a contract “HIT” on Dr. Murphy and time is running out.

    I will also say “mark my words” once Robina is not longer an elected official and accountable she will go back to her old ways and relentlessly attack our school system. She is a very intelligent, tenacious and ruthless lady who will stop at nothing to get her way. You don’t end up as successful as her without those qualities.
    As a community we have to tell the WPM we have had enough! We need to stop tearing down public education in Clarke County and start building it up. We need to celebrate the successes and work on problems because the casualties in this “WAR” on our schools are the kids. For me and I believe the majority of Clarke County that is unacceptable. Underfunded and in a toxic environment our schools are doing a good job but they can’t do better if they are always being attacked and on their heels. The time is now to rally around our schools and this superintendant.

    • “The time is now to rally around our schools and this superintendent.” Agreed! Dr. Murphy came to Clarke with passion and promise and I think he has done amazing things for our system. We need new leadership in the School Board; people to stand up and let Dunning and Robina know that the future of our children comes before their petty grudges and pompous power grabbing. If the Superintendent could focus on the future of Clarke County’s schools and not have worry about what slanderous remark the media will publish, who knows what he could accomplish. For the sake of the students it is time to rally and stand firm. Dunning and Robina aren’t just bullying Dr. Murphy, they’re bullying every one of Clarke County’s residents (whether they know it or not). I thought we were trying to take bullying OUT of the school system, not fill it with more. What an example for our children, huh?

      • Honestly, I'm NOT Shocked ANYMORE says:

        Ok. You say that the media is publishing “slanderous” remarks. Are you suggesting they not print what is said in meetings? You also say that Dunning and Robina are bullying the residents. I am a resident, they aren’t bullying me. Not sure why you think only you can say something “slanderous” like that on a media site.

        Did you ever stop to examine what positive outcomes this superintendent has produced ACADEMICALLY in the schools? Sure, he has passion, but does he have the leadership skills to focus on our ultimate purpose- academics? Yes, food, health, and safety are important, but how much focus is being placed on actual learning in the classrooms?

        There is a lot that can be done without adding a penny to the budget and it isn’t. These schools are by no means a well-oiled machine. Plus, if something really needs to be in the budget, then put it there and justify it! If I have significant shortfalls, or surplus in my department’s budget, both are equally bad and I am ultimately accountable, to the point of losing my job if I cannot justify the error.

        • Roscoe Evans says:

          Your “food, health, and safety” comment appears to have been intended as a throw-away line, but, regretably, it’s not.

          The last I checked, the claptrap wooden ramps that provide entry and exit access to the temporary classrooms still are poorly designed and poorly constructed. They pose a danger to every student and every teacher who uses them. I cannot believe they ever have been inspected. They pose fire and accident hazards, and they ought to be torn down and replaced immediately.

        • cheap shot says:

          OK-Honestly-lets start with the things we agree on 1)the schools are not a well-oiled machine,
          2)there has not been academic progress in the last 4 years.

          I think what the comments above are alluding to is the bullying going on between some of the School Board, some of the BOS, and the superintendent. and there is a meeting between the superintendent and the BOS right now that I’m sure will be reported on here in the CDN that will produce yet more fuel for the fire.

          I think the negative fallout from these public spats has been a contributing factor in our loss of so many teachers, administrators and principals. it is no surprise that our best performing school, as measured by the state, is Boyce elementary, where we have an excellent principal who has been there a long time. Find good people-let them do their jobs-and good things will often result. Compare that to the high School, where we are on our 3rd principal in 4 years, and many of our most experienced teachers, across all parts of the curriculum, have left. Turnover hurts performance! Or the elementary school situation where a principal has left and now 1 man is attempting to be the principal of 2 schools. or that our advanced programs have been under assault from parts of the school board, and we have stopped paying for the testing, etc. There are enough external factors hurting us, like decreased state funding, the recession, etc, that the only way we can hold it together is a team effort between the county and the schools, featuring good will and reasonable expectations, and it isnt happenin’.

          We dont know if dr. murphy is “the man” yet because he hasnt been given the trust of being allowed to do his job, without micro-management-his time is spent instead plugging the holes in the dikes of constant restaffing, defending the curriculum, which he inherited, and warding off attacks from above. Let the man do his job-tell him and the staff clearly what the priorities are-and give him a chance to do it, and support the schools as best we can thru this budget crisis. No one is saying the administration is perfect, but pete dunning’s contention that its ALL Dr. Murphy’s fault is ridiculous on its face; test scores have fallen all over the state and country, due to many factors, including management AND decreased funding AND teacher turnover, as well as changes in the tests.

          You compared your job situation to the schools-a fair enough comparison. Could your department produce excellent results in an atmosphere of distrust and recrimination from management above, and if you had staff turnover like the school has had? It would be difficult at best. I am just not prepared to accept the premise of the title of this article-that the falling test scores are Dr. murphy’s fault alone. It takes a good team effort, including the school board, BOS, and citizens, to produce a good overall report card for the schools- a poor team effort over the long run produces poor ones. We are beating ourselves, and making no apparent attempt to mend fences or improve. that part is not on dr. Murphy-that has been a hallmark of our BOS’s relationship with the schools since long before he got here. Its time to try something else.

  26. Weiss continued, “To me there are only two choices; you either raise taxes or you hold the line on what we are doing. We’re doing the best that we can with what we have and that’s just the way it is.”

    Your right Mr. Weiss–We have always been doing the best with what we have—and you guys (BOS) make sure to keep it the way it is! That is the problem. There lies the “meat” of the problem. Minimal Tax Revenue!

  27. livein22611 says:

    CDN-please keep a record of this. I’d love to see how everyone posting here feels in two years. After two years of no Pete and no Robina let’s see how things have changed. Apparently the repressed citizens of Clarke Co. will be rejoicing. Our test scores will be through the roof and class sizes will be around 12 per class. Don’t get me wrong, I have disagreed with these two individuals myself but I find it hard to believe that two people are the root of all evil in Clarke. What does that say about the rest of the citizens? That we are so whimpy we let TWO people bully us? Perhaps we should stop all the $%^&^ing and start standing up for ourselves. Is it bullying on their part or apathy on ours????

    • Tony Parrott says:

      Two years of no Pete and Robina? They may not be in office but they will still be here and possible MORE involved than ever. Also I’m sure it will take more than two years to right this ship but showing progress would be nice.

  28. Low Scores is a result of Too Much Facebook, Mobile Use and STRESS ON FAMILIES IN THIS ECONOMY says:

    How many members of the board actually have children young enough to be in school or even in the public school system in Clarke and not in private? To see what is going on from inside the school, you have to have a child in the Clarke County School System. The books are beat up, the teachers are not given all the supplies they need such as markers, pencils, etc. The teachers and admin at JWMS have been amazing. Yes, I also bought supplies for two 6th graders this year however I know that by Feb 1, 2012 THE TEACHER WILL RUN OUT and start purchasing on their own. It happened to us in private school annually in Loudoun. Therefore ask yourselves with school aged children, DO YOUR CHILDREN SPEND MORE TIME ON FACEBOOK AND ON THEIR CELLULAR PHONE OR WATCHING TV OR MORE TIME ON CHECKING THEIR NOTEBOOKS AND DOING THEIR HOMEWORK? THE BULLY ~ mean mentality of children is shocking to say the least in public school. Not to say that it has happened to my children personally, it has not but just watching and listening to all the children interact at the CCHS Football game this past Friday night was an eye opener. SO TEST SCORES WENT DOWN THREE YEARS AGO HOWEVER STRESS ON CHILDREN and FAMILIES BECAME HUGE AT THAT TIME WHEN PARENTS STARTED SEEING FORECLOSURE ON EACH CORNER OF WHERE THEY SPENT THE BULK OF THEIR MONEY ON THEIR HOMES IN THE PAST YEARS. I see the children daily as a parent. If parents are stressed, kids are stressed. Can you really blame teachers and a school board? Raise the taxes people! The taxes are so crazy low in the county and nobody works here. Everyone that lives here works somewhere else. PEACE!

    • People are foreclosing on their homes because they can’t afford the mortgage or they have lost their job, and your suggestion is to raise their taxes?

      Think about that.

    • livein22611 says:

      A private school in Loudoun, that taints your view a bit. And yes, we have low taxes here. First I have to wonder why you moved here and if you checked out the school system before you did? And you have kids in sixth grade so you’ve not been in JWMS long. JWMS only holds is together because of the teaching staff and the AP’s. Not really sure why they have a principal as no one seems to know what he does, other than brown nose Dr. Murphy. Ask any JWMS parent who’s been here a while.
      Does Clarke County need to fund the schools better? YES. Raising taxes may be the only answer but it will hurt people. Just raising taxes is not necessarily going to fix things. Perhaps looking at where the money is going in the county and looking at who is getting unqualified tax discounts would also be a good way to go. With the current BOS and with four of them returning, do you really think a tax hike would only go to the schools? The problem with Clarke is that people love to complain but never do anything but that. Nothing will change until people involved. Maybe we need to “occupy Chalmer’s Ct.”!

    • Home Grown says:

      “Taxes crazy low”.

      Not everyone in Clarke County has moved here from Fairfax or Loudoun County. Not everyone who lives here works and makes Fairfax / Loudoun County wages. There are many of us to honestly can’t afford to pay more in real estate taxes. If things are sooooo great in Northern Virginia then I am sure you can find a nice little foreclosed home to move back into. Most of us like Clarke County the way it is.

    • Just for discussion’s sake: whether or not a supervisor has, did, or did not have children go through the local public schools is, imho, really a moot point (since you’re new here, only 1 did – Mr. Hobert). It doesn’t give one any more or less of a perspective, necessarily.

      That being said, though…the rest of your bombast has a few nuggets of merit. It’s too bad it gets lost in the din of your ranting.

      • “Just for discussion’s sake: whether or not a supervisor has, did, or did not have children go through the local public schools is, imho, really a moot point (since you’re new here, only 1 did – Mr. Hobert). It doesn’t give one any more or less of a perspective, necessarily…”

        I disagree. It allows one to see the consequences of their decisions firsthand.

    • Tony Parrott says:

      Ok, so let’s face it. No one is ever in favor of a tax increase unless you last name is Buffett.
      I won’t say the only way to raise revenue is to increase Property taxes; my belief is this is short sighted and how we ended up in this predicament. When that’s your only plan it makes it easy to scare the poor or elderly on fixed incomes.

      For me revenue diversity is the answer. Where are we getting revenue from and how do we increase some of the lower revenue producing streams. Recently some of the BOS members said these low producing streams won’t bring in any significant amount of revenue but combined they might. Another BOS member recently boasted about how Clarke is the 3rd largest county in the state of VA in relation to the horse industry and this was echoed by Robina (when it comes to horses I believe everything she says). To me that was great news because the horse industry is a $1.2 billion industry. How does this industry impact our counties tax base?

  29. Concerned Townie says:

    Its all going to remain the same if we don’t vote and kick these people out! Say no to Bev McKay for example. It cracks me up how him and Dunning are the powers to be in this county! People make a difference and go out and vote these people out!!!! Then sit back and watch what happens when people who actually care about our schools, rather than protecting their Dairy Farms get in there and make things happen. Thats all that Dunning and McKay carea about is keeping Clarke County like Mayberry and making impossible to live the dream. Thats unless you own some Farm-Land and Cows!

    • livein22611 says:

      Please let us know your name, concerned townie, so we can vote for you in the upcoming election!! Or are you sitting back and watching? What a great idea you have though. Let’s get rid of all the dairy farms and farmland and build Wal-marts and Kohl’s and McDonalds and Wendys. Then the more commercial we get the more people and more traffic and more issues. Hey, let’s get a gang or two in here too. Then we can be just like Loudoun and scrap the whole Mayberry thing. Who wants Mayberry anyway? I’d rather not know my neighbors and not be able to ket my kids walk the streets safely. I think I’ll go tag something now!

      • Travis Goodwin says:

        Your problem, livein, is that you can’t get past your own snarkiness and willingness to just let things be as they’ve been for 50 years. Yes, it’s nice to live in a small town where everybody knows your name, but – in truth – a lot of that has gone away over the past decade.

        Open space is nice, but even nicer is to be able to support a level of service that a 21st-Century community needs to have in place. For the powers that be to say that there just isn’t more revenue to be found, which tells all county employees that there will be yet another year of no raises (despite the costs of living going only up) and limited funds with which to do their jobs (or to replace woefully outdated computers and other systems that would – ironically – make the delivery of instruction and other services MORE efficient if they WERE implemented), is sadly – yet typically – short-sighted for this county.

        Yearning for the halcyon days of yesteryear is one thing. Consistently standing by zoning and land use beliefs to the detriment of reasonable growth is an entirely different matter, because the costs of infrastructure investment only go up with time…as we’re seeing with the hand-wringing over what to do at Double Tollgate. ‘Course, we could just bring back the tollgate…wouldn’t THAT be something?

  30. I’m curious, Townie. Please elaborate on this dream you want to live.

    I trust that it doesn’t include turning Clarke into another suburban “paradise.”

  31. Concerned Townie says:

    Just an exmaple Bob! Heaven forbid a business would want to do something here. Its impossible! You just sit back like all the others Bob, and complain all the time, yet offer no solutions to the problem. You and I both know this County needs Tax Revenue. Until we get some, we will continue to have these discussions. Just so people like you can go outside and smell Cow and Horse Poop instead of something else.

    • I love the smell of car exhaust and fresh macadam in the morning. It smells like victory. [rolls eyes]

      Frankly Townie I don’t complain. I ask questions and make suggestions … like a new industrial park at Double Tollgate, but to wish for big box retailers and such to be the solutions to the revenue problem is wishful thinking.

  32. Get some much needed tax revenue for school from a new business such as putting a Wendys at Food Lion parking area, but please don’t burden the individual homeowner with increased property taxes. I am pleased with Dr. Murphy!

  33. Roscoe Evans says:

    What does Old Pete do for a living anyway? I ask because I have been told he is a realtor, but that he refuses to be licensed as a realtor. I don’t know if that is so. But, As an elected public official, he should have been playing by the rules, and if he hasn’t his peers should have called him to task, rather than allow him to continue to attack others.

    RE: Clarke’s tax base. It’s no mystery. Clarke is too small geographically and too small in terms of its population to generate a tax basis to cover more than the basics. The same factors keep Clarke well under the radar of the major retail chains: they site their facilities on the basis of rigid income/population criteria that Clarke will never meet.

    Clarke has got to get creative to support its school system, and its got to educate its students for jobs outside of the county: the aforementioned smallness of the jurisdiction means there really is no local market for its graduates. Frankly, I think too many folks in Clarke resent a) paying for the education of other people’s children and b) paying for the education of students who, by necessity, are bound to leave the county. Well, that’s just too bad, because its simply part of the social compact that we all support one another. There is no realistic alternative.

    So, how to afford a 21rst century school system? Stop funding it with a 19th century tax structure.

    Property taxes simply are not “too high” in Clarke County — they can and should be raised. And those with substantial wealth should be taxed substantially more. I’d look to The Bank of Clarke County, every other bank that has a branch in Clarke County, Clarke’s real estate industry, and Clarke’s plantation owners as the first sources for new funding for the county. Clarke has been very good to them. They should start returning the favor.

  34. Because I Care says:

    Well gee, I guess if we think this county can’t support some retailers or chain restaurants with three busy interections that pull almost 15,000 vehicle through them daily. And since we don’t think that piggy-backing a few unique businesses down from the new Wal-Mart on 522 in Frederick or down on the other side from Warren county or down route 7 by Frederick or Loudoun counties would be a lucrative move. I guess the only alternative is to push to end tax breaks on all the “farms” and conservation acreage in this county. The common, everyday folk in this county already pay enough taxes. I mean, we already have lost Knossos and Tastee-Freeze (again!) If they can’t make it, nobody can, right? (roll eyes)

  35. Stonebroke says:

    I’ve never seen too many McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger Kings and the list could go on…..not make it! Knossos left because of opening up shop in Winchester and the Tastee Freeze because of bad location! (And Bad Food)

    • Because I Care says:

      And take notice how well the McDonald’s has done on Rts 340 and 50 for years now. Also, the Sheetz and the gas station/Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskin Robins are doing very well there. It can be done!

  36. Roscoe Evans says:

    So, you consider burger joints and gas stations that have positioned themselves on major routes that pass through Clarke to be the sort of major retail chains that I was speaking about? Sorry. Maybe in your universe, but that’s not what I was speaking about.

    I am saying that it’s frivolous to hear as many complaints as I do about how Clarke a) does not have a more diverse tax base and it b) does not have a rainbow of retail shopping establishments and an assortment of big-name franchise restaurants.

    The absence of these amenities is guaranteed by the small size and small population base of the county. These are simply facts. And not my facts, but the facts as interpreted by those major retail chains.

    I used to represent firms that build and/or own franchise restaurants and shopping centers. They make their decisions on the basis of formulas that factor markets, populations, financial demographics and locations.

    Absent dramatic change, your grandchildren will not see major retail chains in Clarke County.

    So, I’m glad that you’re happy with the fast food and the gas. I’m reasonably content, too. But you can sit on your sarcasm.