School Board Elects Bouffault Chairperson in Split Vote

SchoolBoardP1016938The Clarke County School Board’s first session of 2010 was packed with citizens despite the cold temperature on Monday night. Many citizens spoke in opposition to several books being used in the International Baccalaureate instructional program. The School Board also elected its leadership for the coming year and developed a tentative schedule for moving forward with the new high school.

Robina Bouffault was elected chairperson but not before protest by two opposing board members set the tone for the evening. Prior to the vote  to elect a chairperson board member Janet Alger distributed copies of Bouffault’s resignation as school board chairman during the previous term and expressed concerns about leadership stability going forward should Bouffault be elected. Jennifer Welliver then critiqued Bouffault’s leadership style describing Bouffault as “very capable but not a team player.” Barbara Lee was elected vice chairperson. As the evening progressed, Welliver and Bouffault disagreed on several issues including appointment of the Budget & Finance committee. Welliver’s suggestion that “adding citizen volunteers to the budget development process would increase community involvement and transparency” was rejected by Bouffault saying “we can’t have citizens who aren’t sworn officials involved with handling the money.”

Many citizens spoke passionately against the inclusion of certain books in the International Baccalaureate reading program including “The Color Purple” and “The Handmaid’s Tale”. Citing obscene and offensive language not suitable for Clarke County students, one speaker suggested that the material violated Virginia School Board regulations. During the public comment period 18 citizens stood in solidarity against the books when prompted by Sharon Rogers of Berryville. Tony Parrott of Boyce expressed an opposing view saying that “morality should be taught at home” and removing the books was “an attack on personal liberty”. Although school officials are working with IB officials to remove the titles from the curriculum final resolution may not happen until sometime later this week.

Financial concerns related to the economic downturn continue to cast uncertainty over both the 2010 and 2011 school operating budgets. Dr. Michael Murphy, Clarke County Superintendent, described the increasing need for additional staff and resources within the school system including a Testing Coordinator, Guidance Counselors, Lunch Room Monitors and additional resources for the Music Program and Special Education Program. Murphy cited the need for an overhead projector in every classroom, replacement of aging textbooks and improved internet bandwidth. Dr. Murphy also mentioned that approximately $100,000 is necessary to bring existing computer cabling up to building code after being improperly installed by school staff. Murphy stated that the budget priorities were to maintain the essence and integrity of Clarke’s education program. Final budgetary amounts will not be known for several months as Governor Bob McDonnell’s new administration reviews its spending priorities.

School construction continues to be a major focus of both the School Board and Board of Supervisors. Robina Bouffault cited her expectation to have the final site plan for the new high schools completed by the end of May, 2010. Construction work can only commence after the site plan has been approved. Bouffault expressed uncertainty as to whether the current cost estimates correctly reflect all “off-site” costs including construction of a major storm water pipe that will connect to the Berryville water drainage system.  Bouffault also questioned whether the school’s HVAC systems had been properly configured. Bouffault said that the School Board needs to be working simultaneously on the bid documents and the final site plan so that a request for proposal can be issued once the site plan was complete.

The Clarke County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing to discuss the school construction budget on January 19th at 7:00pm in the Government Center. The agenda will include discussion of a contribution by the county of additional $9.8 million to the school’s proposed construction budget.


  1. Sharon Beasley Strickland says:

    Excellent article and fair reporting. Let us hope that with Mrs. Bouffault at the helm this year the school construction process will actually begin. She has excellent construction knowledge and that will be necessary for the building of a proper school building and safe campus.

  2. Jim Gibson says:

    I hope that everyone remembers that the goal should be what is in the best interests of all CCPS students, not personal agendas. I also hope that Barbara Lee truly is a balance to Ms. Bouffault, and helps keep the focus on where it needs to be – providing the students of Clarke County with the best education possible.

    Finally, I hope that dirt is turned this year on the new school. Janet Alger, Dr. Murphy, and the other board members deserve as much credit in actually getting the process moving more forward than backward over the past year.

  3. Tony Parrott says:

    Robina is a bright, well educated ruthless leader whose level of micromanagement is unparalleled. With Robina at the “helm” and in complete control of finance and policy I have two words; TRAIN WRECK! I personally fear for public education in Clarke County.

    Wake up people! Why did she resign the last time? The process only works if you are involved.

    • Fine, I’m involved. Robina in charge = no change orders for the new school. Janet and Jenny in charge = over $2.5 million in change orders on the new school – and we haven’t even broken ground yet! Read the meeting minutes.

      You want a new school, you pay for it, and give me my VPSA money back!

      • Tony Parrott says:

        Why not use your real name? Afraid to be public under the public comments section?
        If it were up to Robina it would be a fresh coat of paint from the discount store.
        I would like my money back too. How about she pays back every penny she has cost the tax payers over the past 10 years? I can give you a rough estimate in the millions….
        At least Janet, Jenny and Barb want a school built that will last 50 years because do we really want to be having this conversation in another 10?

        • The wonderful thing about the Internet, [redacted], if that is your real name, is that people can focus on ideas, not personalities. Sounds like you and [redacted] should file a class action lawsuit for civil rights and fraud and stop wasting your time here.

          Good luck with the lawsuit.

      • Jim Gibson says:

        On Robina’s first watch as chair, the School Board purchased a set of plans for a middle school in Pennsylvania, and now are attempting to shoehorn a high school program into it. The cost increases that have resulted are a direct result of Robina’s flawed decision. Janet and Jennifer and Dr. Murphy saw the need to actually consult with the faculty, and thus were made aware of design modifications that are critical (such as faculty workrooms and restrooms, dressing rooms for the theatre program and bluegrass concerts, etc.).

        • Now, I like bluegrass and theater as much as the next person, but are these functions “critical” for a high school? If so, what isn’t?

          • Tony Parrott says:

            [Redacted] don’t dwell in a secret place! Psalm 91:1
            [Redacted] Focus on something positive and let it go.
            You moved out of the county; now it’s time to move on.

          • Jim Gibson says:

            The bluegrass concerts, supporting the Eagles Athletic Association, contribute upwards of $15,000 to the sports programs at CCHS. The theatre programs (from classes taught to one act plays to the annual musical) afford students an opportunity to be more well-rounded in their education, as all of the arts do. To have a theatre and stage and not make a place for dressing rooms (as the current facility at J-WMS has) would be shortsighted.

          • Jim Gibson says:

            The point was that the Board, under Robina’s initial chairmanship, did not adequately seek a set of plans that fit the current program at the current high school. By accepting a set of inadequate plans, change orders and redesigns and cost increases are a natural result of trying to retrofit the plans to fit the program.

  4. John Mallery says:

    Robina has done more to block the development of a new high school than any one person in the entire county. Her penchant to micromanage complex operations on the scale of the school board clearly demonstrates her inability to accomplish anything as massive as building the new school. On a project this large, a leader must motivate others to overcome adversities to move the project ahead. The only thing to be gained from minutely picking apart every plan is failure.

  5. Jim Gibson says:

    What is really ineteresting is that, 6 years ago, Doug Westmoreland from Moseley Architects (the leading school architect firm in Virginia) came up with a design for a school – AFTER seeking input from the staff and community – that fit the programs @ CCHS and could hold 1,000 students and cost (with land acquisition factored in) $37 million. His plan was loudly criticized, by Robina and others, as too grandiose and beyond what this county could afford; while it was true that a site had not been selected yet, one could have been found.

    Now, here we are 6 years later, and CCPS is looking at a barely-adequate plan that will hold 800 students (and hopefully be expandable to 1000) that will cost $37 million. Funny how perspectives change.