School Chief’s Contract Renewed

The Clarke County School Board spent nearly four hours on Tuesday working with budget numbers and discussing the principles that it hopes to navigate by as it enters its first budget negotiation with a seasoned Board of Supervisors. In terms of school leadership and upcoming budget discussions, the School Board sent an important signal to the community by reaffirming Clarke County Public School Superintendent, Dr. Michael Murphy’s contract to remain the school division chief.

CCPS Superintendent Dr. Michael Murphy - Photo courtesy Clarke County Public Schools

While details of the contract were not immediately available following the 90-minute closed session spent discussing the matter, the School Board voted unanimously to extend Murphy’s contract until 2014.

Murphy was hired in 2008 with an annual salary compensation package of approximately $130,000.

As the School Board reconvened in an open work session the public received its first look at the details of Murphy’s proposed FY13 budget. Joint Administrative Services Director, Tom Judge walked through the budget details for the School Board which includes $26,511,290 in expenditures and $10,602,774 in anticipated revenues.

Judge said that the remaining $15,908,516 not covered by anticipated revenues would be up to the School Board and Board of Supervisors to cover based on the outcome of the final approved budget. This year’s proposed budget includes an increase of $1.1 M which equates to a roughly 6.9 percent increase over last year’s local funding level.

Last night’s budget meeting was attended by Chairman Janet Alger (Russell), Dr. Beth Leffel (Buckmarsh), Jim Brinkmeier (Berryville), and Chip Schutte (White Post). School Board member Barbara Lee (Millwood) attended the closed session on the superintendent’s contract, but was not present for the budget presentation. Of the five School Board members, Brinkmeier and Leffel are participating in the school budget review cycle for the first time. Alger, Lee, and Schutte have all experienced budget deliberations with previous Clarke County School Boards.

This year’s Commonwealth funding contribution contains a mixed bag for Clarke County. While Virginia’s annually adjusted Composite Index, the formula used to determine how much funding the state will contribute to each locality given local prosperity, has resulted in a $500K increase in Commonwealth funding for Clarke, funding failures in Virginia’s state retirement system, as well as increases in health insurance and life insurance costs are expected to cost the school district nearly $850K in the 2013 budget.

Other cost increases, including $100K for the school district’s food service, $426K for utilities at the new high school and a $325K contribution for a proposed County-wide enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, will add further pressure in a year where the County Supervisors have made it known that anything above “flat level funding” is unlikely to gain approval.

Despite the Supervisor’s best hopes for a level funded school budget request, school administrators, staff, public and School Board chairman Janet Alger (Russell) say that after several years of austerity it’s time to increase the school budget.

“Our job is to base our budget on the needs of our students,” Alger said. “School staff has not had a compensation increase in a very long time. I’m in favor of a one to two percent salary increase. We also have to look at staffing needs.”

Superintendent Murphy, who has asked to add or upgrade 22 staff positions at a cost of $961K, said that the final school budget needs to reflect what is important to the community and that lower funding could result in a reduction in force and larger class sizes, something that Murphy said no one wants to see.

“A cost of living adjustment, class size, staffing,” Murphy reflected. “Ultimately we come down to those three items.”

This year’s school budget is projected to increase $141K for each one-percent increase in staff salaries.

New School Board member Jim Brinkmeier (Berryville) said that while he agreed that the budget needed to reflect the needs of the students, the School Board must also acknowledge the financial challenges facing the Board of Supervisors.

“We need to show the Supervisors that we’ve done our due diligence to tighten the budget as much as possible,” Brinkmeier said. “We want our budget to be as lean and mean as possible.”

“We’ve been operating ‘lean and mean’ for three years and have cut $1.2M from our budget,” Murphy replied. “The question is just how ‘lean and mean’ does the School Board want to be? We’ve had a 5% decrease in our student population but a 6% decrease in our budget.”

Murphy said that the question ultimately comes down to whether the community wants class sizes to increase, and if so, by how much.

Murphy said that a range of cost saving measures have already been considered by the schools, including “pay to participate” sports, increasing school facility use fees and cutting class field trips, but such cuts really ultimately don’t make a significant difference in budget savings.

Several County residents joined in last night’s budget discussion on a more specific level in response to rumors that the Johnson Williams Middle School athletic program was under consideration for elimination as a cost saving measure.

Clarke County resident Tony Parrott, who spoke during the public comment period, said that JWMS athletics was an excellent program for students and asked the School Board to preserve the program. “I view the school budget cycle just like that of a business,” Parrott said. “You have to submit a budget that is going to meet the needs of the students. It’s the School Board’s responsibility to make the Supervisors understand the impact of budget cuts what that really mean to the kids of this county.”

JWMS Athletic Booster president Lisa Dale said that middle school sports are a “big deal” to youngsters, especially those that may not go on to compete at the high school level. Dale said that her son had learned more from athletics than from some his advanced classes.

“Middle school sports has helped my son learn how to lose,” Dale said. “I know that may sound a little strange but the middle school sports program is teaching him that if he doesn’t give his individual best it hurts his team. The middle school sports program has made my son such a different individual. It would be a shame if other kids can’t have the same opportunity.”

A public hearing on the school budget is scheduled for February 13th.


  1. Mr Mister says:

    I hope they gave him the huge raise that he wanted.

  2. Lonnie Bishop says:

    Well…I’m glad that’s settled. I like Dr. Murphy; I find him to be a straight shooter, and someone who truly cares for the kids and school folks here. Now…supervisors…step up and fund the schools like you ought to fund them.

    • Who wouldn’t like Dr. Murphy? He’s an affable chap! And, I’m quite sure he cares.

      I don’t believe however the declining test scores and overall division decline should be blamed on money. As for staff; they are only as good as their leaders.

      • He certainly is a nice man and a public charmer. But, I agree — I don’t think he has any idea how to EDUCATE, much lead his team so that they can improve things. And, I too am sick and tired of hearing all the excuses.

  3. I don’t believe he is doing a good job at all. I’ve been very dissapointed in several of the teachers that my kids have had in the last two years and especially dissapointed in the administration at JWMS. They are problem avoiders, not solvers. HIs habbit of blaming the budget for all the woes of the school system is getting old. My taxes have doubled in the last 8 years and my family income has declined. The School Board and the BOS need to give the taxpayers a break, and not just those wealthy enough to avoid taxes with an easment.

    • You’re claiming that your tax rate was .36 per 100 dollars of assessed value 8 years ago? Seriously?

      • It’s the total tax bill I pay the county, and yes it’s more than doubled. The average teacher in CC makes over 65k in pay/benefits for a 10 month work year, far more than the average or median CC citizen. So yes, I’m serious.

        • ccparent…
          please show your work I do not believe that 65k number is correct…

          and Teachers do not get paid per year they get payed for contract days, do not spin it to sound like they get two months off paid… I am married to one I know,

        • Your math teacher should be the first to get fired. $65,000 average teacher salary? Seriously?

          • Technically…”ccparent” did say “over 65k in pay/benefits.” When benefits are added, it does go up…but…I think the avg. teacher salary in CCPS is in the low $40K range, so there’s no way they’re gettin some $20K in benefits.

        • Ok, you do realize that when your property increases in value then your net tax bill is going to increase, right? However I still think you’re blowing smoke… 200% increase in property value since 2004? Not happenin’ unless you have changed the land use on the property or you have made substantial improvements.

        • Happy Retiree says:

          Simply poppycock!!! I taught for 35 years, had a masters degree, coached two sports, and STILL didn’t make that amount of money. Get your facts straight — improve your math!!

    • livein22611 says:

      [redacted] Murphy has been too focused on the fringe items, like the Sodexo mess, to work on the academic issues this county is facing. There are no sodas in the snack machines, just don’t ask us what our math scores are! It should be fun to see what his salary request is. Just hope it’s the same percentage that he will be giving our teachers! Maybe cutting middle school sports will pay for his raise. And I’m really curious how he expects to give our current teachers a raise AND pay for 22 new and upgraded positions. Again, seems like we are back to our poor math skills on this issue.

  4. Tony Parrott says:

    Well I for one am glad the contract was renewed; should have been renewed for four years but I’m sure this was a compromise on the SB. I believe given the opportunity and support we will see the school district achieve much success. Dr. Murphy cares about educating the kids in Clarke Co. and I would take that over a superintendent who cares about cheep education to keep taxes low any day. Can you imagine Pete Dunning as the superintendant?

    • If the superintendant is asking for a salary increase then he is not worried about keeping taxes low. Give me a break!

      • Tony Parrott says:

        The superintendant is worried about educating children. Keeping taxes low is not his job. Did you just completely miss the point?

        • Then he should do it at his current rate, not skimp, cut other’s salary/ positions , or programs just to increase his. Who really suffers? I think you missed my point.

          • Tony Parrott says:

            So where in the proposed budget do you see his cutting other jobs, salaries or programs just to give himself a raise? Are you just making this up as you go along to BS people? So he proposes a raise for staff and faculty and also himself and that’s a problem?
            Look, I fight hard to make sure the people under me get a fair deal when it comes to merit increases but don’t think for one minute I don’t fight for myself. I assume you do to…….

          • So as a fiscal conservative, you don’t mind paying higher taxes so fat cats can live a bit more comfortable? I think you need to re-read some of you older post on the topics of tax money. You pay probably doesn’t come from taxes either. For all that he achieved, I think he is a bit over paid now anyway.

          • Right Winger says:

            “…For all that he achieved, I think he is a bit over paid now anyway.”

            But your opinion does not matter in this instance. He serves at the pleasure of the School Board.

            FWIW, I think we have too many Administrators and not enough teachers. I know that there is a “scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” mentality as well at the school level of CCPS administration. There are some ineffective teachers that need to be replaced, but because they cry discrimination at the first sign of trouble…..

          • Tony Parrott says:

            So my “fiscal conservative” belief is the federal government takes and spends too much of our tax dollars. I would rather see less take from the federal government so more can be spent at the local level where local tax payers have better control. As you already know I’m a big supporter of public education and would rather see local money spent their rather than a “park” down by the river. So judge my conservatism as you wish.

            Now the comment about “Fat Cats” is plural which means you believe the superintendent, administration, faculty and staff are “living large on the backs of the locality, but I don’t think you really meant that. It’s clear you just don’t like the superintendant. To test this theory of mine I will ask you this: would you support a raise for the school district if it didn’t include the superintendant?

            Lastly there may not be a raise for anyone in the school district; it’s up to the BOS as to the budget getting approved for more funding. But for the superintendant and the SB it is important to “go to bat” for your employees.

  5. livein22611 says:

    There is a public hearing on the superintendent’s proposed budget on Monday. WHERE is a copy of this proposed busget? There is a link to some document on the website but that is not the budget. Is it true that the food service shortfall is projected at over $200,000? How can you hold a hearing on a budget people can’t see??? Are middle school sports safe?
    CDN-could you please post the proposed budget if you have a copy?

    CDN Editor: A paper budget was provided at the School Board budget session. We’ll digitize the document and post ASAP.

    • Is it legal to have a “public hearing” on something which has not been publicized? Maybe the School Board is planning on having another public hearing?

      CDN Editor: 02/13/12 Monday – Public Hearing on FY13 CCPS Budget


      This link, from CDN’s own page, will take you to the full 85-page budget.

    • Tony Parrott says:

      I got a copy at the last meeting. Two school boards ago the budget was printed in an “easy to follow format” that didn’t have some of the granular details. The last SB wanted a more formal format which is probably what you are looking at. I would suggest you contact your SB representative if you have specific questions on specific items.