The School Board and its superintendent reported progress on a range of fronts to the Clarke County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. School Board member Robina Bouffault (White Post) said that as the new school rises above ground, progress is also being made below ground in finding an irrigation water source that will avoid town water charges. Superintendent Dr. Michael Murphy followed Bouffault with a list of education infrastructure improvements that are changing the school system’s management and business practices.
“School watchers can see the excellent progress that we are making” a very pleased Ms. Bouffault told the Supervisors. “Schockey is now starting the second wing and will soon have the roof on the gymnasium.”
Bouffault said that lighting pole bases are now being put in place. “The school will be very well lit. Also, all of the lights can be down-shielded so that the glare doesn’t impact on the people in Battlefield Estates.”
Bouffault reported to the Supervisors that she had just received what she termed “very good news” from a local well drilling contractor regarding the likelihood of finding a high-yield source of irrigation water at the new high school site.
“Based on the contractor’s knowledge of the local area there is another high-yield well in the same area that has since been abandoned” Bouffault said.
Bouffault said that the well driller estimates that a well depth of 400 feet will be required and would likely cost $5,000, including permit costs.
“A well to provide landscaping irrigation water will allow us to avoid the very expensive town water fees” Bouffault said. “I’m very confident that we’ll find plenty of water.”
Good Food Rules
Murphy told the Supervisors that not only are CCPS students eating better now that Sodexo is running the school’s food service, but that students are physically active as well. Murphy said that 351 boys and 332 girls are participating in one or more Virginia High School League activities.
While the emphasis on healthy bodies though physical activity is an important part of the high school curriculum, so is learning healthy eating habits. Murphy said that CCPS reconsidering how it thinks about food.
“We’re having healthy vending vendor discussions right now and we’re including the Town and County governments” Murphy said. “We plan to soon have an Ala Carte menu for field days, field trips, and other events in process.”
Murphy said that efforts to increase student participation in school meal programs are beginning to pay off. “Sodexo has mplemented a second “grab-and-go breakfast line at the high school this week” Murphy said. “But D.G. Cooley is the star. They’re averaging 80 plus breakfasts a day and 300 plus lunches a day.”
Murphy said that CCPS is soliciting quotes for two steamers, three ice machines and one warming cart.
“Green beans taste a whole lot better when they’re steamed rather that boiled” Murphy said.
“They also have a much different color” Supervisor Barbara Byrd added.
Murphy said that CCPS is currently in discussions with Lord Fairfax Community College about offering a culinary arts program for Clarke County High School students in 2012.
CCPS continues to stride into the future as it roles out its technology plan. Dr. Murphy reported that Boyce Elementary School is now 100% wireless and DG Cooley will soon to follow suit. Laptops and laptop carts used to support SOL testing and other instructional uses are not in use at Boyce Elementary; Implementation at DG Cooley is scheduled to follow.
Murphy said that CCPS’s new school board document management system, BoardDocs, is scheduled for launch at the May 4th, 2010 SB meeting. Murphy said that the new software platform will hopefully reduce the number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests fielded by CCPS administrative staff because the public will have searchable access to all of the documents used in the school board packet assembly process.
Murphy said that CCPS is continuing to look for ways to use software to improve operational efficiencies throughout CCPS. CCPS is currently reviewing the replacement of its website content management software. Murphy said that “Track-It”, a technology support system and “School Dude”, a, online maintenance tracking system are now both online.
Transportation routing software is also being reviewed Murphy said.
Murphy told the Supervisors that the WeatherBug station planned for the new high school site is close to becoming operational. In addition to providing weather information, Murphy said that CCPS was anxious to take advantage of WeatherBug’s safety emphasis on lightening protection.
Dr. Murphy reported that a personnel evaluation process is now in place for CCPS food service and custodial employees. Murphy said that there previously has not been an evaluation process for these staff members.
“We’re starting to evaluate employees in ways that haven’t been done before” Murphy said. “Food service and custodial staff will be evaluated for the first time”.
Following Dr. Murphy’s formal presentation, Supervisor Pete Dunning (White Post) initiated an impromptu discussion regarding the overall performance of the US educational system and its implications for the future if education is not taken more seriously by the American people.
“How many students have you lost over the last year?” Dunning asked Dr. Murphy.
“We’ve lost 68 students so far this year” Murphy replied. “Most have gone to other counties for reasons that we believe relate to housing or jobs” Murphy replied.
“But you don’t really know where they’ve gone, you’re just guessing” Dunning charged.
“No, we know with certainty where 98.5% of our students have gone” Murphy replied. Murphy said that when students transition to another school district student records must be transferred. Murphy said that CCPS is currently tracking such requests and can see where students have moved.
Dunning said that he thought it was also important to understand what students are doing after leaving Clarke County High School, a point that Dr. Murphy said he agreed with.
“That’s why we’re working with a group from Washington state called Baker Educational Research Consulting” Dr. Murphy said. “No one else is doing the research to determine where kids are going after high school. We’ve decided to do the research and if our kids are doing well then we’ll be able to celebrate it. If they’re not doing well then we’ll be accountable for that as well.”
After a lengthy discussion both Murphy and Dunning agreed that post-high school performance was the key measure of success for both Clarke County Public Schools and for the nation as well. Dunning expressed frustration overall with the US public school system and its link to the decline of the United States ability to compete worldwide.
“Clarke County may be a shining light in the educational system but it’s not like that in most places in America” Dunning said. “The problem is that wrestling mats are more important than the English curriculum in our schools. Wrestling is great but it’s not going to get you a job when you graduate.”