School Round Up – Board Confident About Prospects for Well and Water, Healthy Food, and Employee Performance Reviews

Well, Water

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

Superintendent Murphy picked up the briefing after Bouffault and provided the Supervisors with a summary of school activities.

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.

Technology Advances

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.

Staff Evaluations

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”.

Lost Students

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.”






  1. “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 Berryville Estates.”

    Where’s Berryville Estates? Never heard of that development.

    CDN Editor: Battlefield Estates…

  2. “But D.G. Cooley is the star. They’re averaging 80 plus breakfasts a day and 300 plus lunches a day.”

    How many of those are subsidized? That would help explain the high usage.

  3. 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.”

    Well Pete, it’s also because of stingy supervisors like yourself who don’t get the money that School Boards so DESPERATELY need to educate our students. You and your cronies would rather send your own kids to private schools under the guise that the public schools are bad, but they’re only bad because you deny them the funds they NEED.

    • Tammy L. says:

      IT IS TIME TO TAKE A STAND and end this cycle! Our supervisors for YEARS have not planned ahead, are hoarding our money and are not using our taxes FOR the citizens of Clarke County! So much for road improvements, recycling/trash centers, new business opportunities…. can’t they at least support our emergency services, retirement center, public workers and, yes, the schools? It is not appropriate for a few million to be set aside for a “rainy day”– we are there now. I will vote for proper budget development and appropriate spending (not hoarding) as well as supervisors that act as true representatives of all the people in Clarke County. Of COURSE we need to get out and vote- but for those who don’t (the shut-ins, the workaholics, the college students and the less advantaged citizens) shouldn’t we expect our county leaders to get out there and meet ALL of our needs? It’s not just about money, it’s a mindset.

      And as far as Mr. Dunning’s concerns go… (nice he could make a meeting by the way) Right off the top of my head I can think of eight students who recently left CCHS to attend private schools or are being home-schooled BECAUSE our underfunded school system is not meeting the needs of all children – without appropriate services and staff we lose the lower learners, don’t challenge the very highest- and lose quite a few in the middle (no activity buses? for some that means no sports or band. Expectations? Because parents DO care about education this is what’s happening.) And of course there are the families (who I know personally) who finally gave up and moved to Winchester or down in the Valley where education is supported by those that hold the purse strings. (Odd that our Board of Supervisors likes people to leave who aren’t happy… yet allow new houses to be build without adequate publice services.)

      I am actually encouraged by the School Board’s progress with the “infrastructure” improvements- given their limited funding…. reports of more efficient managing systems, upgraded technology and healthier food services are terrific! But really, the new school progress (and peripheral improvements)are not as important as the items the DO need suport- like staffing, curriculum development, teacher training and opportunities for children that actually meet state requirements. New lighting and irrigation? Not big news for me. Glad the contractors are doing their jobs. Now it’s time for our elected officials to do theirs.

  4. Stonebroke says:

    Mr. Dunning is worried about why we are losing student’s? Maybe he should look in the mirror! Maybe the people are tired of the way this county is being run by the BOS! Ever thought about that? Always trying to place blame on someone else!

    • homeschooler says:

      And Supervisor Dunning says: “Clarke County may be a shining light in the educational system”.

      As to what data are your referring??

      Have you been asleep?

      According to both and, both of whom obtain their data from VDOE and who objectively rate school systems: CCPS is in the bottom quartile of the state!

      And you think we are a “shining light”?

      • He meant a shining light like a lighthouse that warns travelers to stay away and seek safe harbor somewhere else.

  5. typical blah says:

    Battlefield Estates is the neighborhood that the new high school is being built in. Come on – are you even local? Or just google it.

    On the school lunches… I eat at Primary and Cooley (same exact food all cooked at Cooley) bc I have 3 kids in the 2 schools. The lunches have not really improved. I asked my kids, they agreed. I was there a few weeks ago and Cooley did offer the kids whole oranges. What 2nd grader can peel an orange? Or eat an entire one? Whole apples which is easier but why not slices? Why not incorporate local ag farmers food during season? And the food was horrible. That day it was supposed to be breakfast for lunch and they had no eggs, no sausage, no bacon – nothing normal – only a sort of french bread stick with syrup dip. And the orange. I think these supervisors and school board members should be forced to eat the same as our kids for a month. Then we may see change. Why not lease part of the cafeteria to Subway? And Chipolte? And I heard this new high school does not even allot space for a home ec class. Seriously! Is that true? This Superintendent (no complaints – he seems to be good at his job) is from out west and has no clue what Clarke needs in Northern VA to keep our kids in fair competition with our neighbors. Nothing like the surrounding counties offer in their high schools! I have inside information. So why bother building a high school perfect for the 1980’s/1990’s in 2011? To be frank even the elevation of what the school will look like is blah. Boxy and blah. Maybe because the supervisors do not have young kids, neither do many of the school board members. I want my kids to have choices in classes and electives not just math and science. To be well rounded in life. As a 13 year resident of Berryville, I am paying for it. DO IT RIGHT! Good riddance Pete. He only cares about what affects his other multi-million dollar neighboring estates. Time for new ideas, new voices, and new actions instead of this choke hold by the current and past administrations. Not talking about development either.

    • Lonnie Bishop says:

      Actually…with the exception of Ms. Bouffault, each of the other School Board members have children who either have graduated or will graduate from the public schools here; the current chair taught here for well over 30 years. Of the supervisors, only 1 sent his kids through the public schools.

      Choices of electives are only as good as what’s ponied up for staff and resources. This division has cut over $2 million from its budget over the past couple of years…that has come with a cost of lost positions, and so on. You can’t have it both ways. Either the supervisors need to provide the funding the schools need to offer a true, solid slate of classes taught by great teachers, or you’re gonna get more of the same if cuts keep happening. Based on my view of things, through my newphew and niece, this superintendent seems to be trying to do the right thing.

  6. Just Curious says:

    Sad thing is that he was re-elected so much! I guess the rich old timers had to vote for him because he kept money in their pockets and only looked after them and himself! Now for the really sad part, you get rid of him, and you get McKay! Same story with him. Until people get out and vote, it will always be the same old song and dance with Clarke County!

  7. Tony Parrott says:

    No doubt public education has problems from the federal level to the state level and even at the county level. But out of all the issues Mr. Dunning is concerned with he actually has the ability to control one of them; FUNDING! We all know what a wonderful job he has done in that area.

    Pete Dunning: advocate for public education and the “Lost Students” of Clarke County. If I weren’t laughing so hard I would cry!

  8. Bville-Bud says:

    First let me say I am grateful for the hard work of the School Board and everyone else involved in the Clarke education system. I understand that space on CDN is limited and often quotes are shortened and may taken out of context. That said I would like to set the highlight a few facts based on Mr. Dunning’s comment:

    “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.”

    I want to respectfully remind Mr. Dunning, and let the CDN community know that the Clarke wrestling has always been very self-sufficient taking very little from the system that it supports and brings positive attention to. In fact, the cost for the CCHS mats were graciously paid by the Eagles Athletic Association. The school board (with Mr. Dunning’s support) was kind enough to provide some funds for current wrestling room, but the majority of the construction cost and labor was funded by volunteer hours and dollars.

    I would also like to comment on the thought that “Wrestling is great but it’s not going to get you a job when you graduate.” I owe a great deal to my CCHS English teachers; I am grateful for their patience and encouragement over the years, and agree our students need to study and master our language, but truthfully Mr. Dunning, wrestling did more than English class to get me a career, not just a job. I learned lessons on the mat that I would not have learned after a thousand hours of diagraming sentences, and honestly those lessons have helped me more than English class to succeed in life. On my very best day I was on the bottom tier of Clarke wrestlers; however, wrestling gave me a work ethic and focus; it also taught me to set goals and work to achieve them, not accepting defeat. My time wrestling taught me to get up after being taken down. It seems like these lessons are exactly what we need to be teaching the youth in Clarke County and any opportunity teach those lessons is a good investment in the future of our community.

    Clarke County turned its back on wrestling in the mid-eighties, letting it slip from a sanctioned sport after the loss of a coach, and lack of attention by the CCHS administration three decades ago. The Clarke School Board, CCHS, and most importantly parent volunteers & coaches have done a marvelous job of bringing Clarke wrestling back from the dead; during this resurrection Clarke Wrestlers have won eight state champions, twenty one district champions, and nineteen regional champions, 11 Century Club men (100+ wins), and the 2009Bull Run District Championship, and taught boys how to become men. Let’s stand together as fans of wrestling, youth, and Clarke County to ensure that we never loose wrestling (or any other sport) again.

    Kindest Regards to Mr. Dunning, the School Board, & CDN,

    Bud Gordon