Dear LCS Parents and Guardians,
Last night, I presented the Lynchburg City School Board with our proposed 2015-2016 budget. This budget directly addresses our school system's challenges in the areas of Early Childhood, Personnel and Professional Development, and Poverty and Mental Health.
It is important to remember that this budget was developed with comprehensive input from parents, employees, and community members through budget forums, on-line feedback, and advisory councils.
This budget represents a 2.7% city increase in transfer to the school system. All of the additional $1.1 million would go to supporting an employee salary increase as the state provided no salary increases for 2015-2016. For the first time, we also outlined key budget initiatives for 2016-2017.
ADDRESSING SCHOOL SYSTEM CHALLENGES
This 2015-2016 budget proposes the hiring of an instructional assistant for EVERY Kindergarten classroom. We cannot close gaps in student achievement without putting our resources into this all-important first year of instruction. One veteran kindergarten teacher told me last month that this request was made decades ago, and the answer was "We can't afford to." Now, we are telling the school board that "We can't afford NOT to."
We are also requesting the additional hiring of elementary PE teachers. We must fully embrace the vision of "Live Healthy Lynchburg" and prepare for the new state standards in physical education. These additional teachers will also provide classroom teachers with more time for collaboration, professional development, and planning.
Embracing "Live Healthy Lynchburg" means we must begin building more wraparound services for our students in school, particularly related to their healthcare. That's why this budget begins a conversion of our elementary health assistants to LPNs over the next several years. We need nurses in all of our schools providing timely and tailored education to students and parents and coordinating more comprehensive health services.
This budget also proposes "Discovering Lynchburg" field trips in grades 2-9. These important local field trips were removed years ago. Our students need to know that key events in the history of this country (American Revolution, Civil War, Civil Rights, and other important events) happened right here in this city. The best way to increase civic engagement with our young people is to be sure they truly know their city's historical assets, and this budget restores these field trips to our instructional program. I also believe the best tourism program starts with a knowledgeable local population who, through word of mouth, can sell our city's tourism like no one else.
In the 2016-2017 budget, we propose hiring a reading specialist for each elementary school. Currently we fund these positions using Title 1 money. We need more reading specialists, and we need more time to focus these specialists on training teachers. We also propose hiring more special education teachers.
Personnel and Professional Development
This 2015-2016 budget proposes a 2% COLA for all employees. We must continue to regain salary increases lost due to the years of frozen pay for our employees. While some divisions continue to hold salary flat and hope for better times ahead, LCS must continue the momentum toward making our educators the best-compensated in Central Virginia.
Professional development is critical to enhance employee performance. Therefore we will be developing a menu of courses in key areas that will ensure our employees are also the best-trained in Central Virginia.
I am proud of the work we did with improved stipends for those doing extra work last year. This year we also propose stipends for those working in Career and Technical Education after-school activity organizations like DECA, HOSA, Vex Robotics, and ACE. These activities involve considerable extra time after school with students. Those faculty who support this extra work should be recognized and compensated.
In the 2016-2017 budget, we will continue to use market analysis to reset our compensation in specific jobs to be regionally competitive. A market adjustment for principals, assistant principals, and teachers in years 6-10 will continue to show our commitment to reaching this goal.
Mental Health and Poverty
Our School Summit meetings that we have been holding with various community organizations continue to emphasize the impact of mental health and poverty on the educational outcomes of our students. Therefore, this budget proposes the increase of two board certified behavior analysts who can provide more direct support for teachers in the classroom who may have students in need of more individual support. This budget also supports the hiring of an additional social worker, which will allow us to provide more intervention for students and families in need.
Other Important Needs
This budget continues our implementation of LCS-ONE (Chromebook expansion to grades 10-12), supports the hiring of an English Language Learner (ELL) teacher and a new Science Instructional Coach, and provides athletic trainer services for our middle school sports programs.
It also recognizes the need for more bookkeeper support in elementary schools and the need for more hourly secretarial support in the summer to keep all of our schools up and running to serve our community.
This year, we are asking staff to focus on Rigor, Relationships, and Relevance in the classroom and on our core values of Integrity, Responsibility, Teamwork, and Learning in our schools and offices. In turn, we need to provide more support in resources for them to do this demanding work and for continued compensation in recognizing this work.
We believe this budget directly addresses employee concerns. It also addresses our challenges with performance. We can and must improve our performance with these additional resources.
We still have much work ahead of us this year. We hope this budget information lets you know that we are already planning ahead to next year as we strive to reach our mission of Every Child, By Name and By Need, to Graduation.