School Board Looks At Family Life Curriculum And Other IssuesBy Kelly Robinson
November 19, 2009
This week's Montgomery County School Board meeting featured discussions on family life curriculum and what to do with the Blacksburg Middle School property, among other things.
A brief overview of Montgomery County's current family life program, as well the guidelines surrounding it, quickly turned into a discussion of the problems with the state guidelines that emphasize abstinence in curriculum.
Before the presentation, school board Chair B. Wendell Jones informed the school board members and the audience that the School Board was not looking to make any decisions regarding family life curriculum at the time. He said the goal of the presentation was solely to review existing guidelines surrounding the curriculum.
However, school board Vice Chair Penny Franklin took issue with the fact that ninth-graders are being taught the benefits of adoption.
The curriculum, Franklin said, is "saying that the benefit of adoption is a positive choice in the event of an unwanted pregnancy. To me, that's telling the kids that if you get pregnant, and you really didn't want this pregnancy, you can just give the baby away, versus saying 'Here's some things you can do to prevent you from being pregnant' and we don't have to go through the issue of giving a child away."
Other school board members wondered if anything could really be done if state guidelines were calling for education that emphasized abstinence.
"You're absolutely right," said one school board member, "but your fight isn't here, your fight is with the state because they set these bills up and these guidelines up and our hands are tied."
Franklin, however, quickly pointed out that these are "guidelines," and the local school board had the freedom to make changes to the curriculum as they saw fit.
Another prominent discussion was the ongoing issue of what to do with the Blacksburg Middle School property, which is set to be an item of discussion in an upcoming meeting with the Board of Supervisors.
Both Franklin and school board member Phyllis Albritton expressed their desire to simply be done with the property.
"We have determined we no longer need it [the property]," said Albritton. "I don't think we should be involved, since it's not our role to be part of the seller. It's the county. It's the Board of Supervisors, it's going to be in their hands. I think we've made our decision and now it's up to them to get it sold."
The general consensus in the discussion appeared to be to turn the title of the property over to the Board of Supervisors and allow them to sell it.
"We don't want to be realtors," said Franklin.
The beginning of the evening brought a public hearing on the 2010-11 school operating budget. Erin Bull, the president of the Montgomery County Education Association, was the only member of the public to speak regarding this issue.
Bull asked school board members to not cut salaries and to leave employees' health insurance intact. She also asked that personnel and staff be the last thing to be cut, and that the school board look for ways to boost morale other than raising salaries
The meeting also featured a presentation from the Gifted Advisory Committee, a committee that, according to the presenter, advises the School Board and superintendent of the education needs of gifted students.
The committee recommended the School Board continue with much of what it was already doing, such as collaborating with classroom teachers and developing parental awareness.
The committee also recommended, if fiscally possible, an increase in the number of gifted resource teachers at the middle school and high school level. The School Board has already added four gifted resource teachers at the elementary level.
One of the last things discussed in the meeting was the amount of transparency that exists in the selection process of a new superintendent.
School board member Joseph Ivers Jr. said that he had been receiving feedback from people wanting to have greater access to information about the selection process.
According to Jones, however, the School Board has already made everything as open as possible, while still keeping confidential the aspects of the process that are meant to be private.