Credit: Credit: Albemarle County Public Schools

Attracting and Retaining High-Quality Teachers and Increasing Career and Workforce Readiness for Students Are Among the Community’s Top Budget Priorities

Support for competitive salaries to attract and retain high-quality teachers was the top-ranked item on Albemarle County Public Schools’ 2018-19 Budget Survey. A total of 2,247 students, parents, employees, and community members responded to the online survey, which is considered by Superintendent Dr. Pamela Moran in the formulation of the funding request she submits to the School Board.

The survey asked respondents to consider eight priorities and rank their top three in order of importance. In addition to teacher salaries, other options included competitive salaries to attract and retain high-quality support staff; increasing career and workforce readiness opportunities for students; fully funding all student experiences such as field trips; increasing student health and wellness services; increasing funding for elementary after-school programs; increasing funding to provide students with transportation to programs outside their home schools; and continuing to expand in-home internet access for those students who currently are unable to access commercial broadband services.

Two of these priorities already have received support from the School Board. The Board has voted to enhance its teacher compensation model to ensure that salaries will meet the Board’s competitive market targets for all teachers. The Board also has approved a two-year pilot program to provide transportation to any high school student who is attending an academy program at a school other than their base school.

The school division offers a Math, Engineering & Science Academy at Albemarle High School; a Health and Medical Sciences Academy at Monticello High School; and an Environmental Studies Academy at Western Albemarle High School. Currently, students enrolled in an academy housed at a high school other than the one they would normally attend are required to provide their own transportation.

The largest single group responding to the survey identified themselves as parents, with 954 responses. Another 746 respondents were employees, and 205 were both parents and employees. There were 246 responses from students and 71 from community members.

“I would like to thank everyone who took the time to share their views with us through this survey,” said Dr. Matthew Haas, the deputy superintendent for Albemarle County Public Schools. “We place a great deal of value on the input we receive from our constituents. In finalizing the funding request that Dr. Moran will present to the School Board on January 18, she consults with more than a dozen advisory groups, and the survey results will be another important data point as she sets the major objectives of next year’s budget,” he added.

Among students, the top priority was fully funding student learning experiences, which includes field trips, furnishing school and art supplies, and paying for travel to state and national academic and extracurricular competitions. Students also were interested in increasing career and workforce readiness opportunities, including internships.

The latter is an important component of High School 2022, the modernized high school curriculum that will begin to take effect next August with the addition of a required seminar for all incoming ninth graders. In later years, the curriculum will add work-based learning experiences that include internships and mentorships, community service projects, and independent learning opportunities.

The School Board recently approved the recommendation of an international education consulting firm that studied how best to meet future high school capacity requirements in alignment with the new curriculum initiatives.

In place of a new 1,200-student conventional high school, the Board approved working towards establishing learning centers that can house several hundred students and offer them expanded opportunities to design their own course of studies, work collaboratively with their peers on joint projects, and have more interaction with community and business leaders. A center would be available to any student in the county and offer flexibility, since additional centers could be added as needed. The center approach also would lower capital costs, since they cost less than a new comprehensive high school.

A copy of the budget survey results will be made available on the school division’s 2018-19 Budget Development web page.