Board Chairman Mike Chapman and Post 7 board member Kim Cochran served their last meeting as board members last night and voted opposite of one another on the board’s 2013 Legislative Program, which sets forth the priorities the board would like the local delegation to consider during the next General Assembly.
Cochran, a proponent of school choice and Cherokee Charter Academy, was often seen on the other side of the vote of Chapman, who often challenged members of the local delegation for failing to fund the traditional school model while proposing an alternate funding model for charter schools as seen in Amendment 1.
In a 5-2 split with Cochran and Michael Geist opposed, the board approved the measure despite Cochran’s assertion that she considered the language “combative.”
Cochran said she considered a few changes from the initial draft benefical, including the request for funding for STEM
initiatives, but thought the tone of the document would not encourage a positive reaction from the delegation.
“When I’m looking at it, I feel like it’s very combative,” Cochran said.
Board Chairwoman-elect Janet Read said she is committed to working with the delegation and is not as concerned about the tone of the document as she is in presenting a unified front as a board.
“I’m willing to share with them, both good and bad, the affects of any potential legislation,” Read said. “That is my commitment as the board chair going forward.”
Superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzielo said he did not receive a single negative comment from teachers or staff who had the opportunity to review it.
He referenced discussing with teachers possibly taking out a section discussing the difference between the graduating class of 2012, who achieved the highest average SAT scores in the state, and the current kindergarten class, which does not have the same amount of funding resources and opportunities following years of state-mandated budget cuts.
“Teachers thought that was powerful,” Petruzielo said.
Petruzielo said Cherokee schools will faces serious consequences is state legislators do not address three major problems: returning to a full, 180-day school calendar, removing the eight furlough days and reduce class sizes.
Petruzielo added there’s no way to get these things by “simply suggesting that we make nice and be collaborative,” he said.
“I think we would not be telling the truth to our employees or this community if we softened this and act like somehow next year is going to be a miracle,” Petruzielo said. “… Let’s make sure that everybody knows there’s only one way to deal with those three problems going forward. That is by trying to get some help by our state lawmakers…I’m just talking about there being some interest expressed in things other than choices and vouchers and youth opportunity scholarships and just about everything other than ‘what can we do to support traditional public education?’”
Though he voted against it, Geist did express his support for the inclusion of the last item on the document, which addresses changing the state’s calculation of high school graduation rates to factor in special eduation diplomas and other factors that might delay a student from graduating in four years.
At the end of the meeting, Chapman passed the gavel to Read, who will take her position as the county’s first countywide-elected board chairperson at the board’s January meeting.
“I wish her luck and she’s an awesome leader,” Chapman said.