CLINTWOOD — Before approving its 2019-20 budget, including $7 million for schools, Dickenson County supervisors raised questions about several new positions the school division proposes in the coming year.
Meeting June 25, the board unanimously endorsed a $25.6 million spending plan for the 2019-2020 county general fund, a $3.15 million coal and gas road budget and an E-911 fund projected at just over $475,000.
The board had poured over the last of the details in a budget workshop that afternoon and there were few questions about the overall plan during the regular meeting.
But supervisors asked about the school division’s new spending on personnel and heard explanations from Schools Superintendent Haydee Robinson. She pointed out some positions weren’t new and that all of them had been included in the original budget that was part of the discussion with supervisors during its budget workshop in April
Robinson called the positions critical to continuing the academic progress the schools have achieved.
She explained that filling some positions was an effort to rebuild the faculty from a few years ago before many jobs were cut.
“We will recommend a hiring of an art, music and nursing instructor,” Robinson told the board. “And there are four positions that we are recommending to our board tomorrow.”
At the time of the supervisors meeting, those four had not officially been approved by the school board and was an item on their agenda for closed session the following day.
Robinson expanded on each position that was being recommended.
One of the four positions is an occupational therapist assistant. “We have a large need of students that need services,” Robinson said. “We have one full-time therapist. Their load is so high that we cannot meet the needs of these children.”
With the addition of this position, those needs can be better addressed, she said.
The second position is an attendance coordinator to help tackle chronic absenteeism in the schools. “What this person would be, would be a truancy specialist that would work in each of our schools, identify the students that are missing, and have attendance issues,” Robinson said. She said this person would bridge the gap between school and home, so that student attendance issues could addressed before any legal matter arose from them.
A third position is for an instructional technology resource teacher. This position is one of the positions that is not new to the school system, she said. “This person will work in each of our schools every week, and they will work with our teachers and our students and coordinate the technological opportunities that we now have provided,” Robinson said.
The fourth position is a student coordinator at Ridgeview High School. This position, she explained, is being put in place to better meet a mandate put in place by the Virginia General Assembly. It stipulates that school counselors must spend 80 percent of their time working directly with students. A student coordinator will help to meet that mandate by taking on some of the duties that previously were handled by a counselor, she explained, such as scheduling and testing of Standards of Learning, attendance work and all career technical supervision.
Willis District Supervisor Jason Compton asked if a counselor would need to take on the student coordinator role. Robinson explained that a counselor could not take on the role because then that person would also have to meet the 80 percent mandate.
She also explained that for the instructional technology resource position, a teacher would be preferred.