School Board members meet with new state representatives

Members of the Pulaski County School Board and Pulaski County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kevin Siers were given the opportunity to virtually meet with and discuss several issues with two elected leaders Tuesday, Jan. 25, as a part of the Virginia School Board Association’s Capital Conference.

Senator Travis Hackworth and Delegate Jason Ballard were able to meet with and discuss issues with the group. The group was not able to meet with Delegate Marie March due to a scheduling miscommunication but this meeting has been rescheduled for later in the week.

The issues that were discussed covered a variety of topics.

First, the group discussed the elimination of the support positions cap and full funding of the implementation of the Virginia Standards of Quality.

“The support positions cap was approved in 2010 during the economic recession and has resulted in a $11,984,579 loss of state funding for Pulaski County Public Schools over the past 11 years,” Dr. Siers said.

Next, the group discussed Approval of House Bill 251, which would establish an agreement between school boards and local governing bodies to appropriate unexpended local funds toward school maintenance, renovation, and construction.

“An agreement has been in place for several years in Pulaski County which has allowed the school division to complete a number of school capital projects,” Siers stated. “But having this written into code would make the agreements permanent, would incentivize all school divisions to be more efficient stewards of public funds, and ensure that localities are providing some funding toward capital needs projects.”

Finally, the group discussed assistance in depoliticizing public education.

“Our schools and school division have experienced eroding confidence from the public over the past two years primarily because of decisions and directives that were handed down through executive orders from the Governor and state law passed by the General Assembly,” Siers said. “School Boards had no say in shutting down schools in 2020, were required to adopt masking mandates when cases were low, had to implement contradictory attendance guidance for extracurricular events, were required to approve controversial social policies that were written by the Virginia Department of Education, and most recently have been required to make masks optional during a surge in cases. PCPS advocated for the legislative and executive branches to avoid micromanaging educational decisions that could be best determined by local School Boards.”

With the meeting completed, Dr. Siers was pleased with the exchange of ideas between the two groups.

“We had excellent meetings today with Senator Hackworth and Delegate Ballard,” he stated. “Both legislators gave us their full attention, asked pertinent questions, and provided good feedback regarding the issues that were discussed. These were perhaps the best capital conference meetings that have occurred for Pulaski County in the past five or six years and we’re looking forward to holding an equally productive meeting with Delegate March later in the week.”

By DAVID GRAVELY, Pulaski County Public Schools