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February 14 School Board Recap: Safety and Budget Update
Posted on 02/15/2023
Group Photo of the School Board

During its February 14 Special Meeting & Workshop, the School Board received an update on the 2023-2024 Budget, the 25 safety measures the Board approved last summer, and the Strategic Plan Dashboard.


The School Board recognized Ezra Olson, a fifth-grade student at Highland Park Elementary School, whose artwork was selected for the 2022 RCPS Holiday Card.

In honor of School Board appreciation month, students from Grandin Court provided each School Board member with a gift. In addition, members of the William Fleming choir sang Blue Moon.

The Board also thanked Board Clerk Rita Huffman and Deputy Clerk Dawn Winter-Ware for all they do, as it was School Board Clerk Appreciation Week.

Featured School: Roanoke Academy for Math and Science

Roanoke Academy for Math & Science was the featured school of the month, and Principal Toni Belton provided an overview of all that RAMS has to offer.

Two students read a poem written by Mrs. Belton about “the wonder of Roanoke Academy.” Mrs. Belton explained how all students are instilled with a sense of respect and love, starting each day with a pledge of respect and a reminder that all students matter.

Mrs. Belton also presented a video showing the amazing things happening at RAMS. RAMS art teacher Ms. Shamy and the students also presented each School Board member with custom-made cityscapes of Roanoke.

Fiscal Year 2024 Budget Update

Chief Financial Officer Kathleen Jackson provided an update for the 2023-2024 budget. The preliminary general fund budget totals of $239 million, a $14.3 million increase from the Fiscal Year 2022-2023 budget.

State revenue projections have been adjusted to reflected RCPS’ projected average daily membership and the Virginia Department of Education’s calculation error. Total operating revenue is projected to increase approximately by $6.4 million compared to last year’s budget.

Initial budgeted expenses would require almost $10 million to be utilized from the fund balance. Mrs. Jackson said she did not recommend utilizing these funds. Instead, budget managers are currently revisiting their priorities to adjust planned expenditures.

Mrs. Jackson explained that RCPS has discussed a 5% raise, although the state could provide the state’s share for a total 7% raise. Since that is only partial funding for positions prescribed by Virginia’s Standards of Quality, Mrs. Jackson said she wasn’t sure RCPS could provide a 7% raise for every position. RCPS still plans on the 5% raise.

Previously, funding from the state for bonuses had been mentioned as part of the state’s budget, but Mrs. Jackson said the state may go forgo funding for bonuses in lieu of funding for the 7% raises.

In addition to a projected increase in health insurance rates and new/expanded positions for teachers at the new ROTEC, total personnel increases are projected to be $9.7 million.

Major focus areas for the non-personnel section of the budget includes instructional resources, contracted services, technology needs, and professional learning, Mrs. Jackson stated.

Increases for non-personnel items are projected for substitute teachers, the local share of the Children’s Services Act costs for private day treatment, Career & Technical Education expansion materials and supplies, expansion of the student computer lease program, and utilities. Total, this is projected to be an increase of $5 million.

Mrs. Jackson will present another budget development update at the February 28 School Board Workshop.

Safety Update

Hayley Poland, Assistant Superintendent of Student Services, provided an update on the 25 safety measures that the Board approved last summer. Every measure has either been completed or is in progress.

Measures include updates to the infrastructure and physical security of buildings to increased mental health supports and personnel.

RCPS is one of six school divisions to be part of a $15 million grant to expand mental health services that was recently awarded, and staff are currently learning more, Mrs. Poland said. In addition, every elementary school now has its own assistant principal, which has provided schools additional support, and the number of student support specialists has increased.

More cameras have been added to buildings, and almost all the antiquated lock sets have been changed. Under-sized double door entries will be expanded over the summer at Hurt Park and Fairview, and open classrooms at Monterey will be enclosed over spring break.

The 24/7 safety tipline has been implemented and is working as intended, Mrs. Poland said. Click here to learn more about the tipline. The panic alarm that is available to employees has also been rolled out, and a drill was successfully conducted.

Roanoke Police Chief Roman and Sheriff Hash also provided an update on the expansion of school resource officers. Chief Roman said he is thrilled to have overcome staffing challenges to have an SRO in every middle and high school. His officers are trauma-informed and work alongside school staff to ensure students have what they need.

Sheriff Hash, a former SRO himself, said relationships built in schools can help establish trust outside of schools. The sheriff’s department is seeking three more SROs, and their goal is to have one SRO for every elementary school.

"Until we get one there, I’m not satisfied," said Sheriff Hash, who also regularly visits schools to provide support.

School Board Chair Dr. Eli Jamison noted that school systems across the nation all too well know crises, noting that just the night before, there was a shooting at Michigan State University.

"We’re not just in the business of catastrophic safety measures," Dr. Jamison said. "We’re in systemic relationship building and long-term safety care. So, I don’t want our public or anybody in the building to think these 25 things have suddenly made us secure and free of all risk. That in this society just doesn’t exist. But I still appreciate the wisdom of our partners and our staff, and the commitment of our board over time…to steadily invest in our students and our staff, and the community who enters our building."

Superintendent Dr. White said that both students and staff’s physical and psychological safety are paramount. She thanked staff for working hard to build relationships and know students "by name and by need."

Public Gifts

The Board recognized and thanked Aaron’s Foundation for providing a $2,000 donation to the William Fleming Girls’ Basketball Program to assist with team camps and equipment.

To replay the February 14th School Board meeting, click here. The next School Board Special Meeting/Workshop is at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 28th at the Central Administration Building on Douglass Avenue.

40 Douglass Avenue NW, Roanoke, VA 24012 Phone 540-853-2502