Charlottesville City Schools Superintendent Rosa Atkins on Thursday presented an $83.7 million funding request for the 2018-2019 school year to the School Board. However, the public hearing on the request drew no comments.
Atkins’ funding request would require a $54 million appropriation from the City Council — a $2.67 million increase from this year. The school division is expecting a net increase in state revenue of just $83,859.
The city of Charlottesville is facing a $2.8 million funding gap in the current draft of the next fiscal year’s budget, which includes just $2 million in added funding for the school system.
Atkins has requested $1.26 million to give teachers an average raise of 4 percent and an additional $106,331 to increase the division’s annual supplement for teachers with master’s and doctoral degrees from $2,116 to $2,316.
Charlottesville City Schools recently contracted with the Gallagher Titan consulting firm to identify strategies for making the division’s employee compensation more competitive. Powell said the study cost the division $29,950.
“That teacher focus drove much of the budget discussion this year,” Powell said.
“We are recommending that we take a step closer to what the competitive market looks like in other industries,” Atkins said. “We are competing [for talent] with other businesses, especially in the technology area.”
While college graduates with science, technology, engineering and math degrees are most likely to be offered high-paying jobs out of college, Atkins said that technology companies are increasingly pursuing graduates with degrees in art, design and other fields.
“I really support prioritizing our teacher pay,” said School Board member Sherry Kraft. “We really have to work hard to get and retain excellent teachers.”
Atkins has requested funding to create eight new teaching positions across the division and to bring back six instructional assistants for second-grade classrooms.
The request also includes $120,280 for a new administrative position dedicated to planning for a specialized academy program within the city school division. Atkins said the academy would aim to engage underperforming students in hands-on experiential learning.
“If our school division is going to remain creative, innovative and excellent, we have to work on new ways of teaching,” Kraft said. “The only way to do that is to put in the time and have someone helping us figure out what kind of new approaches we can do.”
A proposed $120,000 initiative in Atkins’ request would create a “Grand Teaching Award” grant program to support innovative educational units and projects throughout the school division.
Atkins also has requested a $15,825 increase in the division’s annual contribution to City Schoolyard Garden, a nonprofit that manages educational gardens at eight city schools.
“That is a partnership that is very important to our school system,” Atkins said.
On Thursday, School Board members mentioned potential facilities needs that could require an unprecedented funding commitment from the city of Charlottesville in the near future.
A VMDO Architects study in 2017 outlined scenarios for facilities improvements to accommodate enrollment growth, with costs ranging from $95 million to $140 million.
“I have come to understand that our teachers are doing great work in spite of our facilities, not because of them,” said School Board member Adam Hastings.
“We are asking a lot of the people who work for this school division in an environment that may not always be the best,” said School Board member Leah Puryear.
In a comment before Thursday’s budget hearing, Charlottesville resident LaShundra Bryson Morsberger asked the School Board and the City Council to consider assigning a school resource officer from the Charlottesville Police Department to each school. Charlottesville’s school resource officers currently split their time between multiple schools.
Morsberger said the most recent public discussions about adding school resource officers had taken place before Charlottesville was targeted by white nationalists and hate groups in 2017.
“During that time, Charlottesville wasn’t synonymous with the tragic events of last year, and threats of violence towards our city and its residents,” Morsberger said. “I believe that in light of those events, this idea should be revisited.”
The School Board previously held three work sessions and a joint meeting with the Charlottesville City Council to discuss next year’s budget. The School Board plans to hold another work session Tuesday.
“The work session is another opportunity for us to get input on what we do, and how we do it,” said School Board Chairman Juandiego Wade. “We are always open to get input.”
The School Board is scheduled to approve a budget request Feb. 15.