Sunday, October 15, 2017

Doing the math

The Virginia General Assembly defanged the existing law regarding cash proffer policies during its 2016 session.  The new law took effect on July 1, 2016.

Since then local governments and developers have been scratching their heads over the convoluted language of the new law and searching for ways to use the rule change to their advantage. What might be described as the first skirmish in this conflict between Goochland County and developers took place at the October 5 meeting of the Planning Commission.

The agenda contained three residential rezoning applications. One, filed by HHH Land, LLC for a 55 plus community in West Creek, requested, and was granted, a 30 day deferral. Another submitted by Readers Branch Partners, LLC and Hockett Road Partners, LLC included substantially  revised proffers submitted on the day of the meeting. As its bylaws give the Planning Commission the option of declining to hear a case with proffers submitted fewer than eight days before the public hearing, the Commissioners unanimously deferred this case to its November 2 session. These two applications, if approved as submitted, could add more than 800 new homes to the eastern part of Goochland. Both are expected to be heard at the November 2 meeting of the Planning Commission,

A third application, filed by Dover Branch,  LLC for a dozen homes off of Hermitage Road near its intersection with Manakin Road, was heard.  It too submitted revised proffers within the eight day window, but they were deemed not to include substantial changes; the Commissioners waived the rule and heard the case.

Developer, Gibson Wright expressed frustration that he was obligated to go through the entire rigmarole of preparing a development impact statement (DIS) for a few houses that will have no impact on county facilities. There were other difficulties with his case—two different zoning categories in a single subdivision and lot sizes under two acres—that did not hinge on cash proffers. His amended proffers included a $3,063 per home cash proffer.

Wright contended that the studies needed to prepare a DIS “is a burden”  and that it would have been cheaper for him to pay the county’s previous full cash proffer, which was $14,250 per home before the new state law went into effect.

Wright’s application was recommended for approval by a 3-2 split, with Derek Murray, District 3; John Shelhorse, District 4; and John Myers, District 1, voting in favor. Commission chair Tom Rockecharlie, District 5, and Matt Brewer, District 2, were in dissent. The Planning Commission is an advisory board, the supervisors make the final pronouncement on land use matters.

Before the 2016 legislation, jurisdictions were  able to establish cash proffers—a “voluntary” payment by residential developers to mitigate the impact of new homes on capital infrastructure like schools, fire-rescue stations and equipment; parks; and roads. These amounts were computed with formulas that estimated the burden each new dwelling unit would place on county infrastructure, such as .3 students per home. Salaries for teachers, deputies, fire-rescue providers, and other staff are assumed to be paid for by revenues generated by the ongoing increase in real estate taxes resulting from development.

Goochland also has an EMS cost recovery policy that charges a fee plus a mileage cost for hospital transport that offsets part of the expense of fire-rescue staffing.

Cash proffers apply only to residential rezoning. Each time land is rezoned, it becomes an ordinance—a  law—that applies to the particular property in question. Not all new homes pay proffers. Kinloch, for instance, was zoned before the county adopted a proffer policy in 2000, and pays no proffers. Breeze Hill, currently under construction on Fairground Road, pays about $20 thousand per home, the cash proffer in place when that land was rezoned.

According to comments made by Director of Community Development Jo Ann Hunter to the Commissioners, Goochland has 39 proffered subdivisions in place— representing 2,336 homes that are zoned but unbuilt—which are estimated to generate more than $18 million. Cash proffers are paid at the time a certificate of occupancy is issued for a new home.

As no rezoning was involved to permit apartments in West Creek, proffers did not apply. However, donation of an as yet unidentified several acre site for a new fire-rescue station within West Creek was part of that arrangement.

The DIS requirement includes mitigation strategies, which may include construction of road improvements.  The catch seems to be that these do not have to take the cumulative effect of many new homes into account. For instance, if a residential project is estimated to add 30 students to the school system, the DIS must only address the expense of those students, not the current capacity of the schools. If those 30 new students increase the school population enough to trigger the need for a new school, the fiscal impact is greater than the additional children in our schools.

Some jurisdictions, like Henrico, do not use cash proffers. Henrico, whose population following the 2010 census was 306,935 versus Goochland’s approximately 21,000, may be better able to absorb increased capital costs by issuing bonds to pay for them and spreading the debt service among its many  residents. Henrico also has an airport, hospitals, malls, and soon a Facebook data center, to generate tax revenue.

Henrico takes care of its own roads, while Goochland is at the mercy of VDOT—the state agency whose motto is “Oops!”—for all transportation needs, a cumbersome and slow process.

Therefore, new homes, especially in large numbers,  have a significant impact on our facilities and how they are funded.

Several studies are underway to craft a clear picture of the cost of  responding to population growth, as well as replacing and renovating aging facilities. The school division recently completed a comprehensive facility master plan that includes costs for replacing, expanding and renovating schools. This replaces the long held notion that the county needs to build new elementary school somewhere in the eastern part of the county for about $24 million. A countywide capital impact model based on all of these studies is expected in February, 2018.

Goochland is not the only jurisdiction dealing with these issues, and there is hope that the General Assembly will address the confusion that the 2016 law caused. Until then, the county and developers will continue something akin to a porcupine mating dance as rezoning applications wend their way through the process.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Small town living

Lots of folks say they like Goochland’s rural character and small town atmosphere. Among the “life savors” of small town living are productions staged by the high school drama department.

Next weekend, October 13, 14, and 15, the GHS Drama Department will present “Little Shops of Horrors” in the GHS auditorium.

Lessons learned by the students involved in these plays, from lead actors to set builders who ensure that a myriad of components come together at the right time in the right place, will stand them in good stead wherever life’s journey takes them. Our kids work hard to put on a good show, and deserve a full house at each performance.

Neil Burch, Theater Educator, is entering his seventh year in Goochland. He is a catalyst who helps each of his students find the best within themselves, and best of all, enjoys his work.

Trading ten bucks for a couple of hours of enjoyable entertainment is a good deal. For the students, getting applause from people other than their parents is priceless. For ticket information, visit

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Harvest Moon

As summer fades fast in the rear view mirror, Goochland’s Board of Supervisors worked its way through the waning year at a routine October 3 meeting.

Expansion of the parking lot in front of the administration building continues. A reliable source contends that it will be complete in late November. Leave extra time to find parking when conducting business or attending meetings here.

Goochland General Registrar Frances C. Ragland, who has been recognized numerous times for excellence in performance of her electoral duties, announced her retirement at the end of 2017.

A proclamation recognizing Domestic Violence Awareness Month and recognizing the contribution made by local organizations, including the Goochland Free Clinic and Family Services and Victim Witness Assistance Program, to combat this scourge of society, kicked off the agenda.

Board Chair Ned Creasey, District 3, announced the upcoming round of district town hall meetings. They are: District 1, October 16 at Hadensville Company 6Fire-Rescue Station; District 4 and 5, October 17 at Hermitage Country Club; and District 2 and 3 at Courthouse Company 5 Fire-Rescue Station. All meetings begin at 7 p.m. An overview of items of interest countywide will begin the sessions followed by question and discussion of matters in interest in each district. If you want to learn more about what is going on in the county and sound off on anything, this is the place to make your voice heard.

County Administrator John Budesky said that the Goochland Fall Festival is coming up on Saturday, October 28 with something for everyone. All events are free.

Budesky said that, due to Election Day, November 7, falling on the regular board meeting day, the November Board meeting will be held the next day, Wednesday, November 8.

Marshall Wynn of VDOT reported that improvements to the Rts. 288/250 intersection in Centerville, which have been approved and funded, have moved into the detailed design phase. He did not mention of this means that the upgrades to this dreadful interchange will be completed before 2020.

New signage for the Fairground Road/Rt/ 250 interchange have been ordered.

The board appropriated up to $60,000 for thirty percent of the cost to design a Three Chopt Road underpass at Rt. 288. Given the time that VDOT—the state agency whose motto is “Oops!”—requires to complete improvements to the Rts. 288/250 interchange, it will be fascinating to see how much this will cost and how long it will take to complete. Would it have been so difficult to preserve the connection for Three Chopt and Ashland Road when Rt.  288 was originally designed? Have these people never heard of the maxim “measure twice, cut once”?

Blair Road has been paved at last!

Fire-Rescue Chief Bill MacKay reported that approximately 60,000 people attended this year’s Field Day of the Past in September. He said that October is fire prevention month and urged everyone to make sure that their homes have an adequate number of working smoke alarms and every family take the time to make and practice an evacuation plan. America, said MacKay, leads the world in residential fire fatalities, but has experience none in public schools. If we can keep our kids safe in school, “why not do it at home?”

Goochland Fire-Rescue, said MacKay, observes Breast Cancer Awareness Month, also in October, with commemorative tee shirts. This year’s shirt honors the memory of our late County Administrator Rebecca Dickson.
 Lisa Beczkiewicz
Administrative Assistant/Deputy Clerk models the commemorative shirt honoring the late Rebecca Dickson

The Board tended to “housekeeping” matters. It voted  to formally change the name of the Goochland Powhatan Community Services Board to Goochland Powhatan Community Services. 

The supervisors endorsed wider use of the county logo, rather than the county seal, on government vehicles. The logo, which prominently features the words “Goochland County” is easier to read than the seal,  a complicated heraldic symbol. The seal will continue to be used on official documents.

Budesky presented the annual report for FY 2017, which ended on June 30.  He said that the county is working its way through a series of  studies,  and an updated thoroughfare plan reflecting actual growth patterns, to understand all future needs for space, staffing, and equipment countywide. This will provide the basis for a public facilities plan to include parameters that trigger creation of new fire-rescue stations and other capital needs.

The school division is engaged in a similar initiative; the supervisors and school board will hold a joint meeting on November 28 to discuss their needs.

All of this information will  be part of  capital impact model, expected to be completed in February, 2018, to help  gauge the burden new residential projects  place on the county. This will help determine if developers are doing their part to mitigate the strain that their projects place of public facilities and services.

These studies were prompted by revised cash proffer legislation passed in 2016 and the flood of residential rezoning applications lapping at the county’s borders. Goochland’s response to growth should be  a topic at this fall’s Town Hall meetings. 

Paul Drumwright, Administrative Services Manager, presented the first draft of the county’s legislative agenda. This outlines the county’s position on matters that could come before the Virginia General Assembly. Goochland’s envoys in the GA include two delegates, Lee Ware of the 65th District, which includes the western art of the county; an open seat in the 56th District, and 22nd District  Senator Mark Peake, who took office in January.

Goochland has taken great care to keep lines of communication with our GA delegation open. This has resulted in passage of legislation beneficial to the county.

The draft includes evergreen items like requiring political parties to pay for primary elections; the state to reimburse the cost of local electoral boards and registrars; increased regulation of sludge transportation; broadband expansion;  and elimination of the state mandate that the school year being after Labor Day. (See page 89 of the October 3 Board Packet on the county website for the complete list.)

One item of particular importance on the legislative agenda is  a clarification of the “capacity of public facilities” used to craft development impact statements that are now a required part of all residential rezoning applications. Another is the restructuring or repeal of the state’s Certificate of Public Need (COPN), which governs when and where new medical facilities can be built.

During even session public hearings, the supervisors approved a Conditional Use Permit for Victory  Christian Church to expand the footprint on its Maidens Road site by approximately 37,000 square feet in the next 30 years. The new space will accommodate a larger auditorium and expanded food pantry area.

A CUP for a199 foot monopole communications tower in the Ashland Road corridor north of Interstate 64 was also approved. The applicant, PI Tower Development, LLC, said that it has a commitment from T-Mobile to locate on the tower and interest from other providers. The tower will increase signal and data capacity for the area.

Revised ordinance amendments for matters including public utilities; fire hydrant painting; and procurement policies to conform with state statues were also approved.

Friday, September 22, 2017

School daze

Gone are the days—with all due apologies to the Adams International School—of the little red schoolhouse meeting all of a community’s educational needs.  Teaching methods are changing to keep pace with our ever evolving world, and schools need to support these changes.  All three of Goochland’s elementary schools Byrd, Goochland, and Randolph, were built more than 50 years ago. Even the “new” high school has been in operation for more than 15 years.

The economy seems to be rebounding and Goochland is finally seeing significant economic development in the eastern end of the county to  counter balance the real estate tax base. Growth in the Tuckahoe Creek Service District (TCSD) generates additional ad valorem tax to service its debt, enabling the county to address pressing capital improvement needs pushed to the back burner while it got its financial house in order.

Items on the county’s current five year capital improvement plan (CIP) include: a new circuit courthouse; fire-rescue station; emergency apparatus; and a new elementary school.  The notion of building a new elementary school has been around for quite some time, but, due to other debt, was repeatedly kicked down the road. The CIP has a $24 million dollar “placeholder” for a new elementary school to be built somewhere around FY 2020.

For years conventional wisdom had it that the next elementary school would be built on land owned by the county on Hockett Road. As most of the residential growth seems to be in the east end, this seemed a reasonable course of action.

Earlier this year, the supervisors approved a request from the school division to fund the services of  consultant to study all school facilities and make countywide recommendations going forward for a few decades.

This initiative began in the summer and  included a survey and some meetings to discuss the matter. (Sidelined by bodywork, GOMM was unable to attend. However, contains many fascinating details about the county.)

Perhaps the most interesting assumption is that the size of the Goochland public schools' student body will remain around  3,000 for the next five years.  Most of the costs focus on construction or renovation to wind up with a 1,400 student capacity  at the elementary level at either three or four schools. These projections seem to be based on residential building permit data for the past few years, which were depressed by the economic downturn.

Several options were presented for the elementary schools, including razing and rebuilding them on current or new sites. Suggestions were also made to move the Career and Technical Education to the high school campus. Options include modernize existing facilities or replace them. Cost estimates, county wide, not including land acquisition costs range from approximately $49.5 to $61.6 million. The recommendations do not include expansion of athletic facilities, which some respondents to the survey contend are currently inadequate.

While many of the residential developments working their way through the rezoning process target senior citizens and will have no impact on schools, others do not. While it seems almost impossible to gauge how many children will be added to our school division from  resales, it should be addressed. Earlier this year, Director of Community Development JoAnn Hunter said that the bulk of the RES  student increase was caused by resales.

There have as yet been no formal discussions between the supervisors and school board about the matter, or, more importantly, how to pay for new and/or renovated schools. The county issued bonds to pay for the high school at the end of the last century.  Given that we are still carefully working around debt service for the TCSD, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

The county is in the process of conducting its own studies to create a more comprehensive CIP to include the courthouse, fire-rescue stations, information system upgrades, and additional space needs for county government.

Funds were recently approved to commission creation of a new master thoroughfare plan to deal with actual development activity, especially in the Hockett Road corridor.

All of these capital improvement studies will help the supervisors get a clear idea of the entire county’s needs going forward so they can make informed decisions about  appropriate and sustainable levels of  residential growth.  

Results of surveys about the school options and the remarks made by those who attended the steering committee meetings, last updated on September 19 are available at:  These documents are well worth perusing.

The last meeting of the steering committee will be held on Tuesday, September 26 in classroom 143 of Goochland High School at 6 .p.  Recommendations will be made to the School Board at its October 10 meeting at 6:30 p.m. in the county administration building.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

End of summer

The September meeting of the Goochland Board of Supervisors began with recognition of employee service anniversaries. Kelly Parrish, Director of Human Resources, who was celebrating her own fifth year with the county, said that this years’ honorees represented a more than 380 years of service to the community.  Thanks to all of these fine people who keep the county running. (See the September 5 board packet on the county website for the complete list.

Deliberations on a proposed roundabout for the Fairground/Sandy Hook Roads intersection consumed a good portion of the afternoon session. (See previous post for details.)

County Administrator John Budesky said that the administration building parking lot renovations should be completed in October and thanked the public for its patience during construction.

The supervisors authorized a rabies clinic scheduled for October 8, which will be held at the corner of Fairground and Sandy Hook Roads in Courthouse Village from 2 to 4 p.m. A fee of $10 per cat or dog will be charged.

A  renewal of the performance contract between Goochland County and the Goochland Powhatan Community Services Board and the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services was approved.  For fiscal year 2018, which began on July 1, Goochland and Powhatan citizens have access to $4,063,511 in services, of which Goochland provides  $268,730 in its annual budget. The CSB provides services for mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse issues for Goochland citizens. . (See board packet for complete agreement and visits to learn more about the CSB.)

An additional $15,000 was appropriated to complete the Centerville streetscape project, whose initial budget was $70,000. The project, which will include installation of paver “noses” at the intersection of Broad Street and Ashland Roads, is expected to be complete by October 15.

The supervisors appropriated up to $200,000 and authorized Budesky to execute a contract with a consultant to develop a new major thoroughfare plan for the county. Given that the last MTP was developed in 2005, and development is occurring in different places and ways than anticipated 12 years ago, this is a good move. The county needs current, detailed data about the impact of development on our roads to be able to gauge the cost and other consequences of new projects.

Barbara Horlacher, Director of Financial Services, presented an estimate of Goochland’s fiscal position as of the close of the 2017 fiscal year, which ended on June 30. Revenues are expected to have exceeded expenditures by approximately $5.2 million, final numbers are not quite in. There is a long list of possible uses for the “excess” including the appropriations for the streetscape and MTP.

Good stewardship of public funds  is the basis for every action taken by the current Board of Supervisors. At a meeting of the county Audit Committee, which assists the Board in  financial oversight reporting responsibilities, earlier on September 5, changes were recommended.

Going forward, the name will be the Goochland County Finance and Audit Committee. It will consist of three board members, the county administrator and director of financial services. Staff support will be provided by school administration; the Treasurer’s office and Commissioner of the Revenue’s office as preferred by the Committee.

The Committee will recommend appointment and dismissal of independent auditors and work  with them on the scope and approach,  and provide input on special areas of attention for the annual audit.

 The Committee will review the findings and recommendations of the auditors and the administration response regarding internal controls and review financial policies as needed.

Revised financial management policies were approved and are included in the board packet. This includes limiting  indebtedness to a 2.75 percent of the estimated market value of taxable property and debt service costs to 12 percent of  total general fund expenditures.

According to the policy document, the Commonwealth of Virginia imposes no statutory limit on the amount of debt a locality can issue. Limiting debt service, the document states, provides flexibility for other expenses in the budget.

The policy also states that the county will maintain a revenue stabilization reserve of at least one percent of the total annual adopted budget plus the non-local portion of the school operating budget.  This is sometimes referred to as a rainy day fund. Given the steadfast resolve of this board to operate local government in a fiscally responsible manner, rains of the magnitude of Hurricane Harvey over Houston would need to fall before this fund is touched.

The supervisors also referred ordinance amendments concerning chicken keeping by right in R-1 Districts, which was initiated by residents in James River Estates; to clarify and expand activities permitted at wineries, breweries, and distilleries; and require applicants for land use changes to file an affidavit disclosing the names and addresses of all parties with an interest in the real property, which is the subject of the application to the planning commission for consideration.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The music goes round and round

On Tuesday, September 5, the Goochland Board of Supervisors voted 4-1—with Susan Lascolette, District 1 in dissent—to build a roundabout at the intersection of Fairground and Sandy Hook Roads in Courthouse Village and unanimously passed a resolution to apply for revenue sharing associated with the project.

Lascolette said that her constituents prefer a signalized intersection and expressed skepticism at contentions that roundabouts are safer than signalized intersections.

The roundabout will be part of the extension of Fairground Road to Rt. 6 west of Goochland Elementary School, which has been in the conceptual stage for quite some time.

Right now, the intersection is dysfunctional at best, especially during peak travel hours. It is not usual for vehicles to pile up as motorists try to turn onto Sandy Hook Road. During a public comment that was part of the supervisors’ discussion of the matter, District 2 Planning Commissioner Matt Brewer commented that he sat at the stop sign at the intersection for the duration of an entire song on his radio while waiting to turn left in midafternoon.

According to the documentation on the matter, see, this intersection is number eight on the top ten hit parade of crash prone areas in Goochland. As Courthouse Village grows, congestion there will get worse.

The notion of a roundabout, which keeps traffic moving, albeit slowly, through an intersection, has been around for a while and was approved in 2008, but funding evaporated during the recession.

The cost to build a roundabout, $3.9 million will be split evenly between the county and VDOT. (The presentation shows that Goochland and VDOT will each chip in $1.9 million. GOMM’s liberal arts math skills adds 1.9 and 1.9 and comes up with $3.8 million. Guess the extra $100K  is for contingencies?).

A roundabout requires more land than an enhanced signalized intersection and costs an additional $300 thousand. The ballfield on Sandy Hook Road will be relocated to the Central High School complex on  Dogtown Road.

Construction for either option is expected to take about a year, and be completed  in 2022. 

A roundabout keeps traffic moving, while vehicles stop in each direction during a signal cycle at a traffic light. As the wait at each “arm” of the traffic signal grows with the number of vehicles, impatient drivers will be more likely to “run the light” paving the way for increased wrecks.

Heavier traffic will require more “storage”  lanes on all sides of the intersection. At some point, traffic  will back up to the entrance to  Courthouse Commons Shopping Center creating gridlock. Vehicles do not stop when negotiating a roundabout, so it would not need to be enlarged as traffic volume grows. The roundabout as planned is expected to handle anticipated traffic flow through 2043.

Opponents of roundabouts contend that they confuse drivers and lead to more wrecks. They also argue that large trucks may be too large to negotiate a roundabout. VDOT and the Timmons Group engineering firm insist that the roundabout template  used in the computer aided design (CAD) software will be large enough to accommodate log, chicken, and perhaps most important, emergency apparatus. Goochland Fire-Rescue Chief Bill MacKay has allegedly endorsed the roundabout option because it enables continuous free flow of traffic.

However, this roundabout will be built by VDOT—the state agency whose motto is “Oops!”—the  same bunch whose engineers used too tight a turn template when designing the Manakin/Broad Street Road improvements. This caused several large trucks to get stuck turning that corner. While the error was eventually fixed at VDOT’s expense, the money  could have been used on another project.

Should a traffic signal pole be damaged during an accident, one engineer said, it would need to be completely rebuilt from its foundation up. By contrast, damage caused by accidents in roundabouts tends to involve curbs and vegetation. Another distinction is that roundabouts do not shut down during power failures and eliminate waiting for green lights when there is no other traffic.

Pedestrians  negotiate roundabouts by crossing only a single traffic lane, not the entire intersection. Splitter  lanes include clearly marked walkways. Drivers yield to pedestrians in the crosswalks. Detectable warning surfaces that signal a change from concrete to asphalt  help the visually challenged realize that they are entering a crosswalk. It is incumbent upon the motor vehicles, by Virginia law, to stop in advance of the roundabout.
The hashed lines on the "arms" are pedestrian crosswalks. 

Experienced bicyclists have a choice of dismounting and walking through the crosswalks, or riding with traffic at the 20 miles per hour speed. Bicyclists on  pavement are considered vehicles and must yield to pedestrians.

Lascolette pointed out that cyclists are not required to obtain any sort of training. She asked if there was any data to compare intersection safety before and after conversion to roundabouts. In the last five years, a VDOT engineer said, roundabouts have gotten  much better, but was not aware of any data supporting  this contention.

Lascolette said that she received at least 70 comments from her constituents and businesses in the area preferring the traffic signal. She said she has been unable to find studies supporting the contention that the roundabouts are safer.

Assistant County Administrator Todd Kilduff and the VDOT engineers contended that there are fewer crashes in roundabouts than in signalized intersections and those that do occur are of the less serious sideswipe variety versus angle crashes.

Kilduff dispelled the notion that the entire intersection would be closed for a year during construction. Instead, he said, lanes may be closed, but traffic will still be able to move through the intersection. The first few weeks will be critical as motorists adjust to new conditions.

Manuel Alvarez, Jr. asked if the county could change its mind if the ultimate cost came in significantly higher. Kilduff said the cost estimates are based on future values. Goochland County Administrator John Budesky said that if costs increase the county and VDOT will need to appropriate additional funds or scrap the project.

Remarks by VDOT on other subjects gave little cause for comfort.

Later in the meeting a VDOT engineer explained the complexity of the approved and funded “fix” for the Broad Street Road/Rt. 288 interchange. There are 95 separate tasks and “450 days of engineering” needed to complete that project.
However, he also indicated that “plan” has already changed eliminating a second exit lane and eastbound traffic signal. This partially explains why it will take up to five years get this work done. This is all too reminiscent of the decade or so during which VDOT held meetings to explain in detail how Broad Street Road in Centerville would be widened, only to have the final product look nothing like the initial concept.

The success of a roundabout, or more complicated signalized intersection for that matter, depends on the behavior of motorists.  Goochland has its share of bad drivers. No road improvements can prevent people who ignore speed limits and recklessly disregard rules of the road from causing accidents. We all need to be a little more careful when we drive, especially on Goochland’s narrow roads, to  get where we’re going in a safe and efficient manner.

May the roundabout be built with minimal disruption and function as promised

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Hit the ground leaping

In addition to the first total eclipse in 99 years, Monday, August 21 marks the start of the Goochland school.

As is its custom, our school division gets the ball rolling with an annual convocation, this year held on August 14, to bring every member of “team Goochland” together for an energizing pep rally. The buzz of excitement battled with the strains “Stayin’ Alive” as people greeted old friends and met new ones filing into the high school auditorium.
BES Principal James Hopkins' happy dance

The joy of the day was perhaps best illustrated by James Hopkins, principal of Byrd Elementary School, who did a happy dance to greet the members of the BES team. Smiles, hugs, and laughter was  the order of the day.

Following the presentation of the colors by the GHS Marine Junior ROTC color guard and pledge of allegiance complete with the unofficial last two words “play ball,” Dr. Stephen Geyer took the microphone. He welcomed an amazing team to an incredible school community. “This is an amazing place for our students and an amazing place to work,” he said.

Out school board, said Geyer, is an active and integral part of our team. Their partnership with our board of supervisors allows students and teachers alike to take risks and thrive.

School  Board Chair Person Beth Hardy District 4 gave a special welcome to the highly talented group of educators who teach our children. Collaboration among students, teaches, staff, and leadership team makes GCPS a great place to work as it provides the best preparation for all students wherever their life’s journey may take them.

“Your unparalleled dedication is humbling,” Hardy said. “The magic in the school day happens in the classroom. The magic is you and what you bring every day. Thank you and have an amazing year.”

Dr. John Herndon, Director of Innovation and Strategy, discussed the G21 Awards made possible by the Goochland Education Foundation ( to encourage deeper learning. GHS career and technical education and  physical education won the gold ($300) for designing, building and using an archery range.

Fourth grade teachers at Randolph Elementary School won silver ($200) for improving the nature trails around the school.

Collaboration between a librarian and counselor at Goochland Elementary won Bronze ($100)  for a project using Scratch software to combine core values and coding.

Service awards presented. Team Goochland has a gracious plenty of folks who are here year in and year out.  Bryan Gordon and Priscilla Garrant with 30 years of service and Josie Gray with 35 years in our schools were praised with a thundering standing ovation.

 Last year’s teacher of the year Joe Beasely exhorted his colleagues to make every second of their time with students count, celebrate the milestones achieved by the GCPS winning team, and cheer each other on to bigger victories.

This year’s teacher of the year, Jennifer Gates, reminded other teachers “to never lose sight of who you are and your decision to become an educator. “It takes grit—passion and perseverance—to reach success.

 Guest speaker Dr. John Almarode of James Madison University contended that a teacher’s belief system is far more important to the success of a student than the transfer of a particular body of information. “Do you hose them down with information and pray that something sticks? Or are they better off for having spent a few hours with you?” he asked.
Dr. John Almarode offered insights about successful teaching

Goochland Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jeremy Raley said that the convocation filled about two hours celebrating the accomplishments of the past year and setting the tone for that about to start. “I’ve had a chance to see all of the amazing things you do for our kids every day to help them succeed. Our core value of optimism is not just a word on a page, it’s who we are,” he said.

“On Monday, they’re coming and they count on us to make appositive impact in their life and say ‘I believe in you’. It doesn’t matter what’s on your badge, we’re all one team. We are a very successful school division, but there are still kids we have not reached. By letting them know that we believe they can, they will succeed.”

The band provided a rousing conclusion to Convocation 2017

Go team Goochland! We look forward to seeing what new heights of accomplishment you reach in the coming school year.