Wednesday, January 27, 2010

All politics are local

School board emulates Congress

At its January 26 meeting the Goochland School Board voted unanimously to recommend approval of a proposed budget present by Dr. Linda Underwood, superintendent of schools.

This action was a nasty slap in the face to the Goochland Parents Education Association (GEPA)whose suggested alternatives to cutting teaching positions was ignored.(See their budget proposal at

Reportedly comments at the school board meeting characterized GEPA as bad little boys and girls who would be sent to bed without supper after throwing a tantrum.

The budget approved by the school board retains all of the high dollar administrative folk that have come on board since Underwood took over at the start of the 2007-08 school year while eliminating teachers. (See this budget at the school website It’s still about $1 million more than projected tax revenues. The annual Goochland school budget is typically a bit more than all of the real estate taxes collected.

Although the school board’s action is no surprise, it signals a return to the “good old boy business as usual” method of operations used by Goochland for many decades.

Emulating other school boards in the region, Goochland’s “fab five” urged parents to demand that the board of supervisors increase the real estate tax rates to generate at least the amount of revenue realized last year.

On January 19 County Administrator Rebecca T. Dickson made a presentation to the supervisors of the revenue generated by the current 53 cents per $100 of assessed valuation that has been in place for several years. (To view this excellent summary of the county’s fiscal condition, go to and click on supervisors and January 19 packet. This is a somewhat large pdf file, so download on a hi speed connection is recommended.)

The school board’s reaction to the GEPA budget and general comments made by parents questioning budget items mirrors the posture taken by Congressional leaders to those who question the health care reform legislation. They are in charge, they know what’s best and they will do as they please. Don’t bother them with pesky facts and reasonable questions.

Underwood will present her budget to the supervisors next Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in the board meeting room. It will be interesting to see if the supervisors cave in to school demands as they have done in past years, or hold the line.

With all of the specific questions about the school budget that have been raised by parents and ignored by school administration it is hard to see how the supervisors will be able to justify raising the tax rate to fund more smoke and mirrors.

We have gone beyond the point where the school system can show up each year waving standardized test reports and demand a blank check from the taxpayers because it did a good job. This is definitely a situation when the maxim “never trust anyone who says trust me” applies.

Having elected school boards that lack the power to levy taxes paves the way for this kind of total abdication of fiscal responsibility. If the school board had to justify its expenditures to every taxpayer at the ballot box, it would be singing a different tune.

That argument is for another day.

It’s hard to see how parents can be motivated to support a tax increase to fund a budget that they have found seriously flawed. We all want good schools, but we’re still wondering how retaining expensive administrators while eliminating teachers makes sense.


Anonymous said...

What do the members of the School Board think is their duty?

*Share info about the proposed budget?...NOPE, they didn't post in advance or share copies at their public meetings or even project it on the screen that was right behind their chairs.
*Consider input from the citizens?...NOPE, plenty of citizens emailed, called and met with each member, yet nary a one bothered to incorporate or discuss any good ideas presented by GEPA or others.
*Insist that the budget reflect the citizens' concerns?...NOPE, they didn't ask the superintendent to change anything.
*Use their own common sense to make sure the budget isn't merely protecting the superintendent's posse?...NOPE, and they even approved (after the budget) a resolution drafted by the superintendent to facilitate her starting now to fire staff without including mention of the fact that teaching positions have higher value to students, schools, and parents than do any administrative positions.

Anonymous said...

I personally believe that the superintendent , upon comencement of the 1/26/10 meeting, collected the testicles of each of our five school board members. We need a school board who are not small, fearful mean afraid to stand up for their county's future.

Anonymous said...

Has Dr. Underwood elected for a salary reduction? If not, WHY NOT!

Anonymous said...

Has Dr. Underwood elected for a salary reduction? If not, WHY NOT!

Anonymous said...

You miss the whole issue. Should schools require 54% of the county budget to get the basic job of education done? Both the school board and the school administration are protecting their territory and have no sensitivity to the taxpayer. Parents of school children who join in the annual crusade for more money, year after year, would not do so if it was coming out of their pockets alone. Instead, the whole state school mentality is one of entitlement, a practice that is destroying our country. Our Founders NEVER envisioned a state indoctrination system such as we have today, nor the entitlement it has granted itself. Take the $15K per year being spent per student in Goochland (divide the $35 million spent on all school-related expenses in the 2009-2010 budget year by the number of students 2,300) and it is clear that if parents were given even a portion of this per child and allowed to choose where they placed their children, the vast majority would pull them out of state indoctrination and place them in private schools of their choice. The NEA would be out of business and the "school board" would be unnecessary. This reality is at the core of the annual grab for power by the NEA and its local minions.

Anonymous said...

PARENTS AND CITIZENS OF GOOCHLAND.....we do not have to put up with this school superintendent or this wimpy school board. This is about our children. Join me in requesting the board of Supervisors for the immediate dismissal of Linda Underwood. Call them day and night. Next election we will elect decent folks to the school board who have our children's best interest at heart.

Anonymous said...

In Response to the Previous Comment:

It is you, sir or madam, who is "missing the issue". The parents of Goochland schoolchildren are not asking the School Board for MORE money, they are questioning HOW this money is being spent. Because it IS coming out of our pockets. And yours too. And you should care.

By the way, the average cost per student is significantly lower than $15k. There are State and Federal funds that Goochland still receives to offset this cost.

Anonymous said...

In response to the recent revenue reductions, the School Board is proposing a budget that will cut teachers, programs & educational tools, rather than focusing on increased efficiency in other, non-core areas of the budget. Compromising the integrity of our school system in this way will not only endanger the education of our county’s children, but also place further stress on our property values.

So, the Goochland Education Parents Association (GEPA) has created a petition that we will present to the Goochland County Board of Supervisors at their next meeting, Tuesday, February 2.

We've just posted the online version at (FYI - the donation page that pops up after you sign is completely optional & in no way affects the inclusion of your signature on the petition.)

Please sign, & share it with your friends & neighbors in Goochland County. Get the word out!

Anonymous said...

The math is right. It is $15K+ per student. A small portion comes from the state and fed. But where do you think that comes from? Certainly not out of thin air. It comes from TAXES that you and I pay. It is $35+ million in annual school-related costs paid by taxpayers, no matter how you cut it.

Regarding parents not asking for more money: I have attended multiple council meetings when Goochland parents pushed and pushed to build a new $20+ million facility, and mocked and derided when they didn't get it. Their rationale? There are drinking fountains in the old building that haven't worked for years. There is a multi-purpose room that also has a chalkboard in it and children might get hurt on the corners of the board. County X is spending more than us . . . do we want to be left behind. We can never spend too much on education. Our children deserve the best. And on and on and on. I know the routine. When someone feels entitled they are quite strident in their demands for other people's money.

jd said...

In response to the previous comment:

Your numbers are indeed relatively accurate as to the cost per student. I'm sure you have heard arguments over the years from parents that have not set well with you. However, past arguments are somewhat irrelevant to today's situation. Obviously, you have missed the fact that the School Board has told parents to go to the Board of Supervisors and ask for a tax rate increase in order to pay for the county's schools. You also missed that the parents flatly reject that directive. You missed that GEPA proposed an alternative budget that wouldn't require any tax increase, and provides for expenditure reductions over and above what the School Board's proposal contains. You missed that GEPA's proposal wouldn't cut teachers, textbooks and programs, but rather "middle management" positions and wastes & inefficiencies within the system.

Dismiss the issue all that you please. In the end, the greatest single factor to the value of your property centers on the quality of the county's school system. The real estate mantra goes "Location, location, location". Perhaps you didn't realize that the first one of those (in capital letters) relates directly to schools.

To lump this situation with your past experiences is unwise at best. The same thought processes would lump you as a racist (because Virginia is after all part of the Confederacy). I'm certain that is not the case. Take the time to get the facts on THIS particular issue. I have a feeling you will have a different perspective than the one you from which you currently judge.

The county does indeed have a school system (whether you like it or not). Proper stewardship is in the best interest of all residents.

Anonymous said...

To the people who are asking that Ms. Underwood be fired... Check out her contract... If she were fired, rest assured we will be paying not just a new superintendant's salary but we will keep paying her for (possibly) years as well!

We were in that boat once before when Warren Stuart left Goochland!

How many more teachers can we lose - to pay the for fat cats?