Bully prevention discussed, concerns aired

By Amanda Collins

The Patrick County School Board members met at Blue Ridge Elementary School for an hour prior to the regular meeting to talk to current employees in closed session during the meeting held on Thursday, Oct. 11.

Brandon Simmons, of the Dan River District and vice chairman, said the new initiative was because everyone had “heard of employees being mistreated” and the idea was to give everyone a chance to speak.

The board received a “good response” during the meeting with staff, Simmons said, adding school board meetings will be held at each school in the county and the board will continue the closed sessions with employees.

When the board convened in open session, Schools Superintendent William Sroufe presented information about bullying, and noted that each school in the county plans to participate in the bully prevention month.

Although he did not have details about plans at individual schools, Sroufe said the program is worthwhile and noted that “160,000 students in the United States miss school each day due to bullying.”

Danny Wood aired concerns about the cost of the K12 program during the public comment portion of the meeting.

The program is a Virginia Virtual Academy that includes King and Queen County, Richmond City and Patrick County public schools, according to online sources. It is an accredited, tuition-free online public school and students benefit from personalized learning plans; Virginia-licensed teachers; rigorous, highly interactive curriculum; advanced learner program; and field trips, clubs, according to online sources.

Wood said that the county is broke according to information he gleaned at the Patrick County Board of Supervisors meetings.

“The county puts $819,000 to run the program,” Wood said. This is for students that are not in Patrick County. “Our tax money is being spent to run this program.”

After the meeting, Sroufe said the virtual school is something he inherited when he became superintendent. “We are in a contract, this is something we can’t walk away from,” Sroufe said.

The school system “nets about $600,000 annually from the program,” depending upon enrollment.

Sroufe also presented an Award of Distinction from the Virginia School Boards Association to each school board member.

He also received an Award of Distinction for “commitment to effective school board governance.”

Sarah Leigh Collins, who serves as the board’s clerk, was presented with an Award of Achievement.

The board also approved a consent calendar and met in closed session to discuss Sroufe’s evaluation, religious exemptions, and personnel matters.

The board approved the monthly personnel report following closed session.

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