Opinions detailed after meeting

Incoming Patrick County School Board member Walter Scott told his colleagues on the Patrick County School Board he wanted to share “some personal opinions.”

Although Scott’s request came after the meeting was adjourned, a member of the media was present, and the board agreed to hear his opinions on subjects that ranged from morale among staff, lesson plans, ways to save money, the school board’s involvement in conducting exit interviews and others.

Scott, of the Smith River District, said he felt the two main reasons he won the November election were due to morale of the employees and the money that is being spent.

He said he would like to see morale increase, and noted some teachers seem overloaded.

Scott said he would like the board to work to increase morale.

Scott said during a recent discussion, “a guy said his wife is a school teacher. He said she spent all day Sunday at the school working on these stupid lesson plans. She can’t wait until she retires.  I just hope the board can work together to find a way to work around some of the issues.”

School officials have said the state requires teachers in all Virginia localities to prepare lesson plans.

Scott also asked if a process was in place to conduct exit interviews with employees who leave the division.

The board recently approved forms to distribute to employees leaving the division.

“Can the board, just us here,” meet and talk to employees leaving the division, he said. “Would that be too much to ask?”

Board members explained that was not the duty of the school board.

Michelle Day, of the Mayo River District, said the board members have “always been open. They usually come to us,” she said of employees who leave.

Simmons asked if including a box on the form approved by the board last year would suffice. Employees interested in meeting with the board could check the box, and a meeting could then be arranged.

Eyeing cost savings, Scott asked “what do you guys do when it snows? Do you pay your employees to stay home?”

Twelve month salaried employees who miss time during inclement weather should be required  to make up lost days in comp time or personal days off, “unless it’s a liability,” he said.

On Saturday, Scott said he wanted to clear up the discussion of snow days in regards to 12-month employees, not the teachers. He said he believes 12-month employees should have to use personal days, vacation days, and comp time, if legal, on snow days.

When sharing his opinions with the school board on Thursday, Terry said if employees are unable to safely get to work, “all they have to do is call and say they can’t get out.”

“We wouldn’t do comp time for” salaried employees, Sroufe said, adding “it’s rare that I tell 12-month employees not to come” to work. “I usually come” regardless of the weather, he said, adding “most of the school board office typically comes.

Salaried employees and teachers (who work 10 months) put in a lot of time, Sroufe said, adding employees don’t often actually lose time due to inclement weather. If they are unable to get to their respective work areas, they often can work from another location.

Annie Hylton, of the Peters Creek District, also is a retired educator.

“I never got paid for the time I put in,” she said. “I may not have been there on a snow day; I sometimes went in on a Saturday (and) may have worked until 7 p.m.”

“You get so much work from all school employees, you don’t have to make them make up the time” missed, Sroufe said.

Scott said he was referring to maintenance employees.

“They work different shifts” and other times as needed, Sroufe said. For instance, there was an issue with the water system at Blue Ridge Elementary School, “and we had people working on Sunday.”

Although a supervisor oversees comp time for maintenance employees, Sroufe said “they put in a lot of time irregardless. It’s not that many days that I have closed the school division.”

Scott also commented on conferences school board members attend.

Scott said he and Brandon Simmons, of the Dan River District, are attending a conference this week. They are opting to leave the day the conference begins rather than spending money on a hotel room, Scott said. “That will save county a little bit of money, it’s not going to be a lot. I think we can all work together in ways to chop that budget down.

“There’s a lot of things that money can be spent on,” Scott said. “I didn’t get on the school board to get a free ride on nothing, I didn’t realize it was a paid position, it’s more for the county and for the students.”

Sroufe estimated the division would spend “considerably less than last year” on conferences and professional development.

He added the school board never has exceeded the $11,000 per year allocated for board members to attend conferences.

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