Chesterfield County School District Superintendent Harrison Goodwin defended his decision to implement two-hour delays in the start of the school day during last week’s dip into temperatures near the single digits. Goodwin told board members at Monday evening’s meeting his biggest fear was bus failure.
Goodwin said that of the district’s fleet, there were 10 buses that would not start initially on those coldest mornings last week. Only two buses ran later than scheduled, “but I would rather err on the side of caution.”
“You have to think of that child standing in the cold beside the road waiting on that bus,” Goodwin said.
Keeping all of the school’s facilities and classrooms warm during those extreme temperatures was also a challenge, said Goodwin.
“We lost heat in some areas, and in others we were only able to maintain about 60 degrees,” said Goodwin.
Chesterfield County School Board Chairman James Sweeney welcomed the county’s “agricultural celebrity,” McBee High School teacher Pat Earle, to Monday’s meeting.
Sweeney proudly displayed a copy of the book “American Teachers; Heroes in the Classroom” by Katrina Fried, which features Earle on page 58, for the board to see. The book was released last October, but Earle recently attended a book signing with Barnes and Noble.
Cheraw High School agriculture teacher Robert Bollier, last year’s Teacher of the Year, was also recognized Monday.
Sweeney recalled a time, 10 or 12 years ago, when keeping agriculture as part of the high school curriculum was questioned and brought before the board.
“Of course, the board was pro agriculture,” said Sweeney. “I was an agriculture major myself. And the success of these two agriculture teachers is proof that was a good decision.”
The school district’s annual financial audit for 2012-13 has been completed. Brad Willard, Chesterfield County School District’s chief financial officer, told the board he had anticipated an audit that would “hold us to very high standards. And let me tell you, it was extensive … and that’s a good thing.”
Willard said the auditor’s research prompted a few changes in bookkeeping procedures and corrected some transaction reports.
“Some of these changes should have taken place years ago,” said Willard. “That’s another reason audits are mandated yearly. They are a great tool for us. They give us an accurate representation of our financial position.”
“And the bottom line is that the district remains financially sound,” said Willard.
They district was given an “unmodified opinion,” said Leslie Kelly, a representative of McGregor and Company LLP, the company that conducted the audit. Kelly said the term “unmodified” is the same as what used to be called unqualified.
“The district’s fund balance is about $4.8 million, with a net decrease of approximately $1.8 million that was anticipated,” said Kelly. “You have $361,000 designated for transportation activities, leaving you with $4.4 million unassigned.”
What this means, said Kelly, is that the school district’s operations are “running at about 9 percent and the national recommendations are to be at about 16 percent.”
“When did that change?” asked Sweeney. “We’ve always been told to aim between 10 and 12 percent.”
“Well, some smaller districts seem to manage better at a lower percentage,” said Kelly. “That’s a national average.”
The board approved the calendar for the 2014-15 school year, choosing the option most teachers indicated suited them best. The first day for students will be Aug. 18, 2014. The last full day of school for the academic year will be May 29, 2015.
The next school board meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 10 at Jefferson Elementary School.
Staff Writer Karen Kissiah can be reached at 843-537-5261.