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Alga tenders resignation at Central Office; Mecklenburg trustees express concerns with school plan

SoVaNow.com / July 01, 2020
The Mecklenburg County School Board accepted the resignation of the Mecklenburg County’s director of personnel Nan Alga during a special called meeting of the board, June 23.

Alga’s last day will be Thursday. No replacement was named, and the open job position is posted on the school website, mcpsweb.org. She gave no hint of her future plans.

Alga has twice held the position of director of personnel for the school division. She was initially appointed by Jim Thornton when he served as superintendent of the Mecklenburg County Public School Division.

She left briefly to serve as director of human resources at Essex County Public Schools before returning to Mecklenburg County at the request of the current superintendent Paul Nichols.

Before taking on the personnel duties in Mecklenburg County, Alga was the principal at La Crosse Elementary School.

In other business, director of finance Christy Peffer briefed the board on the status of the school division finances after payment of the year-end bills. According to Peffer, the division spent $52,931,969.05 on salaries, transportation, maintenance, technology and payments on the debt service for the new school facility under construction in Baskerville. Another $2,565,024.33 was spent on textbooks and food service.

The division received revenues of and received general operating revenues in the amount of $53,165,094.46 leaving a positive balance of $233,125.41 which will be returned to the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors. In the past, supervisors have held that money for the use by the school division for repairs and other unanticipated expenditures.

Trustee Brent Richey commended Peffer for her handling of the school division finances noting that less than one-half percent of the total budget appropriated for the 2019/2020 school year had not been spent as estimated when the school division budget was first developed.

Nichols shared news of an upcoming virtual town hall meeting with members of the Concerned Parents/Guardians of Students of Mecklenburg Virginia Schools and others who had questions regarding plans for the coming school year.

The meeting, which took place June 24, was moderated by Derek Hazelwood and Zeb Elliott along with Nichols.

Nichols noted that the parents of Mecklenburg school students are “being significantly impacted by restrictions imposed by the Department of Education when it comes to the reopening of school facilities. The dominant impact has to do with childcare. “Parents are put in a position of having their children at home and are asking, ‘how am I going to work and have daycare?’”

Nichols acknowledged that information coming from the state is fluid and can change from week to week. After meeting with Hazelwood and Elliott, he agreed to hold a series of virtual town hall meetings during which he will receive and answer questions.

Wanda Bailey asked Nichols if he and his staff had a timeline for when the school division would submit its reopening plan to the Department of Education. Under the DOE guidelines schools must submit a public health mitigation plan and an education plan at least 15 days before the start of the school year. The deadline for Mecklenburg County to submit its plans is July 28.

“If plans are submitted and there is a part they [the Department of Education] don’t like, can school start or will it have to be delayed,” she said. She also asked if or when the school division planned to apply for a variance from some of the requirements in the VDOE Recover, Redesign and Restart plan for reopening the schools. Specifically, she asked if the division would ask for a variance from the provision that limits the number of bus riders to 10 or fewer.

“The Department of Education has given us a way to object and are we planning on trying to take advantage of that variance. We have such poor internet access and transportation issues we should try to ask for variances on those two issues” Bailey said.

She said her personal opinion was that the logistics of trying to mitigate the spread of the virus by bringing half the students in one week and half the next doubles their exposure to the virus. She said she could not see how parents could work and keep their kids at home.

“I know that daycare is not our issue, but when it becomes an issue for our parents then it is our kids’ issue. So, it makes sense to me to bring them all in, keep them in a cohort and if the teachers need a day (she suggested Friday) for planning so be it. We are almost into July and we don’t have a lot of time to ruminate.”

Ricky Allgood said he agreed with Bailey that “keeping kids out for a week at a time is not good for them.”

Nichols said he concurred with her objections but felt the division had few options available. “The state superintendent has threatened to shut down any school not in compliance.” He said the division anticipates asking for variance on transportation and he’s also reached out to members of the General Assembly expressing his concerns. “This is not a done deal, but we have to make plans now for a month away.”

The division previously reached out to parents to determine how many, if any planned to keep their children out of school for either all or part of the year. “We are beginning to get significant results back from survey. From the responses received to date, about 30 percent of parents are concerned about their children getting exposed to disease so they plan to keep their kids home, Nichols said.

More parent responses are needed so the school division can submit waivers from those portions of the VDOE plan that cannot be accommodated in this rural school division.

Allgood asked Nichols how the division intended to respond if “we have a positive case in a school. Will we have to shut the school down or is that a state decision?”

Nichols said according to the VDOE if a child shows signs of the virus, the school division must contact the Centers for Disease Control or the Department of Health “for guidance on the next steps. I believe shut down decisions are made on a county-by-county basis but if there is a second wave then the governor reserves right to shut down schools.”

Allgood replied, “I hope he gives us more warning.” in reference to March 13 when the governor announced he was closing schools to quell the spread of the virus. The announcement came at the end of the school day, giving teachers and administrators less than two hours to prepare lessons for students to take home.

Lindell Palmer asked about the future of athletics. He was told by Nichols that the Virginia High School League had not spoken on the subject except to authorize summer training and conditioning for fall sports, with limitations.

Gloria Smith pressed Nichols and the administration to hire more African Americans as teachers and administrators in the school division. She said she’d asked for a “black/white breakdown of staff.”

“Now is the time we need to be in the process of moving forward. We have lots of reasons why we don’t have as many blacks in our system. I see us moving forward so that every black child should be able to go from elementary to high school and have a black administrator they can see as a role model.”

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Comments

Why are we questioning the hire of more black teachers and administrators just to make numbers even? There are currently 15 teacher positions open. The question from Mrs Smith should be who is applying for these positions? Are you gonna choose teachers by the color of their skin or by their qualifications? The question is not how many black teachers do we have but how many have applied that are qualified. I don't hire plumbers, electricians, concrete finishers based on their color, I base it on the quality of their work. I'm not seeing the issues Mrs. Smith brought up as concerns when she was trying to be elected but instead resorting to race accusations in our system for which there are plenty of opportunities. Mrs. Smith should stick to making the schools better for the children.


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