My Side of the Fence

The danger isn't going too far. It's that we don't go far enough.

Category: Schools (page 2 of 17)

School Funding Wierdness

Soooo….let me get you two pieces of info before I get started:  One – the schools and the City have this thing called the "Revenue sharing agreement".  It says that 58.5% of general fund revenues are to be shared with the schools (whether you love or hate it really doesn't matter right now).  The "General Fund" is comprised of property taxes, business taxes and a few other taxes.  When the City setup the fire levy, we met with the schools in advance and increased the percentage of the general fund they received to compensate for the removal of the fire budget from the General Fund.  Ok, hold on to this for a minute.

Two – The cost of operating the jail has continued to climb.  We have been locking up more people and, because we're short at least one judge, people are staying in jail longer when they aren't released before trial.  Some of that operating cost was built into the budget but over the years as the costs climbed, the Managers of years past "fixed" the situation by using savings accumulated over the course of the year to pay the balance due to the county.  Those savings are collectively called "Year-End funds."  As long as the budget variance wasn't much it wasn't a big deal but it has become an operating expense and not a one-off.   ok, also hold on to this.

Now comes the rest: the proposed budget was never really presented to the public.  The Manager gave a short speech and that was it.  I was disappointed that there was no presentation.  Really, the first time the public will see a budget presentation will be right before the public hearing!!  That's not very transparent.  In looking at the budget forecast an odd thing turns up.  It's easier to show than describe so here:



This is a list (out of the forecast) of all of the tax revenues that the city is to share with the schools.  Real Estate, Personal property, etc, etc all makes sense but wait, what's that last?  The jail is revenue to share?  I didn't know we made money on the jail?….hmmmm…Oh, no…oh my.  It's in parens so it's a "negative revenue" to share.  That's interesting.  My take on that is the proposed budget takes about $1.2 million right off the top before revenue is shared with the schools!  I've checked with other folks and the consensus is that this is exactly what's happening.  Put differently, the City's base budget doesn't include enough revenue to fund our obligation to the jail so we are taking money from our kids education and putting it towards the jail.  Krooks before Kids?  Doesn't sound like a great strategy to me and this proposal should be DOA.

I don't see how, given the revenue sharing agreement, the proposal can just strip a million bucks right off the top.  The City has never done that before that I can recall.  I've read the revenue agreement and I can't see where this is something allowed.  Yes, running a jail is expensive.  No, I don't want to pay more taxes but, unless we're going to go all "Sheriff Joe" and put up a tent over by the airport, we have to have an operating jail and the revenue sharing agreement (again, liking it isn't germane) foresees that as the city's operating expenses go up, the schools will follow a similar trend.  Look, until about 60 days ago it was me on the other side of the dias so I'm sensitive to the fact that the revenue sharing agreement makes things more expensive for the city but enrollment has continued to climb and operational costs, including salaries, don't get cheaper.  Just like the City, the Schools have seen their expenses go up.  

I'd like to see the Council cowboy up and take this on.  We don't have endless resources and I don't want another tax increase but the elected bodies have to sort something out here. 


School News

The best piece of news about our local schools recently is that their SUP to build a new Baldwin school was approved on first reading last night.  Second reading is tonight.  The money for this school was approved on a very narrow vote but the SUP was approved unanimously last night.  This is a good step forward for our future!

The Bad news is that one of our Principals, a Mr. Toogood over at Dean, is alleged to have been working for the Schools under false pretenses.  It's alleged he actually has altered his qualifications.  He's worked for the schools for a number of years and nobody knew about it.  I (and many others) were understandably upset about this: to all appearances the sins of the past administration(s) seem to be like fish cooked too long on the stove –  it's a stink you'll never get out.  However I've got faith that the School Board has the fortitude to see this through.  I encourage them to keep making the tough decisions, the time to quit is not now.  Go find the problems and get it over with.

I have received the following communique from D-Mag, our illustrious Superintendent in an attempt to explain the situation:

On June 25, 2014, Manassas City Public Schools (MCPS) was contacted by Dr. Steven Staples, State Superintendent for the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), regarding information he had received alleging that Mr. Robin Toogood, then principal of Jennie Dean Elementary School, may have altered his academic credentials. An investigation was immediately commenced by MCPS staff, 
confirming that several of his credentials were indeed fictitious.

On Friday, June 27, 2014, Mr. Toogood was presented with the results of the investigation. He resigned from his position as principal and surrendered his Virginia license. The results of the division's investigation, Mr. Toogood's resignation, and his license were sent to the VDOE. Mr. Toogood's license was cancelled July 21, 2014.

As a result of this incident, the MCPS Human Resource Department will no longer rely solely on the Virginia Department of Education to validate transcripts for licensing purposes. As of July 1, 2014, MCPS began using a clearinghouse to verify the authenticity of the transcripts of all new employees regardless if they are licensed. This action will validate information that has been provided by employees to the Department of Education for licensing. Additionally, MCPS has also gone a step further and has begun the process of verifying the transcripts of all current licensed employees who have provided transcripts as part of their employment process. Ms. Billie Kay Wingfield, Director of Human Resources, who began working with MCPS on August 1, is leading the changes that have been put in place.

Mr. Toogood was hired under a previous administration, but records indicate that an application, resume, references and transcripts were collected and that references were also contacted by phone. He began his employment with MCPS July 1, 2009 after working with the District of Columbia Public Schools, public charter schools in the District of Columbia, and a school in Maryland from 2002 to 2009 as a teacher and administrator. Mr. Toogood received his Virginia license when he submitted his transcripts and his District of Columbia license to the Virginia Department of Education.

Currently, Dr. Zella Jones, who served as assistant principal at the school during the 2013-2014 school and is now serving as acting principal, has been leading the school and has worked to ensure that students have been assigned to classes and that everything will be in place for teachers and students when they return.


It's a pretty thorough explanation of the situation.  Sure, it's frustrating and I hope there's some re-examination of our policies and the records for our other deputies to ensure we have no other lingering issues but it doesn't change my thoughts on the schools.  I like D-Mag and think her a capable leader.  Keep to the course and make it happen Sista! 



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