Citizens Speak Out Against Closing Small Western Schools and Bus Driver Benefits Cuts
The Loudoun County School Board room was packed with Loudoun County Public School (LCPS) employees and residents who spoke during the public comments on January 31, 2011. Many of the more than eighty citizens and employees who signed up to speak were concerned with the proposed budget cuts that would, among other things, affect part-time employees. Still others were concerned about the possibility that budget cuts would force the closing of western Loudoun County’s four small public schools – in Aldie, Middleburg, Hillsboro and Lincoln.
Many full-time and part-time employees spoke to oppose the potential loss of health insurance benefits for school system employees who do not meet a certain threshold in terms of the number of hours worked per week.
Fran Lettington, a bus driver for LCPS for 10 years said: “This board wants to take away the benefits of the bus drivers and others, that is a want, that is not a need.” Lettington has also worked as a substitute teacher. Lettington continued, “Loudoun County Public Schools is not a private club where you can make decisions just to cut corners. This is a county government job. If you need to cut, cut it across the board from the top of the crop to the bottom of the basket. It doesn’t matter the hours we work, it’s the job we were hired for. What others do doesn’t make them any better than I am at mine. It takes a special person to drive students to school and like what they do … ”
Priscilla Godfrey, former Blue Ridge District School Board member said that, out of all the questions the board members asked, six questions were about western Loudoun’s small neighborhood schools. She pointed out that there are many approved subdivision projects in the future near these western Loudoun schools. Also, most of the western school buildings have Energy Star ratings. “Leave these schools alone!”, said Godfrey.
Ten of the speakers came from Hamilton elementary alone. This is the most public input on an operating budget the School Board has ever had.” Supporters of Lincoln Elementary School – an historic 125 year old plus school that is one of only seven schools in the State of Virginia to win the national Blue Ribbon School Award – were also out in force.
The newly elected School Board members did not have school system reductions costed out to the dollar, and, therefore, had to postphoned action until February 7, 2012.