School Board Work Session Meeting 18 February 2020


  • Update on the progress of the new school project;
  • Discussion of budget matters;
  • Discussion of the School Division’s cell phone policy.

Meeting Notes:

All members of the NKC School Board were present.

The meeting was called to order at 1802. I was the only citizen in attendance in addition to all of the Superintendent’s senior staff. The primary purpose of the meeting was to update Board members on the progress of the new school project (New Kent Elementary School #3). In summary, the site plan and building layout remain unchanged. The entire 15 acres site is fully utilized leaving little to no room for future external expansion. Limited internal expansion may be possible though. The configuration of the building was largely determined by access control issues, learning space requirements, and supervision concerns. The cost of the project will be determined by the prevailing materials and labor markets. The winning bidder will be the lowest responsible bidder.

The bid deadline will be extended one week to allow potential general contractors to more precisely obtain trade numbers (mech, electrical, plumbing etc.). Bids are due 03/02/20. An award is expected by 03/20/20. Construction and FF&E procurement (furniture, fixtures and equipment) are expected to last 17 months culminating in an Aug 2021 opening supporting the 20/21 school year.

The discussion transitioned to budget matters with a brief interlude on potential excess state funds which could be used for salary increases, bonuses, and/or additional school counselors. Superintendent Nichols noted that the Governor’s budget was still not finalized but his staff would continue to monitor legislative developments that might indicate the possibility of additional state money finding its way to New Kent. The remainder of the budget discussion centered on teacher pay and retention. It appears the Board is determined to make New Kent as competitive as possible in relation to surrounding counties to attract and keep promising educational talent. Some of the ideas that were discussed included exemption from personal property and real estate taxes for those teachers living in the County, childcare, and health clinics. The cost associated with these enhancements have yet to be determined. Further, these initiatives still need to be discussed with the County leaders and the BoS. Concern over the low pay of classroom paraprofessionals was also mentioned. This issue as well has not been vetted with the BoS to date. Superintendent Nichols noted that he and the Board’s Chair and Vice Chair had begun meetings with the BoS Chair and Vice Chair in an effort enhance transparency and communication. This was refreshing to hear as the School Board endeavors to understand where the County’s priorities lie and where potential revenue issues might impede budgetary negotiations. The dialogue cuts both ways as the County will be equally informed of the School Board’s proposed path forward.

The final two items of the meeting were a brief discussion on student distractions in the class room, specifically cell phones. This led to a discussion of the School Division’s cell phone policy, highlighting enforcement, accountability, discipline, and the apparent lack of all three.

One vote occurred. Likely discussed in closed session, the Board unanimously (5-0) approved the Superintendent’s personnel recommendations.

The Chair/Vice Chair meetings between the BoS and the School Board is a positive development and giant leap forward.

Prepared by Paul Ross

School Board Meeting Agenda:
(Click Meetings, select 18 February 20, click Agenda)