Home > County/Town Government and Politics > CHG Flexes its Muscle on Schools

CHG Flexes its Muscle on Schools

Some of you may remember the local watchdog group Citizens for Honest Government, a non-partisan group that is dedicated, in its words, “improving the quality of government in the county by monitoring the activities that affect the county and raising the awareness of citizens.” Although the group’s founding was controversial, it is clear that they are quickly becoming the leading voice against government lagresse in Shenandoah County. Their latest target: the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors for putting up $95,000 for closing costs and preliminary site work for land in Strasburg and Woodstock.From the Northern Virginia Daily

However, members of Citizens for Honest Government complain that alternatives to new construction have not been seriously considered.

“We’ve been against [building new schools] all along,” Citizens for Honest Government’s Fred Hughes said Wednesday. “We’ve suggested redistricting. We’ve suggested to them that there’s no real need for schools at this time, no proven need in the future. We’ve suggested that they build up instead of out.”

Hughes provided a list of options he said he presented to the supervisors and School Board members in December 2007. These included moving fifth-graders to the middle schools at the northern and central campuses, using portable classroom trailers, eliminating the use of empty classrooms for teacher planning time, adding on to current schools and redistricting.

But, those options weren’t given proper consideration, Hughes said.

“The only people that the supervisors are listening to is the school board, and the school board is not listening to anybody,” he said.

Suzanne Curran had even hotter words for the Board:

he public’s money is still paying for the projects, Suzanne Curran, of Citizens for Honest Government, said Wednesday. She wasn’t at Tuesday’s meeting.

“The government, whether it be local, state or federal, does not ever earn money on its own,” she said. “It takes money from those of us who earn it. Any money that they have tucked away some place was tax money to begin with. Right now, the General Assembly is in session determining how much money they’re going to cut from local education pots of money.

“It’s just nuts. Maybe this money was going to be needed to offset what doesn’t come from the state so we can keep functioning here. We don’t know how long this economic downturn will continue. I’m offended by what I see as poor decision-making.”

The board defended itself by saying that this was a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and that the move did not constitute an endorsement for school construction. However, some of the Board member’s individual involvement seems to indicate otherwise. Additionally, I hardly think the school board will view this as less than an endorsement. Indeed, Superintendant Rowland quickly came out swinging for two new schools, even going so far to acknowledge that a tax increase will be needed. 

I agree that due dilligence was not given to all the suggestions from CHG, which from my understanding were first presented to the School Board over a year ago. Here they are:

  • Moving Grade 5
  • Portable Classrooms
  • Conversion of special instructional spaces
  • Revised scheduling
  • Reducing planning time
  • Redistricting 
  • Smaller buildings 
  • Build additions to existing schools

Granted, I’m not sure how many have merit–the fifth graders were already moved less than a decade ago. Also, many of the suggestions will not be met without public concern, if not in some quarters downright outrage. You’ve never seen an angry parent in a rural area until you bring up the words “redistricting.”

Still, I will admit, I am not a structural engineer, so I don’t if we can build up instead of out as CHG suggests. However, I’m man enough to admit it, and I would at least like to know before I make up my mind. So far, I haven’t gotten an answer. I think a combination of these suggestions could likely bring about a workable solution. 

Frankly, I think our current problems stem from the decision over 40 years ago to move to the campus system. This further divided the communities and created a precedent for moving kids up through the same campus. I will grant that this does provide more community support throughout a child’s early years, but now you have the problem of uneven growth in the county and therefore major issues in the lower levels. 

But that’s the past: Let’s find a workable solution NOW, particularly when we have major issues with our economy.

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