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Spotsylvania boards head back to school

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Spotsylvania County School Board member Linda Wieland goes over a tour bingo sheet with her fifth-grade student guides, Candice Amick and Earl Hull, while visiting Robert E. Lee Elementary School on Friday.

Spotsylvania school bus 245 had an unusual load of passengers to deliver to school Friday morning.

The bus deviated from its normal loops to Massaponax High and Parkside Elementary, to ferry members of the Spotsylvania School Board and Board of Supervisors on their first combined tour of each school in the county.

School Board member Bill Blaine laughs with second-grader Jacob Clark and his speech therapist, Sue Sargeant, at Brock Road Elementary.

The tours, spread over three days, began on Oct. 29 and continued Nov. 8. The last tour is Dec. 3.

Superintendent Scott Baker said the visits are intended to “build community awareness by highlighting students and programs.”

Spotsylvania Supervisor Ann Heidig (center) and School Board Chairwoman Amanda Blalock (right) thank their student guides, Earl Hull and Candice Amick, after the tour.

County officials have an opportunity to ride school buses to each of the schools and meet school staff and students, as well as eat lunch at an elementary, middle and high school.

Joining the tour so far have been Sheriff Roger Harris and Major Don Thodos; supervisors Tim McLaughlin and Ann Heidig and supervisor-elect Greg Cebula; the School Board; and school staff.

Del. Mark Cole, who serves as deputy county administrator, also joined the tour on the first day, at Riverbend High School.

“We want them to get a feel for every school we represent,” Baker said.

At each school, the members view a 30-minute presentation by school staff.

At Spotsylvania High School, the first stop Friday morning, students offered information on the school’s JROTC program.

The JROTC students presented the colors for the school’s Pledge of Allegiance, and then battalion commander and senior Mariza Guerrero presented a video and slide show to the boards.

She told county officials that JROTC will help her attend the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis to study political science and law. She hopes to become a judge advocate general in the Navy.

Back on the bus, headed toward Post Oak Middle School, School Board member Ray Lora talked to the other passengers in the back few rows about Spotsylvania High School’s football win the night before and how they were headed to a championship game.

The tour Friday covered the far reaches of Spotsylvania County, where the students come from more rural backgrounds.

The other two days of the tour focused on more populated areas.

“This shows the diversity we have,” said School Board chairwoman Amanda Blalock. “In this part of the county, I think the big difference is in travel. Students need flexibility to get to school and from school to work in the afternoon. It’s very rural. There are no subdivisions like in Lee Hill or Chancellor.”

She said Spotsylvania presents unique challenges with the size and diversity of the district.

She said it is also important to show the supervisors where workers of the largest employer in the county—the school division—spend their days.

At Post Oak Middle School, the board heard from a student who made “Patriot’s Path” folders, which lay out short- and long-term goals, as well as how to achieve them.

One student, Marisa Pavey, decorated her folder with dolphins and smiley faces and said she wants to get all A’s, five school awards and take her soccer team to the championships in the immediate future. When she gets older, she wants to visit Colorado, attend an art college, become a designer and win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics.

Baron Braswell, the Battlefield District School Board member-elect, joined the tour at Post Oak.

He said it was nice to be in a school as an elected official and see the students his decisions will affect.

Greg Cebula, supervisor-elect in the Berkeley District, said funding for schools “is something I’ve been pushing from the very beginning.”

McLaughlin went on both the first and second tour, which he said embarrassed his children and niece at their respective schools.

“On the Board of Supervisors, we just get the numbers,” he said. “Here, we get to see where the money is going and get perspective on budget decisions. I’m seeing how those funds are being applied.”

He said that joint work sessions tend to be too formal, and the school tours offered a chance for both boards to talk candidly.

McLaughlin said he would like teachers to receive raises next year. He said that since those raises went unfunded in the last school budget, the supervisors did not view it as a priority.

At Livingston Elementary School near Lake Anna, the boards assembled in the library and sat in child-sized chairs to listen to testimonies from students about positive behavior interventions.

They also visited a first-grade classroom, where students were working on iPads and worksheets about letter recognition and reading.

“It’s amazing to me the innovation that’s going on,” Supervisor Heidig said.

She said the different approaches to learning displayed at each school interested her.

“I wish I was back in school,” she said.

Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976