With six incumbents on their way out, the lame duck School Board has a lot to get done between now and Christmas. They're wrapping up a two-year review of all of the School Board policies, they are expected to adopt new attendance boundaries for the future Frederick Douglass Elementary School, and as early as this Tuesday, they will vote to give school system staff direction on a five-year technology plan.
It's the vote of the technology plan that has some debating whether it should be a decision for the next School Board to make. The proposed 2010-2015 Educational Technology Plan would provide digital devices, such as a tablet, to every student, from fourth grade through high school.
Comments from current board members suggest most are leaning toward approving the plan, or at least a modified version of it, while most of the board members-elect expressed hesitation about--even all out opposition to--the plan, saying it's too much too soon with too many unanswered questions.
Tom Reed (At Large), who was reelected to a fourth term, said Thursday he wants to talk with his fellow board members about possibly putting the vote off, depending on how exactly how the motion is worded.
"It's one thing if we just say ‘we want to go forward with technology,' but how we finance it is to be determined," Reed said. "But I don't want this current board writing a check that this next board is adamantly opposed to."
School Board Chairman John Stevens (Algonkian), who lost to challenger Debbie Rose in this week's election, said he supports the idea of leaving the decision up to the incoming board members.
The agenda for this Tuesday's meeting will not be posted publicly until Friday; however Stevens said an approval of the action item on the proposed tech plan would simply give school system staff a recommendation so they could begin planning the next year's budget.
"With that said, my advice to the administration is going to be to proceed carefully with this budget, and to the current board to not make a recommendation to the next board," Stevens said. "Let them figure out what they want to do with it. A lame duck board has an obligation, particularly with almost an entirely new board coming in, to not overstep its bounds."
The School Board has had ongoing discussions about the proposal for the past several months. It was initially introduced to the board in June; two public meetings have been held regarding the plan and the school system created a webpage where the residents can anonymously offer their take on it.
Brenda Sheridan (Sterling), who secured her seat in Tuesday's election, says the current School Board members are the ones who have been at the dais, done the research, listened to staff presentations and heard comments from the public.
"I would hope that the people who have the knowledge and the feedback are the ones that make decision," she said. "Pulling the plug on it negates all of the presentations."
Bill Fox, who won the Leesburg District seat over incumbent Tom Marshall, said no matter what the School Board decides this coming week, the new board will critically review the plan.
"If they vote on it now, to be quite honest, will be a waste of their time," Fox said. "This is an issue that I'm confident we will revisit on Jan. 1 regardless what they decide to do this week."