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Phillip Berrier represents the Fancy Gap District on the Carroll County School Board.
The last decade or so has been a golden age for education in Carroll County.
Great strides were made in education due to the vision and the boldness provided by the leadership in the school system. Never in the history of Carroll has so much been accomplished with so little.
In fact, many of the candidates for superintendent who came from all over the U.S. commented on this gem of a school system hidden in the Blue Ridge.
This school board was bold in insisting on improvements in salaries to attract the best teachers for Carroll. This was challenging during this economic downturn, but we improved salaries from 126th statewide to 90th today.
We maintained a pupil/teacher ratio below state-recommended levels and increased the number of teachers who are highly qualified.
However, the central motivation for our board was to improve instruction and to do whatever was necessary to increase the level of achievement for students. We were able to do this at every level and for every sub-group in the schools.
The outgoing school board was visionary by increasing dual college credits for juniors and seniors to enable students to obtain a year of college classes prior to graduation.
The board was progressive in several areas: we increased the high speed bandwidth for schools to enable teachers to utilize available technology; we provided free accident insurance for all students; we added Nutrikids, Power School, and School Reach to enhance communication between home and school; we added nurses in every school; this board pioneered the K-12 Virtual School statewide; and we centralized the transportation, maintenance, and technology departments in one modern facility at the physical plant.
This school board was bold in moving principals out of schools where there was a lack of leadership as well as poor achievement by students.
We didn’t let nepotism, political connections, or family ties blur our judgment in doing what was best. We supported administrators who made recommendations to improve instruction within their schools.
We will be remembered as the school board that moved Carroll County to a position of preeminence in our region; one that is much admired and often emulated by other divisions in Southwest Virginia.
If we have a shortcoming, it will be the Phase III renovation, but I maintain that the blame should be with the board of supervisors who failed to adequately fund this project.
The community was involved in developing the plans and this planning committee made the recommendation to close Woodlawn and renovate Carroll County High School and Carroll County Intermediate. The School Board was left holding the bag in 2010 when the promised funding from USDA fell through.
We scrambled to find other funding, and received $15 million in zero interest Q-SAB bonds. However, the supervisors refused to fund the project adequately to meet future needs of our students.
Thus, the renovation project that we now have does not provide for a ninth grade academy, an auxiliary gym, new HVAC, renovated labs, etc.
This is not what the school board desired for Phase III. However, after the USDA fiasco, we had unpaid architectural fees, and seemed up a one-way street when the supervisors turned their back on us.
In retrospect, I believe that we’ve done more than any board in history to advance education in Carroll. I’ve been here a long time and I’ve experienced the growth in education since I began in a one-room school in 1949, to the modern, accomplished system we have today.
Never has Carroll been so admired and respected as it is today, and this is the crowning jewel of our achievements.