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Outgoing school board member looks back

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GUEST EDITORIAL

Phillip Berrier represents the Fancy Gap District on the Carroll School Board. He was one of three members who were not returned to office in the Nov. 8 election.

As an outgoing member of the Carroll County School Board, I would like to express my gratitude for the opportunity to have served the people of Carroll County.
This was a position that I never anticipated or expected as part of my life’s challenges. However, I feel that during my tenure on the board, we accomplished much as a unified group who sought the best for the students, teachers and everyone involved in the everyday task of educating our most valuable commodity: the children of Carroll County.
As a board, we were in unison on most issues and never openly fought or quarreled about philosophical or political differences, but we kept our priorities in perspective so that we could work for the good of everyone.
I feel that we advanced the educational system through the improvements that we made; however, we had a good foundation to build on when we came into office, and we did not seek to destroy or undo what had been achieved under prior school boards, superintendents, administrators and teachers.
During our tenure, we’ve had budgetary challenges because of the great recession/depression of 2008-2011, but we’ve survived without destroying our exemplary school system. This major hurdle will confront the next board immediately upon taking office, and I pray they’re able to work their way through this without wholesale demolition of our school system.
As a board, we’ve given our school principals the autonomy to run their schools to best meet the needs of their students; we didn’t meddle in the hiring process and generally backed our principal’s recommendations. In other words, we did not micro-manage the schools, but rather we let the administrators in charge run the school system because they are the trained professionals, and this should be their responsibility.
This school board made an effort to attend VSBA-sponsored conferences, workshops, etc., to keep abreast of changes and innovations in education and bring these ideas back to Carroll; some were implemented and others were not, but we were always looking for ways and means to advance the cause of education in Carroll County.
We desired to complete Phase III of the renovation project that was begun in the 1990s; however, a lack of funding thwarted our initial goal when the USDA funding fell through after it was approved by the Carroll Board of Supervisors, assured by the federal officials and architectural plans had been drawn.
This created a dilemma that resulted in $15 million bond issue from Richmond that would not provide a good solution for anyone because we needed $27 million to do an adequate job. However, this would solve some problems at CCIS, close Woodlawn as had been recommended by a planning committee and provide greater security for CCIS and CCHS.
No one on the board was satisfied with this remedy, but it was approved by the Board of Supervisors without a tax increase and the architects could be paid for their work on the earlier project as well as the subsequent project.
We needed more funding in order to build a ninth grade academy, an auxiliary gym, additional classrooms, more bathrooms, enlarge the cafeteria, improve the labs, HVAC, plumbing etc. You cannot do a $27 million renovation for $15 million and have anyone satisfied.
We were a progressive board in a conservative county; we have one of the best educational systems around as attested to by our SAT scores. We accomplished much, and I hope our legacy is not the shortcomings of the renovation that will soon be underway. We weren’t political or antagonistic toward anyone, as we attempted to evaluate everyone in a professional manner with a desire to improve and not destroy.
I sincerely extend my best wishes to the new board and challenge them to move our school system forward.