Stafford School Board and Supervisors Working to Reschedule Last Week’s Cancelled Joint Meeting

by Adele Uphaus
MANAGING EDITOR AND CORRESPONDENT

There is no date yet for a rescheduled joint meeting between the Stafford School Board and Board of Supervisors, though the clerks of both boards are discussing options.

“Both boards have expressed commitment to making [the rescheduled meeting] happen and recognize the importance of cooperation,” School Board Chair Maureen Siegmund told the Advance on Friday.

The boards were to have met last Thursday, March 7, to discuss the budget for fiscal year 2025, but Meg Bohmke, Chair of the Board of Supervisors, informed Siegmund that morning in an email that “we are cancelling [the meeting] scheduled for today 4 p.m.”

“BOS members and County Administration staff watched the most recent video of the [March 5] School Board meeting and witnessed several pointed comments, followed by a vote on Elementary 19,” Bohmke wrote in the email, which the Advance received through a request under the Freedom of Information Act. “Additionally, the questions exchanged in advance of the joint meeting do not constitute a substantial agenda focused on the budget process.”

“We can all take this time to regroup and digest decisions of the boards over the last few weeks,” Bohmke continued. “Hopefully, after this period of reflection, we can decide how to re-engage with each other and move forward in the best interest of Stafford County residents.”

At the March 5 meeting, the School Board again discussed the location of elementary school 19, as supervisors requested they do in a February 23 letter from outgoing County Administrator Randall Vosburg to superintendent Thomas Taylor, and voted against rescinding its prior vote to build the new elementary school on the site of Brooke Point High School.

Supervisors and some community members have questioned why the School Board did not select proffered land in the Embrey Mill neighborhood for the new school and have expressed concern with the Brooke Point site. The draft site plan shows that the new elementary school will be built on top of one of the high school parking lots and will require relocating several practice fields and tennis courts.

But the majority of School Board members said they still think the Brooke Point site is the best place for elementary school 19.

Even before the School Board’s March 5 meeting, there was some back-and-forth between the two boards about a location for the joint meeting.

The initial location was the Courthouse Community Center, but Siegmund told the Advance that she was interested in hosting the meeting in one of the 34 “modular classrooms” the division has installed at eight elementary schools to alleviate overcrowding.

She said the principal of Stafford Elementary had agreed to host the meeting but had not yet committed to a space “though it was my intention to have the meeting in a trailer for a variety of reasons.”

But Bohmke told Siegmund in a March 4 email that “our Board will not meet in trailer/modular since the space will be way too confined.”

The School Board decided to meet as scheduled on March 7, without the supervisors, but had to move the location to the School Board Chambers after learning later that day that the Courthouse Community Center was suddenly not available.

At the meeting, School Board members received a presentation from staff with answers to questions posed by supervisors.

Supervisors requested information on school division employee’s health insurance coverage and benefits; how many division employees make more than $100,000 (244, or 5% of all contracted employees); the names and salaries of all service employees and how their compensation relates to that of Prince William County Public Schools’ service employees; and how many teaching positions are currently vacant.

School Board members also discussed the questions they have for supervisors about the county’s budget. Their questions include how supervisors plan to use the School Division’s five-year budget; whether they plan to increase the county’s per-pupil expenditure (which ranks at 111 out of 132 school divisions in the state); and how they plan to fund the division’s critical maintenance needs.

About an hour before the March 7 meeting began (and about five hours after cancelling the supervisors’ participation), Bohmke reached back out to Siegmund to “discuss how to re-engage our boards after a brief reflective pause.”

She said supervisors “remain committed to having three budget work sessions” as per the budget calendar approved last year.

“Unfortunately, as you know we canceled today’s meeting to regroup and digest decisions of the boards over the last few weeks,” Bohmke wrote. “With that being said, due to the limited timeframe I have requested our Clerk reach out to the School Board clerk to obtain some dates for a joint meeting.”

Managing Editor and Correspondent