Action on middle school funding urged

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By John Barnhart

    Two new administrators were introduced to the school board at their regular meeting Thursday night.

    Brian Wilson is the new assistant principal at Bedford Middle School. Wilson comes from Campbell County where he taught at Rustburg Middle School from 2008-2013. Prior to that he taught at Monelison Middle School and Central Elementary School in Amherst County. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Radford University in 2004 and his master’s degree in school administration from Liberty University in 2013.
    Tammy Donahue is the school division’s new supervisor of administrative and elective programs. She has 24 years of experience in education, including service as a principal and assistant principal. She earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Marshall University, a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Virginia (UVA) and a specialist degree in leadership and policy studies from Virginia Tech. Donahue is currently working on a doctorate in educational leadership at UVA and expects to receive her degree next year.
    According to Tim Parker, the school division’s director of human resources, 100 new teachers were hired this year, 51 of whom are first year teachers. The new hires include 16 special education teachers, 16 elementary school teachers, 15 English teachers and 15 math teachers.
    Parker said they are still recruiting two special education teachers. They are also looking for two more elementary school teachers as enrollment is higher than anticipated.
    The school division had anticipated 10,204 students, but there are currently 10,343 in the county’s classrooms — 139 more than anticipated.
    At the meeting’s end, Board Chairman Gary Hostutler suggested that the county should quickly move forward to borrow the money needed to build the new middle school in the Liberty attendance zone. The county is obligated to do this under the terms of the reversion agreement that the supervisors approved when Bedford reverted to town status.
    “My fear is, the longer we wait to get this going, the higher interest  will be,” Hostutler said.
    Hostutler pointed to the refinancing of the bonds for the Jefferson Forest High School renovation. They were able to drop from the bonds’ original 4.8 percent rate to 2.8 percent. Hostutler believes that this is as low as interest rates will go and that they will begin moving upward again, so it’s important to lock in a low rate now while this is still possible.
    It could cost Bedford County a great deal if rates go back up to. Hostutler said that a 2 percentage point increase in the interest rate on a $50 million loan would cost Bedford County an additional $16 million in interest over the life of a 25-year loan. That amounts to $640,000 a year in additional interest payments — nearly equal to the revenue that each cent of the real estate tax rate brings in.
    “We know we are going to build this school, so it’s not like something in question,” Hostutler said. “The rates aren’t going to go down.