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Letters 03/23/11

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Time to cut back


    It’s time the government cuts back on spending like everyone else is doing. Now is not the time for a property tax increase with the cost of everything going up!
    A lot of cuts could be made, especially in the school system. Most of the schools have a principal and two or three assistants at some ridiculously high salaries. Why so many assistants to the assistants?
    We need people in government to consider the needs of the people in making their decisions. We need jobs in Bedford County, not funding and upkeep for skate parks, the Big Otter Mill upkeep, just to name a couple. And for some clown to tell the supervisors to raise his taxes because he was paying a lot more in New Jersey is absurd! He needs to head back up north with that crazy logic.

Jimmy Cundiff
Bedford

Expecting more

    I graduated from Liberty High School in the Spring of 2009. I am coming to realize that some of the school’s biggest problems have yet to be fixed.
    While my time there was somewhat worthwhile, I seemingly learned more from my peers there than my professors. Liberty High School—like most public schools—fails to keep its greatest teachers; and when those teachers do remain, they are often mistreated by the administration and forced to adopt a generic teaching style that displeases their students to the point of discontent.
    It is no coincidence that the best teachers are also well-liked by their students. People are much more likely to respect and listen to someone they enjoy being around. Well-liked teachers can use their popularity to reinforce curriculum, which is what makes their educational mission the best. Instead of embracing these educators, administrators are often forced into changing their teaching styles, which ultimately destroys teachers’ reputations among students. From my experience there, this resulted in less learning across the board.
    Therefore, these great educators should be treated as, well, great educators. The majority of funding should be concentrated into their classrooms where better learning is more likely to take place. Rather than allowing teachers the freedom to pursue educational goals in a unique way, administrative pressure derived from SOLs has ruined the integrity of the public classroom.
    While I certainly have little authority over this issue, I nonetheless am a recent graduate of Liberty who spent a fair amount of time observing the injustices of public education. I now attend Hampden-Sydney College in Farmville, where I have had the opportunity to discuss education styles with a number of students from private, public and at-home places of learning.
    As is the case at any school, great teachers are hard to find, hire and maintain. I believe we can all agree that Bedford’s students deserve a great education. So, it is time the community began expecting more out its school board. Administrative micro-management of classrooms has ruined the effectiveness of some of our greatest teachers; and it will inevitably do so in the future.

Beck Stanley
Bedford

Hotline
specialist

    I would like to say that having the opportunity to work for Bedford County Department of Social Services has really made a difference in my life.  I currently hold the position of Hotline Specialist for Bedford Domestic Violence Services.  It is my privilege to work for such a well organized and helpful program. 
    As the Hotline Specialist, I have the chance to interact with people from all walks of life.  Helping women and families that are facing domestic violence situations is what I do.  Giving helpful information concerning safety planning, available resources, and where to seek shelter in a time of need, are just some of the many helpful options we offer.
    Each day is different at the office.  I receive calls from victims, allied professionals, faith based organizations and generous donors.
     I am constantly gathering information on new and effective ways to help and support clients that need to be linked to resources in the community.   Being the helpful voice on the hotline, gives those that call, a de?  Where can they turn for legal counsel?  Where can they receive help for food and clothing or financial aide?  Where to find medical and dental help for their children?  These and so many more are what we face daily and being able to direct victims to the helpful resources that are in Bedford and surrounding areas makes this position very valuable. 
    If you or anyone you may know are facing a domestic violence situation call the 24 hour Hotline at (540) 587-0970. 

Lisa Bailey, Hotline Specialist
Bedford Domestic Violence Services

The Big Island Vol. Fire Company

    The Big Island Vol. Fire Company has been providing fire protection to  Bedford and Amherst counties since 1951. At that time and for several years  later Big Island was the only fire company stationed in Bedford County. Prior  to 1951 fire protection in Big Island was provided by the city of Bedford,  the Town of Glasgow, and the city of Lynchburg.
    After 59 years of service the members of the Big Island Fire Company saw the  need for a change. Beginning in September of 2010 began serving as an EMS  providing agency. The Bedford County Fire & Rescue allowed the fire company  to be added to their EMS license. Now the fire company certified as a Basic  Life Support, Non Transport Agency. This allows our members who are trained  with EMS skills to provide patient care until the arrival of an ambulance.
    The ever growing amount of EMS calls in Bedford County made it necessary to  provide this service. The Big Island Vol. Fire Company is proud to serve  alongside the Big Island Emergency Crew and has some members who volunteer  with both agencies. Currently the Big Island Fire Company has one  EMT-Intermediate, four EMT-Enhanced, five EMT-Basics, and two EMT-First  Responders. We also have two members who are in the EMT-Paramedic program at  CVCC.
    If you are interested in joining either the call Big Island Vol. Fire Company  at 434-299-5674. Or the Big Island Emergency Crew at 434-299-5666.

Danny T. Brown
Chief of Department
Big Island Vol. Fire Company
Bedford County Co. 2

Quick fix

    Four of our elected Supervisors have cast their vote to increase the real estate tax rate in order to remove the problem our administrative staff was having in trying to match budgets to loss in revenue.
     Fortunately for them (and unfortunately for most taxpayers) this was the quick fix for the Supervisors (I am beginning to object to using capital letters for positions that seem not to deserve that respect). One only had to read the comments from those voting for the increased tax rate to see how little they care about the taxpayers in their districts and how susceptible they are to the vocal minority who would love spending cuts as long as the cuts don’t affect them. One supervisor more-or-less stated that since the tax increase actually saved him money it would be a good thing for everyone. The indication was that even for the individuals that will have increased taxes it would be worth his approving vote. I suppose one could infer that he is saying his action would be like taxpayers being shot but it would only be a .22 caliber weapon so it shouldn’t hurt too much. What great representation he is providing for his constituents.
    I am sincerely hopeful that those of you in the districts of the supervisors who voted for the increased tax rate (has anyone actually noticed the increase from 50 cents to 53 cents is a 9.4 percent increase?) are happy and won’t complain (except to your supervisor) when you realize that even if you are one of the lucky ones who won’t have to pay more you will still be losing money you should have had due to the devaluation of your real estate. Many county residents (especially those on fixed income) will have to try to find some expenses to cut in order to make up for the money they could have had but just lost because of the tax rate increase. Money saved due to the decreased taxes, even if not large amounts, could have been spent on items necessary to exist such as gasoline, electricity, food, medicine and other necessities. You can feel satisfied that our skilled administrators can continue to spend whatever they want with the continued (or even increased) tax revenue.
    The equalization was necessary (apparently) because our skilled administrators seem to have much more training in sales than finance and seem to have no idea about balancing budgets (I have to wonder if these people handle their personal finances in the same way). It is unfortunate that those of us paying for our government are not able to use the same techniques when dealing with balancing our budgets. When this realization finally arrives you may have some serious questions and doubts about how well you are actually being represented and you might even remember how thoughtful these four supervisors were to voter needs when election time rolls around.
    I have to say that I am very happy that I don’t have to wonder what motives my Supervisor had since Ms. Pollard was among the three who tried to bring a balanced budget to Bedford County rather than be conned into keeping the big government freight train heading full speed toward the end of the track. Shame on those four supervisors for letting this happen and shame on you voters for letting them do it.
    Of course, that is just my opinion. I could be wrong.

Dennis Strong
Thaxton

Who looks out for the worker

    In their heyday, union members accounted for about 35 percent of all workers.  Today it’s about 10 percent.  Labor did not confine its actions to its own issues.  It was in the forefront of battles for aid to education, civil and women’s rights, housing programs, and a host of other social causes important to the whole community.  It is no coincidence that since the ‘70s the decline of unions has been accompanied by rising income inequality, decline in value of the minimum wage, bankruptcy “reform” that hurts ordinary Americans, and tax cuts for the rich, while social programs that help ordinary folks came under the Republican knife.
    We all pay when wages don’t support families.  Taxpayers have to pick up the tab for housing, health care, food, etc of the poor and unemployed.  Communities pay as their tax base dwindles and the social ills of deprivation spread.  Societies pay as we become more economically polarized.  We all pay when we turn our backs on our fellow Americans.
    Not only do workers not have a fair say in today’s corporate world, but they continue to lose ground economically while CEO’s and other top officers pull down outlandishly high compensation.  As the Nation magazine reported, CEO pay is now double the 1990s.  Schering-Plough’s CEO made $50 million and laid off 16,000.  American Express’ CEO made $16.8 million and fired 4000.  Bank of America’s CEO made $30 million and fired 35,000.  In 2008, Citigroup and Merrill Lynch lost $54 billion, received $55 billion in TARP bailouts, but still paid out $9 billion in bonuses. At Merrill Lynch 700 exec’s received bonuses over $1 million.  When a plate of 12 cookies was available to all; the CEO and top exec’s took 11 and told the workers to go complain to their union.  In the past, they did and unions got them a fair share.
    The unions built the middle class in the US. They did this when greedy corporations took all the cream and left the workers to fight over skim milk.  These fights were dirty and dangerous as some of you may remember.  Safety rules didn’t come from the magnanimous employer who wouldn’t deal with unsafe working conditions.  They came from unions and government as did other needed benefits.
     Admittedly, labor unions have been their own worst enemies at times.  For example, Jimmy Hoffa’s corrupt teamsters, work slowdowns and overgenerous benefits.  But what social institution doesn’t have its downsides including churches?  So why are there no unions?  It is because corporations and their Republican shills don’t like them. They can’t run roughshod over the workers and ship all those jobs overseas.  It’s just old fashioned greed, something our brand of free market capitalism has a monopoly on.  Where will the US be when our entire manufacturing base has been exported and workers are sacrificed to the ever accelerating search for the last increment of profit?  Is this the capitalism we want?
    The hypocrisy of the union busting by the Republican Governors of WI, OH, IN and MO is unconscionable. This is not about State debt burdens.  This is simply union busting for political purposes. Otherwise why would the Governor exempt the Republican voting State Police and firefighters unions from his union busting efforts?  It’s about shrinking the voter turnout even though 61 percent of Americans and 74 percent of Wisconsinites oppose his actions.  Republicans, in a bizarre version of the Stockholm syndrome, have convinced many working class Americans that their enemy is not the millionaire CEO’s that outsourced their jobs, but a school teacher in Wisconsin that makes $50K.  An Economic Policy Institute study shows that the wages and benefits of the WI public sector employees is less than the private sector so this is not about wages and benefits either.
    Analyses clearly show that there is no correlation between State debt and collective bargaining.  For example, Texas has no collective bargaining yet is one of the most indebted states.  USA Today says: TX public workers pay and benefits are $3,580 below the private sector.  It’s public employee retires haven’t had a raise since 2001.  That’s what no union rights get you.
    The Republicans who control many Statehouses are using budget woes as a pretext not only for destroying unions that mostly benefit Democrats, but they are crafting even more voting roadblocks for many of their least favorite groups by requiring things like photo ID’s and other nuisances features.  This by the party that wants all to vote as long as they are Republicans.
    I’ve never been a union member, but I know they are the last hope for worker fairness in the marketplace.  We lose unions at the risk of continuing the race to the bottom on income inequality and losing the middle class.  If the Republicans and corporations get their way, who looks out for you the worker?  Read carefully the comments of my critics for clues.  They will make my case better than I can.

David McLoughlin
Forest

On the Bedford Primary School closing

    As a citizen of Bedford I am requesting that the school board request for adequate funds to keep Bedford Primary School Open and dismiss the proposal to consolidate the two schools.
    The consensus is that The School Board is not being forthcoming with the community. Many feel funds for Bedford Primary school have not been asked for, nor planned for in the upcoming 2011-2012 year. Already assuming this is a “done deal”. If there is a lack of funds in the budget and that is the only valid reason for closing the school, why is more funding not being sought? What about the “rainy day” fund (currently housing $16 million) that could save easily save Bedford Primary School as well as other important programs (art, music, B-team sports).
    So far of all the cuts they only effect the teachers, students, parents, custodians, bus drivers and other vital staff. The ones that matter the most in our children’s education. The executive administration has seen an increase of 7 percent and 13 percent for administration. Last year’s budget saw a 10 percent decrease in classroom instruction. No teacher raise increases (teachers and vital staff members have not had step raises in 3 years). A 58 percent decrease in text books…the list goes on as to what has been cut, but not at the executive or administration level. How long do we want to continue this “bare bones education” concept and at whose expense? Do we want to go through this every year? Pitting friends and loved ones against one another as each school struggles to survive? Do we want to destroy our grass roots community? Again at whose expense?
    There are a group of concerned parents and citizens that have expressed many valid concerns over the consolidation of these two schools and the cutting of many needed programs. Many have contributed realistic dialog for suggestions all of which have fallen on deaf ear.
    There seems to be little regard for the many issues to closing and consolidating Bedford Primary School with Bedford Elementary School. Spacing issues, resource issues, toilet and water fountain issues, playground issues, special needs issues, not to mention special needs children being forced out there community school by no fault of their own, other than to make numbers work for an ill-advised hasty budget plan) Title 1 issues (61 percent of the student population with these needs) traffic issues and vacant building issues have all been addressed but to date we have not been given any indication that these issues will be addressed or reconciled by the planned proposed consolidation date of August 2011.
    There is a written contract that exists between the city and county that clearly states the stipulations of termination. Which apparently is being ignored. Is it not legally and morally correct to uphold the terms of this contract? At the very least allowing ample time to plan for viable solutions if closing Bedford Primary School is a very last resort?
    There seems be a great deal of a lack of planning that has taken place concerning the many questions we have asked thoroughly about. If the decision is made to close Bedford Primary School for the upcoming 2011-2012 school year, there will not be adequate time to prepare for this consolidation, therefore hurting the children more who already come to school with greater disadvantages. We are asking you to include Bedford Primary School in your budget request with the Board of Supervisors and to also ask consideration for allocating any funds from the rainy day account towards Bedford Primary School as well as other items being that are on the table to be cut (music art b-team sports). If the board of supervisors is so gracious to allot adequate funding for all schools and their programs, let’s make a good faith effort and show our gratitude by allowing Bedford Primary School and other vital programs to remain intact.
    It is the understanding of the community that funds are available for all schools and programs to thrive. If we are overlooking something please explain. The state and the county have already provided more funding than was previously thought to be had. Why again are we not asking for it or specifically why isn’t the school board asking for it?
    Since the proposed budget meeting on Thursday March 17, it has come to light that Bedford Primary School was never to be saved from closure. Apparently BPS did not make the super's A or B list for budgeting. This is highly disappointing coming from a group that is supposed to represent the parents of Bedford. From the beginnings of this situation, those of us concerned with the closure were led to believe that it was about the money. We were asked to plead with the Board of Supervisors and General Assembly for more money. The talk has been of hard times and having to pay the bills. It's obvious that money is not the issue and priorities are. A constituency of honest well-meaning parents have been misled and misguided. It is shameful that a group of experienced representatives would act in such a manner. All of Bedford County should be put on notice of the tactics that the Board and its Super are willing to use in order to advance its agenda.
    As a concerned parent, I respectfully request the assistance of Dr. Schuch and all school board members, in ensuring that Bedford Primary School is placed in the budget due to increased funding as was indicated it would be by the superintendent and other board members. Furthermore, please vote to hold off on spending on new programs and additional central office staff until funding for facilities can be stabilized. I hope that our priority is always to protect that which most directly impacts the lives of student’s every day.

Tabitha J. King
Bedford

Get involved before schools close

    Bedford County School’s proposed budget for the 2011-2012 school year includes the closing of Bedford Primary School and Body Camp Elementary School.
    Bedford Primary School students will be consolidated with Bedford Elementary School, leaving the primary school vacant in the immediate future, although the use of it for central office has been strongly considered. Body Camp Elementary students are to be absorbed by Moneta Elementary and Huddleston Elementary. While these two schools are to be eliminated, a new technology program is to be implemented at the high school level that will cost $859,628 in its pilot year.
    Parents have worked tirelessly communicating with School Board members, Dr. Schuch, City Council, the City School Board and the Board of Supervisors for several weeks. All through this process parents were reassured by Dr. Schuch and the School Board that nothing was a “done deal,” everything was on the table and that it all depended on funding from the Board of Supervisors. This reassurance was given despite documentation of long term plans that did include the closure of Bedford Primary School.
    In an October 29, 2009 School Board work session the six year draft plan being formulated not only showed intent to close the school, but also an expansion to accommodate up to 800 students, and a renovation of the abandoned school for other purposes, one of which might be a new central office. Both of these changes would be accomplished as part of $55.6 million dollar investment that also included the construction of a new middle school in the Liberty zone. Please read the October 29, 2009 meeting minutes as they are posted on the November 12, 2009 agenda. This is on Board Docs at www.bedford.k12.va.us
    Articles in the News and Advance in October and December of 2009 discuss this $55.6 million dollar plan. Interestingly, although the county has said there is no money to proceed on this plan, when the city reverts to a town the county will get to use the local composite index of the town for 15 years. This will increase the revenue to the county by about $4 million a year (at today’s cost) or a total of $60 million. One cannot help but ask, was this not an impetus for drawing up the $55.6 million dollar plan?
    So what is the cost of proceeding with this plan? Surely School Board members would say that it is cost efficient. What about the educational cost to the children displaced and the economic cost to this community?
    One of the determining factors in the purchase of a home is the school zone that the home lies in. Ask any realtor, as I have, and you will find this to be true. From the outside looking in, the two measures of the desirability of a school are school size and SOL scores. When Bedford has one of the largest elementary schools in the system and it is not performing on SOL testing due to factors outside its control, parents and those considering ever becoming parents will not be buying homes in Bedford.
    When Momma isn’t living in Bedford she is not shopping in Bedford and the whole community suffers. Businesses depend on consumers, and this consolidation, if allowed, will take consumers away. When businesses can’t sell, they can’t employ, so jobs will go away as well, many from the households with no economic choice to live any where else. Money in the home is equally if not more important than money in the schools. This consolidation will take money out of businesses and money out of the home.
    The plan to consolidate Bedford Primary and Bedford Elementary cannot be accomplished without a few adjustments to the population. The sixth graders at Bedford Elementary must be moved to Bedford Middle School to have enough room for the primary kids. There will not be enough room for sixth graders from Thaxton, Montvale and Big Island however. The preK and Early Childhood Special Education will be bussed to either Montvale or Thaxton. Existing incoming transfers will be denied although children will still be free to transfer out.
    The costs or savings of eliminating and building schools cannot be determined by slicing up the system bit by bit. This is incrementalism, and perhaps the goal of that is only to upset a small enough, manageable enough group rather than getting county wide involvement in the process. Sure, tough decisions will have to be made at times, but I think the School Board owes it to this community and this county to present a master plan that shows their goals for each and every student population, so that they can be assessed fairly.
    Please get involved. There will be a School Board work session at 4 p.m. on Thursday March 24 that is open to the public. Phone and email School Board members to let them know that you do not approve of this consolidation. Thank you.

Barbara Owen
Bedford

On the
chopping block

    Eliminate the Driver's Education program? Eliminate a self-sustaining and life-saving program?
    Probably very few Bedford County residents know that our Driver’s Education Program is on the School Board’s list for possible elimination: Bedford County families and all users of Bedford County public roadways should be highly concerned.
    Our Driver Education Program provides a service to all residents of Bedford County that is unparalleled: professional, individualized instruction is offered at about 1/3 the cost of commercial programs. Even with the low fees required of student drivers, the Program comes close to being self-funded: if the School Board were to raise the fees, then the rates would still be well below commercial establishments and would further compensate for any expenditure from School Board funding.
    The Drivers Education Program not only trains new drivers: it has taken an active role in defensive driving programs. As Bedford county witnessed so many of our youth killed or injured in car crashes, the Drivers Education Program was there to take a proactive approach with parent teen meetings (Partners for safe teen driving) hosted at the three high schools, BedCo Cares and active involvement with YOVASO.        The latest program was a joint partnership with VA. Tech Transportation Institute designed to research teen driver behavior by using in-car monitors. Who will take the lead in such initiatives if the County’s program is eliminated? Have the consequences been adequately researched? Where would the parents secure providers on such short notice? Parents will be faced with the daunting prospect of finding instructors who are simply not there.
    There are many valuable programs on the School Board’s chopping block…but it would seem ludicrous to eliminate a basically self-sustaining, and most importantly life-saving, program.

Phyllis L. Buckner
Bedford County