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BonusNo bonus yet.

At Wednesday’s meeting (Feb. 14) the Fluvanna School Board voted to table the decision on employee bonuses until it presents its fiscal year 2019 budget request to the Board of Supervisors Feb. 21.
That budget request is $40,924,708.

That’s just shy of $1 million more than last year’s budget.

In discussing the bonus, Andrew Pullen (Columbia) suggested it would not look good for the Board to approve $390,000 in bonuses just one week before going to the county asking for almost $1 million more.
Pullen said if they wait, they could get the requested budget amount and still give the bonuses in the spring. “I’m not against giving the bonuses, but let’s have something to negotiate with,” he said.

Superintendent Chuck Winkler said fiscal budgets don’t carry over from year to year.

Winkler recommended a 1.5 percent bonus with no employee getting less than $700.

Brenda Gilliam, executive director of curriculum, instruction and finance, said if the School Board approved the bonus, the checks would be cut Feb. 28.

“This [FY18] budget was built including this [bonus],” she said. “This isn’t new to the Board of Supervisors or to our staff. It greatly worries me about the trust we have with them.”

Chair Perrie Johnson (Fork Union) asked if the money will be available in June. Winkler said yes, but he wouldn’t wait past May to vote on it.

Shirley Stewart (Rivanna) said Pullen had a valid point but she’s concerned about the message to staff. “Staff needs to be remunerated,” Stewart said. “I’d be willing to vote for the bonus sooner rather than later.”

Brenda Pace (Palmyra) said it was important to “make it up” to staff who suffered during the recession. “We haven’t had a lot of opportunities and I don’t know when we’ll get the opportunity again,” Pace said.

Johnson said she was willing to wait until the Board achieved consensus.

Winkler presented his proposed 2018-19 school year calendar which already drew criticism on social media for the number of half days built into it.

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Flucos on defenseThe game was not pretty, but it was intense. The Fluco girls traveled to Charlottesville High to take on the Black Knights in the Jefferson District semifinal on Monday (Feb. 12). With both teams playing mostly full court press on defense, the game was filled with fouls and turnovers. The Flucos hung in against the number two seed in the District, but ultimately could not keep up with the Black Knights’ pace, falling 39-56.

Sophomore forward Kyia Scott was the story for the Flucos in the first quarter, as she was able to score four baskets inside and convert a free throw for nine points in the quarter. The Flucos led 10-5 midway through the quarter but Charlottesville managed to come back and the quarter ended in a 12-12 tie.

Early in the second quarter, Fluco point guard sophomore Jules Shepherd converted two free throws and Scott moved outside to sink a three-point shot. Senior center Jemika Johnson scored on a rebound and midway through the quarter the score was still tied at 19-19. Unfortunately for the Flucos the Black Knights scored five in the second half of the quarter and the Flucos were held scoreless. As a result, the Black Knights took as 24-19 lead at halftime.

The third quarter started the same way the second quarter ended. In the first four minutes of the quarter the Flucos were scoreless, while the Black Knights managed to make three lay-ups for an 11-point lead at 30-19. Sophomore forward Mya Wright finally broke the drought for the Flucos with a strong drive for a lay-up, but the damage was done. Scott followed with a lay-in, but Charlottesville countered with one of their own. Freshman Destini Monroe sank a three-point shot to cut the lead to seven at 26-33. Scott made one of two from the line and it was a six-point game.

Charlottesville, playing at home and with confidence, was not to be denied. The Black Knights finished the quarter with six straight points on a free throw, a short jump shot and a three-pointer. They took a 12-point led to the fourth quarter. In the first three quarters the most the Flucos scored in a quarter was 12 against Charlottesville’s intense defense. It did not look promising for the Flucos. Add a comment


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Swim meetThe Region 3C swim and dive championship meet was held Feb. 10-11 at the Fork Union Military Academy (FUMA) pool here in Fluvanna County. The Fluco girls’ team finished third, while the boys were in eighth place.

Coach Feda Morton said that a significant number of Fluco swimmers performed well enough to qualify for the upcoming State meet. Two of the girls’ relay teams and one of the boys’ teams will move on to the State meet. The girls’ medley relay team of Emma DiFazio, Caylyn McNaul, Abby Fuller and Zoe Moore, and the 200-meter freestyle relay team of Moore, Haley Smith, McNaul and Fuller will both advance. The boys’ 200-meter freestyle relay team of Owen Strickland, Jack Kershner, Hunter Strickland and Josh Rocklein will also be going to the State meet.

Individuals who will be going to the State meet are numerous. Hunter Strickland will be swimming in the 200-meter individual medley and the 100-meter freestyle at the State meet as a result of his fourth place finish in both events. Abby Fuller, who was the Regional champion in the 200-meter individual medley event will naturally be competing in that event at States. She also will be swimming in the 100-meter butterfly at the State event based on her second place finish in the Region meet. In the 400-meter freestyle both Moore and McNaul qualified  for the State meet. Moore will also be swimming in the 50-meter freestyle sprint at that meet.

The FUMA pool is a meter pool, and all prior meets this year were conducted in pools measured in yards. Accordingly, some research is required to establish which of the team’s performances may be school records, but she is confident that a number of school records were established.    

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Walter Hussey and Ida SwensonOn a rainy Saturday afternoon (Feb. 10) Ida Swenson, a Virginia master naturalist of the Rivanna chapter, presented a program to interested nature lovers and potential master naturalists on identifying animals, as morbid as it sounds, by their remains.

The program, called Skulls and Scat, teaches how to identify wild animals by the bits and pieces found along nature trails in the woods and other areas. Swenson laid on a table a box of interesting artifacts, including a mummified worm snake, bones, the skull of a young deer, black bear fur and scat, or animal excrement, preserved in jars.

A retired science teacher, Swenson has been educating the public about nature for some time and her presentation was intriguing and uncomplicated. She began by discussing collecting items – an undertaking not as simple as picking up something in the woods and taking it home. She cautioned that anyone interested in collecting items, even roadkill, from the natural environment has to have a collection or scavenger or salvage permit from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF).

“All natural things belong to the state of Virginia, therefore collectors have to have permits to collect dead animals,” she said. “You cannot collect any animal until it is dead.” A Virginia permit is required for educational purposes, but additional permits from the federal government are needed for birds, since some are either endangered or protected. Collecting anything related to birds, native or migrating, including nests and feathers, requires a permit. “There are some things that are illegal to collect, including fresh water mussel shells and eagle feathers,” she said.

She told the story of a box turtle she found at Scheier Natural Area, which appeared to be injured.

“If the shell of a turtle is damaged, it can paralyze it,” Swenson said. She illustrated her point with a couple of turtle shells, tracing the backbone in the underside of the shell to show where the spinal cord was found. She went back another time and the turtle had not moved from the same spot and this told her it was most likely paralyzed. The turtle eventually died and with permission, Swenson took possession of it. Add a comment


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Jennings with banjoNearly 20 handmade instruments, including some beautiful banjos, will be on display at the Art Center of Orange beginning Feb. 1 with a meet and greet by the artist and maybe a song or two. The public is invited to see the craft, to hear the music and to learn the history of these amazing and attractive instruments.

The craft of banjos lies in their beauty and design. These handmade works of art by Orange physician Dena Jennings will be displayed at the center’s Morin Gallery which will be open to the public for viewing. Some of these organic instruments look like the banjos with which we are familiar. Some have long, graceful necks. Colors vary: greens and browns and yellows glow in full spectrum.

When one thinks of banjos, though, one generally thinks of music, and these handmade instruments truly sound amazing.

Banjos are “as much a percussive instrument as a stringed instrument,” because of the instrument’s drone string – a string shorter than the others on the instrument, explained Jennings. It offers a percussion tone, a “bumdiddy, bumdiddy, bumdiddy, bum” not offered by a traditional stringed instrument. Used in folk music, the instrument gives the song a “lot more expression,” she said.

But the true beauty of these instruments lies in their history. The craft of making gourd banjos dates back to before the 17th century, and they came to America with enslaved Africans. The akonting, which according to is still played by the Jola tribe in Gambia, is a banjo made with three strings – two long and a drone – and that type of banjo is still played extensively in Appalachian music. The akonting is a precursor to the banjo, Jennings explained.

Jennings’ mother, Virginia, was born on Christmas Day in 1941 in a hollow in Kentucky. Jennings’ family –and their music – moved from those mountains in Kentucky to Akron, Ohio, before she was born. They were a part of the Great Migration north to find jobs in the rubber and car factories there.

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