Population drop in Charles City raises concerns by school board leaders, county supervisors
As common ground continues to be discussed between Charles City’s School Board and Charles City’s Board of Supervisors, it’s evident that the decline in population is affecting both the school system and the county as a whole.
Both boards met during a prebudget meeting Tuesday evening in hopes to find common ground for all parties involved.
After Superintendent of Schools Dalphine Joppy presented an outlay of her first proposed budget to county leaders, supervisors responded with questions that focused on the issue with declining enrollment.
“What do you think is the problem?” questioned District 3 supervisor Lewis Black III.
Joppy responded by referencing her previous stints in other jurisdictions as a principal and other school board office positions.
“I could project the trend of enrollment based on apartments being built,” the superintendent commented. “The growth of homes drives the enrollment to schools.
“In order to keep teachers, we have to keep them retooled and sharp,” Joppy continued, pointing to how quality educators and school systems are key factors when realtors search for places to build. “When homes and businesses come to the county, it tends to bring people to the county. When those people have families, it brings students to the schools.”
District 2 supervisor Bill Coada chimed in, first commenting on the school’s request of $6.8 million (excluding $500,000 for a new wastewater plant) before relating to the declining population.
“If we gave the schools everything they asked for and did nothing, it would be the equivalent of a nine-cent tax increase,” Coada commented.
“But as one board member, I will say that we haven’t done enough for this county,” he continued. “Until we advance this county, you won’t get anybody here. We have to change the way we are structured, and we must get some economic development here.”
School board at-large member Preston Adkins agreed, saying that it’s difficult for Charles City’s school system to compete with surrounding communities when it comes to hiring and teacher retention.
“It’s unfortunate that it’s difficult for us to retain teachers,” he commented. “We don’t have the capability to match starting pay with them.
“Most teachers come here, get their years of experience, and then leave,” Adkins added. “But you have to look at it like a firefighter; no matter if you live in Virginia Beach or Charles City, you have to learn how to put out the fire the same way with the same training. It’s just that in bigger jurisdictions, you have more access to things you can use.
“We are going to have to get it done and make education work for our kids, with or without funds,” Adkins concluded.”
District 3 school board representative Martha Harris added comments about the current culture of Charles City.
“We have to entice people to stay back or come back to our county,” she said. “Those who are here want to be here or have land where someone can build.”
Both boards agreed that dialogue between the parties must continue in order to sustain progression. Charles City’s School Board is scheduled to meet Feb. 11 at a public hearing on the budget followed by a work session. Meanwhile, county supervisors will dissect a request for rollover funds to assist the school system for the next cycle.