CHRISTIANSBURG – Montgomery County School Board members voted 5-2 approving collective bargaining during their Tuesday, April 4 regular meeting.
Prior to the vote, the school board heard public concerns and comments on topics of collective bargaining, pornographic material, and students’ disruptive behavior in the classroom. The school board heard 22 public speakers on issues currently weighing on community member’s minds.
Stevie Bowman, Chapter Chair for Moms for Liberty, is from Riner and spoke during the public comment part of the meeting.
“I would have to disagree with Mrs. Franklin and argue that more discussion needs to occur before a vote…a teacher should never have to pay a penny for a seat at the table,” Bowman stated. Bowman was referring to a comment from board member Penny Franklin as “overthinking” the collective bargaining resolution discussion that occurred during a work session two weeks prior.
During the public address, signs were visible to the audience expressing a need to say no to the collective bargaining resolution. Others at the meeting expressed a need for teachers to be a part of decision-making in the county.
Penny Franklin spoke with the first motion to accept the collective bargaining resolution, responding to a previous comment from a community member that she should not vote on the resolution based on her position as a union president.
“Folks asking me not to vote for this is like folks saying that any time they talk about race, you should not speak to it and certainly shouldn’t vote for it,” Franklin commented.
Adding on to Franklin’s comment, school board member Sue Kass, who will be leaving her position at the end of this year, assured the community that she would continue to vote on all school board items.
Other topics of discussion involved aggressive behavior in the classroom and threat of violence or bullying that is even apparent in the elementary school environment.
Edward Zelinksky proposed options for aggressive behavior and violence in the classroom through virtual learning. His wife works at Falling Branch Elementary School as a teacher as well as having his own children attend the same school.
“Nobody’s kid is perfect, I get that, but I think that something should be done, or at least discussed, about disciplinary action. My kids go to Falling Branch. They love it there, except when a kid throws a chair in the classroom or whispers in their ear ‘I’m going to bring a knife to school and cut you.’ Then my kid comes home and I have to talk to them about that,” Zelinksky shared, walking to his seat amidst an applauding audience.
Theresa Brown from Christiansburg echoed a concern for mediation to help students struggling with bullying and harassment that involves threats of violence from other students.
Nick Shepherd, a student at Auburn High School, spoke out against a book containing profane language and material that was not just assigned to read, but read aloud by his teacher in the classroom. Reading from several pages in the book, the student explained that the material was not something he would want read by his own parents, much less a teacher. Shepherd was followed by several other AHS students agreeing with his statements about the book’s offensive nature.
Betty Thomas, from Blacksburg, commented on the discussion of books in the school district as well. Thomas stated, “it’s just words on a page. I have read some of these books, including Flamer, they were funny, inclusive, and just good books.”
In a policy discussed by the school board in a prior meeting, the board unanimously voted for approval of the 5-1.2 Sexual Abuse and Harassment Policy. This document may be read in its entirety with edits in the Board Docs platform on the www.mcps.org website.
The Montgomery County School Board also recognized Seniors of the Month for April, 2023 from each of the four strands of Montgomery County schools during Tuesday night’s meeting.
Auburn High School’s April Senior of the Month, Morgan Elaine Mundy, plans to attend NRCC or Radford University after graduation. Blacksburg High School’s April Senior of the Month, Conner James Rutherford, will be attending University of Georgia to run Cross Country and Track, and pursue BSFR Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management focuses. Marshall Lane Farmer, from Christiansburg High School, was also recognized as April Senior of the Month and plans to attend New River Community College through the ACCE program and pursue a career as a HVAC Technician. Eastern Montgomery High School April Senior of the Month, Allison Kay Bower, will be studying at Virginia Tech University’s Agricultural Technology program and plans to specialize in Agricultural Management.
The Virginia High School League State Champions for winter sports were also warmly received and recognized by their coaches, parents, and administrative staff along with the school board during the meeting.
Mr. Stephen Howard, Coach of the Blacksburg High School Indoor Track Boys and Girls teams, recognized the boys as the Class 4 Team State Champions, as well as the hard work of the Indoor Girls Track and Field team during the season. Several boys and girls individual state champions were also acknowledged and present.
Coach, Chris Reilly, recognized Theo Villaneuva as the Blacksburg High School Diving Individual State Champion.
Presenting acknowledgment for Christiansburg High School, Principal Gene Jones recognized the CHS 2022-23 Class 3, Indoor Track and Field Girls Individual Pole-Vaulting Championship, Madelyn Moles and CHS Wresting Individual State Championship in the 120-pound weight class, Brady Hand.