School Board Fully Funding Fine Arts Stipends in $1.5B Budget

After a years-long battle over funding for the performing arts, the School Board voted this week to allocate $2.4 million dollars to its recommended budget for fiscal year 2023 for teacher stipends for theater and band programs.

That amount is a placeholder, pending a human resources investigation and review of funding the stipends.

Denise Corbo (At-Large) made the motion to fund year-round stipends for performing arts teachers, initially at $1.9 million. After discussion, board members determined that amount might not cover fully funding stipends for all performing arts programs, and that the staff would need to review positions that are currently funded and consider additional taxes and fees. The additional half million dollars was added to the amount Corbo proposed. The motion passed 5-4, with Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles), Vice Chairman Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge), Brenda Sheridan (Sterling), and Harris Mahedavi (Ashburn) opposed.

Going into the meeting, the superintendent’s recommended budget included a $400,000 placeholder for the stipends, pending a review conducted by Human Resources and Talent Development. Serotkin made a motion to double that to $800,000, and expressed his disappointment that the stipend review wasn’t completed in time for the budget adoption meeting. Corbo’s motion was made in substitute, supporting a proposal prepared by members of the performing arts community, organized by Rock Ridge theater director Anthony Cimino-Johnson.

“We need to compensate our educators accordingly. And according to the work that they put in not just to the productions—but these are lifelong skills our kids are learning,” Corbo said.

Tom Marshall (Leesburg) said that the current stipend funding is a safety concern, adding that there aren’t enough adults supervising students in the programs.

Morse said that the community proposal did not go through a thorough review by the staff and did not include details such as payroll taxes.

“For example, we went from 1.9 to 2.4 immediately,” Morse said. “That tells me that we don’t know precisely what we’re in for, and I can’t support a motion that’s taking us into an area where it’s irresponsible for us to make budgetary decisions without know the impacts.”

Sheridan agreed, saying she was uncomfortable supporting the motion without a full review of the plan by staff.

“What the School Board did tonight is historic and a win for all of our students. … It is now time to work with the Board of Supervisors to gain support and ensure it stays in the final budget in April,” Cimino-Johnson said after the vote. “We thank the community and board members for their ongoing support of our performing arts programs.”

Currently theater directors are only compensated $6,750 a year. Community members have pointed to the inequity compared to sports programs. Head football coaches are given $7,828 per season. Theater directors work throughout the school year for fall, winter, and spring productions.

Theater and performing arts students, including band members, raise their own funds to perform across the state and country.The total budget passed 8-1 with Andrew Hoyler (Broad Run) opposed. That will go before the Board of Supervisors next week, and is $421,319 above superintendent Scott Ziegler’s original recommendation for the 2023 budget.

3 thoughts on “School Board Fully Funding Fine Arts Stipends in $1.5B Budget

  • 2022-02-04 at 2:20 pm

    Brenda Sheridan & Jeff Morse often are at odds. But on Tuesday night, they agreed about making funding decisions a bit more cautiously. (I smiled when Brenda quipped she didn’t want to give Mr. Morse a heart attack by agreeing with him.) If truth be told, I hope this $1.6-billion budget is gone over with a fine-toothed comb. It’s distressing that 90 percent is earmarked for personnel costs. Let’s make it less top-heavy & more child-focused. Happy Valentine’s Day Loudoun!

  • 2022-02-05 at 5:06 am

    And the rape continues. Your wallet their piggy bank.
    Deflection with who agrees with who are beside the point and fruitless, not news.
    The school board has done a horrible job and need replacing posthaste!
    The Board of Supervisor will wring their hands and cut 20 million of the fluff and call it a win all the while funding bad actors with bad intentions.
    Kids are learning about segregation from haters like Sheridan and Randall just not the way it was intended to be taught
    Randall replaced Matt because she wanted someone new for finance and opted for Umstaddt when do we get rid of Hemstreet, I know he is just doing his job, baloney!

  • 2022-02-07 at 10:41 am

    Are Loundon County teachers up in arms? Why are you all agreeing to this? These monies could be used to increase salaries, benefits once and for all. If students want to be in plays let the community fund this. This should not be coming out of taxes. Teachers, aren’t you tired of this?

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