Hanover schools need to improve technology, food service

HANOVER, VA (WWBT) - School leaders in Hanover County now have a better idea of what they are doing well and what they need to work on.

A program to review the efficiency of the school system has just wrapped up.  We first told you about this story in November when school leaders decided to undergo the voluntary process.

The review showed that overall the Hanover County School System is doing well, but there are a few areas that could use some improvements, especially technology and food service.

Through a state program, a consulting firm out of Texas has finished up a financial health report card for the school system.

"I would say in many ways it affirmed some of the things that we already knew, and it gave us encouragement in some of the things we know need to be done moving forward," said Michael Thornton, Superintendent of Business and Operations.

The review noted a possible $2.5 million in savings over the next five years.  It's a small fraction when you consider the yearly operating budget is more than $180 million.

That's good news, showcasing school leaders are spending money wisely, but there is still room to improve.  About $2 million of the possible savings focus on food service.

"Our goal would be to increase participation as far as the number of students that are buying lunches," Thornton said.

In order to get more students to eat the school lunch rather than bring their own, school leaders will implement a marketing campaign and may look at changing some of menu items.  Over the next two years, the school system also plans to roll out a new technology system that will allow parents to access student information online.  It was something already in the works this efficiency review found should happen as soon as possible.

"The system that we have in place now is more than 15 years old. It's a 20th century solution and does not help us meet 21st century needs," Thornton said.

Tom and Lisa Checkosky were not surprised to hear the review's mostly-positive results.  They relocated their family and opened a business in Ashland a few years ago.

"I heard a lot of good things about the schools before we came here, and that one of the decisions that we did make to come to Ashland because of the school district," Checkosky said.

School leaders will look over this review over the next couple of months and develop a plan of action. You could see some of these changes as early as the 2012 school year.

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