“I’m taking responsibility,” said Ullenbruch (Palmyra District) in a short message to end the Dec. 5 joint work session between the Board of Supervisors and the School Board.
It was part of a larger comment about how the joint session worked in helping educate both sides as to how the 2014 budget cycle will start. The School Board needs to find a way to gap $950,000 because of additional local dollars the board used to manage the 2013 fiscal year. The Board of Supervisors discussed where it would like to see the school system grow long term and how the short term funding issues both sides will face to get there.
After the meeting Ullenbruch elaborated on his previously brief line about his responsibility.
“I don’t think an adversarial attitude is the way to go and I take fault for that,” said Ullenbruch who is completing his first calendar year as a supervisor.
When asked directly if he was adversarial, Ullenbruch said yes without pausing. He continued with how he could have accomplished his ‘campaign mandate’ without the self-described negativity.
“I’m not changing my conservative ways or my conservative attitude. But I’m going to make every effort to be more positive and less negative in the media, be more straight forward in just what I’m looking to accomplish on the board,” said Ullenbruch.
The ‘attitude’ Ullenbruch refers to has been much of the chagrin of school system supporters including the Focus on Fluvanna’s Future group. Ullenbruch had been in sometimes heated disagreements with members of the organization on the group’s Facebook page and in emails and Facebook messages to each other.
Ullenbruch was also the topic of many ‘Letters to the Editor’ and comments on the website of the Fluvanna Review. He was called names and name called. He often would go back and forth with people he disagreed with in a public forum.
“I felt like I was backed into a corner from the public outcry — not that I wouldn’t have been the same if I had an eight year old, nine year old and 12 year old at home and I was concerned about their education. I may have reacted the same way. But I need to understand that.
“It got to the point that nobody was understanding anything — it was who could yell the loudest. That has to end. I have to be man enough to start doing my part. If the public and the media want to do their part in it and join me, I think it is going to be a lot more of a productive year. If that’s not the case, we are going to go about the same thing next year.
“There hasn’t been a week that has gone by this year where I haven’t sit down, mostly on my deck, and think about it — thinking, ‘Did I handle myself properly?’ I have to say I didn’t. Now’s the time to fess up to that and get on with life,” said Ullenbruch.
The public mea culpa from Ullenbruch caught a few members at the meeting off guard.
“I have to admire him,” said Mozell Booker (Fork Union District). “It was like he wanted to make a confession. He wanted to clear his conscience. I have to pat him on the back for that. That’s not easy to do.”
The meeting was set up to clear the path for the fiscal year 2014 budget but the 2013 budget cycle can’t be forgotten. This move from Ullenbruch might be one a a few steps forward that were taken at the joint session.
School Board chairwoman Camilla Washington (Columbia District) was happy to hear both boards wanted to have another joint session in January. She also liked the communication both verbal and non-verbal during the meeting.
“I think both boards, individually and collectively, had decisions that were made, behaviors that were exposed the entire past year. I think it took a lot of courage for him to step up and say, ‘I’m taking ownership,’” said Washington.
Even with good communication between both boards, the two are still looking at $1 million to $2 million worth of additional funding if they want to build a water pipeline, expand class offerings, upgrade technology, plus deal with estimated cuts from federal and state spending.
Ullenbruch pledges to change his attitude and the way he acts, but he still isn’t looking to change his conservative views.
“Don’t expect me to turn into Ted Kennedy,” said Ullenbruch, a Massachusetts native. “I’m going to focus my attitude on a most positive path.”
The next School Board meeting is Dec. 12 and the next Board of Supervisors meeting is Dec. 19. Both are slated for 7 p.m. in their normal meeting places.
Editor’s note: Edited on 12/6 at 08:34 a.m. to fix one spelling error.