Keen Wants Better Board Relations, Teacher Benefits in Prince William County
– October 15, 2013 12:10 pm
Link to resume HERE
- Age: 58
- Political Party: Independent
- Running for: Prince William County School Board
- District: Woodbridge
- Opponent: Loree Williams
- Originally from: Northern Virginia
- Profession: Department Manager for Office Depot (2011-present)
- Bottom Dollar Food (2009-2012)
- Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (1979-2008)
- Edison Bros. Shoes, store manager (1976-1978)
- Education: American Public University
- Associate’s degree in history (2011)
- Family: Wife: Thea; Three daughters: Rachel, Sarah, Esther; Eight grandchildren.
- Military: U.S. Navy (1973-1976)
- Other: Woodbridge seat, Stafford County School Board, (served two terms, 1995-2003; interim replacement January 2013-present)
Steven Keen, incumbent by special election for the Woodbridge seat on the Prince William County School Board, has been elected to the school board before, serving two terms from 1995 to 2003. He says that this time around his main focus is on the direction of the schools and how the Board of County Supervisors and school board can work together to resolve the issues facing the county.
“I looked and saw that the current economic crisis is as fragile as it was when I was first elected. I thought that my experience would be valuable to the board,” Keen said. “However, the economy is now gotten to a place where it’s time for us to start asking what the implications are for the schools.”
Keen says that the relationship between the school board and Board of County Supervisors needs to revert back to the respectable relationship that it once had. He said one of the main problems was that the board of supervisors made tax cuts that didn’t abide by the conditions outlined in the Revenue Sharing Agreement, a five-year budget plan that was negotiated between the school board and board of supervisors.
“We need to be constantly in touch with them so they know it’s time for us to do things the way we agreed to, and if they feel that needs adjusting, let’s sit down and renegotiate,” says Keen. “Right now were in limbo. It’s back the way it was before the Revenue Sharing Agreement where there were strained relations between the members on the board.”
Other areas of concern to Keen include classroom sizes and teacher pay and retention.
“We have the highest class sizes in Virginia and we can stay that without statistics because it’s the highest allowed under Virginia law,” he says. “Our teachers, while we have given small raises every year, are falling behind the salaries in other places.”
He says that in any supply and demand market, when countries that have better salary structures are looking for new teachers, those countries are searching for experience.
“If a person with us shows up with a good work ethic and experience, we could lose them. So in those situations you always lose the best teachers first and that’s very damaging to the system.”
Keen says the focus always starts with salary in regards to bringing in the best teachers, but that the county is making effective steps to do so.
“We go well out of our way to attract quality teachers. We have job fairs and we are sending people to major teaching colleges with good teaching programs,” says Keen. “Recruiting, pay and benefits is a huge deal.”
Indoor Pool — Good or Bad for Woodbridge?
Another topic being talked about at the Board of County Supervisors level is the proposal to build an indoor aquatics facility at the 12th high school off Hoadly Road. Prince William County Schools project that the pool’s cost will be $10.5 million to construct and $800,000 per year to operate, in which usage fees will cover about 70-100 percent of the operating fees. PWCS says that it will serve the entire community, providing aquatic instruction, lessons and space for private and high school swim teams.
Keen says there are conditions that would determine if he would support the construction of the pool.
“Four people were in favor and there are three that said they are not. Then there’s me,” he says. “My attitude toward it is that if the proposal the superintendent brought forward and the Revenue Sharing Agreement don’t change, I have to oppose it because my district is the one that suffers the most with budget costs.”
“If the Board of County Supervisors really wants to do something with this, we need to make a plan with them to take the seven years of cuts they’ve given us and slowly integrate that money back in,” he adds.” If they agree to a plan to reinstate those cut funds and abide by the rules, then I would support building the pool because I could see a long range plan.”
Overall, Keen says his experience with the school board and budget planning, as well as 35 years of experience in retail fields makes him a well-rounded and dedicated candidate.
“Now that it appears that the county is under a financial crisis, it’s time for us to ask ourselves, what kind of county do we want for the future?”