Students head back to class in Prince William, Manassas

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Chris Yung Elementary School opens in Bristow to 700 new students.
Chris Yung Elementary School opens in Bristow to 700 new students.

It is the first day of school for students in Prince William County and Manassas.

More than 700 students were welcomed for the frist time to Chris Yung Elementary School in Bristow. The school is named for the only Prince William County motorcycle police officer to die in the line of duty.

“The name of this school will provide an opportunity for Chris Yung’s name to live on,” said Prince William County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Steven L. Walts. “

Yung was responding to a call for help on his police motorcycle when he was struck and killed by another vehicle in front of Sowder Village shopping center in Bristow.

Children lined up outside the elementary school at 9 a.m. were all smiles and characteristcally chattery. School administartors help get students off school buses and into a line that formed in front of the main entrance.

Parents who brought their children to school were met by faculty who waived them into the parking lot.

Chris Yung Elementary School houses 700 students right now, but it can accommodate 150 more over the next few years before it reaches capacity. Building new schools and finding more seats for students continues to be a challenge for the Prince William County School system. Chris Yung Elementary is the only new school to open in the county this year.

Charles J. Colgan High School near the corner of Dumfries and Hoadly roads will open next fall. It will house 2,000 students.

“We have a 10-year plan, so we have schools that we know that will be opening 10 years from now,” said Walts.

Prince William County Public Schools hired more than 700 new teachers this year. The number is higher than in previous years because many teachers retired from the school division last year. Recruiting and retaining new educators continues to be the division’s focus.

“There is a lot of competition for new teachers in this Northern Virginia, Maryland, D.C. region have a lot of opportunities to choose from,” said Walts.

Walts said the county school board will continue to focus on reducing the number of students per teacher in the classroom to provide an overall better educational experience. Additional monies given to the schools by the Prince William County Board of Supervisors will help accelerate that plan, said Walts.

In Manassas, the city school division is not opening any new schools this year, but will open a new 140,000 square foot Baldwin Intermediate School next fall that will house 1,000 students. The three-story building is being constructed on old sports fields outside Osbourn High School.

The old Baldwin Elementary School on Main Street will be torn down once the new intermediate school opens. New sports fields for Obsourn High School will replace old Baldwin Elementary.

Manassas hired more than 88 teachers this year to educate students in the city.

A new iPhone app will be launched by the school division in the coming weeks. The app will allow users to get quick information about city school news, events, and will feature a school contacts directory. The app will come in handy during mornings when when wintry weather forces school delays or cancellations.

Today’s start date is unusual for school divisions that traditionally went back to school after Labor Day. Virginia officials granted the Prince William and Manassas divisions the waiver requested to open before the end-of-summer holiday.

More details released on Woodbridge domestic dispute

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More information has been released on the incident where a Prince William police officer shot 25-year old Yonatan Marufe, during a domestic dispute on August 17.

Following the incident, Prince William police completed an investigation, and they have publicly released the details.

Prince William County Commonwealth Attorney Paul Ebert stated that the officer, Hector Figueroa, acted appropriately when shooting Marufe, stated Prince William police.

More from a Prince William police release:

On August 17th at 6:36PM, officers were dispatched to a home in the 13100 block of Tory Loop in Woodbridge to investigate a domestic disturbance between Yonatan Marufe, 25, and his 47 year old step-mother. Initial information indicated that both parties were involved in a verbal altercation and that Yonatan had broken an interior door in the home. The first officer made contact with the step-mother in front of the residence who relayed that Yonatan has a history of mental illness. The officer went to the front door of the home, announced himself and called for Yonatan. After receiving no response, and believing that Yonatan may be in the process of harming himself based on the step-mother’s description of his behavior, the officer entered the residence with the step-mother and went to an upper floor where he was last seen. Upon reaching the top of the steps, Yonatan appeared suddenly in front of the officer, armed with a knife which he then raised towards the officer and the step-mother. In an attempt to create distance, the officer stepped back and lost his footing, falling back into the step-mother and down the stairs. Yonatan continued aggressively advancing down the steps towards the officer with the knife. At that point, the officer pulled his service weapon and shot towards Yonatan striking him once in the shoulder area. Yonatan sustained a non-life threatening wound and was transported to an area hospital where he was treated and released later that night.

The officer and the step-mother sustained injuries from the fall and were also treated at an area hospital; both are expected to make a full recovery. Following the investigation Yonatan was charged with attempted aggravated malicious wounding of a law enforcement officer and attempted aggravated malicious wounding. Yonatan remains in custody at the Adult Detention Center with a preliminary court date set for October 14, 2015.

According to Prince William County Commonwealth Attorney Paul Ebert, “The officer was justified given the circumstances and acted appropriately.”

Prince William County Police Chief Steve Hudson commented, “I fully support the officer’s actions in this case and feel they were justified with the situation he faced. We hope everyone involved in this incident makes a speedy recovery and that Yonatan receives the proper treatment he needs.”

The Police Department’s administrative investigation is continuing, but has preliminarily found this officer involved shooting to be justified and objectively reasonable. The final review will be conducted by the Department’s Police Deadly Force Shooting Review Board which will examine the details of the incident.

The officer involved in the shooting was identified as Officer Hector Figueroa, a 30 plus year law enforcement veteran with 8 years of service with the Prince William County Police Department.

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Gun goes off during Woodbridge struggle

News

A Woodbridge man has been charged after a fight with a gun.

According to Prince William police, officers were called to a home on Cavalier Drive in Woodbridge on the morning of August 27.

Prince William police stated the victim – a 27-year old Woodbridge man – told officers that he and 36-year old David Haggard were in a verbal argument that escalated.

During the incident, Haggard displayed a gun and pointed it at the victim and the victim went to deflect the gun, which then went off, according to Prince William police.

The victim was not hit, and no one was injured.

Following an investigation, Haggard is being charged with attempted malicious wounding, brandishing a firearm, and reckless handling of a firearm, stated Prince William police.

Principi: It will be January before we hear from Trader Joe’s

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Supervisor Frank Principi is back from his trek to Trader Joe’s HQ.

According to a release, Principi visited the niche grocery store’s headquarters in Monrovia, California, last week with a 1,700 signature petition, data and lease proposal information.

Prior to his trip, Principi met with area residents at his office, to talk about his plan to bring Trader Joe’s to Woodbridge.

Principi stated that his office will not hear back from Trader Joe’s until January 2016, according to a release.

A survey conducted by Principi’s staff showed that Woodbridge residents that visited area Trader Joe’s locations spent up to $200 a visit, stated a release.

Animals to adopt at Stafford County SPCA

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Willow
Blaze

Blaze is a spunky gal that has won the hearts of everyone at the shelter. She was found wandering a nearby road with a broken leg, and required an expensive surgery to walk normally again. Now one of her favorite things to do is run! She is a goofy, high energy beagle that would love to find a family that would enjoy being active with her. Blaze is 2 years old, spayed, UTD on all vaccines, and microchipped.

Willow (aka Will) is 4 year old male kitty with a playful personality! He loves spending time with people, and can’t get enough playtime with ANY kind of toy that has feathers attached. He is a favorite whenever children visit; they say it looks like he has a toupee! Willow is neutered, UTD on all vaccines, and is ready to spread some love around at his forever home.

-Information provided by the Stafford SPCA. Contact them for more information on any of the animals shown above. 

Town, school aim to relocate Dumfries Fall Festival

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050512 Dumfries Multi fest 1

The Dumfries Fall Festival could be moved to the town’s only school.

The annual festival will start at 11 a.m. October 17. Organizers propose moving the festival from its usual location at  Garrison Park behind Town Hall to nearby Dumfries Elementary School on Cameron Street.

The school will hold a 5K from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. that same morning. Organizers say the early-morning 5K event could help boost attendance at the fall festival.

“[The school is] locked in and going to go ahead with [the 5K run] no matter what we do. This is another example of competing events…” said Town Manager Daniel Taber.

Low attendance at recent functions has been blamed on other events in the area siphoning away would-be attendees for events in Dumfries, and the lack of proper advertising of town events.

Dumfries Community Services Director Ryan Gandy told the Town Council last year’s festival was more of a vendor fair than traditional festival. He proposed doing away with vendors that sell food and merchandise at this year’s festival.

“We’ve found an company that provides games and carnival rides for children, that is within our budget. We would be able to have a carnival.. an actual fall festival,” said Gandy.

Council members rebuffed that claim by saying vendors are necessary.

“Vendors look forward to this all year, especially if this is their business, this is their chance to get out and expose, and it encourages them to continue to come out and participate,” said Councilman Derek Wood, who owns a mobile barbecue business and is a regular vendor at town fairs.

Councilwoman Gwen Washington, a faculty member at Dumfries Elementary School, “loves” the idea of using the school as the site for the fall festival. She proposed using adjacent Merchant Park, next to the Weems-Botts Museum, to house vendors.

“I have this vision that before I leave this earth we’re going to close off Cameron Street, and we’re going to use the school and merchant park and have a big block party. And this is the beginning of that,” said Washington.

If the school’s PTA decides to sell hot dogs and hamburgers on its property during the fair, Washington suggested vendors at Merchant Park sell other foodstuffs. She also suggested using the gazebo at the park as the festival’s main performance stage.

Walker stumps for president in Prince William

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walker

Scott Walker on the road to the White House made a stop in Prince William County on Saturday.

The Republican Wisconsin Governor rallied the county’s GOP faithful while touting himself as a reformer different from most Republicans in office.

“We need someone who can put reform back into government, for the “R” next to our names,” said Walker.

Walker called the Obama presidency an “abysmal failure” due the president’s lack of executive leadership in government or business prior to being elected, and promised to continue the effort to repeal Obamacare, and the Iran nuclear inspections treaty on his first day in office.

Walker also advocated for a larger military, noting the nation should adopt a Ronald Regan-era policy of a large military to achieve “peace through strength.”

Shortly after he was elected governor of Wisconsin, Walker introduced legislation to limit the collective bargaining abilities of unions. Mass protests formed, and a recall election was held where Walker became the first U.S. state governor to defeat an opponent in a recall.

The Republican came to Prince William County after a rally at the University of Virginia. Walker tasked Virginia State Senator Mark Obenshain to lead the effort to collect enough signatures to get him onto he ballot for the Primary Elections next year.

The has longed served as a bellwether for the state, and has been visited by a presidential candidate of both major parties of the past two presidential elections.

Walker is the frist presidential candidate of the 2016 race to visit Prince William County.

“Prince William County has changed a lot. Just 10 short years ago we were just a rural stop in Virginia that supplied beef and dairy to Washington, D.C.,” Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland told a GOP crowd before Walker spoke. “Politicians from Washington, D.C., even politicians from Richmond did not pay us that much attention. That has changed. Whether you have migrated from Fairfax County or all the way from El Salvador or India, Prince William County has become a place for prosperity.”

The Walker rally was held at “the hut” on Prince William Parkway, the small house that serves as the GOP headquarters for the region. Several candidates that are vying for local offices, to include the 36th District Virginia Senate seat for Fairfax, Prince William, and Stafford, and two Prince William County School Board seats spoke.

“Everyone north of us next year is going to vote blue. Almost everyone south of us next year is going to vote red. Prince William County is a pivotal county in 2016,” said Tim Singstock, who is running to replace Milton Johns, who is stepping down as the Chairman of the Prince William County School Board.

Dumfries Mayor Gerald “Jerry” Foreman seeks the 36th District Seat and is running against Delegate Scott Surovell. Foreman said Surovell has outspent the Foreman campaign three to one, and that polls show he is 2 points behind his Democratic rival.

“I’m right where I need to be,” said Foreman. “Two percent… he’s looking over his shoulder, he’s right in front of me.”

Prince William County Young Republicans Chairman Terrance Boulden organized the rally. Boulden was celebrated for helping to bring a national candidate to stump in the region.

Equality for women important to Virginia

Those who meet the standards and graduate from the Army’s challenging Ranger School earn the right to wear the prestigious Ranger tab.

On August 21, 2015, two female Soldiers made history. Captain Kristen Griest and First Lieutenant Shaye Haver became the first women to earn the honor and joined a long line of outstanding Soldiers.

This is a proud day for anyone who has donned a uniform. I served 20 years in the U.S. military; the majority of which was in the Army and I stand taller today knowing that we have moved a bit closer to true equality. I firmly believe that any soldier capable of performing the mission should be given the opportunity to do so.

As significant an achievement as this is earning the Ranger tab is, Griest and Haver will not be assigned combat roles in the 75th Ranger Regiment. The Combat Exclusion Policy was rescinded in January 2013, but the services have until January 2016 to implement changes and request exclusions.

It has been said that there is no desire to send women into combat because of the political consequences of female soldiers coming home in body bags. This is a bogus argument.

As a matter of course, women serve in combat zones, come into harm’s way, and even sometimes lose their lives as a result. Let us allow those who are ready, willing, and able to serve to do so in the manner that they choose and break this last glass ceiling.

Meanwhile, back on the home front, the wage gap persists in our country. Regardless of ethnicity, women make, on average, less than men for the same work.

This must change. In the private as well as the public sector, women serve in more leadership roles today than they did 20 years ago, but still not in proportion to the population. So while there’s progress, we still have a long way to go.

And here in the great Commonwealth of Virginia, we are ranked the eighth worst in the country for gender equality. We can do better.

As we celebrated women’s right to vote on Equality Day on August 26, we should recommit ourselves to continue the fight for equality in pay, in representation in our government, and in our boardrooms.

We all need to work for equality for women and we need Richmond to pick up the mantle to pull Virginia into the place where we can lead the country in gender equality. A Commonwealth in which women and girls have equal opportunity, have representation in the General Assembly and own and run businesses will attract the best and the brightest to our state, attract businesses, and make this Commonwealth the leader it should be. That is the Virginia I want to live in.

We should celebrate steps toward equality, not fight them. I have two daughters and look forward to the day when equal pay for equal work is a reality and when prospective employees are chosen based on their qualifications alone. When I get to Richmond, I will fight to put an end to discriminatory practices so that every Virginian has true equality of opportunity.

-Don Shaw is a Democrat running against Republican Bob Marshall for the 13th District Virginia House of Delegates seat. 

Safe communities, safe schools, safe kids

Opinion

As families prepare their kids to head back to school one thought is in the back of everyone’s mind: safety.  Prince William County schools are a reflection of Prince William County communities. 

Potomac School Board Rep Betty Covington and I recently attended a safe schools presentation at Forest Park High School.  One thing is clear: safe schools start with safe communities. 

As Chairman of the Prince William County Safe Schools Advisory Council I have had the opportunity to chair public meetings with staff and parents at the Kelly Leadership Center.  The staff in our schools put forth impressive efforts to keep our kids safe during the school day.  In fact, I do believe our kids are safer today from outside threats than they were ten years ago.

However, challenges still remain which we need to address.  As Chairman of the School Board, I will work collaboratively with the community to promote these three priorities: (1) mobile devices and social media; (2) safety before and after school; (3) mental health safety.

Social media and mobile devices have simplified our lives in many ways, but they have created a host of safety challenges for our young people.  The Safe Schools Advisory Council hosted a social media information night in May, open to the community.  More than 250 members of the community came to learn about the long term implications of sexting and cyberbullying.  Most importantly, we provided resources to help families prevent these issues from happening in the future.  While 250 is an impressive number, the need for more education on this issue in the community is clear. 

While kids are safe during the school day, Prince William County needs to review and update safety protocols to answer these questions:  How can we ensure safety in the morning, while kids are meeting with teachers to collect missed assignments? How can we ensure safety in the afternoon while kids and staff are still on school grounds for clubs, tutoring and athletics?  Furthermore, how can we ensure kids are safe while in transit (walking or bus) to and from school?

Mental health can be at the root of many safety incidents in schools.  While we learn about mental health and develop protocols to keep kids and staff safe, we must balance this with a need to respect privacy and rights of individuals.  The Safe Schools Advisory Council hosted a Mental Health Information night, also open to the community, in October 2014.  Parents sent a message: they need a more responsive school system with respect to mental health.  Some of these issues overlapped with Special Education.  As with most challenges, the best solutions come from collaboration. 

Candidates (including myself) will be talking about class size reduction, competitive teacher pay and common core during this election season.  These are prominent issues for Prince William County.  However, the 2015 conversation would be incomplete without robust dialogue on how to maintain a safe, healthy and drug free learning environment for our kids and staff.  Safe Communities – Safe Schools – Safe Kids. 

*Singstock is a candidate for the Chairman of the Prince William County School Board.

Chairman of Prince William school board one of most important positions

Opinion

One of the most important positions that County voters will decide on November 3rd is Chairman of the County School Board. Our school system is the largest entity in the County, educating some 87,000 students and employing 10,800 teachers, bus drivers and support staff.

The School Board became an elected body 20 years ago, in the aftermath of an era when Board members were appointed by the respective Magisterial District Supervisors. The change was approved by the Virginia General Assembly in order to distance education from political agendas. As we know, politicians are accountable for the functioning of County government. Education of our children is in the province of parents, families, teachers and elected officials whose principal job is to guide the School Administration. Unfortunately, political parties continue to attempt to dominate the process by endorsing School Board candidates. This tends to make School Board members accountable to politicians and their agendas. And for the past several years, one of the first places they cut is education. How does the Chairman of the School Board support education when beholden, for example, to County political leaders? And worse, what criteria does the political party use when it endorses School Board candidates?

Right now, 45 of our 80 schools are over-capacity. We are among the lowest in teacher salaries and aid to education in the Washington region. How do we explain such numbers to companies seeking to re-locate their operations and employees to Prince William County?

Voters will have a choice of three candidates for School Board Chairman in November. Two are endorsed by the major political parties. Neither, in my opinion, have the breadth of experience needed to represent the educational needs of parents, families and children in this critical position. The third candidate is Independent Bristow resident Tracy Conroy, a parent with goals and experience designed to improve the education of our children.

Ms. Conroy is a registered nurse with a B.S. degree in Health Care Administration. She has held positions, in Hospital Management, Quality Assurance and Program Development. Her husband is a small businessman, and their two children attend County schools. Tracy currently works as an independent health-care contractor. Most important, Tracy has worked as a parent for over ten years, advocating before the School Board on matters of importance to our children. She has served on County Budget Committees for over three years and, in this capacity, has a working familiarity with the annual education budget of over $1.0 billion. Ms. Conroy recognizes that funds are limited. She further understands the expectations of all the stakeholders and will work with parents, fellow School Board members, the Board of County Supervisors, the administration and staff to meet the needs of our students.

Tracy is from the Philadelphia area, and moved to Dale City in 1997. She and her family have lived in Lake Ridge, Winding Creek, Hunter’s Ridge, Victory Lakes, and Braemar. She notes she may be the first candidate who has lived in the Neabsco, Coles, Occoquan, and Brentsville Districts.

Tracy’s principal objectives in seeking this important position are: Accountability, School Equality, Community Involvement, and a Superior Education. I believe that Tracy has the education and background to serve our community as an excellent steward our educational system. It is clear that she will best represent the needs of families and our children, and not serve the political interests of many other elected officials, whose principal interests are not in education.

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