WOODBRIDGE, Va. – San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro (D), met with Democratic volunteers and campaign staff at the Prince William County Democratic Headquarters in Lake Ridge on Saturday, to support Terry McAuliffe’s candidacy for Virginia Governor and excite volunteers as Election Day draws closer.
“I’m here because everyone around the nation is watching this campaign. Everyone around the nation knows what a great candidate Terry McAuliffe is for Governor of Virginia and sees the contrast that really exists in this race,” Castro said.
Castro pointed out several of the contrasts between McAuliffe and Cuccinelli including social agenda, ideology and proposed priorities in their potential role as Governor.
Castro also tied Cuccinelli’s platforms back to the Tea Party movement within the Republican Party, whom many Americans have assigned blame for, for the recent federal government shutdown.
“[Cuccinelli] is trying to appeal to a very small slice of the electorate with a myopic vision about the future – the Tea Party – and right now in Washington, D.C. with this government shutdown, we’re seeing essentially what happens when their vision comes to life. The events of the past couple weeks have really reminded us, you know – in this 21st century world, we’ve really got to figure out what we stand for as a nation. We became the greatest country in the world for a reason,” Castro said.
Thanking volunteers and campaign staff for their work on the campaign, Castro attempted to inspire and excite them for the phone banks and canvassing drives that lay ahead.
“All of us know that it’s pretty exciting during these presidential election cycles, and then on these off years, what we risk is that people stay home,” Castro commented, going on to share his own personal story as a progressive rising star in the Democratic Party, growing up as a grandchild of immigrants from Mexico.
“The year that I applied to college, my mother was making $19,000 that year – my grandmother was making a few hundred dollars in a Social Security check. The only reason we were able to go to Stanford University was because we worked hard, and they had worked hard,” Castro said.
The Cuccinelli campaign has also found support in the well-known Duggar family, famous for their TLC show, 19 Kids and Counting, who will be stumping for his candidacy this Wednesday in Woodbridge.
Holly Hazard, current incumbent of the Hartwood seat on the Stafford County School Board says her interest in the county and ensuring that students receive a good education is what motivates her to run for reelection in November. Hazard has two daughters who attend Stafford County Public Schools and is very involved in the schools in her community.
She says that being able to work locally and be visible and active in the schools is something that is valuable to the community and her role as a school board member.
“I believe part of a school member’s job is to be in the schools, active and visible and to promote the schools themselves, be a little bit of a cheerleader for the school system and for the students,” she says. “It gives you an insight of some of the challenges that are faced on a daily basis and how (the school board) can be helpful.”
Hazard is centering her campaign on areas such as prepping students for the future, retaining quality teachers, and school safety.
“It is important we make sure students have the best education that they can, especially with so much changing in the world and make sure our kids are able to be competitive in this environment,” she says. “We have some really great teachers and people involved in our education system. I think we also need to make sure that we recruit and maintain the best teachers and continue to build upon our success as a school district.”
Hazard says she has some concerns with the current methods on testing performance of schools.
“I understand that there needs to be some type of analysis on how schools are doing, but I believe any overemphasis on one area of test scores or certain things doesn’t give the whole picture,” she says. “I am very concerned, as many are, that we are teaching to a test.
I want to make sure that our students are very analytical and that they have the skills that they need in the world.
However, Hazard says that over all, Stafford ranks well when it comes to performance.
“We are one of 36 schools in the commonwealth that has gotten full accreditation. Only 27% of schools in commonwealth met that goal and we were one of them.”
Another area that Hazard is focused on is school safety and security. She says she is pleased with the initiative to add more resource officers to the school with the aid of a grant that was approved for the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office.
“This year as we opened schools we had our resource officers very visible. I think it’s a wonderful piece that we’ve been able to add in conjunction with our sheriff,” she says. “Going forward I would like to explore whether a more permanent presence might be more available at our elementary school level.”
Hazard has been working as an attorney for over 20 years. She says her experience in her profession has helped her role as a school board member.
“One of the things an attorney is called is a counselor and I think that the desire to problem solve, think innovatively and try to consensus-build is an important attribute, because a school system is a people organization,” she says. Hazard says with over thousands of school employees and over 27,000 students and others involved in the school system, this is an important characteristic.
She says the effectiveness of a school system is important to outside factors as well, such as business development and the economy.
“A lot of times when business comes to potentially settle in Stafford County, one of the top things asked is ‘What are the quality of the schools?’ and we want to make sure that we can maintain that quality,” she says. “The best economic development is also an investment in our public education because these are going to be our students and our workers of tomorrow.”
Reed Heddleston is the democratic candidate for the 51st VirgiiaHouse District, which includes Prince William County.
“This elction is going to be about choices,” said Heddleston.
He’s up against incumbent Richard Anderson, who has held the seat since 2010. Heddleston says there is a stark difference between his and his opponent’s overall approach in the upcoming General Election.
Although Heddleston says he respects Anderson’s military service, as both candidates have served for the U.S. Air Force, Heddleston says his experience within his industry will make him a better candidate. Anderson retired from the Air Force a Colonel in 2009.
“I’ve hired people into jobs and I know what it takes to win contracts and to build business,” says Heddleston. “It’s not something I’ve read about in a book or that someone gave me in a ‘talk and pat’. My opponent can talk about things but I have done them.”
Heddleston currently works as a managing director for defense and government for the Luthan Group, a financial consulting firm based in Richmond. Prior to that, Heddleston worked for 14 years as an operations manager for the Science Applications International Corporation (SCIC), a Fortune 500 Company located in McLean, Virginia. Within his work at the SCIC, Heddleston says he gained valuable experience that would be useful as a delegate.
“I understand what it’s like to lose contracts and I understand what it’s like to win contracts,” he says. “I know what it’s like to hire veterans. I personally hired 30 veterans during my time with SCIC.”
Heddleston is focusing his campaign on major issues such as transportation, education, and equality in the workplace.
Heddleston says he supported the transportation reform package, signed off by Governor McDonnell during the last legislative session which eliminates the gasoline tax and raise the state’s sales tax in an effort to raise funds for transportation issues.
“It took all these years to get a bipartisan transportation bill and it’s been 26 years since we’ve actually had a transportation bill,” says Heddleston. “Transportation is a long-standing problem and you don’t fix it one year at a time, you have to have a long-range plan.”
Further, he says transportation isn’t only about building more roads.
“We need to look at alternatives and be very careful where we spend that money. We need to look at light rail, metro expansion and at highways and improving traffic,” says Heddleston.
However, Heddleston does not support the development of the Bi-County Parkway, which will connect Prince William and Loudon Counties. Proponents say that the road will help promote economic development by improving the transportation network. However, opponents of the parkway fear that it will be costly to surrounding residents and damaging to the Manassas National Battlefield Park and the official historic district.
He said there are three reasons why he doesn’t support the bill: the fear that it will add to traffic congestion, create unnecessary development in the Rural Cresent, and will not be a viable long-term goal.
“I believe it doesn’t address our transportation problem, which is getting people to and from work,” he says. “What that will do is just create more development in the Rural Crescent and that will just add to the congestion load.”
“That is a distinction because my opponent supports the Bi-County Parkway and he voted against the transportation reform plan.”
Heddleston says the main problem with Prince William County Schools is that the county has the largest class sizes and also the lowest teacher pay in the region.
“If we’re not in a crisis, we’re approaching crisis,” he says. “We need to raise teacher pay to the national average. We know that if you’re looking for disciplined classes, you need smaller class sizes but really it’s not a question of discipline, you need smaller class sizes so teachers can pay attention to students. “
Heddleston was recently endorsed by the Virginia Education Association. He says public education is a fundamental part of democracy.
“It’s where you meet and compete with your peer group that you’re going to work with for the rest of your life,” he says.
Another issue Heddleston points out is how Virginia currently tests the performance of schools and teachers.
“At the same time that we’re not putting enough money into the public schools and we have difficult to manage class sizes, we’re now asking teachers to bump up the standards of learning at the federal and state level and even within the county,” he says.
Heddleston says the soon-to-be enacted legislation which will place a letter grade on schools based on their performance is not an adequate measurement.
“We need to take a long look at the standards that we’re testing for and ensure that we’re not overtesting our (students) and teachers.”
Heddleston says it’s important to realize that the job market is a competition and Virginia needs to be aware of how that market is continuously changing.
“I have spent 14 years in high technology and business. I understand how it works. I will tell you that what’s you’re interested in is intellectual capital,” he says. “You are interested in getting the brightest people you can because we compete. “
Heddleston says in order for Virginia to improve businesses, the state will have to diversify and be more welcoming to minorities.
“I’m not interested in who you are, I’m interested in how you think,” he says. “The majority of engineering students are now women. Thirty-percent of high-technology businesses and engineers are going to be run by women and CEOs.”
He says that social issues are also economic and civil rights issues and should not be used as a means to deny an individual employment.
“I support marriage equality because you cannot discriminate in the work place, so why would we discriminate in Virginia?” says Heddleston. “What Republicans do not understand is that they’re in a competition. You have not made the investment in services nor do you have a welcoming atmosphere in your industry and it’s going to continue unless we change what happens in VA.”
Jerry Foltz, Democratic candidate and church minister, is challenging Republican Delegate Tim Hugo this fall for the 40th seat of the Virginia House of Delegates. The district, which includes Prince William County and Fairfax County, has been occupied by Hugo since 2003.
Foltz is very active within his community as a protestant minister at the United Church of Christ.
“I’ve dealt with building communities; I’ve dealt with decision making among people in our churches that don’t always see eye to eye with their points of view,” says Foltz. “I try to build consensus with decision making and not divide churches – they don’t last long if you start dividing every time you make a decision and that division (also) hurts our state.”
Foltz has also served as chaplain for the Centreville Station #17 Volunteer Fire Department for over 16 years, providing support to fire personnel and aid for victims of tragedy. He says in the end, his motivation all comes back to the families.
“I would like to deal with issues that are really important to our families,” he says. “There are a lot of things that relate back to the families; our schools, transportation, our healthcare, and I’d like to overall build a sense of community.”
Foltz supported the transportation reform passed last session. Still, he says, more needs to be done. He says he will advocate addressing alternative methods of transportation including the metro and transit system as well as support safer roads for bicyclists.
“More needs to be done to support other transportation,” he says. “The transits systems need more support. Both the metro and bus services need to be upgraded and made more accessible and we also need more parking for some of the metro stations.”
Foltz says Virginia has some of the best quality schools, however, he says the legislature needs to be reprioritized to address some of the issues affecting education in the state.
“The state legislature should stop mandating the things that cost money without providing assistance for it,” says Foltz. As an example, Foltz says requiring certified teachers to monitor the SOL’s when they are needed in the classrooms. Requirements such as these inspire Foltz to want to influence reform. He says that schools rely too much on testing to evaluate students as well as teachers.
“Testing needs to be reoriented to help the students in terms of what their learning needs are and not used to punish the schools,” he says. “We also want to make sure, between our partnership with the state and the counties, that our teacher pay is adequate and what it should be.”
Foltz says he supports the expansion of Medicare to those in need and says that all Virginians deserve access to affordable health-care options. However, he says there are some implications that could result from the new healthcare changes.
“For the state as a whole, I see a potential for improvement of people’s health,” says Foltz. “However, I’m getting some indications that businesses and even nonprofit groups may be cutting back on the hours of employees to avoid having to provide health care, and I think that’s immoral. It’s exploiting people without providing the benefits they need.”
According to Foltz, Virginia has great potential for employment growth, but the state needs to be more adamant about enforcing anti-discrimination policies and offering healthcare for domestic partners.
“That has discouraged businesses from coming here,” he says. “Employees will not feel secure, combined with the fact that some of the (future) healthcare provisions will not be provided for partners in whatever committed relationships people are in, and I think that that discourages businesses from coming here.”
Foltz and his wife, Alice, helped to organize the Centreville Labor Resource Center in 2011 as a way to help immigrants find work in Northern Virginia and pave their path to citizenship. He advocates an appreciation for diversity and says that is has helped reduce cases of wage theft and provides more accountability for employees.
“It has been in place for over a year and a half with no tax money spent on it. It’s a $200,000 operation all with private funding. About 450 workers are registered and 35 of them are women,” says Foltz.
“I’d like to bring an appreciation for our racial and ethnic diversity in our district,” says Foltz. “Our racial and ethnic diversity really is a strength. My opponent has shown hostility toward the immigrant community and I resent that. I’d like to end that and help people appreciate each other more.”
The Northern Virginia Technology Council backed Delegate Tim Hugo (R) in a recent endorsement.
More in a press release.
Delegate Hugo has received the endorsement of the Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC) TechPAC, the political action arm of NVTC, the premiere trade association for the technology community in Northern Virginia.
Dendy Young, TechPAC Chairman and CEO of McLean Capital, LLC stated, “We are pleased to endorse Delegate Tim Hugo for re-election to the House of Delegates. Tim has a strong record as a pro-business legislator and we appreciate his support of legislation to grow technology business, spur job creation, and further distinguish Virginia as a global technology center.” Dendy Young, TechPAC Chairman and CEO of McLean Capital, LLC.
“My colleagues and I have worked in a bi-partisan manner to ensure that Virginia has a pro-business environment. I look forward to continuing to work with NVTC so that Virginia remains the top state in which to do business,” said Delegate Hugo.
Voters will head to the polls Nov. 5.
Kitta: More Support for Teachers, Better Capital Improvement Planning, Fundamental to Campaign for Stafford School Board
Mark Kitta, candidate for the Falmouth seat on the Stafford County School Board, says he was motivated to run for the board after observing some of the major problems in the schools. Among the issues he wishes to address are: the teacher turnover rate, poor budget oversight and planning and most importantly to Kitta – addressing the planning behind the “Stafford County Rebuild Project.”
Kitta is not affiliated with a particular political party. In fact, he believes politics should be taken out of the school board decisions.
“I was approached by a number of political parties and I respectfully declined their endorsement,” he says. “I gave them the same answer; I’m more interested in providing for the citizens of Falmouth and ultimately the citizens of Stafford County then I am a political party of their agenda.”
Kitta says he is passionate about the “Stafford Rebuild Project” because it is dealing with a large amount of money and he says the plans were poorly communicated with the public.
“They’re not actually rebuilding the high school, they’re building a new school behind it and they’re demolishing a $36 million asset,” says Kitta. “That’s 250,000 square feet that they are going to bulldoze into the ground and make it into a parking lot.”
He says he supported the original plan, which was to build a high school on the newly acquired property of Ewalt Farm off of Clift Farm road.
“In refocusing Stafford High School, they were going to build a career and technical education center, which would alleviate a lot of the overcrowding in the high schools,” he says. “It would take the career and technical education out of each high school and around 25,000-30,000 square feet in those high schools would be opened up for more classrooms with the (career and technical center) coming down to Stafford.”
Kitta says the Capital Improvements Plan is misusing the public’s funds by asking for $65 million in 10 years to build a new career and technical education center.
“The initial cost of building the new high school on the Ewalt Property was $83 million. Building the new school behind the existing Stafford High School, they didn’t have to do all the infrastructure improvements and they could use existing fields, which lowered the cost to $67 million,” says Kitta.
“Tomorrow wasn’t thought about in the decisions that were made for today,” he says. “Ultimately, it’s going to cost the citizens almost a $100 million dollars between demolishing that $36 million building and $65 million for a new career and technical education center.”
While Kitta says that he agrees that Stafford needed a new high school, he believes the school board and the board of supervisors should have considered long-term planning.
“If I were on the board, I would push to save the existing Stafford High School and renovate it for the CTE* programs,” Kitta says. “It would cost about $40 million less than what their current proposal is.”
Kitta says that the planning behind the building plan was poorly planned and communicated to the people of Stafford.
“There were only two public town hall meetings and people, to this day, when you tell them that part of the plan is to tear down the existing high school, their eyes get big and they look at me and say ‘What are you talking about?’”
He says that is something he hopes to bring to the board, open communication and a refocus on the problems that affect the public.
“It is important that the school system and the school board encourage partnering the schools with local businesses,” says Kitta. “In doing that, you promote volunteers from local business coming in and helping the schools, but then you also open up job opportunities for your juniors and seniors and then opportunities for them when they graduate.”
Kitta also says he would like to revive the adopt-a-classroom program, if he is elected. With the program, people are invited to sponsor classrooms to support teachers and students. The funds provide financial and moral support to the classrooms.
“I’ve spoken to a lot of teachers here who’s children were able to benefit from these donations (which) can be as little as $10 or $20, but an extra $10 or $20 go to that teacher and they are able to use it for the classroom and it goes a long way,” he says. “I believe that would be a great way for citizens to actually help classrooms, help teachers and help schools.”
*CTE: career and technical education
Vanessa Griffin is an active member of the Aquia community. She currently serves on a variety of different community boards and committees and helped organize and initiate the first North Stafford Farmers Market.
“Our community had a need for the production of local produce so I made it happen. I found the funding; I ran through all the red tape and was able to deliver that to the community,” she says. “Not only have we been able to partner with the local food pantry (S.E.R.V.E.) and provide nearly 500 pounds of produce per week, but are planning to implement the SNAP (food stamps) program next year to further extend our services to the lower income families in Stafford.”
Griffin is running for the Aquia seat on the Stafford County school board because she says she wants to continue to produce results for her community.
“I probably spend just as much time donating to the community as I do at my regular job,” she says. Griffin works for CACI International Inc., a professional services and information technology (IT) company that serves Intelligence, Defense, and Federal Civilian customers. When she isn’t working at her job center, she says she is working with the community as well as nonprofits to discover new ways to help Stafford succeed.
“I’ve had a lot of leadership roles and I’m extremely dedicated,” she says. “Anyone that knows me knows that I’m always in a million different places at once making things happen and that I’m 100 percent committed.”
Griffin is also currently working on the food pantry program offered by S.E.R.V.E, a nonprofit that provides emergency relief to those in need.
“I’m trying to help the food pantry down here boost their program,” she says. “When people talk to you and say ‘Thank you for making this happen,’ it really makes it all worth it. Just to see how many people you’re actually affecting.”
Issues in Education
Griffin says that it is important that Stafford County improve teacher salaries in order to retain current teachers and attract new ones.
“The pay rate around the county has approved, but we are missing opportunities to attract quality teachers with a better salary,” she says. Recently, Governor Bob McDonnell awarded $4.5 million in Strategic Teacher Compensation Grants, which rewarded teachers in 13 school division based on student achievement, professional growth and leadership.
Griffin says that those grants, ranging from about $26,000 to $850,000, could have been an ideal opportunity for Stafford County to provide incentives to attract new teachers.
“If I am elected, I would be on the lookout to make sure we are not missing these opportunities that the other schools may be taking and are passing us by.”
Another issue Griffin says she would look into is a solution to evaluating the performance of Stafford schools, teachers and students.
“The No Child Left Behind Act was a little too extreme with encouraging teachers to just “teach to test,” she says. “This skews how kids are actually doing and how the schools are performing, because you’re not teaching concept as much so as memorization.”
The General Assembly passed legislation last session that assigns a letter-grade rating system to schools based on performance. Griffin says that one blanket solution doesn’t necessarily work for every school.
“We have to be somewhere in between. We need to monitor the progress of the students but also how trusted the teachers actually are,” she says.
Griffin says she would like to see STEM-based educational programs (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) expand in Stafford County.
“One in every five jobs now is STEM related,” she says. “There are grants out there right now that are trying to boost this level of education. Stafford County started and they have a small program that is developing right now but if we seek out the right kind of funding and make the right budgetary decisions, we could really make it into a very strong program.”
Mark Dudenhefer, Republican delegate representing the 2nd Virginia house district in Stafford and Woodbridge, has participated in major legislative changes since he was first elected in 2012. He is being challenged by Michael Futrell (D) for the 2nd district seat, which includes Prince William and Stafford counties.
This past session, he is responsible participating in the passing of legislation that helped give teachers raises, veterans more opportunities, as well as initiated “Gwyneth’s Law,” which was inspired by a woman named Gwyneth Griffin who passed away in July of 2012 after going into cardiac arrest at her middle school.
“One particular piece of legislation that I carried and spent a lot of time getting passed was a requirement for school teachers to receive CPR training and for high school kids to have CPR training as part of their graduation requirement,” says Dudenhefer.
He says, if reelected, he will continue to focus on areas such as transportation, education and the economy.
Dudenhefer says there are many improvements that are in progress or on the agenda for the near future that will greatly improve transportation issues in the Northern Virginia region. After losing his daughter Emily in 2004 to a car accident in Stafford, Dudenhefer became determined to advocate for safer transportation in the region.
“One thing I learned early on is that I ran (for delegate) thinking I was going to fix all transportation problems by building more roads and widening the roads we already have,” says Dudenhefer. “You find out very quickly when you’re dealing with those problems that it takes an ‘all of the above’ approach. We need to fix the roads to make them more efficient and help with the flow of traffic but we also need to study and invest in mass transit.”
Dudenhefer refers to two studies that he says will be useful in determining what more needs to be done to fix transportation in Virginia. The Virginia Department of Education is conducting a study of the U.S. Route 1 corridor in Fairfax and Prince William Counties to determine what improvement approach will be most effective. Dudenhefer says he hopes to expand this study to cover more area.
Additionally, Dudenhefer says he supports another study proposed by Gerald Connolly, (D-Fairfax, Prince William) which would explore transportation alternatives.
“I have endorsed Congressman Connolly’s efforts to get a congressional study on the entire Route 1 corridor and that we’ll look at, amongst other things, the metro extension,” he says. “We need to start talking about that. It is many years down the line because it takes many years of planning and negotiating and it will be very expensive, but this is a long-term possible solution.”
Dudenhefer says while Virginia has one of the best rankings in education, there is always ways to make improvements. He says Virginia should invest more in teacher salaries, training and performance in order to ensure they are “the best of the best.”
“I voted for the pay raise that most of the teachers in the Commonwealth received, but I think at the state level there are some areas of Virginia that aren’t as rich as Fairfax County or Prince William or Stafford, so they struggle with funding and bringing in good teachers,” he says.
Dudenhefer supported legislation signed by Governor Bob McDonnell last session that will provide a letter grade based on performance for schools in Virginia.
“(The legislation) is particularly beneficial to parents who want to know whether their school is performing at a high level,” he says. It will add pressure to local school boards to improve those particular schools. You have to build some kind of consensus that what you’re doing is fair otherwise it will fail. You have to listen to the educators; you have to listen to the parents and the school boards.”
Dudenhefer says that Virginia has some of the best schools and universities in the country. As a member of the Higher Education Subcommittee, he says it is important that Virginia strives to get more people college educations.
Further, Dudenhefer says Virginia not only set an example for other areas, but can learn from them. As a native of Louisiana, he says there are quite a few differences in the school systems. While he says Virginia’s schools tend to perform better than those in Louisiana, Louisiana can teach Virginia some things about education as well.
“In some of the areas (of Louisiana) where the public schools have failed miserably for generations, there are now charter schools, and the same kids are excelling,” he says. “We should always be open to looking at what other people do that is successful.”
Dudenhefer says he is not a fan of the Affordable Care Act, which has been fought by Republican legislators and thus has not yet been expanded in Virginia.
“Medicaid by itself needs to be revamped, revised, and updated,” he says. “We would expand Medicaid to 400,000 more people on the fact that the federal government is going to give us almost 100 percent the first year and then 90 percent thereafter, and they’re borrowing 40 cents of every dollar they give.”
“We are going to hurt many more people than its going to help. And the people that are paying for it are the ones who are going to be hurt the worst.”
He says that representatives from the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates have created a commission and are observing and working on Medicaid reform before making the decision to expand Medicaid in the state.
Dudenhefer says regardless of what position Virginia holds, they are always in the top tier among the best business states. However, he says, the reason Virginia has not been able to secure the top spot in recent years comes back to transportation issues.
“If you go to any of the chambers of commerce and you ask that they’re business and growth is being inhibited by the traffic problem,” he says. Once transportation issues are addressed, he says, there will be more opportunities for employment.
Additionally he says that Virginia is an ideal area for small business creation, but the level of bureaucracy involvement inhibits Virginia’s creative potential.
“The best incentive we can give a small business is to get government out of the way,” says Dudenhefer. “I think we would see some dramatic improvements.”
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?”
Debra Wood, (R) is the current Commissioner of Revenue for Manassas Park City. Her job requires providing taxpayers a variety of services, including: assessing the value of property and taxes, issuing business licenses and processing state income tax returns. She has lived in the city for over 35 years and has spent 22 of those in the Commissioner of Revenue’s office.
This year she is being challenged by Patricia Trimble, an independent nominee. Wood says her experience and workmanship make her a qualified candidate in the November general election.
“My years of experience and knowledge of the duties of commissioner surpass that of any candidate,” she says. “I attend yearly training sessions on income taxes, auditing, personal property assessment, computer training, legislative changes, as well as numerous commissioners association training to ensure that I stay abreast of any changes in the law.”
Wood has accomplished many things during her tenure as the Commissioner of Revenue for Manassas City. She is proud to say that she was able to help more people qualify for tax relief by seeking City Council’s approval to expand limits on the city’s tax relief program for the elderly.
Further, Wood played an integral part in the transition to the city’s permanent vehicle decal ordinance approved by the Manassas Park City Council for the 2012 budget. According to Wood, this option is an advantage for both the city and the citizens.
“I worked with treasures office and a member of the police department to come up with the permanent decals that we now have in Manassas Park,” she says. The decal remains valid as long as the vehicle is owned by the purchaser. Prior to the permanent label, residents were required to pay $25 a year to obtain new decals each year.”
“It gives us a chance to make sure the vehicles are being taxed as well as gives the taxpayers the relief from having to scrape of the decal every year and replace it with a new one.”
Wood’s role as commissioner affects many areas of the city budget. She says that of all the taxes that are imposed, a good amount of the revenue is used to help fund services that are important to the citizens.
“We make sure we generate the taxes that come into the city. I try very hard to make sure all the vehicles and businesses are taxed in a fair and equitable manner,” she says.
“The city council gives a percentage of the uncommitted revenue to the schools. So, the more that is brought in, the more that is given to the schools and the services that Manassas Park provides.”
In a few instances, Wood says that citizens will come to the office because the Department of Taxation may not have a record of their payment, thus denying an income tax refund. In that situation, Wood says that they always keep a receipt of income tax payments in order to ensure that the citizens and the city government remain accountable and fair with one another.
“If the payments are processed and taken to the treasures office, the tax payer can come back and get a receipt,” she says, “We’ve had that happen four or five times over the past few years, so we have been able to provide that service to our citizens.”
Wood has run both opposed and unopposed since she first took office in 1999. She says the community aspect of her business will be important to voters when they head to the polls in November.
“We’re such a small city that a lot of us know each other by name or by face,” she says.
“I enjoy working with the people here in the office and I enjoy working with the citizens of Manassas Park.”
Nanette Kidby, current Stafford County School Board member representing the Garrisonville district, has served the district since 2007. This year, she is being challenged by R. Pamuela Yeung. Previously, Kidby served as a mathematics high school teacher in Prince William County for 21 years. She says her experience and dedication to education makes her a successful school board member.
“Education isn’t what I do, it’s who I am,” says Kidby. “I can bring experience of working on the board and there’s definitely something to be said for that. With that background coupled with my background in business and accounting, I can not only bring the educational experience, the managerial experience, but also the budgeting experience.”
She is focusing her campaign on areas such as teacher retention and pay, overcrowded class rooms, and maintaining modern learning and technology in the schools.
“The biggest challenge facing education in general is bringing in 21st century learning to the classrooms,” says Kidby. “Education sometimes has the tendency to lag behind what’s really going on in the real world and our kids need to have 21st learning skills, tools and opportunities and to be able to leave Stafford County Public School’s doors and be productive members of society.”
Additionally, Kidby says that teacher development and technology is critical.
“Many times our students will come in and they’ll be more technologically savvy than some of our teachers will be,” she says. “We have to make sure that we are all singing on the same sheet of music and that were all staying on the cutting edge to accomplish the skills that are necessarily to stay competitive in the work force.”
Kidby says it is important to realize that teacher pay, retention and classroom size are all elements that are interactive within the school system.
“You can’t look at one without looking at the other,” Kidby says. “One of the things that we have to keep in mind with our teacher salaries is that they need to be competitive with the other salaries in the areas communities in order to be able to attract the best teachers to Stafford County.”
Kidby says Stafford County has gone above and beyond the state guidelines, in terms of class size. However, she says it is important to continue to monitor the class sizes.
“You have to make sure that you build into your budget if a teacher repositions so that you can respond when you have classrooms that are starting to become overcrowded, particularly in elementary schools.”
Kidby says as economic development grows in Stafford County, so will the schools. She says it’s important that the expansion be managed carefully.
“As a school board member, we need to be very aware of the development that’s going on,” she says. “We like to see development in Stafford County if it’s controlled and the infrastructure, in particular to schools, can meet the needs of the community.”
When asked what attributes are necessary to make a successful school board member, Kidby says that it involves a willingness to serve the community and make related improvements.
“You have to be very aware of the needs of the schools system itself and be able to manage those needs of the community and the system together in order to make an effective school board,” she says.
Kidby says her dedication to the board is portrayed in the board’s involvement in the community. She was recently endorsed by the Stafford Education Association.
“We have a made a board that is extremely active in the community and active in day-to-day operations of the schools,” she says. “I can’t begin to tell you of a time we didn’t go above and beyond.”
MANASSAS, Va. – Republican Richard Anderson picked up an endorsement from the professional firefighters union that represents more than 400 members of the Prince William County Fire and Rescue Department’s firefighters, dispatchers, paramedics, and support personnel.
The endorsement comes ahead of the November General Election in which Anderson faces Democrat Reed Huddleston in a bid to represent Virginia’s 51st House District.
More in a press release:
The membership of Local 2598 voted in their monthly meeting to endorse Del. Anderson in his re-election to a third term in the Virginia House of Delegates. Since 2010, Anderson has represented the 51st House District in the Virginia General Assembly. The District covers much of Prince William County and stretches from Occoquan in the east to Nokesville in the west.
Additionally, Dana G. Schrad, executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, recently thanked Anderson and stated in a letter that “your ability to collaborate successfully across party lines and with multiple state and local agencies to reach consensus solutions is well-known in Prince William County and Richmond…we look forward to continuing our positive working relationship in the 2014 legislative session.”
After being notified of the endorsement, Del. Anderson stated that “our local firefighters are on the front lines of defending life and property in harm’s way, and I’m privileged to receive their support.” He concluded by saying that “government’s primary function is to protect our citizens, and these public safety professionals who lay their lives on the line are some of the finest public servants in Prince William County and all of Virginia. Their advice is invaluable to me as a legislator, and their support in this campaign is very humbling.”
Voters will go to the polls Nov. 5.
Robert Belman, former school board member of eight years, is running for the open Falmouth seat in this November’s General Election. He says his experience serving as a school board member and desire to work for the county independently of a political party will make him a valuable representative of Stafford.
“I wasn’t talked or coerced into running. I’ve always wanted to give back to the community and I think I have the pulse of the people,” says Belman. “People know who I am and I am accessible to people. I’m not representing any political party, I’m representing the people.”
Belman participated in the initiation of the Adopt-A-Classroom program in Stafford County, which is a service that joins donors with teachers to help provide funding for supplies for the classroom.
“The opportunities are unlimited when you create partnerships between your communities in your schools,” says Belman. “When we signed on to that program we had a lot of ties to different businesses in Stafford County. With the schools, you get the people into the schools to see what they need and create opportunities for expansion in the future.”
Another area that Belman says he would like to see improvement in is the relationship between the school board and the board of supervisors.
“The partnership right now between the school board and the board of supervisors is the worst I’ve ever seen and when you have this bad blood between the two boards it doesn’t benefit the residents of Stafford County at all,” he says. According to Belman, the school board and board of supervisors need to learn to respect each other and communicate effectively, especially when it comes to budget planning.
“It’s not the county’s money, it’s not the supervisor’s money, it’s the tax payer’s money. The elected school board members and supervisors have to understand they represent the people,” he says. “My experience on the school board shows that I can bring more to the table than anyone else in the race for the district because of my service on how we need to work with the school board.”
Belman says if he is elected as a supervisor, he will fight for the issues important to the county’s school board as long as the two boards are working together. Belman says the supervisors and school board members need to work together to understand the tax implications behind any budget request.
“The school board seems in the last 4 years to give lip service to teacher pay as a priority. You can’t give lip service to wanting to pay them an increase and not do anything in your power to get that increase,” says Belman.
“If you really want (the board of supervisors) to get serious about how to fund the daily operations of the schools, then the school board has to get serious about how the money will be spent.”
“Businesses want to locate in an area that has good schools, affordable housing for its employees and that has other businesses that can draw the employees to shop and work in,” says Belman. He says bringing in more businesses to the southern end of the county will help promote economic growth.
“It seems now that everybody’s working to bringing economic prosperity to the northern end of the county and the southern end of the county gets looked over,” says Belman.
However, he says that this continued development has implications for transportation in the region.
“When you bring more people in (the county), you have more people on the road. We should try to locate those business in an area that already has the ratification infrastructures in place,” says Belman.
He refers to the infrastructure of major roads, such as with Butler road, US Route 17 and the I-95 interchange. Additionally, Belman says if he is elected, he plans to work to make improvements to the Falmouth and Chatham bridges.
Valerie Setzer, Democratic candidate for the Falmouth district seat on the Stafford County Board of Supervisors, is running up against Republican Mary “Meg” Bohmke and Independent Robert Belman in the November General Election. She is running for the seat because she says that she believes she would be able to facilitate a more balanced perspective on the board of supervisors.
“I look at things in a more well-rounded perspective,” she says. “When considering developments, I will ensure that the people that are willing to develop new projects in this county take into consideration and compensate the county with the necessary infrastructure needs that accompany those projects. This includes roads, schools, public transportation and accessibility to fire and rescue services (and so on).”
Setzer recently retired as a terminal air space manager at the Federal Aviation Administration. She says her professional skills would be a beneficial aspect for the board.
“I have a lot of the skills that are necessary to make effective decisions and understand the issues, such as managing the budget, managing projects, facilitation and contracting,” she says. “I’ve also dealt a lot with education and human relations skills. I have a caring personality and I want to do the best that I possibly can for the people of this county.”
Setzer says that there has been talk about the poor relationship between members of the board of supervisors when making certain decisions. She hopes to be able to help facilitate these meetings to make sure they stay positive and focused on the objective.
Setzer says one of the biggest challenges for the county has been keeping up with the continuing developments.
“One of the biggest challenges is smart growth. We’re not keeping pace necessarily for county services, schools and infrastructure,” says Setzer. At a recent board of supervisors meeting, Setzer says in light of recent events, one of the topics that were mentioned was the lack of urgent and available medical emergency personnel.
“Through my research I found that the small amount of money that was reduced in taxes in recent years would have made a tremendous difference in being able to more adequately staff [medical and emergency services],” she says. “I think the developers need to pay adequate proffers when they want to put new projects in place because we need these extra services.”
Additionally, Setzer says she will advocate for improvements to transportation, education and employment.
Setzer says that traffic congestion is a big issue for the county. She says she would like to see improvements to big roads such as U.S. 1 and 17 and the access to I-95, as well as the smaller roads around the community.
“We need to keep pace with what the needs are in transportation,” she says. “When we establish new homes, we are going to have families that commute and kids will go to new schools, we need to ensure that there is appropriate road improvement to accommodate the additional traffic and congestion on the roads.”
Setzer was recently endorsed by the Stafford Education Association political action committee for her advocacy for education progression. She says she has learned that the school board’s budget has not been adequately funded by the board of supervisors in recent years.
“In order to fund the schools more adequately, I think one of the things that needs to be done is controlling development and making sure it’s done in a smart and proper fashion,” she says. Additionally, Setzer says that overpopulated classrooms and teacher salaries need to be addressed.
“Too many schools are either at or above capacity. School construction needs to be more timely. We have some overcrowding in our schools and they are starting to use trailers,” she says. “I also think the salaries need to be increased. We are overdue more than a lot of other locations for these increases and there’s been discussion about teachers looking for positions with schools that pay more adequate salaries.”
Setzer says she would also work to promote employment opportunities and economic development within Stafford County.
“We need to ensure that whatever development is being proposed will also be a supplement to help improve the employment sector for the area,” she says. “Some nonprofit organizations have not been funded adequately as they should have in recent years and I think we need to support critical nonprofit organizations, which will increase employment opportunity in the area.”
Voters will head to the polls Nov. 5 for the local election.
Ty Schieber, Republican incumbent for the Garrisonville district on the Stafford County Board of Supervisors, has served on the county’s board since January 2012. This is his first regular election. He was appointed by the Stafford County Board of Supervisors to the Garrisonville seat after Mark Dudenhefer (R-Stafford) was elected to the House of Delegates. Prior to being elected as a supervisor, he was a representative on the Stafford County School Board. His opponent in the November Virginia General Election is Democrat, Laura Sellers.
He says there are three main challenges that come along with the development and growth coming to Stafford County: schools, transportation and safety.
“The more people you have, the more focus you have on the roads, the more kids you have in school and all of that has to be done within the context with a safe and secure environment,” says Schieber. He says there are challenges that come along with those three primary areas have a lot to do with the growing development and the available resources in the county.
When it comes to the school system, Schieber says it is important that the school board and board of supervisors make efficient decisions regarding teacher retention and salaries.
“The salary baseline is always a challenge and in the last budget cycle, teachers did get a raise but we want to make that something that is more competitive, more predictable,” says Schieber. “The conversation that we are embarking on with schools is: ‘what are the ways we can work collectively to do that?’”
Schieber says the core function of public schools is instruction and urges the county to look for opportunities to reduce the cost of non-educational functions so that educational resources can be used in the classrooms.
“We need to continue to challenge ourselves to look at better ways of doing business to reduce the cost of noncore function,” he says. “Making sure our teacher salary baselines are competitive and we’re retaining educators is where the quality of education happens.”
Schieber says there needs to be good communication between the schools and the school board in order to accomplish the goals of Stafford County.
“I’ve been through four budget cycles now, two as a board member and two as a supervisor,” he says. “One of the most challenging aspects of that relationship is maintaining good communication and figuring out how to share information in a way where there’s a common understanding about the relative priorities and the decisions you have to make in terms of where the resources come from.”
Schieber says that the county is making great progress in terms of the transportation bill that was passed by the General Assembly last legislative session, but says it will be a challenge to keep up with the new measures.
“When you look at the improvements that are planned or in progress across the district, I think we’re in a good position now that the resources are going be available,” he says. “I think that we’re going to make significant strides over the next two to three years in helping to fix the issues that we currently have.”
Among these projects, Schieber mentioned the Route 630 and I-95 interchange as well as the Garrisonville road widening. He said that these are among other construction projects on the northern and southern boundary of Stafford that will help alleviate the area’s transportation issues.
Job creation is an area Schieber says he is very proactive in. Within his career experience, he says he has been successful in adding 250 to 300 jobs to the Stafford area and the Board’s Economic Development 10-Point Plan, geared toward making Stafford County more business-friendly, has progressively met success in promoting job creation. Additionally, Schieber says that the building developers have a large role in providing jobs to the economy.
Another area Schieber hopes to see is the expansion of research and development centers, such as the Stafford Technology and Resource Park at the Quantico Corporate Center.
I think from a long-term perspective, (research and development centers) have a lot of potential to help us develop our own innovation economy,” says Schieber. He says it is important to build opportunities in the economy that are aligned with the market’s growth areas.
“The idea is to draw academic research and development institutions so that we can educate and train our workforce,” he says. “It’s legitimate to consider that education is economic development, so the better job that we can do in terms of linking together the full spectrum of education and training from kindergarten all the way into graduate degrees…the better we can shape our curriculum to make sure our citizens have the tool kit to go out there and succeed.”
Schieber says he believes that Stafford plays a big role into how Virginia continuing to build on the success of being a military job center. He served for the U.S. Marine Corps from 1987 to 2001.
“When you look at the national defense capacity here in the commonwealth and in planning district 16, in which Stafford County is a part of, it’s remarkable,” he says. “Marine Corp Base Quantico in itself has approximately a $3.6 billion annual economic impact on the region. It’s both natural and necessary that we remain fully engaged enough to expand upon that.”
HAYMARKET, Va. – Jay Tobias, Haymarket’s vice mayor, was censured and is now forced to pay a $250 fine for alleged misconduct stemming from public intoxication charges filed on the day of the town’s largest public celebration.
Town officials Monday voted 4-3 to force Tobias to pay the fine on our before Oct. 21. Officials also censured Planning Commission and former Town Council member Robert Wier after Mayor David Leake pressed charges on him, claiming he was standing on a public street in mid conversation when Wier walked up to him and began cursing at him.
Tobias, who on Monday questioned whether the town council had the legal authority to impose such a fine, was one of three dissenting votes on the measure.
Police said the charges stem from incidents that took place on Haymarket Day on Sept. 21, which is the largest annual event in the small western Prince William County town.
The town council will now review its code of conduct and ethics polices that elected officials need at adhere to, which have not been updated in many years, according to officials.
News of the arrests drew several comments from town residents who said the alleged incidents resulted in the black eye for the town.
“I don’t know the reasoning behind this kind of behavior but it’s an embarrassment to the town, it’s an embarrassment to us, and If we want to be represented in Prince William County and be taken seriously we need to start taking our town seriously,” said Pam Swinford.
She went on to say Tobias should be removed from office. Others said the arrest was bad for business.
“I’ve considered moving my business back to Haymarket, and moving me and my wife back to Haymarket. But recent events tell me this is not where we want to be…what is going on in Haymarket? We see this kind of thing in the capital, not Haymarket. We want some peace,” said Charlie DeGraw, of Manassas.
Ralph Ring, of Haymarket, said residents should wait until Tobias appears in court before making a judgment on his ability to lead.
“We should not be trying these things in the court of public opinion, we should wait until a court date happens, we should let all sides present their evidence, and let a judge determine it. Then, if you want to ask for dismissal based on what happens, go for it,” said Ring.
Tobias’ charge amounts to a misdemeanor. He is scheduled to appear in court Nov. 7.
MANASSAS, Va. – Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli will speak to concerned residents about the proposed Bi-County Parkway on Saturday.
That announcement made by his campaign staff today comes as Cuccinelli is running for Governor of Virginia, and it leaves more questions than answers in his bid to replace Bob McDonnell. Questions about what will his appearance will mean to supporters and opponents of the 10-mile roadway that would link Prince William to Dulles Airport in Loudoun County, abound.
Cucinelli’s campaign stump is being billed as an anit-parkway rally by “Say No to the Tri-County Parkway,” a group that stands in opposition to the proposed roadway. In August, Cuccinelli said he supported the Bi-County Parkway as a transportation solution for an ever-congested Northern Virginia, but added “the current proposal on the table is unacceptable.”
According to the invitation, the rally is set to take place at the home of Page Snyder, an organizer for the “Say No…” group comprised of many residents who live inside Manassas Battlefield National Park. Many of them, like Snyder, live on Pageland Lane which would be closed if a parkway is built. The parkway could also mean the closure of two heavily-traveled commuter routes in the park, U.S. 29 and Va. 234.
Cuccinelli campaign spokeswoman Anna Nix did not say if Cuccinelli was going to make opposing the Bi-County Parkway central to his campaign message in Northern Virginia, or did she provide comment on whether or not the attorney general supports or opposes the road project.
The rally is scheduled to take place from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. at 6312 Pageland Lane near Manassas.
If a Bi-County Parkway is built, it would connect Va. 234 Business (Prince William Parkway) at Interstate 66 to a newly constructed, limited access highway, that would carry traffic to and from Dulles Airport.
Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton said the Bi-County Parkway and Va. 234 between I-66 and I-95 in Dumfries would be used to carry “light” cargo to and from Dulles Airport.
Opponents of the highway fear the new road will bring an increase in truck traffic and noise to neighborhoods along Va. 234.
Delegate Scott Lingamfelter, Republican incumbent representing the 31st district of the Virginia House of Delegates, has represented Prince William and Fauquier counties since 2002. This election, he is focusing his campaign on hot topics in the northern Virginian region: transportation, education and jobs. He says his 11 years of service to his district displays his loyalty to his constituents.
“I look at myself through the lens of public service. I have been serving the public since the day I took my oath to the constitution in 1973. The people of my district know me,” he says. “I know how to legislate and I know how to get things done in Richmond and that’s awfully important to Prince William and Fauquier counties.”
He is being challenged by Democrat, Jeremy McPike in this year’s General Election. He says that he represents a stark contrast from his opponent.
For starters, Lingamfelter was opposed to Governor Bob McDonnell’s transportation reform package, while McPike supported it.
“I am the guy that has stood for open government since the day that I was first elected. I was the guy that advanced the audit bills in Richmond and I’ve found huge amounts taxpayer money to make sure that it’s being spent wisely,” says Lingamfelter, who also is a senior member of the transportation subcommittee. He says he helped the effort to advance audit bills in Richmond, ultimately discovering “$1.4 million in transportation funds that had been ‘cubbyholed’ by the Cain administration inside (Virginia Department of Transportation).”
“That was before the huge tax increase last year that my proponent supports.”
Lingamfelter says he also wants to focus on another goal: state and local cooperation.
“We have to acknowledge that decisions about growth that are made by localities must be integrated into transportation planning at the state level,” he says. “The other thing that needs to be addressed, quite frankly, is when the state proposes roads that localities don’t want.”
Lingamfelter refers to the Bi-County Parkway, the controversial 10-mile highway plan which will connect Prince William and Loudon Counties. He says many people are opposed to the parkway because of the unintended consequences it brings, such as traffic congestion.
“They are concerned about the huge amount truck traffic that will come through Prince William and Dumfries up to 234 and I-66,”says Lingamfelter.
“I think the state should be compelled to work more closely to work with localities so we don’t have these huge disconnects.”
Lingamfelter is a senior member of the House of Delegates Education Committee. Additionally, his wife Shelly is a Prince William County kindergarten teacher. He says he believes it is important that legislators listen to the people who are on the front line, the educators.
“I think it’s important that citizen legislators spend as much time as they can with real life stories,” he says. “That will go a great distance in ensuring we have the right kind of policies.”
Lingamfelter says that Virginia has kept its promise to provide adequate funding every year since he has been a legislator.
“We’re a balanced budget state. We have to make tough decisions between fire and police and education and police and higher education,” says Lingamfelter. “If you look at the record for the last 13 years, we have kept our promises to education and we continue to do so.”
However, Lingamfelter says there are still many educational issues that need to be tailored to. He is displeased with legislation passed last session to test the performance of schools on an A-F grading scale.
“I think you need strong accountability, no question about that,” says Lingamfelter. “At the same time, I worry that we’re over testing our children and we’re doing so in a way that takes away from our ability to properly educate them in school.”
“I think it’s better to evaluate the ability of the child to actually learn. “
Virginia is one of the most business-friendly states in the nation and has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the United States, according to a number of studies.
Lingamfelter says the way Virginia has been able to achieve this ranking is by keeping taxes low.
“Businesses go where taxes are low. The more people you hire, the more tax payers that you create,” he says. “The more people that have a job, the more tax revenue will be available to meet our full responsibilities on education, transportation, public safety.”
Lingamfelter says that Virginia has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the United States. North Dakota has the lowest, which Lingamfelter says has a lot to do with its oil boom and opportunity for exploration. He says that Virginia could open up opportunities by supporting accelerated exploration, drilling and development in America
“I wish that the federal government would allow Virginia to explore our own natural resources for natural gas, which democrats seem to oppose and republicans support,” he says. “We could create thousands and thousands of jobs if we did that.”
Scott Hirons, candidate for the Falmouth seat on the Stafford County School Board, has been a professional project manager for over 19 years. He currently works as a contractor for the U.S. Army at Fort Belvoir.
Hirons says his leadership experience and educational background will make him a beneficial candidate for the school board.
“One of the things that government at all levels and especially the Stafford County School Board right now is lacking is good strategic management and that is what I hope to bring to the board,” says Hirons. “Without a strategic plan, we’re kind of throwing darts at the board and guessing what works best; we’re really not measuring what truly works best and then funding those priorities.”
Hirons lives in Leeland Station with his wife, Heather, and three sons, Christopher, 11, Conner, 10, and Max, 4, all who attend Stafford County Schools. Hirons says having school-age children and involvement within his community make him a valuable candidate for the school board.
“My youngest just started kindergarten, so I’m going to have a long time invested in the schools,” says Hirons. “Beyond that, I’ve been very active within my community. I have a good relationship with the Board of Supervisors and a good relationship with a lot of the county administration, and that is going to help.”
Hirons says that with strategic development, the board could adequately address educational issues and then adjust the budget.
“I hope to be able to better compensate teachers without having to do things like make massive cuts to the classrooms, which just increase class size,” he says, “There is a lot of debate over teacher pay and I want to see our salary scales move up and be more competitive.”
Hirons says he feels that the biggest challenge facing the schools is teacher gratitude.
“What I hear from the teachers an awful lot is they don’t feel appreciated and I think that’s very important,” he says. “We’re losing a lot of teachers to other jurisdictions that pay more, but also to jurisdictions that don’t pay as much.”
“We need to have a happy workforce and we need to be able to measure whether or not our workforce is satisfied.”
Hirons says that another challenge facing the schools is how to test performance.
“Right now the problem is that the state measures how a school is doing by a simple measurement of how the school is performing on standardized tests,” says Hirons. “We’ve gotten to the point in this country and state where we just can’t rely on standardized tests for everything.”
Instead he says we need to reassess the current measurements, and develop a plan to combat the underlying issues.
Hirons says there are significant connections between schools and traffic. In Stafford County, the hot button topic has been poor infrastructure. Hirons says a poor decision made by the school board can have consequences that can persist for years.
“There are some in the Falmouth area that advocated building a new high school on property the school system acquired several years ago know as Clift Farm,” says Hirons.
He said the land deal turned out to be a poor decision.
“The roads leading the property are narrow and not adequate for the traffic a school would generate.”
“We are growing and will still be building schools over the next decade,” says Hirons. “When we build schools, we need to ensure the roads we build them on are adequate to handle the traffic generated.”
Employment and Economic Development
Hirons hopes to encourage employment growth by means of supporting an adequate educational environment.
“A good school system is something companies look for when looking to relocate or build in a particular area,” says Hirons. “Therefore it’s the duty of the school board to build a strong school system to help the county build a strong case for the Board of Supervisors to attract new companies to the county.”
Better Neighborhood Planning, Bigger Retail Base Keys to Sellers’ Campaign for Stafford Board of Supervisors
Laura Sellers is the Democratic candidate running for the Garrisonville seat of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors, and she is no stranger to the political scene. She first ran for the Board of Supervisors in 2009 and is currently a member of the Stafford Democratic Committee. She says she is determined to bring the board a new perspective.
“I was not happy with the county,” says Sellers. “With a young child, I have to think about what I want the county to look like as I raise him here. This wasn’t really it.”
Sellers says her expectations are in line with many of the views of families she’s spoken to within her district. She says she doesn’t feel that her opponent, Ty Schieber, has effectively represented the Garrisonville district.
“We need elected officials to staff the planning commission with someone who can help plan for our future. We need elected officials who represent our district and who stand for something,” says Sellers. “My ideas are centered on the belief that you can’t build a community 100 percent reliant upon defense contracts because those contracts go away.”
Sellers refers to the construction centering around the residential subdivision, Embrey Mill.
“Embrey Mill is being built in a district where our schools are over capacity,” she says. “Furthermore, the two fire departments in the area are under staffed and aren’t a real facility.”
“That is a representation of poor representation. Our supervisor should’ve known that the infrastructure needs upgrading before more residential homes are built.”
Sellers has a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in social work. She says that through her studies, she’s been able to pinpoint what it takes to be a respectable elected official.
“Compassion I think is the biggest (component),” says Sellers. “When you’re making decisions about people’s lives and you realize your decisions are affecting people lives, you need to be compassionate and empathic with your decisions.”
She says the other element is called reflective listening, a communication strategy used to identify the expectations of the speaker(s) and work to develop successful solutions to the problems people are facing.
“We need a focus. We need a plan. And we need to emphasize the importance of character as we plan for the future.”
“As a member of the Board of Supervisors, you have to let the school board function independently,” says Sellers. “I will advocate for the schools and work with them and if they want me to do something. But as far as what I personally think (the schools) should look like, I think that should be left up to the schools.”
She adds: “I do think that teachers should get paid better and classrooms should be smaller, but that has to be a priority of the school board and if they choose to make it a priority, then they will have my support.”
Sellers says she has spent the last four years studying economic development. She says she believes Stafford has a great potential to increase its revenue base in creative ways.
“I have a great respect for the fact that if you want to fund something, you have to fund it without always going to the tax payers,” says Sellers. “
Sellers says her plan is called “Targeted Economic Development” and she will focus on two areas: law enforcement and government, and increasing the retail base.
“I am really going to start stressing and supporting the idea of bringing in a GSA certified firing range, so we can have more local and state law enforcement use this area to get certified,” says Sellers. “(The firing range) would create a revenue source for jobs, but also a revenue source for the Sheriff’s Department, so that way they can have a little bit more money and it’s not directly on the backs of the tax payers.”
Sellers also seeks to increase local retail bases with specialty stores and restaurants.
“I’ve been doing research and looking at Wall Street Journal reports, where it shows the trends in what industries are going to make money over the next five to 10 years,” says Sellers. “It’s really going to be those professions that support people and so I’d like to really bring some of those to Stafford.”
Women’s Issues and Healthcare
Sellers attended a Meet and Greet event on Sept. 7 in Fredericksburg, which focused on advocating women’s issues. Other speakers included Kathleen O’Halloran, candidate for the 88th Virginia House District, and speakers from the National Organization for Women and the Virginia Democratic Women’s Caucus.
“I have a 13-month-old child and when I was pregnant, because I’m an independent contractor, my company does not give me benefits or maternity leave,” says Sellers. “I’ve paid my own healthcare for seven years and when I was pregnant, the doctor told me they don’t have to cover maternity care.”
Sellers says under Virginia state law, her health insurance did not have to pay for her maternity care, and since she is an independent contractor, neither would the company she works for. She ended up with medical costs about $30,000.
“To me, women’s issues have transformed from just about choice to (include the support) of a female worker and her family,” says Sellers.
Irene Egan believes every child deserves a good education, which is why she is running to fill the Aquia seat on the Stafford County School Board. Egan has two sons on her own, both which are attending Stafford County schools.
“I want them to have the best learning experience they can, and not just my children, but also for my friend’s children and my neighbor’s children,” says Egan. “These are the people that are going to be running our county, the people that are going to be running our schools. We’ve got to pay it forward.”
Egan works as a sales and marketing manager for the Hylton Group in Prince William County. She is also an active member in Stafford County Schools, serving as a member of the PTA for Stafford Elementary School, and the president of the Parent-Teacher Organization for Stafford Middle School.
Egan’s husband, Richard, shares her passion in tackling educational issues. He is a federal law enforcement officer for the US Department of Education, conducting investigations regarding waste fraud and abuse relating to education.
Egan is focusing her campaign on areas such as school security, capacity and performance.
Egan says she takes the security of schools seriously. In light of the events that happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. where 20 children and six adults were shot and killed, Egan says it is clear that crime really can happen anywhere.
“I would love to see a police officer at every elementary school,” she says. “I think that it was a victory for us to get them added to the middle schools, but as you saw in Newtown, that wasn’t a high school or middle school, it was an elementary school.”
“Those are the kids that need it the most, they don’t know where to run and they don’t know how to protect themselves.”
As the Vice Chairman of the Stafford Crime Solvers Board, Egan and the board work with the Stafford Sheriff’s Department to offer monetary rewards up to those that provide information to help resolve crimes.
“We recently just paid out $1,000 to a text-to-tip lead that came in, so we were very happy about that,” Egan says.
In reference to Stafford Middle School, Egan says that there has been altering views on how the facility should be utilized, once the building is vacated by Grafton.
“Since Shirley Heim Middle School was built, there was a mass exodus out of Stafford Middle School, which left us with some empty seats,” says Egan. Currently, students from Grafton Village Elementary school are being taught at Stafford Middle School while renovations are being made to the elementary school.
“After [Grafton Village] leaves Stafford Middle school, there is some discussion to put special programs in that school as opposed to leaving it for general education and using that space to help house some of the new communities that are being built now,” she says.
“All of those middle schools or elementary schools near there are near or at capacity and there’s going to have to be a realignment of students at some point,” says Egan. “To put any special programs into Stafford Middle School is, in my view, is not a good use of capacity to help fix the problem that is on the horizon.”
Anti-bullying and anti-drug campaigns
Egan says that there needs to be more educational programs focused on anti-bullying and anti-drug awareness.
“We need something in place to stress what was in the D.A.R.E program, and that will include some of the bullying aspects,” Egan says. “As a candidate, I’m hearing more and more from parents that in fact there is an existing problem and it’s getting larger every year. I’ve had some instances with bullying with my own children, whether in the school bus or in the schools.”
Employment and Economic Development
Egan says that education is the groundwork for economic development.
“If you have a great school system, businesses will want to come here and people will want to relocate their families here to work for those businesses because there is a great school system in place,” says Egan.
“When the schools start falling apart, economic development suffers.”
She says it is important that the seven board members prioritize educational matters and come to a conclusion on how to boost the school system in Stafford.
School and Teacher Performance
The grading system for schools that will go into effect in January 2014, will assign a letter grade to individual schools to evaluate their performance.
While some legislators support the new system as a way of measuring accountability, Egan says she does not think this system is an adequate method to evaluate schools.
“Every child learns at a different rate. If you don’t have the tools in place to have those children get up to speed with your mainstream kids, you can’t hold that against the school as a whole,” she says.
She shares a similar view on teacher evaluations.
“You’ve got 26 kids in a classroom, when there should probably only be 20,” says Egan. “Each kid has a different level of learning. You’re judging a teacher on overall scores in a class when you have all of these different variables that pool, assuming all of the kids and how they test is the same is the issue with evaluating performance this way.”
She hopes that representatives in the General Assembly will address this issue during the next session and allow school board members and parents to participate.
“It is our task to make sure that every kid gets a good education, and I want to be a part of that.”