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Prince William

Traffic
Pain at Gas Pump Continues

Drivers travel north on Interstate 95 at Garrisonville Road (Va. 610) in North Stafford. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

Gas prices are still going up as the weekend approaches.

In North Stafford on Friday, the average price of unleaded gasoline was $3.51 per gallon.

Some of the cheapest gas in the area could be found at the Wawa on Garrisonville Road (Va. 610) and at the Verlro gas stations on Va. 610 and U.S. 1 in North Stafford, for $3.47 per gallon.

The most expensive gas in the area was at the Stafford Sunoco on Courthouse Road at $3.61 per gallon.

Last week the average price per gallon in the area was $3.48 per gallon, while six months ago the price per gallon price of gas was $2.58, according to AAA Mid Atlantic.

The price of gas goes up for drivers in Woodbridge, where the average price per gallon of gas is $3.63.

Some of the cheapest fuel can be found at Wawa at Daniel Stuart Square, at Optiz Boulevard and U.S. 1, and at 7-Eleven on Telegraph Road at Prince William Parkway, at $3.55 per gallon.

The most expensive gas in the area, at $3.87 per gallon, is at a Shell station at 15423 Jefferson Davis Highway (U.S. 1) in Woodbridge.

In Lorton, the average price per gallon of gas is $3.64, according to AAA Mid Atlantic.

The price at the pump has not only affected drivers, but transit agencies as well.

If prices rise to $4 per gallon as predicted, transit providers nationwide who are already say they are turning away passengers because of crowded buses, could see the addition of 670 million passenger trips, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

News
Cardboard Coyote Scares Geese

Prince William County is using cardboard coyotes to scare away geese.

Yes, that is a giant coyote you’re seeing when you pull into the Prince William County Government Center in Woodbridge. But don’t be alarmed.

It’s actually a cardboard cutout of a coyote propped up by a piece of plastic pipe sticking up from the ground.

In this coyote’s mouth is a plastic trash bag.

It’s enough to make anyone stand, stare and scratch their heads. But the coyote is there for a reason.

“It’s our eco-friendly way of keeping the geese away!  The geese won’t come down because they think it’s a coyote holding a dead bird.  We just put it up, and so far, so good!,” said Prince William County spokeswoman Nikki Brown.

This isn’t a new idea when it comes to repelling geese. At least one company has made it its business to manufacture animated cardboard cut-out dogs to chase away the aggressive birds.

According to E-How.com, some people have tried to erect a low fence around areas they don’t want geese walking into.

Others have used sirens, whistles, sprinklers, shell crackers fired from a shot gun. Of course, E-How states, check with your local law enforcement to see if that is allowed.

News
Around Town

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell works out with students at Fred M. Lynn Middle School in Woodbridge in January. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

Spice banned, P.E. bill vetoed
For Gov. Robert F. McDonnell yesterday, it was one approved and one vetoed. The governor signed legislation to ban the synthetic marijuana plant known as Spice or K2, Fredericksburg.com reports. He vetoed a bill that would have required public school systems across the state to mandate 150 minutes of physical education each week, TimesDispatch.com reports.

Commuter town hall heats up over parking issues
Some area commuters unhappy with the location of the new commuter parking lot at the First Baptist Church in Woodbridge sounded off at elected leaders and transportation officials Wednesday night at a town hall meeting. Still upset over the loss of 750 commuter parking spaces at Potomac Mills mall, one commuter called herself a “Potomac Mills refugee,” Insidenova.com reports.

U.S. 1 near Belvoir a dangerous road?
A recent rash of crashes along Richmond Highway (U.S. 1) near the main gate at Ft. Belvoir – two of them fatal in the past two weeks – has sparked concern amongst elected leaders, base officials and police. Now there is talk about what can be done to prevent more tragic accidents in the corridor, Patch.com reports.

News
Funeral Services Set for Victim of Fatal Crash

Paul Krause, left, pictured with his family. (Submitted)

Fairfax County, Va. — A viewing for the man killed recently on Richmond Highway will be held Friday.

Paul Krause, 54, was killed March 14 when a Honda Civic collided with his sedan pushing it into oncoming traffic, near the intersection of Richmond Highway (U.S. 1) and Fairfax County Parkway.

Following the crash, police charged a 33-year-old illegal immigrant with involuntary manslaughter in connection to Krause’s death.

Police said Carlos Lagos Ramos was driving the Honda that collided with Kruause, then fled the crash scene uninjured with a 3-year-old child in his arms. That child was a passenger inside the car at the time of the crash, police said.

Services for Krause will be held between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. at Fairfax Memorial Funeral Home at 9902 Braddock Road in Fairfax.

Those wishing to leave condolences may do so by visiting the funeral home’s web page.

A second viewing will also be held at the funeral home between 2 and 5 p.m. Saturday.

Following that viewing, the family will hold a potluck dinner at the Church of the Nativity at 6400 Burke Lake Drive in Burke.

Attendees are asked to bring a dish that would serve a family of six or more.

Krause leaves behind a wife and three daughters.

Ramos is expected to appear in court April 20.

News
Police: Woman’s Body was in Dumpster

Woodbridge, Va. –– The body found inside of a trash dumpster in Woodbridge on Wednesday is that of a woman believed to between 20 and 40-years-old.

Police said the body was badly burned when it was discovered by fire crews called to extinguish an outside fire about 10 a.m. Wednesday, in the 1300 block of Bayside Avenue.

Police say they don’t know the woman’s race, but do say the victim weighed 120 to 140 pounds, had dark, straight hair and was possibly missing her front left tooth, said Prince William police spokesman Jonathan Perok.

While those are the results of the state medical examiner’s autopsy report, police still don’t know how the woman died.

They are asking anyone who may be able to identify the victim to come forward.

They’re also seeking a suspect in the case that may have suffered injuries to their face, arms, or had singed hair at the time the fire was started, said Perok.

Residents in the Bayvue neighborhood where the body was found say they witnessed nothing unusual prior to the discovery of the body.

The dumpster in which the body was found sits next to a community center where children play, say neighbors.

Traffic
See the Planned U.S. 1 Interchange Tonight

This rendering shows what drivers traveling north on U.S. 1 would see after the intersection at Va. 123 is built. (VDOT)

Woodbridge, Va. –– Residents and business owners in North Woodbridge are about to find out just how wide U.S. 1 is going to get.

State and Prince William County transportation officials will be on hand tonight from 5 to 8 p.m. to discuss a $228 million project to widen the four lane highway to six lanes, as well as construct an interchange at Gordon Boulevard (Va. 123) and U.S. 1.

Planners and elected officials have long said project is the impetus for new growth the long beleaguered section of Prince William.

The widening will take place between Mary’s Way and the Occoquan River, and Gordon Boulevard (Va. 123) will be widened to six lanes between the planned interchange at U.S. 1 and Interstate 95.

The interchange will carry Va. 123 over U.S. 1 in an effort to separate the lanes of traffic, connecting Va. 123 to Belmont Bay Drive, providing better access to a Virginia Railway Express station and the Belmont Bay mixed-use neighborhood.

The interchange using elevated ramps to carry cars up to an elevated Va. 123 will eliminate signal lights at U.S. 1 and Va. 123 and at U.S. 1 and Annapolis Way just prior to the Occoquan River

The light at U.S. 1 and Occoquan Road will remain, however, new through and turn lanes would improve traffic flow, according to VDOT.

The public hearing will take place at the Botts Fire Hall at 1306 F Street in Woodbridge.

Later this summer, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors will have to approve the project and construction would begin in 2014.

News
Aquia Study to Center on Old River Wharf, Parkland

Joseph Balicki will lead a team of archeologists on land as they work to study and preserve the Aquia Creek Battlefield. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

Stafford, Va. –– Work has begun on a project to preserve the site of one of the first naval battles of the civil war.

Residents last night filled the seats inside Stafford County’s Board Chambers to learn more about what archeologists and divers are planning to do as part of a $77,000 grant-funded study of Aquia Landing Park.

It was there between May 29 and June 1 first federal ships bombarded Virginia troops during one of the first naval battles of the War Between the States, said project archeologist Joseph Balicki.

During the battle, what is now the tip of Aquia Landing Park was a river wharf where rail passengers would transfer to ferry boats to continue their trip north on the Potomac River to Washington. There was no direct rail link to the capital city.

“I’m looking for the history of the area and the how the land has changed over the years,” said Balicki.

While he will study the land looking for civil war-era fragments, possibly older items left behind from the Patawomeck Indians who once lived along the shores of the river, others will be in the water looking for remnants of the old wharf.

At low tide, those who visit the beach at Aquia Landing can see the remnants of wooden beams that Balicki says once supported the wharf. There’s also evidence of an old civil war fort there.

Drivers from the Historic Maryland Trust, another agency in addition to Balicki’s John Milner Associates that will be working together on the study, will use ground-penetrating radar up to 2,500 feet off of the shore line to see if they can find old buildings.

There is also the chance they may turn up old, unused explosives from the civil war era, said Balicki. If they do, the explosives would then be handled by a professional bomb squad.

Aquia Landing Park, separated from Widewater State Park by Aquia Creek and the Potomac River, has seen much erosion in the last 200 years, said Balicki.

The beach at Aquia Landing is man-made, and archeologist will not use heavy equipment to dig under those portions of the park.

A final report about what is found there and how to best preserve the area is due out by the end of May, just in time for the 150th anniversary of the battle.

Anyone who has old civil war relics collected from or near the site is encouraged to contact Balicki directly by emailing jbalicki@johnmilnerassociates.com or by calling 703-354-9737.

Any items that are uncovered at the site will later be sent to Richmond for storage and care and will then be loaned back to the county,” said Stafford County Tourism Manager Margaret Clay Moncure.

News
Thunder to Snow?

Prince William County, Va. –– Those lightning strikes that rolled through the Woodbridge area last night did more than leave rolling thunder and rain-soaked pavement in their wake – the knocked out the electricity to one home near Montclair.

Fire and rescue crews were called to a home at 15644 Piedmont Place off Cardinal Drive in Woodbridge.

No one was injured, but the lightning knocked out the power in the home, said Prince William fire and rescue spokesman Joseph Robertson.

With no lights, the family stayed overnight with neighbors, according to reports from the scene.

A line of storms moved through the region last night about 7 p.m. Wednesday night.

The National Weather Service posted a severe thunderstorm watch for the area, but none of the storms ever became severe.

As we look to the weekend we may go from lightning and thunder to snow.

Temperatures are forecast to be in the low 30s on Saturday night into Sunday morning, and with rain moving in overnight some snow could develop, forecasters say.

News
Around Town

Fire and rescue crews in North Stafford battle a house fire Wednesday that took the lives of several pets, a fire official said. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

County’s first dog park approved
Woodbridge residents may soon see Prince William County’s first dog park after the park authority last night approved an agreement to lease land in Lake Ridge for the proposed park, Insidenova.com reports.

Geico will add more jobs
One of Stafford County’s largest employers, Geico, will add 180 new jobs to its office on Warrenton Road (U.S. 17) by the end of the year, Fredericksburg.com reports.

Elizabeth Taylor’s Northern Virginia connection
Following the death of famed movie star Elizabeth Taylor, Patch.com takes a look at her connection to Northern Virginia, her former husband Sen. John Warner.

News
Thunder Could Roll Tonight

The National Weather Service has placed the Potomac Communities under a severe thunderstorm watch for this evening.

Forecasters say we could see some strong storms with dangerous lightening and some hail, mainly before 8 p.m.

Tomorrow, temperatures will struggle to make it out of the 40 degree temperature range, with mostly sunny skies.

Friday will also be sunny, with a high near 50 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

News
Special Olympics Athletes Came to Play

(Submitted)

North Stafford, Va. –– Some special Olympians came to Stafford to compete last weekend.

More than 800 athletes from across the state participated in Virginia Special Olympics’ basketball challenge, said Virginia Special Olympics spokeswoman Holly Claytor.

On Friday, the opening ceremonies were held at Mountain View High School in North Stafford.

The county’s sheriff’s office assisted athletes in carrying-in the lit torch into the school’s gymnasium to light the cauldron, signaling the start of the competition.

On Saturday and Sunday, athletes went on to play in basketball games at eight public schools in Stafford.

The weekend-long event is one of seven happenings held by Virginia Special Olympics each year. Some of the winners of this competition will go to play during the summer games that will be held in Richmond later this year, said Claytor.

In addition to the athletes, at least 860 people came to cheer them on as they played on the court.

“Our athletes really love the fans and appreciate the support,” said Claytor.

News
Pets Perish in Blaze

Fire and rescue crews were called to a home at 150 Eustace Drive in North Stafford on Wednesday. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

Update 9 a.m. Thursday
Four adult dogs and one puppy died in Wednesday’s fire in North Stafford.

Update 9:40 p.m.
Several pets were killed in a fire that took hours to fully extinguish.

A single-story house at 164 Eustace Drive in North Stafford caught fire at 1:26 p.m. Wednesday, prompting fire and rescue crews to race to the scene.

They found fire on the inside of the home, and two cars parked in front of the home ablaze, said Stafford fire and rescue spokesman Mark Doyle.

Fire crews began fighting flames from the inside of the house, as well as mounted a searched for anyone who might have been inside.

The home was not occupied when flames broke out, but the fire grew and crews were forced to exit the home and fight the blaze from outside, said Doyle.

Crews brought flames under control and located the two adults who live inside the home.

Fire and rescue crews did not say exactly how many, or what types of animals were killed inside the fire.

Though flames had been brought under control, crews remained on the scene hours later to extinguish the still-smoldering contents inside the home, said Doyle.

The fire was ruled to be accidental and damage estimates were not made available.

The fire victims are being helped by the Red Cross. No firefighters were injured during the fire.

Original Post 2 p.m.
North Stafford, Va. ––
Fire and rescue crews are on the scene of a blaze in North Stafford.

Crews have been called to 150 Eustace Drive for a report of a fire, according to Stafford public safety officials.

Drivers on Garrisonville Road (Va. 610) said they could see billowing black smoke rising.

It’s not clear if anyone if anyone has been injured in the blaze.

We’ll bring you more on developing story when as we get it.

News
Body Found in Dumpster

Update 1:30 p.m.
The state medical examiner has confirmed a body was found inside a trash dumpster in Woodbridge on Wednesday. Police call it a suspicious death.

At 9:55 a.m., fire and rescue crews were called to the 1300 block of Bayside Avenue for a report of an outside fire. When they arrived, they doused the flames coming from a medium-sized trash and discovered what appeared to be human remains.

Two hours later, the state medical examiner confirmed the presence of burnt, human remains.

Police have not identified the body, which has been sent to the state medical examiner’s office for identification.

Update 12:15 p.m.
It was a group of career firefighters this morning who discovered what was reported to be a body inside of a dumpster in Woodbridge’s Bayside neighborhood.

Fire crews were called to the 1300 block of Bayside Avenue at 9:50 a.m. Wednesday for a report of an outside fire, said Prince William police spokesman Jonathan Perok.

Shortly thereafter, police were called to the scene, where they closed a portion of Bayside Driver to make room for a crime scene truck, more officers, and hordes of curious onlookers.

Police say they are waiting or the state medical examiner that is in route to the scene to confirm if what is inside the dumpster is a body.

Original Post 10:40 a.m.
Woodbridge, Va. —
Police say they are trying to determine if a body has been found inside of a trash dumpster in Woodbridge.

Investigators descended on the 1300 block of Bayside Avenue about 10:15 a.m. after someone called 911 to report a body had been found.

Initial reports indicate the body was badly burned, and fire crews remain on the scene here working with police.

The dumpster sits in a parking lot next to a community center on Bayside Avenue, just behind Marumsco Plaza off U.S. 1.

Stay with us for updates.

Update 12:15 p.m.
It was a group of career firefighters this morning who discovered what was reported to be a body inside of a dumpster in Woodbridge’s Bayside neighborhood.

Original Post 10:40 a.m.
Fire crews were called to the 1300 block of Bayside Avenue just after 9 a.m. Wednesday for a report of an outside fire, said Prince William police spokesman Jonathan Perok.

Shortly thereafter, police were called to the scene, where they closed a portion of Bayside Driver to make room for a crime scene truck, more officers, and hordes of curious onlookers.

Police say they are waiting or the state medical examiner that is in route to the scene to confirm if what is inside the dumpster is a body.

Traffic
Railroad, Bridge Work to Affect Travel

Crews will replace railroad ties at the crossing at Mt. Hope Church Road this month. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

Stafford County, Va. –– Get ready for some road closures and detours.

CSX Corporation will replace railroad ties and do track maintenance tonight and tomorrow night, forcing the closure of Brent Point, Arkendale, and Mt. Hope Church roads in Stafford County.

Arkendale and Brent Point roads will close both tonight and tomorrow night between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m.

Drivers who use Widewater Road should find the intersection of Arkendale and Brent Point roads closed during those hours, said Virginia Transportation spokeswoman Kelly Hannon.

Mt. Hope Church Road will close tonight and tomorrow night between 8:30 p.m. and 4 a.m.

Only emergency vehicles will be allowed to pass through the closed portions of roadways, said Hannon.

There’s another road closure in Stafford County that will begin Monday.

Construction crews are expected to begin work on a new bridge that will cross Potomac Creek on Brooke Road.

That has forced VDOT to ready a detour route for drivers that will take them around the bridge and work zone.

Drivers going north on Brook Road should use Deacon Road to Leeland Road to Potomac Run Road to Eskimo Hill Road, said Hannon.

Those traveling south on Brook Road should instead use Eskimo Hill Road to Potomac Run Road to Leeland Road to Deacon Road.

Electronic message signs will be posted alerting drivers to the traffic-pattern change.

Drivers will still be able to access Virginia Railway Express’ Brooke station during $600,000 the construction project, which should take about four months to complete, said Hannon.

The old bridge will be replaced with a lightweight concrete deck supported by steel beams.

Guardrails will also be installed along Brook Road near the bridge.

News
More Area Water Clean Ups Planned

Woodbridge Supervisor Frank Principi volunteered to clean up a portion of Neabsco Creek in Woodbridge on Saturday. (Submitted)

Last weekend’s clean up of the Neabsco Creek was a huge success, organizers say.

At least 60 people put on gloves and got dirty cleaning up some of the trash and undesired items that washed along the shore line of the creek in Woodbridge which empties into the Potomac River.

“I joined 60 others on Saturday morning in the creek to help remove several tons of litter and debris from the watershed,” said Woodbridge Supervisor Frank Principi in an email.

As the weather warms up, several other clean ups are planned.

Volunteers will gather April 9 at the community center in Dumfries at 8 a.m., next to town hall on Main Street, and will focus their attention on Quantico Creek.

Gloves and trash bags will be provided, and volunteers are asked to prepare to get dirty.

“During last year’s event, we had 40 volunteers support the effort…we collected 57 bags of non-reclyclable material, 29 bags of recyclable material, about 600 pounds of loose, un-bagged trash, 14 tires and too many cigarette butts to count,” said Dumfries Assistant Town Manager Cathy Holtzlander.

Among the larger items collected during last year’s Quantico Creek clean up: A washing machine, a large drainage pipe, an engine block and an old couch.

Those will participate this year will get a free t-shirt, said Holtzlander.

Experienced paddlers on the same day are asked to consider volunteering for a clean-up of the Occoquan River.

Those interested in helping should contact Friends of the Occoquan.

Traffic
Video: Empty Commuter Lot Prompts Questions

Woodbridge, Va. –– The commuter lot at the First Baptist Church of Woodbridge on Wednesday had about 10 cars parked in it.

Prince William County taxpayers are renting 370 spaces from the church at Prince William Parkway and Minnieville Road for $289,000 per year.

Transportation officials made the deal last month to rent the lot after Potomac Mills mall reduced commuter parking there from 1,000 spaces to 250.

So what’s it going to take to get commuters comfortable with using the new lot?

That’s the focus of tonight’s commuter town hall meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Ferlazzo government building on U.S. 1 in Woodbridge.

“We want to have a dialogue about what Slug lines would make sense forming [at the lot]. There’s been some talk on the Slug lines website and this is just another opportunity to discuss it live, get some additional feedback from the community and just to see how things are going in the wake of the decision last month [to reduce parking at Potomac Mills mall],” said Occoquan District Supervisor Mike May.

This is the second commuter town hall meeting scheduled in the past two months.

Also expected to be at the meeting are Prince William supervisors Frank Prinicpi and John Jenkins.

According to Slug-lines.com, the reduction of commuter parking at Potomac Mills mall has caused virtually every other commuter parking lot in the area to fill up earlier than usual.

Mall representatives said the reduction was necessary as they look to expand.

A new commuter lot is planned for construction near the Horner Road lot in Woodbridge, already the state’s largest commuter lot.

Transportation officials said they plan to use $7.2 million to build a new 600-space commuter lot on the site of an old commuter bus lot next to the Horner Road lot.

News
Around Town

Chef Denise Baxter, instructor of Stafford County’s Mountain View High School’s Culinary Arts Program. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

Suicide prompts Fairfax schools to review disciplinary process
Fairfax County public school officials are taking a second look at how the discipline students after a 15-year-old freshman committed suicide after being transferred to another school following a disciplinary action, The Washington Post reports.

Superintendent candidate drops out
A democrat once vying to unseat Prince William County Superintendent Corey A. Stewart has taken his name out of the hat, citing redistricting concerns as a more “solid” candidate from Woodbridge, Insidenova.com reports.

Jewelry store expands
A popular jewelry store in Woodbridge held a ribbon cutting on Tuesday to celebrate the expansion of their store on Prince William Parkway, Patch.com reports.

News
VRE Riders Will Pay Less to Ride Amtrak

A Virginia Railway Express train pulls into the Woodbridge station. (File Photo: Mary Davidson)

Virginia Railway Express riders will soon be able to take Amtrak for less.

Beginning May 2, riders will be able to purchase an Amtrak Step-up ticket for $5, which is half of the current ticket cost. The reduced fares should alleviate crowding on the transit system that last month experienced record ridership, said VRE CEO Dale Zehner.

“This past Friday, the [VRE] Operations Board approved my recommendation to buy down the Step-Up fare. While VRE will still need to pay $10 to Amtrak for every VRE rider on one of its trains…the VRE rider will only pay $5. VRE will pay the rest,” said Zehner.

Covering the cost of the step-up fares is expected to cost VRE $300,000 annually, and is expected to increase Amtrak’s annual ridership by 250 trips per day, up to 60,000 passenger trips per year.

All of the riders are would-be VRE passengers.

In some cases, says Zehner, buying an Amtrak Step-up ticket will actually decrease commute times for some riders.

On March 15, VRE saw record-breaking ridership numbers with 20,573 passenger trips.

News
Chain Reaction Crash Leaves 1 Dead

Ft. Belvoir, Va. –– A 48-year-old Ft. Belvoir man in dead after a crash Monday, and charges are anticipated for one of the drivers involved.

Fairfax County police this morning said a 32-year-old man was driving a Fastran shuttle bus on northbound U.S. 1 near Ft. Belvoir about 4 p.m. Monday when four cars in front of him slowed for a traffic light at Fairfax County Parkway.

The driver told police he did not see the light or the slowing cars and hit a 1995 Toyota Celica, said Fairfax police spokeswoman Shelly Broderick.

Inside of the Celica was the fatal victim in the crash, William S. Pitts, of Fort Belvoir Road, who was pronounced dead on the scene.

After shuttle bus collided with Pitts’ car, the impact caused a chain reaction forcing the Celica into the back of a 2004 Dodge pickup. That truck then hit a 2001 Dodge Caravan, which then hit a 2004 Chrysler sedan.

In all, eight people were taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries and later released.

Police have not filed charges or identified the driver of the Fastran bus, but said charges are anticipated.

This is the second fatal crash at the same spot on U.S. 1 in a week.

On March 14, 54-year-old Paul Krause was died when his sedan was struck by a Honda Civic, forcing it into oncoming traffic.

The driver of that Civic, 33-year-old Carlos Lagos Ramos, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and has been identified as an illegal immigrant here in the U.S.

Krause leaves behind a wife and three daughters.

News
2 Teachers Take Top Honors

Maryann O’Brien

By Kristina Schnack Kotlus
kktolus@potomaclocal.com

Two public school teachers in the Potomac Communities are taking home top honors from the Washington Post.

Maryann O’Brien, special education teacher at Forest Park High School and David Vita, music teacher at Anne E. Moncure Elementary, are among two teachers being honored this year as Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher of the Year award recipients.

The Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher award program was established by The Washington Post Company Educational foundation to recognize teachers who exemplify excellence in their profession.  According to Agnes Meyer materials, teachers selected for the award are recognized in May at a special ceremony, and are also awarded $3,000.

In Prince William County, O’Brien was selected out of a pool of 18 candidates. O’Brien earned her Masters Degree and Certificate in Alternative Education from George Mason University and worked at New Dominion Alternative Middle School from 1998-2003 before beginning her tenure at Forest Park High School, according to her profile on the Forest Park website.

Josh Miller, Supervisor of Special Education at Forest Park and Acting Assistant Principal said that “this award is very deserved.  Mrs.

David Vita

O’Brien works very hard to ensure the success of her students both in and out of the classroom.  We’re all very proud of her.”

In an interview with Prince William County Schools, O’Brien shared that over her 12-year career in teaching she has found that “finding the key to unlock learning for students who don’t respond to traditional instruction and helping them discover their untapped potential is the most exciting part of being a teacher”.

These strategies appear to be working, as O’Brien’s students have a 100 percent pass rate at the highest level of performance on the Virginia Alternative Assessment program for the last six years.

From Stafford County Public Schools, Vita was selected.

Vita teaches Music Education at Anne E. Moncure Elementary school where he has been for over five years. According to Vita’s biography at the Band of America’s Few, prior to becoming a teacher Vita attended Virginia Commonwealth University and later served honorably in the Marine Corps for several years before retiring in 2000, only to rejoin the National Guard after the 9/11 tragedy.

Principal Greg Machi, who has worked with Vita for four years, shared that Vita has grown the choir at Moncure from 60 to 130 children and hosts a percussion program that is application-only because of the high level of interest.

“Mr. Vita takes the time to really get down on the kids’ level and ensure they understand.  He also makes sure that the music he’s teaching corresponds with the classroom- he’ll use Chinese music when classes are learning about China, for example,” said Machi.

Machi considers Vita to be a “very talented individual” whose passion for music extends beyond the classroom. Vita helps with the percussion section at Mountain View as well as working with the Marine Corps Retirees Band, for whom he has written music, as well.

Machi says that Vita also hosts a variety show each year that is a huge hit with parents and children, and also wrote and taught songs for spirit week.

Kristina Schnack Kotlus is PotomacLocal.com’s Style and Events producer and lives with her family in Woodbridge.

News
Around Town

Train operators apologize for late night whistles
Railroad crews are apologizing for sounding train whistles that for the past few weeks have kept neighbors up at night, Fredericksburg.com reports.

The next NOVA Idol
It’s that time of year again when students at Northern Virginia Community College take to the stage in the hopes to be crowed the next NOVA Idol. NOVA Fortnightly asks who this year’s idol will be.

East Coast Rapists suspect due in court today
The East Coast Rapist suspect is due in a Connecticut court room today, the Washington Post reports. Police in Prince William County charge 39-year-old Aaron Thomas with raped two girls in Dale City on Halloween night 2009.

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