The Region's 1st Online-Only News Org. Read Us Daily!

62°

Menu

Schools

News
Shawn Brann to fill Brentsville District School Board seat while Trenum on active duty

ShawnBrann-main

Shawn Brann will serve on the Prince William County School Board as a temporary replacement for Brentsville District representative Gil Trenum. 

Trenum handpicked Brann and presented his resume, along with to others, to the School Board as a recommended temporary replacement. Trenum was deployed last month to Africa for duty in the U.S. Navy.

From Prince William County Public Schools: 

The Prince William County School Board voted unanimously on September 21 to select Bristow resident Shawn L. Brann to fill the seat of Brentsville District School Board Member Gil Trenum on an interim basis while Trenum is deployed on active duty in the U.S. Navy Reserve.

Brann was selected from among four applicants for the post. The newly sworn-in Brann will serve as Acting Member on behalf of Trenum and constituents of the Brentsville District.

A senior technical writer for General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, Brann has over 21 years’ experience working in the local community, the Department of Defense, and the intelligence community on highly-regarded and dynamic intelligence community-organization contracts. He has seven years’ experience in education, including teaching language arts at Woodbridge High School, where he also served as a teacher on administrative assignment, performing all the duties of a high school assistant principal. He coached high school lacrosse as an assistant coach for varsity and head coach for junior varsity.

Brann has been an active volunteer in the Piney Branch Elementary School community; has served on the Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS) budget committee led by Gil Trenum since 2012; and served on the PWCS Safe Schools Advisory Council for multiple years, including a year as chairman; and on multiple school boundary committees. He is a youth soccer coach for the Virginia Soccer Association and Northern Virginia Soccer Club and has served as committee chair and Chartered Organization Representative of Cub Scouts Pack 1343 at Piney Branch Elementary School.

Brann is a graduate of George Mason University, where he earned bachelor degrees in both English and Speech Communication and a master’s degree in Education, Secondary Education specialty. He also received certification in Mason’s Educational Leadership Licensure Program for administrative licensure.

Prior to Trenum’s deployment, local GOP leaders urged the School Board to choose one of Trenum’s handpicked replacements. Democrats on the School Board solicited an unofficial opinion from Virginia’s Attorney General’s Office that stated the Board must appoint someone to serve on a temporary basis, but that person may be anyone, not necessarily someone selected by Trenum.

Trenum is expected to get back his seat upon his return from active duty.

News
Linton Hall School in Bristow to offer #iCANHELP online harassment training

lintonhall

Submitted: 

Kim Karr, co-founder of #iCANHELP is set to deliver a powerful presentation on social media to 4th-8th grade students at Linton Hall School in Bristow, Virginia on Wednesday, October 19, 2016.  #iCANHELP is a non-profit corporation that educates on the proper use of social media, empowers students to deal with conflict, negativity, and harassment online, and instructs students and adults on how to maintain a positive digital footprint. The day will culminate with a parent event to address raising a child in a digital world.  The parent workshop will be held from 6:30-7:30pm in the Linton Hall School Gym. Parents and their pre-teen or teen students from the community are invited to attend.

“We don’t usually think of it, but just like the way negativity can spread, people can be swayed or encouraged when the majority are doing ‘good’ online.  Students just need to be shown how to respond to the negativity.  We need to empower our future generation to take action against all the issues that are arising with technology,” says co-founder Kim Karr.  “Through #iCANHELP students are learning that kindness is saving lives and it doesn’t have to be anything big- a simple smile or a nice post-it note on a locker might be all it takes.”

For more information on #iCANHELP, visit canhelpdeletenegativity.org.

News
Never married, Louise A. Benton cared for children, and that’s why she got a school named for her

As the 2016-17 school year gets underway, new schools are opening, and the recent controversy over school names got me thinking “who are some of these people and what did they do to merit the honor of having a school named after them? “

There are schools that have the names of historical or political figures, but there are others named to honor educators or school administrators who served Prince William County. 

This series of articles will explore just a few of these special people.

Louise A. Benton

Louise A. Benton was born July 5, 1906. She spent much of her life in and around Washington D.C. Louise was a graduate of Benjamin Franklin University and one of the first Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company operators in the District of Columbia

After 36 years of service to the telephone company, she retired to begin a second career in Prince William County. In 1960 Louise moved to Prince William and took up residence on Hoadly Road. She worked at the Partridge School a Rehabilitation Center in Gainesville. 

Ms. Benton never married but was a foster mother to two daughters Louise was able to adopt and take responsibility for the raising of her grandson.

Louise collected used clothing, then washed, mended, and distributed the garments to families in need within the county. She tutored students housed at the County Juvenile Detention Home. At age 75, she was one of the first to take advantage of free classes being offered at then newly opened Northern Virginia Community College in Manassas to improve her skills as an educator.

She was an active member of the Manassas Women’s Club, Coles District Volunteer Fire Department and Ladies Auxiliary, Woodbine Homemakers Extension Club, Prince William Hospital Auxiliary, Church of the Brethren Sewing Circle, League of Women Voters, Coles Little League Baseball Association, Garden Club, and Woodbine Baptist Church.

Benton died January 18, 1988. After her death, the Juvenile Detention Home planted a tree commemorating her service to the young folks housed there. The Woodbridge Homemakers club also acknowledged her by placing a brick with her name on it at the Manassas Museum. 

The foster children she took in were instrumental in having her name put before the school board for consideration as the name of the Middle School on Hoadly Road near the home where she lived as a resident of the county. The Homemakers Extension Club also put her name up for this purpose. She was considered one of the county’s most notable senior citizens.

Benton Middle School, located at 7411 Hoadly Road near Independent Hill, opened its doors in September 2000. Today, the school houses 1,350 students.7411 Hoadly Road

This post is written by the Prince William County Historic Preservation Division.

North Stafford High School Marching Band Invitational is September 24

MB-photo

Submitted: 

On Saturday, September 24th beginning at 10:00 AM the 34th Annual North Stafford High School Marching Band Invitational will be held at North Stafford’s A.J. Slye Stadium.

One of the longest running marching competitions in Virginia, this year’s event will feature performances by 20 different marching bands from all over Virginia. Performances will occur approximately every 15 minutes with an exhibition performance by North Stafford’s own Big Blue Marching Band at 4:30 pm. An awards ceremony will follow where judges will award competitive categories by school size.

General admission is $6 with discounts based on age and North Stafford students will receive a discount with ID while Stafford County middle school students will receive free admission if they wear their band shirt.

This event is run by the North Stafford Band Boosters, a non-profit organization that raises funds for the North Stafford High School Band program under the direction and guidance of Mr. Chris Mallory, the new Director of Bands at North Stafford High School

News
Sawyers’ motion: ‘Superintendent…is to not change the current regulations and practices regarding bathroom and locker room use’

Ryan Sawyers, Prince William County’s School Board Chairman, says he will tell the ” Superintendent that he is to not change the current regulations and practices regarding bathroom and locker room use” on Wednesday when he aims to update the division’s non-discrimination policy.

Sawyers posted this to his Facebook page: 

sawyers

Sawyers

As you likely know, I proudly support adding “sexual orientation and gender identity” to our non-discrimination policy. This is not a bathroom or locker room issue for me but a fairness issue when it comes to employment, work environment, school environment, and of course, education.

However, many are concerned about what this updated policy will do to the current practices used at individual schools when it comes to bathroom and locker room use for transgender students.

Soon many of these concerns will be answered, one way or another, by the courts and the direction for the school system will be clear.

Therefore, on September 21st I plan on making a motion similar to what is below. It should remove the concern about bathrooms and locker rooms and put the attention back on stopping any discrimination, real or perceived, based on a student or employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity. A legally married LGBT employee shouldn’t have to feel the need to hide who they’re married to because their love isn’t officially protected by school board policy.

It’s time that the Prince William County School Board step-up and protect some of our most vulnerable students and employees. I will vote “yes” on protecting LGBT students and employees by adding “sexual orientation and gender identity” to our non-discrimination policy.

The motion, although not final, will look something like this:

Motion:

That the Prince William County School Board adopt the changes to the non-discrimination policy, Policy 060, by adding “sexual orientation and gender identity”. In doing so, the Prince William County School Board gives guidance to the Superintendent that he is to not change the current regulations and practices regarding bathroom and locker room use. The Prince William County School Board may specifically address this at a later date once it, as a body, is satisfied with the guidance and/or rulings provided by the courts, or as required by law.

We request that the Superintendent provide the School Board with a presentation of the new regulations that implement this policy change by the last regularly scheduled school board meeting of the 2016-2017 academic year.

Coles District School Board member Willie Deutscg sent us this statement about what he expects to happen at the School Board meeting: 

deutsch

Deutsch

I’m not sure what to expect.

If we believe in equality, Brentsville needs to be seated before we have the vote. We also owe it to the citizens to listen to them. We should also work out the result of the policy with staff before voting on it, so the board knows what they are voting on. If we want to be responsible with our money, and as least disruptive as possible, we should also wait and see what the courts say before we begin implementing anything.

Sawyers posted a letter from the Anti-Defamation League supporting Sawyer’s effort to update the policy. 

A group of pastors in Prince William County said they don’t support the move.

We’ve asked all Prince William School Board members to weigh in. We’ll post their statements here if/when we receive them.

News
Committee off 100 to tackle Prince William School funding

schoolfunding

Two weeks after Prince William County Gainesville Supervisor Peter Candland held a town hall meeting to discuss school funding, the Prince William Committee of 100 will continue the conversation.

Submitted: 

SCHOOL FUNDING: Everyone’s talking about it so what’s the best way to do it? What do the schools need for success and how do we measure that success?

Please join the Prince William Committee of 100 for our first forum of the ’16-’17 year and hear a timely discussions about our schools. Come join us for dinner if you can and renew old acquaintances as well as your membership! It’s bound to be an exciting evening you won’t want to miss!

Moderator
Dr. Sam Hill, Provost
Northern Virginia Community College Woodbridge

Panelists:
Ruth Anderson, Supervisor
Prince William County Board of Supervisors

David S. Cline
Associate Superintendent for Finance and
Support Services
Prince William County School Board

Lillie Jessie, Board Member
Prince William County School Board

Riley O’Casey, President
Prince William Education Association

Members and Public Invited
RSVP Please
Carol Proven: carol.proven01@gmail.com

There is no charge for the Program.

Please note: An RSVP is requested for everyone for planning purposes only. There is no charge for the program. Dinner is $25.00/person for members, $30 for non-members.

Reader: Schools should wait for Supreme Court, Virginia Supreme Court to rule on LGBT matter

schoolboard

Submitted: 

OP-ED EXCLUSIVELY FOR POTOMACLOCAL.com
School Board Should Wait For The Courts
By Carrie Beliles, resident of Triangle, VA
Thursday, September 15, 2016
Word count: 638

Next week, the Prince William School Board will vote on a major policy proposal to add “gender identity” to the school’s non-discrimination policy. Enacting this new policy could allow transgender faculty and students to choose the bathroom, locker room, showers and athletic team participation of their preferred choice, regardless of current biological anatomy.

My family moved to Prince William County because it is a welcoming and compassionate place for all people. I enjoy that multiple cultures and people with diverse belief backgrounds all live together in relative harmony. While I believe we should protect transgender students from harassment and discrimination, this policy proposal could have far-reaching ramifications.

This gender identity policy is being debated in Courts all across the nation, and is even on its way to the Virginia Supreme Court. In August, a federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked President Obama’s guidance directive on the use of bathrooms by transgender students, (State of Texas et al v. United States of America). Also in August, the U.S. Supreme Court halted a lawsuit by a student in Gloucester County, Virginia, effectively ruling that the County did not have to open up their bathrooms, locker rooms and showers to opposite gender students (G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board). Earlier this year, 51 families in Illinois (the district in which I graduated High School, Palatine High School) filed suit against two federal agencies and Township High School District 211 on this issue, as well (Students and Parents for Privacy, et al v. United States Departments of Education and Justice, Township High School District 211, and Cook County, Illinois).On Monday, the Virginia Supreme Court decided to take up a challenge to Fairfax County’s “gender identity” policy change (Andrea Lafferty, et al, v. School Board of Fairfax County). This is the very same policy being voted and considered by the School Board on September 21 in Prince William.

Moving forward with this policy now in Prince William could open up the County to frivolous lawsuits and protracted litigation that drain taxpayer resources that could be allocated to classrooms across the county. While the constitutionality of this policy change is debated in the courts, Prince William School Board Chairman Ryan Sawyers should put this on hold until the Supreme Court and the Virginia Supreme Court have ruled on this matter.

In law school, I was taught the importance of judicial precedence in how the law is administered; which means that previous rulings have significant sway on future rulings. Judicial precedent provides a blueprint for how a law should be implemented and interpreted. Precedent will be created by the US Supreme Court and Virginia Supreme Court very soon. The Prince William School Board should align itself with judicial precedent as the way forward on this issue.

If the School Board believes some action is necessary in the here and now, they should do three things: 1) evaluate the track-record of transgender welfare and determine if a problem exists; 2) take their time to debate implementation logistics and unintended consequences of this policy change; and 3) wait for the Supreme Court and Virginia Supreme Court to rule on this matter.

The Prince William County Public Schools have conducted numerous forums and outreach events regarding discrimination and school bullying, and the issue of discrimination toward transgender students and staff has not be cited as a problem at this time. This is good news.

To summarize, in order to protect our County from unnecessary lawsuits and to avoid the embarrassing possibility of a policy reversal, School Board Chairman Sawyers should push this vote to a later date allowing higher judicial precedent to pave a smoother way for our community.

Prince William Black Pastors: Revised schools discrimination policy ‘would threaten the privacy rights of our students’

schoolboard

The following letter to Prince William County School Board Chairman Ryan Sawyers was sent to use in an emailed titled “PWC BLACK PASTORS OPPOSE SCHOOL BOARD “GENDERIDENTITY” REVISION”

Dear Chairman Sawyers and School Board Members,

We are writing to express our concern and objection to Revision of Policy 060, “Nondiscrimination And Commitment To Equity”, because of its expected implementation regarding the use of private facilities by transgender students in Prince William County schools. 

This revision would update the school system’s non-discrimination policy to include “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” to the group of protected classes, along with race, color, religion, national origin, and gender. Adding “gender identity” to this non-discrimination clause would allow transgender students and staff to choose the bathroom, locker room, showers and athletic team participation of their preferred choice, regardless of biological anatomy.

While you may consider this potential change as ensuring diversity within our schools, the reality is this potential policy change would threaten the privacy rights of our students. No female or male student nor teacher should be forced to use a bathroom, locker room or shower area with someone of the opposite gender simply because that individual no longer identifies with or ignores their biological anatomy.

Our concern is also that we do not recall there being a lengthy and thorough discussion of how the county plans to safely enforce such a policy change. There has been no regulatory analysis on how this policy would be implemented. There has been no discussion or meetings on making sure that sexual misconduct does not occur or that sexual predators do not take advantage of this policy change.

Finally, this policy revision would force many students to compromise their deeply-held beliefs about privacy, modesty and sexuality. This policy revision would place children in the uncomfortable position of compromising their beliefs or face disciplinary action for having those beliefs.

Our churches are politically diverse congregations in Eastern Prince William County, and represent Democrats, Republicans and Independents. It would be wrong for the Prince William County School Board to ignore the will of its people by making this change while so many citizen concerns exists within our community.

We believe that every person is created in the image of God and deserving of respect and compassion. We unequivocally denounce all violence and bullying against LGBTQ people, but this revision will result in the discrimination against the majority of our children. To deny basic privacy to our students is the suppression of their rights. Like you, we want to make sure our children can learn absent a hostile environment, such as bullying. For that reason, as parents and pastors, we are grateful for your anti-bullying policies as they stand because they promote decency and order.

The Prince William County Public Schools have conducted numerous forums and outreach events regarding discrimination and school bullying, and the issue of discrimination toward transgender students and staff has never been a problem. For years, Prince William County Public Schools have protected and accommodated transgender students and staff in a respectful, private and genuine manner, therefore no revision is needed. The changes you are considering will place the ideology of a few powerful politicians above the right to privacy for the overwhelming majority of our families. 

Therefore, we humbly request that you not pursue such a policy change.

Sincerely,

Bishop Lyle Dukes, Harvest Life Changes Church, Woodbridge

Bishop Derek Grier, Grace Church Dumfries                                            

Pastor Eric Kellum, Zion Church Woodbridge                                          

Pastor Kurt Wallace, Freedom Fellowship Church, Dale City

Pastor Stephen Oni, Christ Apostolic Church, Joy Vineyard, Woodbridge  

Pastor Sharon Fernandez, Spirit of the Living Christ Ministry, Woodbridge 

Bishop John H. Reid, III, Victory Family Outreach Ministry, Woodbridge   

Pastor Madlin Edmonds, New Creatures-in-Christ Community Church, Woodbridge

Pastor Victor Stanley, Calvary Baptist Church, Woodbridge                                 

Pastor Al Stith, Word of Life Church, International, Woodbridge

News
Cuccinelli to moderate home school panel at Montclair library

Cuccinelli

Submitted: 

The Prince William Republican Women’s Club is excited to present a Homeschooling Legislative Forum on Wednesday, September 21st at 7:00 PM at the Montclair Public Library located at 5049 Waterway Drive, Dumfries, VA.

Our panel includes key legislators and leaders working to champion legislation and initiatives to empower Virginia families to provide the best education for their children. Former Virginia Attorney General and homeschool dad Ken Cuccinelli will serve as moderator and our panel includes Delegate Rob Bell, sponsor of Virginia’s Tebow Bill in the 2015 and 2016 Virginia Legislative Sessions and candidate for Attorney General in 2017, Dr. Wayne Stilwell, President of the Northern Virginia Homeschool Athletic Association and homeschool dad, Marty Nohe, Supervisor for the Coles Magisterial District and homeschool dad along Kevin Hoeft representing the Home Educators Association of Virginia (HEAV).

PWRWC is providing a unique opportunity for homeschool families to have direct access to our leaders battling for the rights of homeschoolers and to ask questions concerning the issues impacting the education of their children. These range from access to educational facilities, receiving the same tuition discounts for dual enrollment in our Virginia Community College System as students enrolled in public schools, opportunities to tryout for and participate on interscholastic sports teams and potential tax credits for families who homeschool their children saving local school systems millions of dollars.

This program is not just for homeschool families or parents of school age children. These issues impact our community as a whole including influencing our school system, our property values and the vibrancy of community.

I hope you will all attend and feel free to invite friends, neighbors and acquaintances who have an interest in the education of our children.

News
Prince William schools filter rejects letter about non-discrimination policy

schoolboard

Prince William County resident and former Prince William Republican Committee Chairman Bill Card was moved to write a letter to members of the County School Board after it, on Sept. 7, 2016, discussed changes to a non-discrimination policy. 

School Board Chairman Ryan Sawyers wants to add the words “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” to the school division’s non-discrimination policy 

That email letter to the School Board was rejected due to offensive content. We’ve posted a follow-up letter from Card to the School Board, one that wrote after his first email was not delivered. 

We’ve also included a statement from Prince William County Public Schools spokesman Phil Kavits on why, and how the letter might not have been delivered to School Board members. 

From Bill Card: 

You might find hilariously ironic that in order to get this note to you on the @pwcs.edu server, I could not directly use the terms that are key to the Chairman’s ill-advised new policy proposal.  Four emails sent Tuesday were rejected by the school system’s server for “Offensive Content” which makes one wonder whether or not you are getting the full effect of the outrage of the community.  The “offensive content” proved to be the use of the word “s**” since that is the only substantive change made to this email.  Perhaps we should take a lesson from the IT Department and forget this foolishness. 

I appreciated the opportunity to address the Prince William County School Board on this past Wednesday/Thursday.  I only regret that the Board meeting not only started late but that the bulk of the speakers were pushed to the late evening/early morning such that the public and press did not get the benefit of several substantive presentations.  Further, it is very likely that you missed important feedback from the community on “gender identity, s**ual orientation” as many people left rather than wait to speak given the late hour.

You have received plenty of legal and common sense rationale not to proceed with the Chairman’s vision on “gender identity and s**ual orientation.”  It is certainly reckless given the current legal and political climate.  As I stated early Thursday morning, the Chairman is also on the wrong side of science in what he is proposing. 

Several of the late presentations referenced the special report “S**uality and Gender; Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences” (link provided and report attached).  I think that this is of particular import in the discussion of how our community and by extension the school system treats gay and trans gender individuals.  If you do nothing else – I ask that you at least read the “Executive Summary” which should provide important insight to this issue. 

One of the throw-away accusations is that those of us opposed to what the Chairman is contemplating are doing so out of hate.  Nothing could be further from the truth, and I could not say it better than the principle author of this report who states in the Preface:

“I dedicate my work on this report, first, to the LGBT community, which bears a disproportionate rate of mental health problems compared the population as a whole. We must find ways to relieve their suffering.”

This is essential to understanding the resistance that you are facing.  Many will try to reduce or stigmatize opposition to this issue through bumper sticker phrases about bathrooms and hate.  However, the Chairman is dragging us all into a situation which is at best foolish and at worst dangerous and deadly to the very population he expresses interest in helping.  Again, I implore you to at least read the Executive Summary to understand this issue and the dangers you are subjecting children to who are under your care.  However, you owe it to all of us to read the entire report. 

It is also important to note that the Virginia Supreme Court just agreed to hear the suit brought against the Fairfax school system for the very same thing:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/sep/13/virginia-state-supreme-court-to-hear-case-over-sch/

Don’t get lost in the emotional argument.  Again there are principled legal, medical, and now scientific rationale for just leaving the policy as written.  Do the right thing and vote “No” to the change proposed by the Chairman. 

Here’s the response from Prince William County Public Schools spokesman Phil Kavits after we asked him how, or why Card’s original letter went undelivered. 

“It is likely that a message could be rejected for offensive because of filters meant to protect students, provided that the message included multiple references to “offensive content.”
 
Keep in mind that PWCS students have pwcs.edu email addresses. Consequently, as required by federal law, our system employs software that rejects a message based on a too many references to one or more words that could potentially indicate inappropriate content.
 
Consequently, one or two references to a term would be unlikely to be blocked. However, if that word and others that deemed as potentially inappropriate are repeated multiple times, the sender might get the message that the individual shared with you.  The issue comes down to how many times the word/words are repeated. The filter are pretty tight.  Not knowing what other terms the sender’s message contained, it is hard to speculate on what set off the filter. I can tell you that this is the first time that anyone has reported having this issue with a “legitimate” message.”

Kavits said he would contact Card and offer to “find a way to get his message through.” 

 

News
Candland wants to abolish schools revenue-share agreement

candlandtownhall

Candland wants to abolish schools revenue-share agreementThe Republican on the Prince William County Board of Supervisors wants to abolish the revenue sharing agreement — a funding mechanism in place since 1986 between the taxing authority Prince William County Board of Supervisors and the county’s School Board. Under the agreement, the schools automatically receive just over 57% of the total county government budget.

Candland did not say what would replace the revenue-share agreement.

The revenue sharing agreement was put in place, in part, to stop politicians on both Boards from arguing over how much funding the school should receive annually. Candland’s call to abolish it comes after he called to increase it from the current 57.23% of the total county government budget going to fund local schools.

About half of the Prince William County school division $1.4 billion budget comes from the revenue share.

“Since we are the ones taking the tax money from you, the taxpayer, we said [the Board of Supervisors] should get involved [in the school funding process],” Candland told a group of about 20 people who came to his town hall meeting on education funding on Sept. 1 at Gravely Elementary School near Haymarket. “The reaction is always ‘we need more money for schools, so we thought we would increase the revenue-sharing agreement from 56.75% to 57.23%.”

But the increase hasn’t helped, said Candland, as Prince William County still boasts the largest number of students per classroom than any other local school system in the Washington, D.C. region, leading to unsolved overcrowding issues that require some students to eat lunches at 10:30 a.m. and some as late as 1:15 p.m.

He’s also criticized the School Board for opting to build an $11 million indoor swimming facility at Colgan High School, which opened Saturday.

“Some of the decisions that get made on the School Board are infuriating,” said Candland, adding the cash could have been better spent on lowering class sizes.

The school pool had so much community support when the School Board approved its construction in December 2013, however, his own Board of Supervisors would have approved the pool had the decision been up to its members, Candland admitted.

Alyson Satterwhite, the elected School Board member in Gainesville, also spoke at the town hall meeting. She called the revenue sharing agreement a “cop-out” for politicians who would rather give a set percentage of cash to the School Board rather than address school funding needs on an annual basis.

Both politicians said that if the revenue-sharing model is dumped for something else, safeguards are needed to ensure the School Board doesn’t receive less money from the Board of Supervisors that it does today.

The Board of Supervisors automatically transfers about 57% of its annual budget to the School Board, which may spend it however it wants. This year, the county sent  more than $456 million to the school division, making up at least 46% of the school division’s $1.4 billion operating budget.

The county increased the amount of its funding by $21 million. Coupled with a state funding increase of about $17 million, the school’s overall operating budget this year saw about a $34 million increase.

The meeting was the first in planned series of town hall meeting Candland plans to hold to discuss education funding.

News
Stafford fire and rescue collecting coats for children

From Stafford County fire and rescue: 

With winter just around the corner the Stafford Fire and Rescue Department, Stafford Professional Firefighters Association Local 4012, Stafford County Public Schools, Apple Federal Credit Union, Walmart and many others will partner to provide coats for Stafford County children in need.  With your  donation you can help relieve the burden of poverty and bring the gift of warmth to children in need.  To date, Operation Warm has given new winter coats to over 1.4 MILLION children throughout America. We invite you to become our partner, a hero in your community, and help us ensure that all children feel warm, healthy and valued.

With your  donation you can help relieve the burden of poverty and bring the gift of warmth to children in need.  To date, Operation Warm has given new winter coats to over 1.4 MILLION children throughout America. We invite you to become our partner, a hero in your community, and help us ensure that all children feel warm, healthy and valued.

Operation Warm’s mission is most effectively executed in collaboration with organizations serving impoverished children and their families.  Providing brand new winter coats brings families facing challenges closer to reaching their goal of financial independence.   Through community-based partnerships, Operation Warm provides families with brand new winter coats for their children.   Alone we cannot effectively conquer the overwhelming need to assist children in poverty. 

If you would like to help us ensure our children are warm this winter please select the following link and help us ensure our children are warm this winter.   https://donate.operationwarm.org/page/contribute/stafford-county

 

News
Prince William schools’ first indoor swimming pool opens

indoorpool1

The new indoor pool opened to the public for the first time on Saturday. 

The Prince William County Aquatics Center at Charles Colgan Sr. High School offered free admission all day September 10. It was a chance for area residents to check out the new $11 million center complete with an Olympic-sized swimming pool, children’s pool, waterslide, and spectator area. 

The indoor pool is the first to be constructed inside a Prince William County public school.

Here’s our full story on the new aquatics center.

Submitted photo

Submitted photo

News
Raulston aims to look beyond recall effort

Diane Raulston said she has spent the past few days working with community groups like the VFW collecting backpacks for elementary school children in her Neabsco District.

It came as a surprise to the Prince William County School Board member when she learned of an effort to have residents hold a recall election to remove her from the Board. The website alleges that after six months in office, Raulston no longer meets with constituents, threatened teachers, and “pledged to fill a vacant board seat with a Republican instead of the qualified candidate endorsed by Democratic leadership.”

Raulston said man the behind the website is Nate Salzman, a Democratic party operative and the former campaign manager for Prince William County School Board Chairman Ryan Sawyers. She said she met with Salzman two and a half weeks ago to discuss who would temporarily replace Brentsville District School Board representative Gil Trenum, a naval commander who was dispatched to serve in Africa for the next year.

“He’s doing this because I said I would consider supporting one of the people whom Mr. Trenum said should take his place,” said Raulston, who is one of eight members on the county school board that, by Virginia law, is to be non-partisan.

Raulston said Salzman wanted her to support JerMonica-Boose Davis, one of the five candidates that had been vying to temporarily Trenum. She withdrew her name from consideration and did not return multiple requests from Potomac Local on the matter before her removing her name from consideration.

Raulston did not say who would pick to temporarily replace Trenum.

The mission of finding Trenum’s temporary replacement has polarized political parties on the right and left. Republicans last month held a press conference urging the School Board to move forward and approve one of two hand-picked names Trenum suggested.

Democrats asked for and got an unofficial opinion from the state’s Attorney General’s office that told them the School Board could choose whomever they wish to Trenum, and that the seat must be given back to the commander once he returns from his military deployment.

Salzman and Sawyers did not reply to request for comment for this story.

Prince William County Democratic Chairman Harry Wiggins also said Salzman is behind the Raulston recall effort, adding that Salzman attended a recent committee meeting last Friday. Wiggins said his committee has no affiliation with the recall effort, and that doesn’t support it. Prince William Democrats last fall endorsed Raulston for School Board.

“This is not the right thing to do,” said Wiggins. “Any recall election is going to have to go to the circuit court, and frankly, we’ve got bigger problems to solve right now in the school system.”

Salzman urged support of JerMonica Boose-Davis, one of the five people vying to fill Trenum’s seat, said, Raulston.

This move is yet another distraction from the business of empowering teachers and fostering the development of school children, said Raulston.

“We spent our first six months in office putting out fires all over the place,” she said, referring to the School Board’s surprised and contentious decision to rename Godwin Middle School, and multiple meetings with the county Board of Supervisors about the tax rate and school budget.”

News
Candland: The school revenue-sharing agreement has a ‘clear record of failing our kids’

Updated

We asked Prince Willaim County Public Schools Associate Superintendent for Communications and Technology Services Keith Imon what could happen if the decades-old revenue-sharing agreement between the County School Board and Board of Supervisors changed:

As early as 1986, there was a revenue share in place. The current approach dates back to 1998 when the two boards created the formal agreement. It has evolved over the years with changes in the percent of the split in county revenue.For FY 2016, the School Division’s share of the revenue agreement is 57.23%, with PWCS receiving $507,302,048.

Even when the five-year budget plan is fully funded, it and the revenue sharing agreement are just a starting point. It is always a challenge to fund the School Division’s long list of critical unmet needs or to allow for significant new initiatives.

Eliminating or changing the revenue share would probably not require any changes to the way the School Division conducts most business. However, it could change the way the School Division approaches its budgetary planning process – perhaps lengthening the duration of the process and requiring the School Division to make budgetary decisions in the absence of a clearly understood county transfer of revenue. Uncertainty could make long-term planning more challenging for schools, staff, and parents.

Original post

Peter Candland’s next target: A revenue-sharing agreement between his Board of Supervisors and the School Board.

The agreement is the mechanism put in place by the Prince William County Board of Supervisors — the elected officials that set the tax rate — to fund the county’s School Board.

Candland, who represents Gainesville residents on the Board of Supervisors, has long argued against the revenue-sharing agreement in its current form.

“The Revenue Sharing Agreement has been in place for nearly two decades and, as a result, Prince William County currently has the largest average class sizes in the Commonwealth, some of the lowest SOL, ACT, and SAT scores, and some of the lowest paid teachers in the region,” Candland stated in a press release. “This is a clear record of failing our kids in providing the quality of education they deserve.”

Candland plans the first in a series of town hall meetings on Thursday to discuss the revenue-sharing agreement. The Supervisor is requesting feedback from voters during the meeting slated to begin at 7 p.m. at Gravely Elementary School, located at 4670 Waverly Farm Drive in Haymarket.

The Board of Supervisors automatically transfers about 57% of its annual budget to the School Board, which may spend it however it wants. This year, the county sent $456 million to the school division, making up 46% of the school division’s $1.4 billion operating budget.

The county increased the amount of its funding by $21 million. Coupled with a state funding increase of about $17 million, the school’s overall operating budget this year saw about a $34 million increase.

The revenue-sharing agreement is not unique in Virginia — Albermarle County has a similar arrangement. It’s supposed to make things easier come spring budget season when leaders are working on annuals budgets, deciding what to expenses to fund, and by how much to fund them.

School Board member Alison Satterwhite, who also represents Gainesville District voters, said addressing the topic is a conversation worth having.

“I’ve talked to people who served on the School Board before the revenue-sharing agreement, and things between the two boards were contentious,” said Satterwhite. “I’ve also heard from people who say the revenue-sharing agreement is just a big cop-out for politicians.”

Virginia law mandates the School Board can spend its money how it wants, and it prevents the Board of Supervisors from selectively funding items in the School Board’s budget. While there may be room to modify the agreement, there may not be a need to toss it out altogether, added Satterwhite.

News
Renaming of Hampton Middle School dubbed ‘historic’ event, Godwin name stripped from building

hampton4

The sign that hangs on the front of George M. Hampton Middle School looks as if it has always been there.

The silver-lettered sign against a brick background uses the same lettering as a sign that once hung there until this summer, noting the school had originally been named after Mills E. Godwin, a former Virginia Governor who was once a segregationist but later reformed, and became a champion of public education.

All signs of Godwin had been wiped away from the school building by Thursday night when 400 people gathered in the gymnasium to re-dedicate the school after long-time Dale City resident, philanthropist, and retired Army Lt. Colonel Dr. George M. Hampton.

hampton5

School Board leaders billed the ceremony as a “historic event,” with School Board Chairman Ryan Sawyers saying the [Prince William County] School Board “made a mistake” when they named this school after Godwin. It is progressive thinking that led to the renaming of the school, he added.

Hampton said the school dedication in his honor is “the most significant event in his lifetime.” He also spoke about the lengthy process undertaken by the community to rename the school in his honor, which included several public meetings, and lengthy School Board meetings that drew residents who spoke for and against the renaming of Godwin Middle School.

A new high school dedicated this week was named after retired Virginia State Senator Charles “Chuck” Colgan, and a new elementary school was named after fallen Prince William County Firefighter Kyle Wilson. Hampton’s name was considered for both new buildings but was not selected.

hampton3

Instead, a March compromise among School Board members led to Wilson’s name going up at the newly constructed elementary school and Hampton’s name replacing Godwin’s at what was the first middle school to open in Dale City, in 1976.

“I lost the first time, and I won the second time,” said Hampton, as he recounted the steps of the renaming process during Thursday’s night’s re-dedication ceremony. “I was happy to accept the compromise.”

A video was shown to the crowd that also recounted the story of the naming process. Still images of the proceedings, regional media reports, and black and white photos from the 1960s depicting blacks barred from public schools during massive resistance were all tied together by two songs: Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come,” and singer John Legend and rapper Common’s song “Glory.” The video depicted School Board leaders as political heroes upon reaching the compromise to rename the school.

“That sums up everything,” said Neabsco District School Board member Diane Ralston, who represents parents, students, teachers, and staff at Hampton Middle on the Prince William County School Board.

 

hampton2

Hampton Middle School Principal Jehovanni Mitchell hosted the ceremony, guiding elected officials, parents, teachers, students, and visitors from the Phi Lamda Lamda Chapter of Hampton’s Omega Psi Phi Fraternity through school. She outlined the changes needed to transform what Prince William County School Board Superintendent Steven Walts called “the other school” into Hampton Middle.

The school traded the “Governors” mascot, chosen because Mills E. Godwin was a two-term Virginia Governor, for the “Huskies.” The new school logo is now painted in the gym and in hallways, as well as printed on new t-shirts, sweatshirts, and other apparel that was sold at the re-dedication ceremony.

Residents remarked on the interior school of the school, noting rooms appeared brighter, and hallways and classrooms appeared cleaner than they had been when the school had the Godwin moniker.

School officials spent an estimated $265,700 to change the name of the and to make improvements to the building. A total of $66,000 was paid for new athletic uniforms, $60,000 on painting new murals in the gyms and hallways, $25,000 to repaint and reseal the gym floor, $23,000 to replace handicapped signage at the building, and $20,000 for miscellaneous expenses.

The estimated cost is lower than an April report from a School official that said that the renaming could cost as much as $500,000

hampton1

School officials have been busy this week at dedication ceremonies. On Monday, leaders opened the county’s 12th high school, Colgan High School — the first school in the county to include a swimming pool, and one of the costliest schools ever built in the state at $111 million.

The new Kyle Wilson Elementary was dedicated Tuesday as the county’s 59th elementary school. The school has 850 seats, and will provide overcrowding relief for nearby Ashland, Coles, and Rosa Parks elementary schools.

Prince William County Public Schools students head back to class for the first day of school on Monday, Aug. 29, 2016, to begin the 2016-17 school year.

News
Aquatics center inside Colgan High School to open September 10

Students and residents will have a new place to swim starting September 10 when the ribbon is cut on the new indoor Prince William County Aquatics Center.

The facility includes a 500,000-gallon competition swimming pool with a moveable bulkhead for multiple meet configurations, a 50,000 gallon, zero-depth leisure pool, and a 150-foot long 20-foot high water slide.

The swim center located inside the newly built $111 million Colgan High School — one of the most costly high schools ever built in the state — will be open to the community seven days a week and be will be used by students. Getting students acquainted with the pool — children who otherwise not be acclimated to the water at home — is a core mission of the swim facility.

After the school year begins on August 2 and the pool opens for business two weeks later, second-grade students will come to the aquatics facility on a field trips to learn about water safety as part of the many educational programs planned at the pool.

“We’re not teaching them how to swim, but we are providing some instruction for safety in and around the water, and maybe someday that will save a life,” said Prince William Aquatics Center Manager Allen Dunn.

Drowning is the second-leading cause of the death for children under the age of 14. Black children are statistically more likely to drown than whites, officials added. 

The pool will be used as a field trip site for students who do not attend Colgan High School. Physical education students at Colgan will use the pool as part of their curriculum.

Nine Prince William County Public Schools will have daily swim team practices here, as well as two U.S. Swim teams. Teams from area homeowners associations will also use the facility. Dunn has already scheduled three conference meets and two regional swim meets at the facility.

prince william aqatics facility

A raised spectator spanning the length of the competition pool allows for extensive views of the indoor center. With an occupancy of 465 people, the facility is slightly larger than the indoor pool at the Freedom Aquatics and Fitness Center just outside Manassas, said Dunn.

The depth of the competition pool at the aquatics center ranges from four feet in the shallows to 12 and a half feet on the deep end. When not in use by swim teams, residents will be able to use the pool for activities ranging from swimming lessons, water aerobics, to scuba diving training.

Not only is the size of the facility impressive, but so is the “state-of-the-art” equipment used in the pump room to keep the pool clean. Ultra-violet light is used to disinfect the water during the filtration process, before its sent back to the pool.

“You’ll notice the air in here is pretty clear, low humidity, and you don’t have that strong chlorine smell you usually associate with other indoor swimming facilities, because of UV light and lower amount of chlorine we use…” said Dunn.

The doors to the aquatic center will open at 9:30 a.m. on September 10, and recreational swimming in both pools and use of the waterslide will be free. School officials hope residents will come and get aquatinted the new facility and then return in the following days as paying customers.

The pool will be open for public use from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends, and 6 to 10 a.m., and 4 to 9 p.m. on weekdays.

Weekday evening hours will start at 6 p.m. beginning in November and last until the end of the high school swimming season.

Daily admission to the aquatics center will cost $5 for ages 3 to 15, $7 for ages 16 to 59, $5 for those 60 and older, and $15 for a family pass.

A 20 visit pass costs $75 for ages 3 to 15, $112.50 for those aged 16 to 15, and $75 for those over 60.

A one-month membership to the facility will cost $45 for those aged 3 to 15, $67.50 for those aged 16 to 59, $45 for those over 60, and $115 for a family.

A 12-month membership to the facility costs $273 for ages 3 to 15, $409.50 for those between the ages of 16 and 59, $273 for those over 60, and $819 for a family.

A separate entrance for the aquatics center at the rear of the school building will allow the public to come and go without entering the main section of Colgan High School. Inside the facility, doors will be locked preventing public access to the school. This will make it easier for the public to use the facility while keeping the students inside the school buying more secure, said Dunn.

The Prince William Aquatics Facility joins the Freedom Aquatic and Fitness Center, and the Chinn and Sharon Baucom Dale City Rec Center both in Dale City as public swimming facilities in the county. The facility is also the first and only swimming pool at a public school in Prince William County.

The Prince William Aqutics Facility is located at 13719 Dumfries Road near Woodbridge.

News
Simons will not be interim replacement for Trenum on School Board

And then there were two. 

Gil Trenum told us this morning that Kim Simons is no longer in the running to temporarily replace him on the Prince William County School Board. 

Simons withdrew her name from the list citing what she called defamatory accusations by Prince William County School Board Chairman Ryan Sawyers made in a press release August 4, claiming Simons, an accountant, has a client in the pornography industry. A political blog also claimed Simons boasted about having a customer in the porn business. 

“There is nothing illegal in Kim Simons’ actions… But there is no getting around the question of whether or not this is appropriate for someone applying to be on the School Board,” the blog stated. 

Simons said the action of the School Board Chairman created a hostile environment, and that the allegations are false. 

“Chairman Sawyers, acting in his official capacity, has chosen to attack me and question my morality, causing unnecessary stress on my family,” Simons penned in her letter. 

Simons is one of three people Trenum, a Naval Commander, named to be his temporary replacement on the School Board while he is deployed to Djibouti, Africa this year. 

“I am extremely disappointed. Ms. Simons has given many hours of her personal time over the past several years working to make Prince William County Schools a better place for our students and our teachers. I am very appreciative of the time that we worked together and look forward to working with her again after I return,” stated Trenum in an email to Potomac Local.

Christopher Park and Shawn Brann remain in the running to replace Trenum. Park has a background in government property management while Brann works as a senior technical writer working on federal government contracts. 

The Virginia Attorney General’s Office last week opined that the School Board must name a temporary replacement for Trenum during his absence, and return the seat to him upon his return from duty.

Trenum is set to deploy to Africa this month. He will hold a special town hall meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, August 9, 2016, at Marsteller Middle School to discuss his upcoming deployment, as well as answer constituent questions.

Marsteller Middle School is located at 14000 Sudley Manor Drive in Bristow.

News
Here are the people Trenum wants to temporarily replace him on the Prince William School Board

Updated

Kim Simons withdrew her name from consideration to temporarily fill Gil Trenum’s seat on the Prince William County School Board. 

An earlier version of this post showed Simon’s resume. It was removed. 

Original post

Gil Trenum says he’ll stay the course and continue advocating for school leaders to choose one of three handpicked interim successors for him.

Trenum, the Brenstville District representative on the Prince William County School Board, is a Naval Commander by day and will deploy for Djibouti, Africa this month for one year. 

Until yesterday, the Prince William County School Board sought legal advice from the state’s Attorney General’s Office on how to proceed to temporarily fill Trenum’s seat. Word came from that office that it is required by law to fill the seat with whomever the Board chooses, and then give back the seat to Trenum when he returns from duty.

Here’s a letter we received this morning from Trenum: 

Today State Senator Scott Surovell (D) posted an informal opinion on an online newsletter from the Office of the Attorney General, Mark Herring (D) that is inconsistent with the legal advice given to me by the non-partisan Privileges & Elections Attorneys from the Division of Legislative Services. This opinion has still not been officially provided to the School Board.  My actions and statements in fact have been based entirely on the independent legal advice I received from the Division of Legislative Services. The fact that the Attorney General does not agree with their independent opinion is not my issue to resolve.  An Attorney General’s opinion is not law, it is just an opinion, however we must move forward from here.

My position remains the same; I still feel that for the Brentsville District to have the most consistent and effective representation that the temporary appointment should come from someone with whom I have already developed a good working relationship.  From the beginning I sought to leave partisanship out of this decision by selecting three volunteers who are not past or present members of any local party committee.  I selected parents I knew had been dedicated to the schools for years in various volunteer positions and who have extensive budget committee experience.  They are all individuals who have consistently put students and teachers first.  I would be proud to continue to work with any of these three citizens. 

I’m not asking for anything more than the support of my fellow Board members during this stressful time.  By choosing from one of the three individuals whose resumes I provided to the entire board, we can ensure there will be an easy transition and a positive working relationship.  The Attorney General’s opinion allows for that and it is a wise course of action for the Brentsville District that I have represented for 3 consecutive terms.

By supporting my wishes, the Board will also be respecting the wishes of the Brentsville District citizens who have been vocal about their support of my temporary replacement suggestions.  I hope that the School Board will see that decision is the best for all involve

Here are the resumes of the three people Trenum wishes to fill his seat on an interim basis: 

Download the PDF file .

Download the PDF file .

News
Prince William School Board must appoint interim replacement for deploying Naval Officer

andersonpressconf

The Prince Willaim County School Board must decide who will become a temporary replacement for one of its eight members.

Trenum2016

Trenum

Brentsville District representative Gil Trenum, a Naval Commander, will deploy for duty to Djibouti, Africa this month. It’s the first time “in many years” Trenum has been deployed, he told the School Board in July, adding that the Navy gave him only a short notice to pack his bags.

Trenum named three potential replacements — any one of which would serve in his place on an interim basis — that the School Board needs to approve. To date, the School Board has not approved any of Trenum’s handpicked temporary replacements — proxies he would confer with about School Board matters during his deployment.

Instead, the School Board waited for an unofficial opinion on the matter that arrived Thursday from the Office of Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, that states the School Board is legally required to fill the seat, and then return the seat to Trenum when he returns from service. The unofficial opinion comes not from Herring but from G. Timothy Oksman, who works in the Attorney General’s office. 

On Thursday, Republican lawmakers gathered outside Prince William County Public Schools to put pressure on the School Board to appoint one of the three candidates picked by Trenum.

“…I believe that the School Board should, in good faith, follow the good tradition of appointing someone that Gil feels will look after the constituents that elected him,” said Virginia Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R, Prince William – Fauquier).

“The School Board needs to be respectful of Gil Trenum, a man who had the guts to put on a uniform. His family is sacrificing, he’s going to Africa for a year, this needs to be respectful of him, and it also needs to be respectful of the constituents who live in his district,” said Virginia Delegate Tim Hugo [R-Fairfax, Prince William].

Trenum has served on the School Board for the past eight years and is popular in the Brentsville District. He won his last election in 2015 with 98% of the vote and no opponents. In 2011, he beat out two opponents winning nearly half of the votes in the district.

Prince William County School Board Chairman Ryan Sawyers today blamed the very legislators who spoke in support of Trenum for the delay in appointing an interim replacement.

“Some of these same elected officials are members of the legislative body that drafted and adopted the statutory language that has caused the ambiguity the school board is now forced to resolve. It was their legislative body, the Virginia General Assembly, which adopted a statute that applies only to constitutional officers, not school board members, thus creating the current confusion,” stated Sawyers in an email to Potomac Local.

In 2002, Virginia’s Attorney General found that a naval reservist did not have to relinquish his office when called to duty. Two years later, Virginia’s Attorney General opined that an Army Reservist and a member of a county Board of Supervisors did not have to relinquish his seat when called to duty.

Virginia State Senator Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax, Prince William) requested the unofficial opinion from the Attorney General’s office.

“I requested an opinion because there was clear disagreement within the county what the correct mode of procedure was when this situation arises…I thought the [unofficial] Attorney General opinion provides clarity ought to proceed, or if it should proceed… and we now have an answer to what the process is and it’s now up to the Prince William County School Board to decide how to exercise their authority,” said Surovell.

Trenum did not attend Thursday’s press conference. He was at Andrews Air Force Base preparing for his upcoming deployment, said Anderson. No Democrats holding local or state legislative office were invited to the press conference, he added. 

Trenum stated will miss the celebrations of his 25th wedding anniversary and son’s graduation from college. 

“No matter where I am, I want people to know that you will still have access to me via email. Although, I do love to visit our schools and meet with parents, students, and teachers, 90% of my works helping constituents is done via email,” Trenum told the School Board. 

The Prince William County School Board is scheduled to meet next on Sept. 7, 2016.

Page 1 of 2512345...1020...Last »