Added intersessions would include college prep courses, internships, field trips
This week, Manassas Park City Schools held round table meetings for its community members to address concerns about the district implementing a new balanced school calendar.
The new calendar would begin August 17 and close again on June 20. This new schedule includes week-long breaks in October and March, with the usual 10-day holiday vacation in December. Additionally, two-week long intersessions will be added to the calendar in October and April. Intersessions are optional for the students and would include everything from college prep courses to internships and field trips. They would be of no additional cost to the students.
School Board Chair Brenda K. Foster said that they modeled the new calendar off of Galax City Public Schools, which successfully implemented it last year.
“I am excited about any calendar option that can help improve learning success for our students,” Foster said. The meetings were a way to get parents and community members involved in finding solutions or ideas for potential problems that may arise with the changes. Over the course of the three meetings, 300 people attended, a huge turnout, according to Foster.
Community members raised some concern over the changes, particularly about the effect it would have on finding childcare and the costs involved.
“I’m a little concerned about overall cost and additional effort required by the teachers to implement the sessions,” said Leeann Brogdan, a parent
She added that she liked the concept but wasn’t sure if the execution was the best.
Another concern was how this would affect summer vacations. The meeting participants sat around circular tables and were able to discuss their concerns with others seated at their table. Then, they listed them on flip chart paper and taped them to the wall so that everyone could share ideas and opinions.
Despite parent’s hesitation, teachers seem willing to try out the new format at the risk they’d have to work more.
“I feel like teachers by nature are willing to do extra work to help children succeed,” said Sara Silber, a 5th-grade teacher at Cougar Elementary School in Manassas Park.
Children also supported the change.
“You can prepare for the tests and all of that, but that’s nothing compared to real-world experience,” said high school freshman Alex Petsopoulos said about the proposed intersessions.
Petsopoulos expressed excitement in the type of activities that might be available in that week.
Though he did have some reservations about the start date.
“My birthday’s the 18th, and we start school on the 17th so that can’t happen,” Petsopoulos joked.
Foster and the rest of the school board plan on traveling to Galax City Public Schools on Feb. 11 through 13 to observe their spring intersession before the board votes on the new calendar on February 23.
Neighboring counties pay entry-level teachers more
As the Prince William County School Board gears up for another budget cycle, it is timelier than ever to look closely at an important topic in local education – the current state of teacher pay in the county.
The average annual teacher salary, according to Jim Livingston, the Prince William Education Association president is $60,408 – a figure he pulled from a 2014 Washington Area Boards of Education (WABE) report.
Phil Kavits, spokesman for Prince William County Public Schools, stated that the average annual teacher salary in the county is a bit higher than Livingston’s figure at $61,525.
These averages are worth noting when considering a quick drive to the surrounding area school divisions can greatly alter the average salary that a public school teacher receives.
“The only school division that is lower in average teacher salary in the area is Manassas Park. The other [counties] are at least $2,800 to $3,000 more than us. For example, if you cross over to Fairfax County…that’s a $7,000 pay increase based on the average,” said Livingston of the county’s low pay-average.
“The reasons that the salaries remain low, particularly at the entry level – that’s where we have the greatest difficulty – is quite frankly that our neighbor [counties] around us have simply determined that it’s in their best interest to try and attract the very best [teachers] that they can. And frankly, we’ve simply just not kept pace…” Livingston said.
The county’s School Board is facing a $20 million budget deficit. On Feb 4, it will meet to discuss some possible ways to fix the problem by proposing new cuts to the division’s billion-dollar budget. The cuts come as county leaders propose a lower tax increase of 1.3% than the original planned 4% hike in property taxes.
Things like transportation for specialty programs at middle and high schools, and full day kindergarten in non-title one schools are all things being eyed by the School Board as items to slash from the budget.
Teacher pay raises, however, are not, according to School Board Chairman, At-large Milton C. Johns.
Editor’s note: This is the first in an ongoing series that examines public school teacher pay in Prince William County.
- Freedom Aquatic and Fitness Center
- Address: 9100 Freedom Center Blvd, Manassas, Va.
- Phone: 703-993-8444
- Website: http://www.freedom-center.com/
What is the Attack The Fat Challenge?
Come see the Capitol Steps at Hylton Arts Center & help Cecily replace the asbestos-laden siding on her home
- Rotary Club of Bull Run
- Address: City Tavern 9405 Main Street, Manassas, Va
- Website: http://bullrunrotary.org/
When Cecily was in her 20’s she immigrated to the U.S. from Nicaragua.
Taking a job at Home Depot in Springfield, Cecily met her future husband, Eddy, who had emigrated from Palau. Cecily and Eddy married in 2008 and now share their Woodbridge home with their two children, Cecily’s mother, and grandmother.
A tight-knit family, everyone pitches in to help. Cecily operates a daycare from her home while also attending school at Northern Virginia Community College.
Cecily’s mom is a certified nursing assistant with a job in Washington, D.C. Eddy continues to work at Home Depot and he and Cecily’s mom and grandmother all help care for the children, too.
Habitat for Humanity Prince William County is looking forward to giving this hard working family a hand up with much-needed critical home repairs that will make their home safer, more comfortable and affordable.
Habitat for Humanity will replace the boiler that is original to the home, replace asbestos siding from three sides of the exterior and replace non-functional windows throughout the home. The deck must be rebuilt for safety. And the home will be weatherized for energy efficiency.
Habitat for Humanity thanks you for your support of the Capitol Steps event and welcomes you to join them on their work sites as a volunteer!
To learn more, visit Habitat for Humanity’s website at habitatpwc.org.
Mark your calendars for Laughs & Love benefit February 21 at 7 p.m. at the Hylton Performing Arts Center. Not only are we having the hilarious Capitol Steps come to the beautiful Hylton Center, but our Rotary Club has proudly partnered with Casa, Habitat for Humanity, Rainbow Center Therapeutic Riding, Calling All Souls and Transitional Housing Barn as the beneficiaries this year.
By selling out the 1,200 seats at the Hylton, we will raise $50,000. All proceeds raised will go directly to organizations that are on the front lines helping care for, encourage, lift spirits, give hope and opportunity to our struggling neighbors. These organizations are the unsung heroes in our community whose compassion makes our community a place we can be proud of.
They cannot do it alone!
To order tickets go to Hyltoncenter.org or call 1-888-945-2468. If you or your business would like to sponsor the event, please contact Steve Chapman, firstname.lastname@example.org by Feb 10.
The preceding post was sponsored by Rotary Club of Bull Run.
For the first time, Prince William County’s School Board will provide budget guidance to Schools Superintendent Dr. Steven Walts.
The elected board will tell Walts of key items they would like to see funded as well as areas that could be cut to help make up for a coming $11 million shortfall in the fiscal year 2016 schools operating budget.
The move comes as the Prince William County Board of Supervisors directed officials to create a budget based on a 1.3% growth rate in the average real estate property tax bill, not the 4% tax growth rate as was approved last year. Since the county gives 57% of its entire budget to the school division, the lower rate means fewer tax fewer resources for county schools.
On the chopping block cutting full-day kindergarten for non-Title 1 schools, something that’s been the norm for the past 10 years. Slashing transportation funding for high school and middle school specialty programs, which provides buses for students to attend classes at selected school sites across the county that provide a student’s specialty program like arts, math, and sciences, is also on the table.
The resolution also calls for halting some $52 million in capital improvements to schools that were to take place this year. Things like renewal of six elementary schools in eastern Prince William, HVAC repairs and replacement, window replacement, and energy infrastructure improvements are all on the list.
The Board is expected to tell Walts to find ways to continue to fund class size reduction plans, as well as to find a way to fund a salary step increase for schools employees.
“If we want to do these two things which we told the Board of Supervisors are priorities for us, we’re going to have to look at other areas to cut, said School Board Chairman Milton C. Johns, who proposed the new budget guidance measure.
Johns called this a “watershed year” for the school division as it looks to make up an overall $20 million shortfall, with the $11 million deficit included following the county’s 1.3% tax bill growth.
“I hate this. We’ve pushed off orders for replacement buses. We’ve pushed off technology upgrades. But we’re going to have to make some tough decisions – and it’s not just $11 million one time, its $11 million each year over the course of the next five years,” said Gainesville School Board representative Allison Satterwhite.
The stalled technology upgrades Satterwhite mentioned were supposed to cost $4.5 million and included upgrades to phone systems, computer servers, and interactive projectors.
The School Board is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 4. The Board also expects to hear from Dr. Walts at that meeting about the state of the upcoming budget.
- Historic Manassas, Inc.
- Address: 9431 West Street, Manassas, Virginia
- Phone: 703-361-6599
- Website: http://visitmanassas.org/
Historic Downtown Manassas is putting on the Soup for First Friday February.
On Feb. 6 from 6 to 9 p.m., city restaurants are pairing up with downtown merchants to offer a soup for sampling. Five-dollar wristbands allow participants to sample the soups from each location and vote to name a champion of the “Souper Bowl.”
A list of participating merchants for Manassas First Friday is available at visitmanassas.org.
Inspired by the success of the monthly event concept held in other localities, First Friday in Historic Downtown was created by the Historic Manassas, Inc. promotions committee to enhance tourism and entertainment offerings in the City of Manassas. The initial First Friday event was held in February 2014 and has grown and evolved. Some months feature roving musicians and caricature artists, while other months feature sidewalk art or special foods, like this month.
The preceding promoted post was written by the City of Manassas.
Now that Prince William schools will start classes prior to Labor Day, Manassas schools will do the same.
Here’s the latest in a press release from the city’s schools office:
On Tuesday, January 13, 2015, the School Board approved a revised 2015-16 calendar that now includes an August 31, 2015 start date for students.
Virginia law typically prohibits school divisions from starting prior to Labor Day. However, the Virginia Board of Education waives the requirement if a school board certifies that it meets one of the good cause requirements set forth in the code. Recently Prince William County Schools (PWCS), adopted a start date prior to Labor Day for 2015-2016 by meeting exemptions as indicated in the Code of Virginia.
The decision by PWCS now enables Manassas City Public Schools (MCPS) to meet one of the “good cause” options of Section 22.1-79.1 of the Code of Virginia, which states “if a school division is entirely surrounded by a school division that has an opening date prior to Labor Day in the school year for which the waiver is sought, such school division may open schools on the same opening date as the surrounding school division”. Therefore, the previously approved MCPS school year calendar for 2015-2016 has been amended to include a pre-Labor Day start (August 31, 2015) for students.
Please note that this change still fulfills the 180-day requirement for students with the last day of school now listed as June 16, 2016.
Ilka Chavez resigned her seat on the Manassas City School Board last night.
The school board member was first elected to the position in 2012 and was to complete her term in 2016. Chavez said her decision to step down was a personal one that “is in the best interest of her family.”
Her resignation leaves an open seat on the Manassas City School Board. The school division office posted a press release with more details:
Chavez has been a member of the School Board since July 2012. During her tenure, she has served on the Academic Committee, Educational Support Committee, Personnel Committee, and the ESOL Advisory Committee. Chavez has also been deeply involved in the Virginia School Boards Association.
“Mrs. Chavez has served the citizens of the City of Manassas and the children of Manassas City Public Schools well for the last two and a half years,” said Tim Demeria, Board Chairman. “She is a true public servant and an advocate for children, so I know she will remain involved in our City. On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank her for her contributions and we wish her well.”
Chavez’s resignation now means that there is an opening to serve on the School Board. The Board has 45 days to fill the vacancy with a provisional appointment. City of Manassas residents interested in being considered for appointment by the School Board should send letters of interested and a brief resume to the school Board, Attention: Clerk of the Board, 8700 Centreville Road, Suite 400, Manassas VA 20110. Letters of interest must be received in the Clerk’s office by 4:30 pm on February 2nd.
Candidates will have the opportunity to present their qualifications to the School Board at a Public Hearing to be held on February 17th at 7:00 pm. (and February 18th, if necessary) at the School Board’s administrative office.
The appointee will serve until November 2015 when a special election is held to fill the remaining year of Chavez’s original term.
In December, City of Manassas resident Mark Johnson had an idea for the #SayIWont video contest put on by Grammy Award winner Lecrae Moore and Reach Records. The video contest asked participants to make a 15 second video showing how “you’re not scared to be different.” Mark’s video featured members of the Manassas City Police Department.
Mark Johnson had the idea, in light of current happenings in other areas of the country, to show a positive relationship between the Manassas City Police Department and a City resident. His video shows him coming into MCPD Roll Call and encouraging the officers about to go out in the field.
Mark went to Osbourn High School in the City of Manassas. After a rocky start, including being expelled from school, Mark went back to Osbourn to finish high school with an advanced diploma. When asked why he chose the Manassas City Police Department to feature in his video, Mark said he remembered the great conversations he had in high school with Officer Cahill and he used that contact to make the video happen.
On Dec. 12, while attending the Manassas City Police Department holiday luncheon, Mark received a phone call from Reach Records saying he had won the national video contest and had won a trip to New York City to accompany Lecrae Moore to a Brooklyn Nets game.
“We are honored that Mark chose the MCPD to feature in his video,” said Chief Doug Keen from the Manassas City Police Department. “Mark Johnson’s video sheds a positive light on relationships with police officers and those relationships are something we want to promote in the City of Manassas. We congratulate Mark on his award winning video.”
Johnson traveled to New York City in December.
The preceding promoted post was written by the City of Manassas.
Winning artwork to be featured on light poles in Manassas
Have you seen the banners that hang on the light poles in the Historic Downtown area of the City of Manassas and in other cities? If you are an artist or aspiring to be one, the art you create could be hanging on one of those light poles.
Historic Manassas, Inc. and the City of Manassas have launched an art contest to fill the banners in Historic Downtown with original pieces of art. The contest will be juried so that one artist will be awarded a grand prize of $1,000 and there will also be “people’s choice award” of $500. The contest deadline has been extended to Feb. 1, 2015.
This contest is part of an effort to promote art and tourism in the City of Manassas. The winning 50 pieces will be featured on the light pole banners and in a walking tour brochure that includes information on the piece and the artist. Information about the contest can be found at visitmanassas.org/banner-art-project.
The preceding promoted post was written by the City of Manassas.
Prince William County Public Schools issued an apology for not delaying school start times in the county, due to weather and road conditions.
According to Kara Tilgner, Information Specialist for the public schools, the county did not delay because the projection of up to 6 inches of snowfall came too late in the morning.
We apologize for the weather-related complications this morning. Multiple PWCS staff were on duty monitoring the weather and roads throughout the night and into the early-morning hours. Based upon this information, we decided to keep schools open. At that point in time, multiple weather forecasts only called for a small accumulation of snow—up to one inch. The national weather forecast changed at 7:01 a.m. to 2–4 inches of snow, and again at9:03 a.m. bringing the forecast up to 4–6 inches. Unfortunately, this was logistically too late to reverse course on the decision.
In order to provide SACC services and to give the needed time to VDOT and our own PWCS crews to plow roads and parking lots, there won’t be an early release. The School Division will close on-time; however, all after school and evening activities are canceled including Night School, GED, and Adult Education classes. SACC will close at 5 p.m.
Thank you for your patience. We sincerely apologize for the difficulties caused by the weather this morning. ?
Tim Singstock, a lifelong Prince William County resident and former officer in the Army, is running to be the next Prince William County Public School Board Chairman.
His announcement comes the same week current School Board Chairman Milton C. Johns decided not to seek reelection.
Singstock lives in Montclair with his family and currently works as a self-employed tax accountant. He attended the county’s public schools while growing up.
“I grew up right here in Prince William County, and I went to Prince William County public schools. I went to Virginia Tech on an Army ROTC scholarship and then served as an officer in the United States Army for five years,” Singstock said.
In addition to his work in the military and tax accounting, Singstock also worked as a defense contractor and project manager assisting the Marine Corps.
For Singstock, the position was one he has been considering for a long time.
“School board chairman specifically is something that I’ve been interested in for quite a while and I was contemplating, down the road – maybe in 2019 – perhaps running for the position. So, I was delighted to learn that the opportunity would come sooner in 2015,” he said.
“I feel that my generation has an obligation to ensure that today, these kids are prepared to run America in the twenty-first century,” he said of his motivation to run for the seat, continuing, “I want to serve the community I grew up in.”
He has already received endorsement for his candidacy from Johns, who will complete his term next year.
Potomac Supervisor Maureen Caddigan will also endorse Singstock.
For Singstock, there are two major concerns that need to be addressed by the school board – school safety and classroom size.
“The [first] issue I’m concerned about, is that I want to make sure that we continue to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for our kids. And so the work that I do as a parent and volunteer on the Safe School Advisory Council has kind of given me a passion for school safety,” Singstock said.
One important issue he seeks to address during his campaign is growing classroom sizes, which have been talked about as a major issue in the Prince William County Public School system for several years.
“Another issue that I hear, as I talk to teachers and I talk to parents, [is] that everyone is concerned about crowding, and we have schools above 100 percent capacity. Part of that needs to be addressed by the Board of County Supervisors because the development decisions that they make have an impact on classroom size. But on the School Board side, I think it’s a budget issue,” he said.
For him, these issues can both be addressed with good management and living within the allotted county and state education budgets.
“I would like to try and take the resources that the tax payers of Prince William County and Virginia give us, live within the parameters of those resources, and then focus those resources to the greatest extent on the classroom. And I think that’s how we as a school board can begin to address the issue of crowded classrooms,” Singstock said.
The official launch for Singstock’s campaign will kick off in January. Voters will head to the polls on Nov. 3, 2015.
Party was held at school division headquarters
A Prince William County Schools employee came to an office birthday party dressed in a toga.
The party was held during work hours on Nov. 21 inside the Prince William County Schools headquarters, the Edward L. Kelly Leadership Center. An unidentified male employee wore a bed sheet fashioned in a toga and wore with gym clothes underneath the sheet, said Prince William County Public Schools spokeswoman Irene Cromer. She added the dress was inappropriate for a party held at the schools’ offices during work hours.
“Those responsible are being held accountable, ” said Cromer, who did not know how long the unidentified toga-wearing male has worked for the school division.
The party was held by the student services department at the leadership center. Carolyn Custard, the former principal at C.D. Hylton High School and current director of the Student Services department and was at the party.
“While brief celebrations of employee birthdays are a common practice in the American workplace, as it is in Prince William County Public Schools as one way to boost morale, the event in question clearly reflects poor judgment.
No one was injured during the party. It is unclear if the unidentified toga-wearer had been exercising prior to arriving at the party, said Cromer.
The Edward L. Kelly Leadership Center at 14715 Bristow Road houses the school division’s central offices. The division also has offices at nearby Independent Hill at 14800 Joplin Road.
Prince William hit hardest by cost of living funding cuts, says Senator
Prince William County officials told legislators cuts to the county’s school system have taken a toll over the last five years.
In total, Prince William Schools have lost $48.6 million in education funding from state sources, said Tracy Gordon, assistant to the county executive. Most of the cuts have been from raises provided to attract qualified teachers to work and live in the area, known as “cost to compete” or cost of living adjustments.
State Senator George Barker (D-Fairfax, Prince William) noted cost to compete cuts have been widespread in areas like Winchester and Fredericksburg, but the $11.6 million removed from Prince William’s school budget accounts for a third of all total cost of competing cuts in the state.
“Is there a realistic shot of getting this money back this year?” asked Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart, At-large.
“The sad reality is we’re hunting $500 million in the out years [of the state budget],” said Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-Fauquier, Prince William). “We’ll help the county the best we can. But we remain in a difficult climate. It would be improper for any of us to sit at this table to say we’ll go back, and find that pot of money, and bring it back to you.”
Lingamfelter said, “cost to compete” is a “sound” idea and has helped many teachers move to Northern Virginia, an area with much higher property values than other portions of the state.
At the meeting, Virginia legislators did their best to impress upon Prince William leaders that money is tight and that they shouldn’t expect any new or additional funding following January’s General Assembly session in Richmond. Compounding the problem is sales taxes are lower than expected, meaning people are spending less.
Officials have also looked at eliminating a statewide tax relief on vehicles to ease the burden on state residents. But Lingamfelter warned such a cut would leave localities looking for new sources of funding.
“If they got rid of the car tax relief guess what you would be doing here? Raising taxes,” he said.
*This story has been corrected
The Prince William County School Board voted 7-1 to accept the new boundary plans for the 12th high school, including several amendments. Click here for the full story from our news partner Bristow Beat.
This Saturday, Nov. 22, Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School near Dumfries will host their 4th annual JP5K Run/Walk for Options. The race, which will take place on the school campus and the surrounding neighborhood, is being hosted to raise funds for the school’s Options program, which provides educational opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities.
“[This race] supports our Options program, which currently serves about six students with intellectual impairments,” said Jennifer Cole, Director of Admissions and Marketing for Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School.
Last year the race had about 600 participants, and they’re hoping for a similar turnout this year. In last year’s run, the school raised several thousands to help fund the Options program.
“It’s really important to us that families know that there is a Catholic school that has a program that can meet the needs of students with these disabilities, because it’s not something that has traditionally been very available,” said Cole of the importance of such a program in the community, noting that children from all faith backgrounds are accepted.
The goal of this program is to give students a place where they can contribute to the educational community, spending part of their time with an individualized curriculum, and another part of their day spent with other students in the classroom.
“We have a program where they spend part of their day in the classroom – it’s a very individualized program and they’re learning at the level that is appropriate for each one of them. And the other part of the day, our Options students are in our mainstream classrooms with ‘buddies’…these are students that are like mentors,” said Cole.
Runners for the race can register on the race website, or the day of at the race, from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m. The address for the campus is 17700 Dominican Drive in Dumfries.
Prince William County Schools has announced the schedule for the half-day early dismissal for schools on Wednesday, Nov. 26.
Members of the Forest Park High School “Marching Bruin Band” became stars of their own Disney show on Nov. 2 when they entertained resort guests at the Magic Kingdom Park. The group traveled from Woodbridge to the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida to take part in the Disney Performing Arts program.
The marching band, under the direction of Donald Magee, entertained hundreds of Magic Kingdom Park guests as they marched through Frontierland and around Cinderella Castle onto Main Street, U.S.A. before the “Festival of Fantasy Parade.”
This was the group’s fifth visit to the resort with the Disney Performing Arts program.
In addition to their performance, the students participated in the Disney Performing Arts “You’re Instrumental Workshop,” where they learned how to get the most of their rehearsals and honed their sight-reading skills under the guidance of an experienced Disney Teaching Artist.
Dance, vocal and instrumental ensembles from all around the world apply to perform each year as a part of Disney Performing Arts at both the Disneyland Resort in California and the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Once selected, they are given the opportunity to perform at the resort for an international audience of theme park guests. Millions of performers have graced the stages of the Disney Parks in the more than 25-year history of the program.