Manassas Park High School lets students lead parent-teacher conferences


School hopes change will motive students to perform better  

We all know how parent-teacher conferences usually go. A long, exasperated groan from students and a stressful sigh from their parents. Most parents don’t even end up showing up, and the ones that do get a lecture about the things their child is doing wrong, not how they are progressing. This can add unnecessary pressure on students, making them feel like they’re not doing well enough.

Manassas Park High School Principal Dr. Deborah Bergeron and the have strived to change that this year by initiating student-led conferences run by students, not teachers. The hope is that this new method of conferences will increase parent participation and help them see how their child is progressing in a positive way.

The idea came from other new changes at MPHS this year. There is a focus on new, positive ways to get students more involved in their learning and excited about school. There is more focus on students self-managing themselves and being able to use student choice such as in choosing how to present projects and working more independently. An example of this is the new social contracts that were implemented in all classes as part of the “Capturing Kids’ Hearts” program. Contracts were created with student collaboration about how students want to be treated in their class environments. This new style of conferences has been made to tie in with some of the new changes. 

 “I believe these new conferences will be very helpful as the old style of conferences didn’t mesh with all of the new changes made this year,”said Manassas Park High School English and Theatre teacher Ms. Ignatius.

During conferences, students showed their parents how they were making progress in a class and how they were growing. This related to the self-managing style being focused on this year, as students decided how the conference with their parents should be led.

“The conferences worked well because they provided a positive and different atmosphere that was less serious than traditional parent-teacher conferences, and parents were able to know what was going on,” said sophomore Nafeesa Lodi.

Students were able to show their strengths and what they are excel in, as well as where they need to improve, and what they could do to improve in that area. Students also chose work that they wanted to show to their parents and give them their point of view on their work. Prior to conferences, students filled out a survey every week self-evaluating themselves on how they thought they were performing in their classes. Parents were able to view the results of the survey and see how their child evaluated themselves. Elective classes also had booths set up in the main hallways displaying student work.

Sophomore Caitlin Lawrence liked the new conference style.“The school should continue to do these conferences again next year,” she said.

Jessie Smith writes for the MPHS Script student newspaper and contributed this piece to Manassas Local.

Rippon Middle to see additional classrooms, county deals with lack of space for new schools

Rippon Middle School will undergo an eight classroom addition.
The addition will cost $7.4 million dollars.
The county currently requires 80 acres of space to build a school.
The county is looking at how to accommodate students with the acreage requirements, in the eastern end of the county.

As part of Prince William County’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP), Rippon Middle School is undergoing an addition of eight classrooms, while the county tackles the issue of running out of space for future school sites.

According to Phil Kavits, Communication Director for Prince William County Schools, the addition at Rippon Middle School is being done to deal with overcrowding.

“[Rippon’s addition] is slated to open in September 2016, as at cost of approximately $7.4 million. It will relieve overcrowding stemming from enrollment growth. Rippon has a capacity of 1139 students. By 2016, it is projected to be at 109% of current capacity, which would obviously addressed by the new space,” said Kavits.

While the Rippon Middle School addition is just one of the school projects mapped out in the CIP, there is currently a struggle to find enough space to build future schools in the county.

There is currently a requirement that 80 acres must be available for a school site, and this is a challenge, particularly in the eastern end of the county.

“If you look at our CIP [Capital Improvement Program], it provides a comprehensive listing of how many [school] sites we need. If you look forward through the next ten years, we need another 10 or 15 sites. There is an acknowledgment that with less space, we’ve got to take the building up…the footprint of a building, like in a high school, the building itself is one thing – but the other part is a football stadium, softball stadium, baseball stadium, practice fields…it’s just a substantial amount of land to do it,” said David Cline, Associate Superintendent at Prince William County Public Schools.

Cline stated that nearby Fairfax County Public Schools has purchased commercial office space to accommodate students, but there is an issue with this, as there is no open space for recreation functions on the site.

According to Cline, the county is looking at several options, including working to reduce the required acreage to build a school site.

“If it’s a matter of moving it from 80 [acres] to…60 acres, it would reduce the number of fields on it. Not eliminate them – but reduce them. That’s certainly an avenue. The other one that we probably would be considering…we may well be building on a 60 to 80 acre site in the county, but adjusting boundaries, in order to provide those facilities to kids,” said Cline.

Why were robots placed into the Manassas Park Community Center pool?

Robots in the pool at the Manassas Park Community Center. [Photo: Mary Davidson]
The Northern Virginia SeaPerch challenge held at the Manassas Park Community Center. [Photo: Mary Davidson]
SeaPerch identifies itself as a learning experience. [Photo: Mary Davidson]
Students place their ROVs in the water. [Photo: Mary Davidson]
An ROV out of water. [Photo: Mary Davidson]
An ROV in the pool. [Photo: Mary Davidson]
SeaPerch is an annual challenge. [Photo: Mary Davidson]
Medals were awarded as part of the SeaPerch challenge.[Photo: Mary Davidson]
Several students participated in the SeaPerch challenge. [Photo: Mary Davidson]
At the bottom of the pool.[Photo: Mary Davidson]
SeaPerch teaches naval architecture principals. [Photo: Mary Davidson]
Remotely Operated Vehicle [Photo: Mary Davidson]
Students operate their ROV. [Photo: Mary Davidson]

Students came to the Manassas Park Community Center on Friday and placed robots in the swimming.

No ordinary robots, the students built Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) as part of the Northern Virginia SeaPerch Challenge. Working with the SeaPerch, an underwater robotics program, students built their submersibles using a kit made of low-cost, easy to use parts.  The program teaches basic engineering, science, and math concepts, and tool safety.

Students also explore naval architecture and marine and ocean engineering principles. The SeaPerch name comes form the USS Perch, a World War II-era submarine, according to the organization’s website.

School board reverses decision on transgender student in Stafford

Jonathan Adams is the parent of a transgender child who sought to use the girls'  bathroom at Hartwood Elementary School in Stafford County.

Last night, the Stafford County School Board reversed an earlier decision to allow a transgender fourth-grade student to use the girls’ bathroom – even though the student is biologically a male.

The unanimous decision means that the individual, a student at Hartwood Elementary, now has to use a single-stall restroom, staff bathroom or the restroom of their biological gender.

The school board chamber was full during last night’s meeting.

Nearly two dozen people spoke on the matter — including the father of the student impacted.

School board chairwoman Nanette Kidby read the county schools’ non-discrimination policy aloud during the meeting, before opening it up for public comment.

The policy states that they will not discriminate against any person on the basis of race, sex, age, color, religion, national origin, political affiliations or disability.

“Title IX has been interpreted to require school systems to permit a transgender student to use the restroom consistent with the gender with which he or she identifies,” said Rick Fitzgerald, Executive Director of Human Resources for Stafford County Public Schools, stated in a letter.

Most of the people who spoke out against the school allowing the child to use the restroom of the biologically opposite sex wore large stickers on their clothing that said “Save Our Schools.”

The opponents mainly cited privacy issues and the safety of their children as reasons for not allowing people of the biologically opposite sex to share bathrooms, locker rooms, locker room showers or dressing rooms. Some speakers mentioned personal values as the reason for their objection.

“To have this forced upon us and have all of our values nullified is dangerous,” said Brian Bednar, continuing “We have male and female. We are all made that way.”

Davis named dean for arts at George Mason University

rick davis

Rick Davis, the long-time Executive Director for the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas, has been named as the new Dean for George Mason University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts.

Davis, who has been working with the university since 1992, will be in charge of overseeing seven academic programs and two performing arts centers in his new role.

“I have worked on both academic, and non-academic fronts…I’ve had about five different [roles] at the University. The first was running our theater company, and chairing the theater department. And then I became interim director of the Institute of the Arts, which is a predecessor to the college that we now have. Then artistic director for our Center of the Arts in Fairfax, and then Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education, and then I came to the Hylton [Performing Arts] Center in 2011,” said Davis.

The appointment comes after the current dean, Bill Reeder, decided to retire from the position.

“[The current dean] is retiring as Dean, although he’s staying on at George Mason as a faculty member in our management – which we’re very happy about…there was a nation search, that basically took from September till just now…I’m very honored and humbled to be the appointee,” said Davis.

While Davis is excited to get started as dean, he is no rush to transition a successor to the Hylton Center.

“We’re going to take our time and plan for an orderly succession at the Hylton. We don’t know what shape that will take – but I intend to remain in place at the Hylton for a while, because we currently have so many irons in the fire – so many things underway. I don’t see stepping away from that abruptly,” Davis commented.

According to Davis, his work over the years at the university, specifically as executive director at the Hylton Center has primed him for working as a dean.

“I think that my role at the Hylton has been to be a very public advocate for the arts as a whole, and for our work in the community. And I think that’s a good training ground for being a dean – you have to represent accurately and enthusiastically a whole range of art forms. And you have to be comfortable working across political spectrums, and fundraising and the community and all of those things are valuable in the toolkit of a dean,” said Davis.

There has been no announced start date for Davis to take up his new post at George Mason University as of yet. The Hylton Center announced their newest season lineup of performances last week.

Groundbreaking tomorrow for new high-tech Baldwin school in Manassas

The Manassas City School Board will be holding a groundbreaking ceremony tomorrow at 1 p.m. in Manassas, on the site of the new Baldwin Elementary and Intermediate schools.

The two schools will be built on the same site and will accommodate the growth of students in Manassas City, according to a release.

Manassas City Public Schools recently awarded the construction contract for the projects to Schiebel Construction out of Huntington, Maryland, according to Jeff Abt, the Executive Director of Student and Administrative Support Services for the school system.

Additionally, Abt was a former principal at the original Baldwin Elementary School from 1997 to 2005.

“This has been a twenty plus year idea…so getting to where we are now is just really exciting. It’s taken a long time getting there, but we’re now building a school where the…building is very flexible,” said Abt.

The project will cost just over $32 million in construction costs, which is being paid through bond funds, according to Abt.

“[This] will help with our overcrowding in our current intermediate school. The school will be approximately 1,000 students, 700 for [kindergarten through fourth grade] and 300 for the [fifth and sixth grade]…It’s going to replace our existing Baldwin Elementary School. It was a building that was built in 1958. And the new school is being relocated on Tudor Lane next to our high school,” Abt said.

According to initial design plans for the project, the site will have two distinct entrances, with PreK through fourth grade on the elementary side, and grades 5-6 on the intermediate side.

The elementary and intermediate school will be split up on each side of the site, but there will be some shared space between students, including the gymnasium.

Abt stated that the school would be built with the latest technology, with today’s learners in mind.

“What this school [will have] is learning neighborhoods outside of each floor – it’s three floors. And there’s a lot of glass, so that a teacher can have a small group outside of the classroom, and still be able to see them, with a larger group within the classroom,” said Abt, continuing, “Our computer labs will literally be in the learning neighborhoods. They won’t be in a room, like you would traditionally think with a computer lab. There will be a multitude of smart boards in the neighborhoods, potentially monitors in the neighborhoods. So it’s going to be tons of technology.”

The project is scheduled for completion by January 2017, but there are hopes that it will be completed sooner.

“[We have] hopes of potentially moving in sooner. The construction company would like to see if they can accelerate the construction of the project,” said Abt.

The groundbreaking ceremony is open to the public.

You can celebrate Fred M. Lynn Middle School’s 50th anniversary

Fred M. Lynn Middle School will celebrate 50 years on Friday.

Staff, students, and faculty will hold a gathering at 6 p.m. at the middle school in Woodbridge celebrate its “golden jubilee.”

Students in the school’s chorus and band will perform. There will also be a performance from the school’s dance team. Fred Lynn’s cheerleaders will also perform at the event.

Afterward, food and refreshments will be served, and parents and former students are invited to catch up on old times.

“Some students who attended the school 20 to 25 years ago will be able to get a bite to eat and at the same time reacquainted with their old school and each other,” said principal Jorge Neves.

A slideshow featuring images of the school over the years will be shown during the reception. Student art will also be on display.

The school was named after influential Prince William County School Board member Fred M. Lynn. It opened in 1964.

Fred Lynn’s family members – his two daughters Laddie and Becky, and his grandson are expected to speak at the event.

Today, the school has more than 1,000 students. Fred Lynn Middle School is an International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme Candidate World School and has a concentration in French and Spanish language education.

Neves said Prince William County Public Schools has kept the building in excellent working order over the years. The school has a new boiler system, new furniture, as Smart Boards in classrooms, computer labs, and science labs.

The principal credits great teachers, his fellow administrators, and partnerships with the area business community with the success of his school.

Friday’s event is free to attend.

Why George Mason University will drop ‘Prince William’ from its campus’ name

mason prince william

George Mason campus outside Manassas to be known for science and technology



George Mason University will rebrand its Prince William Campus at Innovation Park outside Manassas.

In a matter of weeks, the campus will soon be known as the George Mason University Center for Science and Technology. The school will drop the Prince William moniker used since the campus opened in 1997.

“We want to send a strong message that every time people talk about this campus that is it known fro the cutting edge work that is being done here,” George Mason University President Angel Cabrera told Potomac Local. “It will always be our location in Prince William, outside of Manassas for sure, but is sending a message on what we do here, and it’s part of our strategic plan where we are going to make our science and technology programs grow.”

The name change also means more of Mason’s engineering programs, as well as the university’s more “lab intensive” classes, will move to the science and tech center in Prince William. There is more excess space at the Prince William facility house such classes than there is at the university’s main campus in Fairfax, added Cabrera.

George Mason University sits at the heart of Innovation Park, a 1,600 acre, public-private cooperative effort to bring research firms, bio-manufacturing businesses, data centers, as well as other corporate offices to the center at the intersection of Route 234 and University Boulevard.

In recent years, Innovation has welcomed a new biotech firm and the Virginia Serious Game Institute, designed to foster creativity in video game design.

Cabrera said Mason is committed to working with Prince William County in making Innovation Park a success.

“We would all love [Innovation Park] to grow faster, but the momentum is there,” said Cabrera.

As more universities across the country focus more on science, math, and technology, Prince William’s top official says he won’t miss the Prince William moniker.

“This is phenomenal…this will mean the focus on investment in the future for George Mason University will be at its Prince William campus,” said

Prince William Board of Supervisors Chairman, At-large Corey Stewart.

The 134-acre campus attracts more than 4,000 students. It has classrooms, libraries, recreation, and auditorium space. The campus is also home to the Freedom Aquatic and Fitness Center, the Hylton Performing Arts Center, and the Mason Enterprise Center business incubator.

Prince William to receive $10.5M for new preschool program

Nearly 3-years old, Blake Sweeney tries his hand at baseball.

Prince William County will be receiving $10.5 million dollars over the next four years to start a new Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI+) program for preschoolers.

The county has had a Head Start and VPI program for several years, but this new VPI+, which is set to start in September, will allow more children to receive preschool services.

While the Head Start and VPI programs were funded by state and local dollars in the past, this new preschool initiative will help the county to provide programs without as much financial strain, according to Phil Kavits, the Director of Communication Services for Prince William County Schools. 

Kavits stated that previous state grants provided for preschool programming on the local level required millions of dollars in exact matching funds, which came out of the county’s budget each year.

“The difference between the VPI+ and VPI is VPI is funded by the state and some local dollars. VPI+ is a brand new grant that the state, the Department of Education at the state level, just received from the federal government,” said Kathy Channell, Administrative Coordinator for the county’s Head Start and VPI+ programs.

The federal funding comes from an initiative put forth by President Obama to expand preschool offerings, and the funding is coming from the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said Channell.

The Virginia Department of Education will receive $17.5 million each year from the grant funding over the next four years, totaling $70 million. The state has decided to distribute these funds across the state.

“The Virginia Department of Education then funded eleven school divisions around the Commonwealth, to serve VPI+ 4-year old students,” said Channell.

According to Kavits, the VPI+ program will allow the county to help 575 additional preschoolers during the next four years.

In order for children to be eligible for the VPI+ program, they must live below 200% of the income poverty level – $48,5000 a year for a family of four, Channell stated.

“They can be children who are homeless, they can be children that are below that 200% level of income poverty, they might be children with special needs,” said Channell.

Channell stated that the program will provide comprehensive education and services to the children to help them grow and develop before entering the Prince William County Public School system. 

“It’s a high quality preschool program for children who may otherwise not be able to have a pre-K experience prior to going to school…[there are] degreed teachers, and they’re holding Virginia State teaching certificates. So they’re offering a pre-K program to those children, which will not only include education, but has some comprehensive services within it as well – health, nutrition, mental health, family engagement – and that will all be a part of this program,” said Channell.

To check for program eligibility, parents need to call the VPI+ office at 703-791-7200.

*This story has been corrected.


Department of education gives Manassas Park $96,000 for school tablets

Seven hundred 9th and 10th grade students in Manassas Parks schools will now have access to an electronic tablet device for their schoolwork, as part of a partnership between the Virginia Department of Education and the school system.

“The program is being funded in part by the Virginia Department of Education – it’s an e-learning initiative grant that we applied for and received,” said Jennifer Braswell-Geller, Director of Special Programs for the Manassas Park school system.

The funding from the state is a matching grant, with 80% of the cost being covered by the department of education and the remaining 20% being locally matched by the school board.

The Virginia Department of Education awarded the school system $96,000 for the project, and Manassas Park funded just under $20,000 towards the overall cost, according to Braswell-Geller.

Before handing out the devices to the students, the school system went through a an extensive criteria process and a pilot program at the beginning of the school year. They ended up selecting the Dell Venue 11 Pro HD Windows tablet.

“For this entire school year, our instructional technology specialist has been regularly meeting, so we can get their feedback. And ultimately their feedback has helped drive our future decisions, in terms of moving this initiative forward,” said Braswell-Geller.

In terms of criteria, the schools wanted devices that had good battery life, fast processing speeds, quality screen resolution, durability and a lightweight.

The grant program had a cap of $400 per device, but according to Braswell-Geller, the school board helped to fund the additional cost for the Dell tablets.

“Our school board was very supportive in us finding the right device for our students, and a good quality device that would help enhance the learning and instruction in our classrooms. Our position wasn’t ‘find something cheap and get it in the kid’s hands’ – we really took a lot of time to evaluate and plan,” said Braswell-Geller.

The school system has already begun handing out the devices to the students in large deployments. While right now, only the two-grade levels are receiving the devices, there has been talk of expanding the program to eleventh and twelfth graders as well, according to program documents.

Braswell-Geller stated that the teachers and administrators have already seen collaboration between students using the devices, and over time they’ll be able to see more benefits.

“Whseen something like this [program] starts, it takes a little while for everyone to see that end result everyone’s looking for…but what we’ve already seen and what we knew would happen would be a high level of collaboration between students, and students and teachers,” Braswell-Geller said, continuing, “We know that this generation of kids, they’ve grown up with devices – this is how they learn, how they navigate their lives – so it shouldn’t be any different in school…but what we do see is greater ownership and flexibility with students.”

Prince William students running out of snow days

(Photo: Prince William County Public Schools)

Thursday’s snowfall broke records, and classes in Prince William County Public Schools were canceled yesterday and today.

Now, with spring on the doorstep and summer not far behind, many parents wonder how if their children will need to make up school days missed due to inclement weather.

This statement was sent out by Prince William County Public Schools on Wednesday afternoon:

As of March 5, we will have closed school 8 times and opened late 9 times. Given that PWCS began the school year with time above the state requirements, about 15.6 hours or just over 2.6 days remain available for weather closing/delay time before we fall short of Virginia’s 990 hour minimum requirement for instructional time.

The reason PWCS has additional time this year is because the School Board approved the addition of 10 minutes to the instructional day for the 2014-15 school year and beyond. This added an additional 30 hours to the 2014-15 calendar compared to previous years. If PWCS had maintained the previous instructional day, we would currently be more than two full day’s worth of hours below the state minimum and would already require make-up time.

The calendar has two remaining built-in make-up days: Monday, April 6—the Monday at the end of Spring Break—is designated on the calendar as a make-up day, as is June 19, the day after school ends, should these become necessary.

Bottom line: If  students don’t want to begin making up school days, they better start thinking spring.

Improvement projects slated for three Stafford high schools

Within the next three years, three Stafford high schools – Brooke Point, Colonial Forge, and Mountain View – will be undergoing improvement and expansion projects.

The programs have been slated for completion as part of Stafford’s capital improvements program for several years.

“These additions have been in the capital improvements program for a number of years. But student growth [prompted the additions],” said Valerie Cottongim, Public Information Officer for Stafford County Public Schools.

The Brooke Point project will add eight classrooms and labs, two wellness rooms, an orchestra room, and update the culinary arts space and the library, according to Board documents.

The Colonial Forge and Mountainview expansions will also offer similar updates to the building, with the addition of a security entrance, according to board documents.

Currently, the construction of the projects is out for bid.

Brooke Point’s improvements will cost $6,611,000 and will be completed by September 2016. The Colonial Forge improvements will also be completed in September 2016 and will cost $7.3 million.

The Mountain View project will not start until the other two high school’s projects have been completed, but it’s estimated start date is 2017, slated for completion in September 2018.

Cottongim stated that the bond-funded improvement projects would help accommodate current students, and provide more quality education in Stafford.

“It’s going to allow us to accommodate the students that are attending these schools. The expanded rooms, and fine arts suites will provide extra space for those areas of the curriculum. At Brooke Point, the expanded media center will allow our students and staff to take advantage of more modern technologies than a library that was designed and built 25 years ago,” Cottongim said.

House passes bill to remove A to F grading system of schools in Virginia


The House of Delegates in Richmond has passed bill HB 1672 – legislation that will remove the A to F grading system of school districts in Virginia.

The grading system is for school districts, not for individual student’s grades.

The A to F grading system for school districts was first implemented after bill HB 1999 was passed during the 2013 General Assembly session.

Support for the new legislation to remove the earlier grading system was immense, as the system had unintended consequences on schools.

“When the [original] bill was passed a couple of years ago, we were all concerned about what it would do to some of our schools – and the various categories they would be placed in. [We felt] that some of our schools and students would be disenfranchised by this piece of legislation, and it had the potential of penalizing some schools in a way that would not be reflective of the [school’s] efforts and their stance academically,” said Delegate Luke Torian.

The grading system was used on school districts, based upon their “student growth” defined in HB 1999 as maintaining proficiency on state assessments and growth and improvement based on a statewide average.

Schools with a low-grade rating on the scale would be in jeopardy of losing their accreditation, according to Torian.

“[Schools] were given a particular rating, based on certain criterions that were presented in the [earlier] legislation…The legislation was just too broad, in general,” said Torian.

Now that the bill has passed the floor of the House, it will now be moved to a Senate floor vote, before being placed in front of Governor McAuliffe for final approval.

While the legislation removes the current school district grading system, it does not articulate a new one. Torian stated that the originating legislator of the A to F system, Delegate Thomas Greason, will be working on legislation to implement a new system.

“I think what Delegate Greason is doing – he’s looking at some other alternatives…He will be talking to the leading educational organizations here, to design a new bill that will serve his intent. But right now what we don’t want to do – we don’t want to put forward something that is going to adversely impact schools,” Torian commented.

The legislation is considered a relief for many school districts, such as Manassas City Schools, whose school board outlined the removal of the A to F system as a legislative priority for 2015.

“The Board believes it does not indicate a division’s success in preparing students for career/college readiness,” said Almeta Radford, Public Communications Coordinator for Manassas City Schools.

Manassas Superintendent presents budget, speaks to parents at Saturday meeting

As part of the Saturday with the Superintendent series, the Manassas City school’s superintendent, Dr. Magouyrk, spoke with parents about the school budget and took questions from the community last Saturday.

The meeting was well attended despite the snow, according to Magouyrk.

“We had great attendance, even though the snow was coming down like it was,” Magouyrk said.

The Saturday with Superintendent events take place about every six weeks and serve as a primary way for parents to interact with administrators.

“It’s just an opportunity for the community – for families – to know what’s taking place,” Magouyrk stated.

One of the main topics for this meeting was the budget, which is currently in progress for the upcoming fiscal year.

“We talked about the Superintendent budget presentation – that is right now what the school board is working on. We talked about the new Baldwin [school], and our school calendar for next year,” Magouyrk said.

Magouyrk also spoke to parents about the Career and Technical (CTE) initiatives taking place in Manassas City schools.

Overall, Magouyrk stressed that the meetings are an opportunity for parents to ask questions and get information they need from their children’s schools.

“We had a parent of a gifted student [at the meeting], and she wanted to get more information about our gifted program. So they were able to ask me questions,” Magouyrk commented.

For the remainder of the school year, two more of these meetings are scheduled – one on March 21 at Jennie Dean Elementary and one on May 16 at Baldwin Elementary.

Cancellations Sat. Feb. 21 and Sun. Feb. 22, 2015

Tweet your closings and cancellations to @PotomacLocal

@MCB_Quantico is Code Red. The base is closed. Only emergency and essential personnel are required to report to work.

— MCB Quantico (@MCB_Quantico) February 21, 2015

Kiefer appointed to Manassas City School Board

072914-First-on-plKristen Kiefer was appointed as the newest member of the Manassas City School Board last Wednesday night.

Kiefer, who is the Chief of Staff at The National Council on Aging, was selected from a list of nine qualified candidates.

The Board needed to appoint a new member when incumbent Ilka Chavez decided to step down for personal reasons back in January.

According to Tim Demeria, Chairman of the Manassas City School Board, the board was primarily looking for a competent and passionate individual to fill Chavez’s seat.

“Of the nine candidates we had, we were looking for someone who was passionate about our schools, who was involved in our schools,” Demeria said, continuing, “My concern when we first discussing [appointing a new member] we were worried we weren’t going to have candidates worthy of the position, but that surely didn’t become a problem for us.”

The board interviewed each of the nine candidates, and after several hours of deliberation, there was a unanimous vote to select Kiefer, said Demeria.

A graduate of Ohio University and Georgetown University, Kiefer is known in the community for her extensive involvement in the school system. She has two children in Manassas City schools, and her husband was also a graduate of the school system.

For Kiefer, her commitment to education started at the very beginning of her life, with her mother’s influence as an educator.

“My mother was an educator and an administrator in schools her entire life…My parents taught me the value of education, and that it was a gift – but that it was also something you were accountable for, in terms of how much you put into it,” Kiefer said.

Kiefer started her involvement with the school community by reinstating the Baldwin Elementary PTO, and later working on the PTA at Mayfield Intermediate School. She also serves as a member of the ‘Gifted and Talented’ advisory group.

She became well known in the community for her tireless efforts working with the schools after organizing the first Movie Night on the Manassas Museum lawn. It is now an annual community event.

Her interest in applying for the vacant board seat came when she was encouraged to apply during her time at the Manassas City Public Schools Community and Parent Leadership Academy.

Kiefer admitted to being nervous and needing some reassurance about applying.

“I was nervous…the thing about it was that I had no idea what I was walking into. And I went through a lot of soul searching. I spoke with teachers, principals, colleagues, parents, to hear them saying, ‘You need to do this.’ I think for me, in terms of the decision process, my mother…said ‘You have got to do this’ [and it helped push me],” Kiefer stated.

Despite being new to the board, Kiefer will be involved in this year’s budgeting process for the schools – not an easy task. But Kiefer feels confident in her ability to transition to the board and assist in the budgeting process.

“My job is one where I’m thrown into something new each and every day, and I’ve got to adjust, and I’ve got to study and I’ve got to prepare – and it doesn’t matter what the topic is – you’ve got to go in there, and you’ve got to roll up your sleeves, and that’s just who I am as a person,” Kiefer stated.

The appointment will run out in November 2015. Kiefer intends to run in the upcoming special election to keep her seat after the appointment period ends.

Kiefer will be sworn into the board at the next Manassas City School Board meeting.

More to the Story: See all of the resumes submitted for the open School Board position below: 

Richard Bookewalter

Roy Caracciolo, Jr. 

Theresa Coates Ellis

Norman Hertz

Kristen Kiefer

D. William Sandstrom

Suzanne Seaberg

Elizabeth Skaggs

Lawrence Warkentien

Prince William Wildflower Society donates books to county schools

The Prince William Chapter of the Wildflower Society has donated 61 copies of a children’s book to Prince William County Public Schools and additional copies to local libraries.

The book, Isabella’s Peppermint Flowers, was written by Susan Leopold and illustrated by Nicky Staunton, said Nancy Vehrs, President of the Prince William Wildflower Society and the Virginia Native Plant Society.

The book was designed to complement the fourth grade SOLs in Virginia, which includes a segment addressing botany and plant life.

Staunton is a former resident of the City of Manassas and a past president of the Virginia Native Plant Society. Living in the area, and the experiences she had with the Society motivated her to illustrate the children’s book, said Vehrs. Leopold grew up in Prince William County in Woodbridge.

According to Vehrs, it is important that children learn about the world around them.

The Wildflower Society has held several presentations of the donated books in county schools and is also intending to donate copies to the City of Manassas.

The group does other community outreach events to help educate the residents of Prince William County, including lectures and informational sessions from authors and experts on plant life.

They recently hosted a lecture with well-known author and landscape designer Rick Dark, who recently published The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden.

Closings and delays Friday, Feb. 20, 2015

Public schools 

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