WE ARE LOCAL News in Prince William, Virginia




Stafford and Prince William County Schools Receive Awards


Governor Bob McDonnell and the Board of Education announced in a press release that 151 schools and one school division earned 2013 Virginia Index of Performance awards for advanced learning and achievement. The VIP incentive program recognizes schools and divisions that exceed minimum state and federal accountability standards and achieve excellence goals established by the governor and the board.

Several Prince William County schools made the grade, but only one Stafford school was named.

The schools and school divisions earning 2013 VIP awards, which are based on student achievement and other performance indicators during 2011-12, include 51 schools and one school division that earned the Board of Education Excellence Award and 98 schools that earned the Board of Education Distinguished Achievement Award.

Mary G. Porter Traditional and Mountain View Elementary schools in Prince William County both received the Board of Education Excellence Awards. These schools met all state and federal accountability benchmarks for at least two consecutive years and made significant progress toward goals for increased student achievement and expanded educational opportunities set by the board.

A. Henderson Elementary, Thurgood Marshall Elementary and Westridge Elementary in Prince William County and Garrisonville Elementary in Stafford County each received the Distinguished Achievement Award. These schools met state and federal benchmarks for at least two consecutive years and made progress toward the goals of the governor and the board.

“Virginia’s education system is among the best in the country, and each of these schools [is] setting the standard we should expect for every school in the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Education Laura Fornash in a release.

“Excellence doesn’t just happen; it is achieved through hard work and a commitment to continuous improvement and innovation,” said McDonnell. “We are blessed to have some of the finest schools and teachers in the nation. We must continue to ensure that all students have access to the high quality education they deserve.”

Several Eye Woodbridge School Board Seat


PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — The Woodbridge District is gearing up for a heated School Board election this fall.

Steve Keen was appointed as an interim member of the Prince William County School Board this spring following the resignation of Denita Ramirez, who left her post for a new job in Richmond the day after the November 2012 General Election. Keen is considering a run to be the permanent Board member.

“I believe that because I served on the School Board prior to this, that I had a shorter learning curve than others,” Keen said.

While it’s likely he’ll run, he has not made an official announcement.

“I’m considering it. I’m open to the idea, but there’s a few details I want to work out first,” Keen said.

Keen said he won’t seek party backing or partisan support in his campaign.

“If I decide to run, I’m not going to ask anyone for any endorsements,” he said.

Another candidate that will be running for the seat is Todd McCormick, founder and director of a local non-profit named The House, which provides services to more than 1,000 individuals in Prince William County. McCormick, originally from the corporate HR world, had his first experience with the challenges that families and faculty face in county schools when running his programs at The House.

“What’s happening here in our county is that many administrators, teachers, parents children – even people that are partners in education – are frustrated when they hear candidates giving the same vague promises. What’s pushing me is realizing that [the students] need to be represented on the bench,” McCormick said.

McCormick is actively seeking the Democratic nomination in the upcoming caucus. When speaking about his request for Democratic support, he cited his long family background with the Democratic Party, including his grandmother who was a host to Truman in the 1948 Democratic National Convention and his aunt, who worked in the Executive Office under President Carter.

There are two other names in contention for the seat; Inman Johnson and Chris Royse, both of whom did not return requests for comment for comment. Keen stated that Royse, who unsuccessfully ran against Woodbridge District Supervisor Frank Principi in 2010, was the likely candidate for the Republican Party.

“I believe that Chris Royse will be running for the seat. There are officially no Democrats or Republicans – it’s a non partisan seat – however Mr. Royse, I am certain would be running with the Republican Party,” said Keen.

Johnson publicly announced at a recent county Democrat meeting that he would be seeking Democratic nomination for the seat, against McCormick.

Voters will head to the polls Tuesday, November 5, to decide Woodbridge’s permanent School Board representative.

Retiring Prince William Library Director: ‘I’m Past My Due Date’

Features Editor

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — Dick Murphy, the Library System Director for Prince William County, has decided to retire at the end of June, drawing his 27-year career of working in the library system to a close. After starting in the county Library System in 1985, he worked hard to expand and advance it.

The Woodbridge resident fell into his career working in libraries shortly after graduating with an English degree from Georgetown University.

“I got that job because I needed a job, and my mom was working at the library and she said, ‘Until you can get another job, they’re hiring at the library. Why don’t you do it until you find something you like better,’ and I’ve never found anything I liked better,” Murphy said.

Deciding to make library work his lifelong career, he returned to obtain his Masters in Library Science from the University of Maryland. While Murphy was sure about the important role of libraries, he recalled that not everyone in his inner circle felt the same way at first.

“Libraries are going to be around for a long time. When I got into the profession, my friends and family said, ‘Why are you doing that? Libraries won’t be around for very long,’ and this is 1969. But they’re still around and they’re still popular after all these years,” Murphy said.

According to Murphy, a lot has changed since the time he started working in the library system.

“It’s changed…mostly because of technology. When I started working in libraries, there were no computers and no copying machines – they didn’t exist for the public back then. And of course, everything was in card catalogues…. People tend to think about libraries as books and obviously that’s a lot of what we do, but we’re really not specifically about books – we’re about content and getting people hooked up with things to read and that content can come in a lot of different ways,” Murphy said.

And some people weren’t always a fan of the transition and technological advances that the library made – a shared challenge.

“In general, people tend to make the switch, and it may take a little while, because people are used to what they’re used to. Our challenge is to try and help them make the transition. So we’ve done a lot of work in the last year or so, helping people learn how to use their electronic book device and working through all of the challenges of that.”


In addition to the changes to technology in the library, the communities in Prince William County have greatly expanded over the years, and the library system has grown to accommodate them. When Murphy started, the library system consisted of two full service libraries and two neighborhood libraries. That number has grown into four full-service libraries and two neighborhood libraries.

“There’s been a huge amount of growth since when I got here in 1985, with new buildings and trying to setup a network of new buildings and that’s what we needed to do, to make it work for the population,” Murphy said.

One final development that Murphy is proud to be a part of are the design plans for two more libraries in Montclair and Gainesville, which are scheduled to be completed in the next few years.

“We’ll have the designs finished for them by the time that I leave, by June, and I feel very fortunate to have been able to stay until the plans have been finished and to turn over the reigns to complete the construction. I’m very excited about it,” Murphy said, going on to say that this is the first new construction of libraries in the county since 1994.

A large source of pride for Murphy in his role as Library Director are the wide array of programs that the library offers to the community – something Murphy feels that many may not be aware of.

“The biggest thing we do every year is the Summer Quest reading program; 18,000 kids participate in that every summer and in the Teen Summer Reading program, another 3,000 to 4,000 teens get involved with that,” Murphy said. In addition to the summer reading programs, the libraries offer story hour for children, book clubs, computer literacy classes and other recreational activities.

For Murphy, his retirement is bittersweet.

“I leave with mixed emotions because I love it; I love the people who work here in the library, I love working with people in the county government, I have a very supportive Library Board. But it’s time – I’m past my due date and I’ve been hanging on to do the designs for the two new libraries. I’m healthy, but I’ve got lots of plans to travel. It’s going to be nice to be able to do things with family, while I’m healthy to do it, so it’s pretty mixed emotions and it’s just time to turn over the reigns to somebody else,” Murphy said.

Manassas Student Pens Plan to Recycle Gas to Heat Campus, Wins Award

Submitted News 

MANASSAS, Va. — Syed M. Sarwar of Manassas recently won a competition sponsored by the District of Columbia Council of Engineering and Architectural Societies. Sarwar was recognized during an awards banquet Feb. 23 in Silver Spring, Md., where he also received the $500 first-place prize.

Sarwar expressed his excitement about winning the award. “I felt very good when I heard the good news from my engineering professor that my hard work paid off,” he said.

Called the Competition for Outstanding Young Engineer and Architect Research Papers, the contest evaluated research papers written by undergraduate and graduate students. The rigorous criteria required entries to be formatted according to standard guidelines for publication in a professional journal and to include an abstract, discussion, method of study, results and significance of the project.

Sarwar’s submission, “Utilization of Landfill Biogas to Decrease Campus CO2 Emissions through Construction of CHHP System,” won in the undergraduate category. The paper illustrates how a hydrogen energy system constructed on a college campus can make use of local resources such as municipal landfills. The hydrogen energy system described in the paper would use landfill gas to fuel itself and to supply thermal and electrical energy needs for the campus and surrounding community. In return, the system would reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

As a student at the Manassas Campus of Northern Virginia Community College, Sarwar learned about the contest from engineering instructor Monica Mallini.

“I wanted to give my students an opportunity to learn how to write a professional paper, something most students do not experience until graduate school. Syed wrote the paper as a freshman in the honors option section of my ‘Introduction to Engineering’ class,” Mallini said. “At the awards reception, the education committee chairman said we made history because Syed was the first community college student to enter and win this contest. I am extremely pleased with Syed’s success and encouraged to find more opportunities like this for our students.”

Sarwar graduated from Stonewall Jackson High School in 2011 and enrolled at NOVA that fall. After NOVA, he plans to transfer to George Washington University to continue his education in mechanical engineering specializing in the automotive industry.

“I am very motivated and passionate about becoming a mechanical engineer and working at Mercedes-Benz, my dream company,” Sarwar said.

Stafford Schools Opening 2 Hours Late Friday, No A.M. Preschool

STAFFORD, Va. — Out of concerns for possible black ice on roadways Friday morning, Stafford County Public Schools will open two hours late.

More in a press release from schools spokeswoman Valerie Cottongim:

Stafford County Schools will open two hours late on Friday, March 8, 2013. There is a concern regarding black ice on the roads in the morning and below freezing temperatures early.

This delay will allow our inclement weather team to evaluate road conditions and will provide daylight for our bus drivers, employees and students to better see the roadways.

There will be no a.m. preschool classes and no change to the p.m. preschool classes. Breakfast programs are canceled, lunch will be served, and dismissal will be at the regular times. Buses will pick up two hours after their regularly scheduled time.

Stafford picked up 7.1 inches of snow during Wednesday’s winter storm, the National Weather Service reported. Schools have been closed in the county for the past two days.


Stricter Oversight Sought after Teachers Go Without Pay Raises

For Potomac Local News

STAFFORD, Va. — There might be a bit of a kerfuffle brewing between the Stafford Board of County Supervisors and Stafford County School Board.

During a budget presentation Tuesday, County Administrator Anthony J. Romanello talked about tax rates, fund balances — or county savings — lower real estate taxes, rising revenues and contingency funds along with a number of other topics.

The supervisors split their questions along several lines early in Romanello’s presentation, but the single subject that got the most attention was the discrepancy between the money the school board wants in Fiscal 2014 and the amount of money the Board of Supervisors is ready to give up.

In a recent budget proposal, the school board asked the supervisors for an additional $18 million for Fiscal 2014.

Romanello’s proposed budget would give the school board $3.2 million more over last year, which he said would pay for a 2-percent pay raise for all Stafford County school employees.

Romanello explained that the county would allocate $1.1 million to the school board with the remainder of the $3.2 million coming from the state and other sources.

Last year the board of supervisors gave $133 million, or 53.85 percent, of its $247 million in revenue to the school board.

According to Aquia District Supervisor Paul Milde, the supervisors understood that an extra $5.1 million the county board allocated to the school board in Fiscal 2013 would go toward school employee raises, but that didn’t happen.

In past years, the board of county supervisors has exercised its prerogative of using “categorical funding” to dictate how the school board spends its share of county revenues.

Hartwood District Supervisor Gary Snellings, who voted last year to suspend categorical funding, said he wouldn’t be voting that way again.

“That was one of the bigger mistakes I’ve made since I’ve been on this board,” Snellings said. “In FY ’11, we categorical funded schools and teachers got a raise. In FY ’12, we categorical funded schools and teachers got a raise.”

Snellings said he didn’t want to give money to the school board in the upcoming fiscal year without assurances that the money would go toward raises.

“I am not going to sit here and have these folks take this money and shift it everywhere else and then come back the following year and point the finger across the street at us,” he said.

Milde, who voted last year to retain categorical finding, echoed Snellings.

“You got rid of categorical funding last year which was a huge mistake,” Milde said. “I would suggest that we might start thinking about taking that one tool we have … to kind of insist that they spend money where we think they should.”

Garrisonville District Supervisor Ty Schieber said he understood the disappointment among the board members over the lack of pay raises last year, but urged his colleagues to withhold their judgment for the time being.

“If we want to budget by number as opposed to budget by requirement … give them an opportunity to talk about why and what they need” Schieber said. “Certainly there’s limitations in terms of resources, but before we pass judgment … we owe a full hearing of it to make sure we understand where they’re coming from.”

Schieber did however seem to balk a bit at $18 million.

“It’s a big number. I get it, but let’s hear them out first,” he said.

According to the county schools’ website, $3.7 million of the $18 million requested increase would go to pay raises. The budget shows that $1.7 million would include spending on school improvements, five additional teachers, three bus drivers and three bus monitors.

Other spending would include roughly $2 million for 43.5 new employees, $656,417 for summer school and $209,000 for fleet services.

For more detailed information on the proposed school budget, visit

stafford.schoolfusion.us. Find “Financial Services” on the left. Click to find “Budgets & Grants” and go “School Board Approved Budgets Summary.”

In a phone interview Wednesday, Stephanie J. Johnson, chair of the school board, said it’s the school board’s responsibility to present a “needs-based” budget the county board.

“Under code … the job of the school board is to present a budget that expresses the needs of the division,” Johnson said. “This is not an attempt to vilify or blame the board of supervisors or embarrass them into giving us more money. We are following what our code requires with a needs-based budget.”

Johnson said school board members understand that money is limited.

“For so many years it has been a battle between what the schools need and what the county could afford. Those two things don’t always match up,” she said.

Categorical funding can also create “cash flow” problems since the school board has to go to the county board every time it wants to transfer money within the school division’s departments, according to Johnson.

“It removes that authority from the school board,” Johnson said. “As a school board member, I don’t like it, but they do have the authority to categorically fund. It is their choice.”

In Fiscal 2013 the school board was freed from categorical funding constraints and took advantage that freedom to use the $5.1 million to replace money taken from “one-time” funding source to pay for raises in 2012.

“In order to replenish that fund, we used the majority to replace the funds we removed from the one-time funding,” she said.

Johnson went on to say that school board members are probably better positioned to know how best to spend money within the school system.

“Sometimes the base knowledge is not there,” she said of county board members.

Johnson also said that the extra money the school board is requesting would also help attract and retain teachers and reduce class sizes.


Closing & Cancellations for Wednesday, March 6, 2013

View Our Continuing Storm Coverage 

The first significant snowstorm of this winter season is forecast to bring at least four to six inches of snow portions of Prince William and Stafford counties, and the Greater Manassas areas. 

With the snow comes closing and cancellations. We’ve laid them out by county, colleges and universities, and the federal government. If your organization has a closing or cancellation you want our readers to know about, email us with along with your contact information.

Prince William County

— Prince William County Public Schools will be closed due to inclement weather in certain areas. Code Red for employees. All school division activities including Science Grades 2 and 3 Professional Development are cancelled. The School Age Care Program will not open.

— Prince William County Government offices closed 

— Grassroots Networking group meeting canceled 

— Chick-fil-A Woodbridge closed 

— Prince William County / Manassas Boys and Girls Clubs closed 

— National Museum of the Marine Corps closed 

— IKEA Furniture store at Potomac Mills mall closed 

Stafford County

— Stafford County Public Schools closed, code

— Stafford County Government offices closed 

— Stafford County courts closed 

— Woodlands Pool not closed

— Community Recreation and Senior programs have been canceled for today

— Stafford County Courthouse Community center closed

— Virginia Railway Express fare public hearing canceled 


— Manassas City Public Schools are closed today due to inclement weather. Code Blue for employes. The SACS Minnieland program is closed today.

— Manassas City Government on liberal leave 

— Prince William County / Manassas Boys and Girls Clubs closed 

Manassas Park

— City offices open: City office employees may delay their arrival or take advantage of liberal leave for the day. If there are any changes, they will be posted on this website.

— Manassas Park Public Schools closed, code red.

— Manassas Park Community Center closed today. All programs canceled. Extended care will not open.

Colleges and universities

— George Mason University : A decision regarding the university’s operating schedule on Wednesday, March 6th will be announced no later than 5:30 a.m. Wednesday morning via Mason Alert, gmu.edu, and University Switchboard at (703) 993-1000.

— Northern Virginia Community College – College Closed, NOVA day and evening classes and activities are canceled Wed., March 6, due to inclement weather. All campuses and administrative offices are closed.

– University of Mary Washington Stafford, Fredericksburg campuses closed, Dahlgren Campus OPEN

Military installations 

— Quanitico Marine Corps Base closed, code red.

— Ft. Belvoir closed — employees must follow telework policy

Federal government

–Offices closed, employees must follow telework policies — OPM website


Click here to see Dulles International Airport departures 

Click here to see Regan Washington National Airport departures

Click here to see BWI departures 

Click here to see Richmond International Airport flight information 

Osbourn Student Dies of Flu

MANASSAS, Va. — A 16-year-old student at Osbourn High School in Manassas has died from complications with the flu.

Schools spokeswoman Almeta Radford said school officials spoke with the family of Joshua Long who died last night. Those counselors are there to help Long’s friends in dealing with the grief of his loss.

Information about the student’s death will be sent home with students, said Radford.

Long’s sudden death comes as a surprise to many in the community. Insidenova.com reports the student fell ill on Friday night with flu symptoms. He was taken to Children’s Hospital in Washington where he later died, the website reports.

Many states across the U.S. are experiencing regional problems with flu outbreaks, but in Virginia the problem is widespread.

Since October 1, there have been more than 10,000 cases of flu hospitalizations in this country, and more than 80 people have died.

Long’s death comes during a difficult week for the Manassas community. Last week, a 17-year-old student from Osbourn Park High School was killed in an auto crash.

NOVA Holding Career Training Open House

Submitted News

Northern Virginia Community College will hold a Career Training Open House on Saturday, March 9 from 10 a.m. until noon at our Innovation Park location in Manassas. The event is free and open to the public.

In one place, attendees will learn about; financial aid, potential funding for school through the Workforce Investment Act, free counseling services for adult students, assistance for job seekers and unemployed Virginians, ESL courses, and numerous NOVA and partner credit, non-credit, and training programs in STEM fields.

To learn more or RSVP, go to NOVA’s website , call 703-425-5245, or email acp@nvcc.edu.

Power Failure Leads to High School Dismissal


Power has been restored to Gar-Field High School in Woodbridge. School will be open on time Friday morning, school officials said. 

12:30 p.m. 

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – Students at Gar-Field Senior High School were dismissed at 9:30 a.m. Thursday after power to the school was lost.

Buses were called to the school to take home students, said Prince William County Public Schools spokeswoman Irene Cromer.

The power company charged with providing electricity to the school, NOVEC, said there was a high voltage cable failure in the area. The school has partial power now, and crews expect to the have the whole thing restored by 2:30 p.m., stated NOVEC spokeswoman Priscilla Knight.

Manassas Schools Awarded $62,000 in Grants

Submitted News 

MANASSAS, Va. — The MCPS Education Foundation is pleased to announce that it has awarded more than $62,000 to programs in the Manassas City Public Schools (MCPS) for the 2012-13 school year.

Advancements in technology lead to advancements in educational methods, and the MCPS Education Foundation is delighted to provide funding towards iPads and iPad minis for use at Mayfield Intermediate School, as well as a donation for the purchase of document cameras for use at Osbourn High School. Approximately 540 Osbourn students will benefit from the ELMO cameras, which will “increase effective ESL, special education, and regular education instruction by providing a demonstration-based learning environment,” said Katie Ball, Coordinator for Manassas City Public Schools Professional Learning and Fine Arts.

Recognizing that literacy is the foundation of all learning, the MCPS Education Foundation funded three grants supporting literacy. Jennie Dean Elementary School has received a grant for the “Reading All Together Year II,” following last year’s “Reading All Together” grant, and Mayfield Intermediate School received funding for “Furthering Students’ Reading Comprehension through Use of the Nook,” bringing literacy and technology together. Additionally, the Foundation has funded the “Powerful Project Learning Club” at Haydon Elementary, which is “designed to motivate students reading at grade level who may be falling behind in their work,” said Janine Emmel, Reading Specialist at Haydon Elementary.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and robotics program funding comprises the majority of the Education Foundation grants. Together, Micron Technology Foundation and Lockheed Martin generously contributed more than $53,000 to the MCPS Education Foundation to be used for FIRST LEGO League, FIRST Robotics Challenge, SeaPerch underwater robotics, VEX robotics, and other STEM programs offered to all grade levels and every school throughout MCPS. Along with the MCPS Education Foundation and with the support of SySTEMic Solutions, a STEM program of the Northern Virginia Community College, Micron, Lockheed Martin, and MCPS recognize the importance of STEM and robotics literacy, and partner to ensure that Manassas City children have the opportunity to develop these skills in a fun and challenging environment.

To reach students of all levels and interests, the Education Foundation also provided funding for a “Saturdays in DC” field trip program for Metz Middle School students, as well as the Jennie Dean Dolphin Running Club. Finally, a grant was provided to Osbourn High School for photography equipment for the yearbook.


The MCPS Education Foundation is preparing to assess scholarship applications for graduating Osbourn High School seniors as well as for Manassas City Public School students participating in summer enrichment programs. Scholarship applications are due on April 1, and applications can be found at mcpsedfoundation.org/scholarships.

The mission of the MCPS Education Foundation is to ensure funding for quality education for all MCPS students now and in the future, through advocacy, public awareness and community engagement to the work and needs of MCPS, and fund development from private and corporate sources to support Foundation programs and initiatives as needed within MCPS. For more information on the Education Foundation or to make a donation, please visit mcpsedfoundation.org.

Forest Park Wins AAA State Championship

Submitted News

Forest Park Cross Country and Track

We started our weekend with a quote (which I altered a bit) from Mark Twain as inspiration to help carry ourselves with confidence. The confidence, determination, and the hard work over the last few months really showed up in the end.

The biggest highlight of the day was the 4*2. Our Boys lowered their number one national time on the flat track, broke the state record by nearly two seconds, and will be going for the national record in two weeks at the national championships.

Ricky Morgan had one of the toughest triples of the day running the 4*2, 500, and 300. He did not disappoint, despite getting sick before the start of his 1st race, Ricky helped get us get a big lead in the 4*2, he followed that up with a 3rd place finish in the 500, and another all state finish in the 300.

Josh Washington led off the 4*2 and handed off the baton in a neck and neck tie for 1st place. He then came back in the 300 to finish 4th and his score really helped put some distance between us and the other teams in the point standings.

Mustaqeem Williams placed in five events and nearly brought home four titles himself. In the triple jump he went for it on his last jump and he lept 49-1 putting him in 1st in the meet and 6th nationally. One more jumper went and lept 49-7 forcing us to settle for second.

The Long Jump was a little more controversial in that Mustaqeem had the best jump going into the final and reserved the right as the best jumper to jump last after the 4*2. However upon returning to the pit the head official closed it not allowing Mustaqeem or 4 others to get in their last jumps. Despite our protest we were told the results were final and Mustaqeem ended up 2nd by a 1/2 inch.

We decided to move on because the team title was our focus! In the 55 he had a horrid start, which in that event can be disastrous, but his speed is simply unmatched in the short sprints in Virginia as he turned on another gear midway through the race to taking the lead at the line and bringing home the 55 meter title for the second year in a row. Mustaqeem wrapped up his day by gutting out a 3rd place finish in the 300. All in all Mustaqeem finished with two golds (55, 4*2), two silvers (TJ,LJ), and one Bronze (300).

Calvin Michie ran a strong relay leg to help keep the lead and break the national record.

Ebenezer Agyemong lept to a personnel Indoor best of 6-1 in the High Jump.

Finally Andrew Gaiser put the icing on the cake by scoring in the two mile. Despite being sick he dropped five seconds off his time and earned his second all state honor and first on the track.

The girls had a pretty solid day as Yaa Agyepong Wiafe lowered her own school record and finished all state in the hurdles. Allyson Bodmer just missed an all state finish in the mile dropping 4 seconds of her indoor personnel best.

Lastly, Hannah Zachman dropped another amazing 20 seconds off of her two mile. In the last two weeks she has dropped 40 seconds off of her two mile time.

It was wonderful to see so many Bruin parents and supporters there among the thousands watching the meet. In the end seeing our Bruin Team hoist that state champion trophy was pretty special.

By the numbers
1 state record
2 state individual titles
2 state runner up finishes
11 All state Finishes
And the biggest prize of all
Virginia AAA State Team Champions

Manassas School Budget Presentation Set for Tuesday; Will Detail Plans for Schools’ Growth

Manassas Public Schools Superintendent

There’s been a buzz going around the city about the schools’ and city’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) and the MCPS budget process. As I thought about my column this month, I was reminded of something I mentioned in my first message to the community, “no school system thrives without community support.” This truth has become more evident with each passing day of the budget process.

The MCPS and city staff recently completed a lengthy process to create a five-year CIP for the division and city infrastructure improvements. We are now seeking public support to finance the much needed improvements to our school and city infrastructure. The community’s financial support will also help attract businesses and homeowners which, in turn, impact the city’s economic development and real estate values. 

The fact that the City of Manassas has the lowest tax rate in the Northern Virginia region opens the door for the community to lend its support for the schools and city’s CIP. Although our primary purpose is to serve more than 7,200 children everyday, we cannot overlook the division’s infrastructure that supports them.

Practical things like HVAC, paving, tracks, security cameras, roofs, and painting are important for preserving what we currently have. A new Baldwin with the addition of a school within a school, and in the future years, a new or renovated Dean Elementary are also components of the CIP to prepare us for our projected future growth.

Instead of following a path based on what we have always done, MCPS is going through a zero-based budgeting process. Many times, businesses and governments start with the current year budget and go from there, preserving what already exists. With zero-based budgeting, you start with nothing and justify every allotment, program, and service to determine need and value. For MCPS it’s an important exercise that provides accountability for spending and ensures that revenue is focused on students’ needs.

I have been asked by many members of the community to address our cost per pupil which is $1,000 higher than neighboring Manassas Park and Prince William, but lower than the average in Northern Virginia. The staffing allotment and zero-based budget process are being used to determine how to best utilize our resources to increase student achievement and to answer the cost per pupil question in the community.

In December, principals were provided with their staffing allocations based on current MCPS class size structure. During this process, 111 positions were identified as being above what the state funds. Principals were asked to work with their staffs to develop their instructional plans and identify the instructional needs for their schools for next school year. I understand how at first glance a change of 111 positions in preliminary allocations can be unsettling and misunderstood; however, they were not identified as positions to be cut, but positions to substantiate in our budgeting process. I remain sensitive to the feelings and concerns to what this preliminary allocation number means as we move forward. I want to assure our parents, students, staff, and community that class sizes have not increased and that our students remain at the center of all our decisions. I do accept that budgets can be contentious and unnerving, but I must also make sure that our students not only have the best and brightest teachers, but the resources, experiences, and technology that will provide them prosperous futures.

As we seek staff and community input during the budget process, I understand that each person looks at spending priorities through their own lens. Teachers and taxpayers have different perspectives as do guidance counselors, the State Department of Education and parents of children with special needs. We need parents, elected officials, business leaders, and the community supporting the hard-working staff at MCPS to make our schools safe, efficient, and high achieving.

As we go through the process, we will continue to work together to develop a fiscally responsible budget that allocates our limited resources in a manner that supports student achievement and our strategic goals and priorities. I will present the proposed budget to the School Board at their regular business meeting on February 26, 2013 at 7 p.m. at City Hall. I welcome you all to attend and appreciate your support.

Public Input on the budget is scheduled for March 12, 2013. Click here for our current budget development calendar: FY 14 Budget Calendar

NOVA to Hold Work Training Sessions

Northern Virginia Community College will hold two free informational sessions to showcase job training programs for the employed and unemployed.

More in a press release from the college:

Northern Virginia Community College is hosting two events to provide information about dozens of affordable career training programs offered by NOVA and community organizations.

Both employed and unemployed people will benefit from the free events that will showcase job training programs that can help people become more marketable.

SkillSource, Virginia Employment Commission, Northern Virginia Family Service’s Training Futures, Multivision and Year Up are among the organizations that will participate.

“In one place, people can get information about training opportunities in such high-demand fields as engineering, science, biotechnology, information technology, healthcare and much more,” said Project Manager Jennifer Pocai. “Attendees will also learn about financial aid, scholarships, adult counseling services, weekend programs, ESL courses and job seeker assistance.”

The event will be held 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, March 9 at NOVA’s Innovation Park Center (9485 Innovation Drive,Manassas) and repeated 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, March 14 at NOVA’s Annandale Campus (8333 Little River Turnpike, Annandale).

More information is available at nvcc.edu/acp/openhouse or 703-425-5245.

Torian Supports Governor on School Safety Audits

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. – In a show of bipartisanship, Delegate Luke Torian, D-Prince William, says he supports improvements to school safety in Virginia following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

More in a press release from Torian:

Today, Delegate Luke E. Torian, D-Prince William announced his support for Governor Bob McDonnell’s legislative package assembled as a result of the Taskforce on School and Campus Safety.

Key legislation from the Taskforce includes a mandate to develop a critical incident response plan, to implement school safety audits, to increase cooperation between schools, local law enforcement and emergency medical units; and new criminal offenses for attempting to enter a school with the intent to commit a violent felony. Having co-patroned the legislative package, Delegate Torian issued the following statement:

“I want to commend Governor McDonnell for assembling a Taskforce on School and Campus Safety. We cannot do enough to protect our schools. I have supported efforts in the past to build on legislation that was

passed in the wake of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting and I am pleased to see my colleagues being proactive in the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. I am also honored as well to serve as a co-patron on the Governor’s introduced legislation.”

Delegate Torian represents Dumfries, Occoquan, Dale City, and Woodbridge in House District 52. This is his second term in the House of Delegates.

Torian’s announcement comes after Dumfries voted to hire and post a full-time police school resource officer for Dumfries Elementary School. It will be the first and only elementary school in Prince William County with an school resource officer, called an SRO.

Metz Middle School Competes in Robotics Challenge

Submitted News 

MANASSAS, Va. — Robotics team members from Metz Middle School competed in the Central Division VEX Qualifier at Manassas Park Middle School on Saturday, Feb. 9.

With a focus on building the most innovative robots possible, the team’s six robots competed against a total of 40 robots hoping to earn spots to Roboticon at Forest Park High School on March 9 and the VEX World Championship in Anaheim, Calif., in April. Metz’s robot 5173S ended the qualifying round in 9th place, while robot 5173Z ended in 15th place.

A total of four of Metz’s robots were selected to compete in the tournament round. In what appeared to be a scene from a futuristic motion picture, Robot 5173S selected 5173Z to compete as an alliance during the tournament, winning their best two out of three matches during the round of 16 and quarterfinals before ultimately falling short in the semifinals.

Both robots earned spots in next month’s Roboticon at Forest Park. Roboticon will feature the top 60 robots from public and private middle schools in Prince William County, Manassas, and Manassas Park. Additional spots will be awarded to the VEX World Championship in Anaheim during this competition.

The Metz Robotics team is coached by Metz teacher math teacher, Leonard Newman.

Potomac Middle School Celebrates Excellence


WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Potomac Middle School and its panthers has done something it has never done before: achieve a ranking of School of Excellence in Prince William County.

The six-year-old school is home to 1,100 students and sits on Panther Pride Drive in Woodbridge, where two other schools – Potomac High and Mary Williams Elementary schools – all share the panther mascot.

But it is the students and staff at Potomac Middle who are celebrating a scholastic achievement of excellence, one they want to share with parents and the community.

“I can’t take credit because I wasn’t here last year, but based on last year’s data I truly attribute the success of past leadership of past teachers, students, and success of those who were here last year. My goal is to keep it going,” said school Principal Alfie Turner, who made the transition from elementary to middle school principal in June.

Every school in Prince William County is measured in the “School of Excellence” program sponsored by the county School Board. Criteria such as full school accreditation, parent and student satisfaction, and scholastic improvements are all measured on a scale of 100 points. Those who achieve 90 or above achieve School of Excellence.

This past year, students at Potomac Middle improved significantly in reading and language arts. It’s an achievement that especially been celebrated by the men and women who came to open this school in Sept. 2006.

“The emotion on the faces of the staff members, especially the inaugural staff – the group that’s been here from the time the school opened – we had teachers stepping out and saying ‘praise the lord,’ and you can see that sense of pride wanting to continue,” said Turner.

Something else Turner hopes will continue: parents who want to remain involved in their child’s education. Coming from an elementary school where more parents “are a little more connected” to their parent-teacher associations, Turner said parents are always welcome to sit in classrooms here, and many have also taken an active roll in volunteering and recognizing the hard work of teachers each month.

A total of 40 elementary and middle schools in Prince William County achieved the School of Excellence rating for the 2012-13 school year. Individual celebrations to honor these achievements at each respective school began last month.

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