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Performances Set for Stafford’s Fine Art Festival

STAFFORD, Va. — Art, jazz, African drum ensembles, choirs, and dramatic performances – organizers said there is something for everyone at Stafford County’s Fine Art Festival.

The annual spring show features work from 5,000 students from kindergarten to seniors in high school. It’ll be held Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Brooke Point High School in Stafford.

“Our visual art teachers put on stunning exhibitions, collecting student art work from the beginning of the year, matting, and labeling each piece carefully to prepare for the festival. Many volunteers help to make the event a success, including parent volunteers, students, and staff members,” said Annamarie Bollino, fine and performing arts coordinator.

The show is not a competition so there will be no judging happening. It’ll just be a place where the community can come appreciate the artistic talent of Stafford’s public school students.

“Stafford County has outstanding arts programs, thanks to the support of the community, our parents, and our talented teachers. Because of the strong commitment to the arts in our community our students are privileged to have the opportunities to pursue their artistic goals, said Bollino.

The show is free and is made possible by many parents, teachers, and community volunteers.

 

News
Teacher to Stafford Leaders: ‘Ya’ll Got to Give Us a Little Bit of Sometin’’

By KEITH WALKER
For Potomac Local News

STAFFORD, Va. — Applause isn’t allowed during discussions and meetings in the Stafford County Board of Supervisors chamber, so a room full of teachers held up little signs, with flat wooden handles and waggled them above their heads when they liked something they heard.

Judging by the sign waggling, the teachers liked hearing their fellow teachers talk about pay raises, overcrowded classrooms and teacher retention during citizens’ time at the evening Board session.

Many of the teachers told board members that Stafford County schools loses about 10 percent of its teachers each year to school districts that offer better pay.

Eric Herr, one of about 25 who spoke to the Board, brought along a visual aid which consisted of two mason jars, a rock, and some pebbles.

Herr’s rock was too big to fit into the smaller of the two jars.

Herr told board members that the rock represented the needs of Stafford County residents.

“The rock is appropriate because this is the rock that our children, our students and society is built upon,” Herr said.

Herr went on to say that the smaller jar represented the school budget and the rock represented the needs of the school system.

“If we can’t fit this rock into the budget, we’ve got a problem” said Herr, a former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot.

So Herr put the rock in the larger glass along with a handful of pebbles representing students to illustrate the need for more money to support the school system.

“We can take care of our students. We can take care of our teachers. My message is, let’s put our teachers first. Let’s do our job, take care of our students,” Herr said.

The signs, which bore messages written in red, with felt-tip markers, waggled.

This year’s school board budget include a request for $18.8 million more last year’s $244-million budget.

In a board meeting last month, School Board Chairman Stephanie J. Johnson, told the county board that, among other things, the extra money would be used to hire 15 special education teachers, to reduce class sizes for kindergarten through third-grade students at Ferry Farm Elementary School, and reinstate remedial summer school.

During that meeting, Aquia District Supervisor Paul Milde told Johnson that scarcity of money prevented more finding for schools.

“You know as well as I do that we don’t have $18 million,” Milde told Johnson. “I know you need money, but you know that we literally don’t have it.”

Art Jackson dissented from most of the speakers Tuesday and told the Board he is taxpayer who “puts my hand in my pocket and gives you money.”

Jackson said he has a personal stake in quality education since his grandchildren attend Stafford County Public Schools.

Jackson went on to say that he thought the supervisors and school board members should talk with each other to resolve budgetary issues.

“I don’t think we can afford to have the lack of communication between the school board and this body. I think this body should be congratulated for the work that it’s done on the economic picture,” Jackson said.

Still, Jackson said he was worried about the quality of education in county schools.

“As I go around and talk to children in this community, I’m amazed at the lack of knowledge that they have on basic things,” he said. “History is an unknown quantity to them. When I grew up in the schools, all the classrooms had a picture of George Washington in there. Now we are lucky for them to know who George Washington was.”

Robert Thomas, a Stafford County physical education teacher who has a son who graduated from Stafford County Public Schools and a daughter who attends Mountain View High School, told the Board that teachers needed help if they were to continue giving students a quality education.

“Ya’ll got to give us a little bit of sometin’” said Thomas, who has taught in Stafford County schools for 20 years.

Laughter accompanied the sign waggling.

Stafford Students Win Buckle Up, Drive Sober Challenge

Submitted News

STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. — Two Stafford County High Schools recently received awards for their participation in the state wide 2013 Buckle Up, Drive Sober Challenge sponsored by the Youth of Virginia Speak Out youth leadership program.

These students, members of the Stafford High School YOVASO Club and the Mountain View High School YOVASO Club, developed various activities and programs directed to their classmates that dealt with the importance of always wearing seat belts when in motor vehicle, car safety seat checks at a local fire station, being on a local radio station and students signing a banner at the school pledging to “BUCKLE UP & DRIVE SOBER.”

Each YOVASO Club has a teacher sponsor as well as a deputy from the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office Traffic Safety Unit.

Mountain View High School was awarded a $100 check for their regional YOVASO Award in the presence of Haley Glynn, YOVASO Marketing and Project Manager, numerous school administrators as well as Major David Decatur and several members of the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office.

Stafford High School was awarded a winner banner, plaque and recognition as the YOVASO Winner for the entire State of Virginia. Sheriff Charles Jett joined YOVASO’s Project Manager, school administrators, parents and Sheriff’s Office Traffic Safety Unit deputies at the award ceremony. Due to winning the YOVASO State Award, Stafford High School will have the use of an impaired driver simulator for an entire day that the students at Stafford high School may utilize.

 

News
State Budget Increases Funding for Education

By AMBER SHIFFLETT and BLAKE BELDEN
Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. – During the final hours of Wednesday’s reconvened session, the General Assembly approved a state budget that boosts funding for Virginia’s public schools next year.

Legislators considered changes that Gov. Bob McDonnell wanted them to make to House Bill 1500, which lays out the state budget for the 2013-14 biennium. The assembly had passed the bill in February, but McDonnell recommended 52 amendments.

The House and Senate approved most of the governor’s recommendations, including three that provided $2.35 million in additional funds for education.

For example, the General Assembly adopted McDonnell’s recommendation to add $2 million to his Strategic Compensation Grant initiative, increasing that pool of money to $7.5 million for next year. The governor said the additional funding “will allow more school divisions to participate in this program, which rewards effective teaching.”

The initiative allows school districts to provide additional compensation to teachers who take jobs at more challenging schools and help students succeed academically.

Legislators also approved McDonnell’s request to boost funding for the Virginia Community College System by $100,000 next year. The additional money will help develop the Governor’s Academy for Student Apprenticeships and Trades. The academy will target high school students looking for full-time employment after graduation.

Besides helping high school students establish careers, the General Assembly also approved more funds for medical education.

As part of the state’s community development and revitalization efforts, the General Assembly approved McDonnell’s amendment for $250,000 to plan the construction of a medical college in Abingdon.

Delegate Joe Johnson, D-Abingdon, said he supports the amendment because the proposed medical facility will bring economic growth to less prosperous areas of Virginia.

“Southwest Virginia is the poor part of the state, so to speak; there’s not a lot of opportunities down there,” Johnson said before the House voted on the amendment Wednesday. Johnson said the facility will generate more than $100 million and about 500 jobs.

The General Assembly rejected two of McDonnell’s education-related budget amendments.

One would have provided $450,000 next year for the Opportunity Educational Institution, a new state-level unit to oversee public schools that have received accreditation warnings for three consecutive years.

Legislators also rejected McDonnell’s recommendation to award $1 million to the Hampton Roads Proton Beam Therapy Institute at Hampton University. The university is a private institution that has historically served African Americans.

“We ought to give the money to public institutions, not private institutions,” said Delegate Johnny Joannou, D-Portsmouth.

News
Increase in Pr. Wm. School Funding Would Mean Cuts in County Services

Prince William County School Board Chairman Milton Johns. [Photo: Uriah Kiser / Potomac Local News]

Johns

By URIAH KISER

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. – In the nation’s seventh wealthiest county Tuesday night, officials from county government and schools went back and forth over how much money to invest into education.

Prince William County lags behind others in the Washington, D.C.region, spending about $10,000 per student in it’s public school system. Neighboring Loudoun County spends about $1,400 more per student, and Arlington County spends $18,000 per student, according to information presented by Prince William County School Board Chairman Milton C. Johns.

Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland.

Candland

So, as officials hammer out a budget for fiscal year 2014 to be approved by May 1, some have called into question a unique agreement between the schools and the county government forged in 1998 – an accord that automatically funds the schools with 56% of Prince William’s annual budget. The money is simply transferred and the county’s School Board and they spend it how they see fit.

Stewart

Stewart

But is 56% enough?

“It’s my personal opinion that having the highest classroom sizes in the commonwealth of Virginia is unacceptable, and we have to do something different,” said Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland, whose wife is a former Prince William school teacher. “A revenue share agreement designed in 1998 has served us well… but we are a completely different county than we were then, and we are in a different postion, and the 56.5 percent share is not enough.”

School officials agree, and they like a plan put forth by Candland that would give schools 62% of the county’s budget, about $15 million more each year to a school budget that’s already projected to be $1.3 billion.

“I think it was once said a billion here and a billion there, put them together and then you’ve go real money. We’ll, our budget is now in the real money category,” said Johns, who said the revenue sharing agreement should be “revisited.”

At a rare meeting of both the School Board and Board of County Supervisors last night, the schools made their case for additional funding. Prince William County Public Schools:

–Receive 2,000 new students each year (the equivalent population of an entire high school)

– Is the second largest school system in Virginia, 39th in the nation

– Has a student population where 17% of children qualify for free or reduced lunch

– Needs to hire 121 new teachers to keep up with pace of growth

– Has not seen revenues (dependent upon tax dollars) keep pace with growth

So, they’ve made cuts, according to Johns.

— $25,000 cut from elementary schools

— $40,000 cut from middle schools

— $70,000 cut from high schools

— 1% cut to the schools’ central office

And, as enrollment continues to grow by 3% each year, teachers salaries– unlike those of some county government employees – do not.

“We have been to mirror the county’s pay plan but, so far, but we have not found the revenue to match it,” said Johns, and added the school system is eying a 2% pay raise for teachers in the coming year.

The Prince William County Board of Supervisors in February set the advertised tax rate at 3.59 percent (instead of a projected 4% rate), which, if approved, residents will pay an average $3,435 tax bill next year. Tuesday night, some of those same officials said the current revenue transfer agreement works, and that officials should do a better job sticking to a five year plan that consistently projects higher revenues for the county based on growth.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart said it’s easy to say we need more funding for students and schools, but doing it without thinking it through could bring unintended outcomes.

“If we’re going to change that percentage there are very real life consequences to other county services that will have to be specifically enumerated before we can consider changing the percentage,” said Stewart.

Under Candland’s 62% / 38% revenue split, it’s clear schools win. But so do people like police officers, fire and rescue workers, public safety communication workers, librarians, parks and recreation employees, and those whom the county owes money – all would be continue to be funded at current levels.

But, according to county budget officials, the plan would shrink the remaining portion of the county’s budget to just $92 million after things like insurance, judicial costs to operate a courthouse in Manassas, and federal mandates are all paid for. Other services like the public works, planning, economic development, budget, senior citizens care, even cuts to the County Executive’s office would become a reality.

Overall, if the revenue share agreement with the schools is increased, $41 million in cuts to the county’s budget must be made by July 1. Candland assured many in the audience, as well as fellow Board members, that those cuts can be found and executed in order to provide children a better education.

*This story has been corrected. 

Brooke Point Student Tackles Colon Cancer

Submitted News

Brooke Point High School students dressed in Blue on March 1 for National dress in Blue day for Colon Cancer Awareness. Freshman Danielle Cornwell, whose father battled with stage IV colon cancer, is leading the charge at her school this March along with the school’s Learn & Serve program.

Danielle states, “It was hard to watch my dad fight colon cancer. Not many people talk about colon cancer and I use to get upset every time I saw a breast cancer commercial and nothing for colon cancer. So I am breaking the silence, someone has too.”

High school students are far from the recommend age for colon cancer screening, which is 45-50, depending on family history. So why bring it into the schools? In a study done by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, the average age of first time parents in the DC Metro area was 26 years old in 2006. That means that the majority of students in high school in this area have parents that are approaching the age 45-50 in a few short years.

The student lead charge will include national dress in blue day, lunch room educational booths and putting together a large student team to participate in Scope for Hope 5k on March 16th. Scope for Hope is an awareness 5k race hosted by Associates in Gastroenterology**, a local GI practice.

Danielle continues, “It may be a hard topic for my friends to bring up at the dinner table but I feel like I can help them start the conversation with their parents. National Dress in Blue Day is an awesome opportunity to explain to someone why you are in blue. And they [students] can invite their parents to support them at the 5k race, which is both fun and educational.”

* March is Colon Cancer Awareness month. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Why? Rectum…anus…colonoscopy . These might as well be four letter words. Unlike the recent stigma change about breast cancer, society hasn’t jumped on the colorectal cancer wagon quite yet. And the silence is deadly. 60% of deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented with routine screening.

**Associates in Gastroenterology specialize in the evaluation, diagnosis, and management of all diseases and disorders affecting the digestive system. Dr. Josovitz, Brown, Marathe, Huang and Aram are locally recognized as Northern Virginia Magazine’s Top 100 Doctors in this February’s issue and in years past. They are the top in their field and would be available for interviews, quotes or expertise in this or future stories. Please see our website for additional information www.assocgi.com .

News
Stafford Teachers Educated on Guns, Surviving a School Shooting

By URIAH KISER

NORTH STAFFORD, Va. — In the event of a school shooting, it can be survival of the fittest.

That’s why officials in Stafford County worked to exercise the minds of teachers and school administrators, to prepare them for the possibility of an armed intruder who could potentially kill them and their students.

A special seminar was held Thursday night at North Stafford High School for teachers from across the county. A partnership between the schools and sheriff’s department, it was billed as the first of its kind in the state following the school shooting that killed 27 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

A retired Stafford sheriff’s deputy, 1st Sgt Frank Martello, told teachers who don’t normally confront violent situations that they need to be prepared to run, hide or fight in the event of an active shooter situation at their schools. In many cases, attackers are thwarted before police arrive, so its important teachers have a plan and know what to do.

“If we have police on the scene in two minutes and you have an active shooter, that could be one minute and 58 seconds too late,” said Martello. “We will get there and we will find you. But the idea is to find you while you are still alive… inaction is not an option.”

Teachers were urged to go back to their classrooms following the training and take inventory of anything that could be used as a weapon and locate anything that would provide cover to hide behind in the event on an armed intruder. A chair is one of the weapon teachers were suggested to use, but it’s not the only one.

“…look around… almost anything, with a little practice, can be used as a weapon,” said Martello.

Profile of a possible school shooter

This countywide training is the first of many new security initiatives planned for the schools, said Sheriff Charles E. Jett. It wasn’t held in response to a specific threat but due to concerns about improved security in the county’s schools. Such improvements might include placing large numbers over every school entrance to make it easier for public safety crews to respond to shooting victims and giving police access to hallway security cameras at schools.

“There are a lot of things you don’t know about, and then there are a lot of things you know about that we don’t,” said Jett, urging cooperation and better communication between teachers and law enforcement.

School shootings are nothing new, with the first in the U.S. dating back to 1927 when 38 children were shot and killed, said Martello. Since then, in mass shootings like Columbine High School in 1999, Virginia Tech in 2007 and Sandy Hook in December, the shooters all had things in common, said Martello:

-Male

-Psychopathic

-Delusional

-Usually bullied in past

-Did not threaten victims

-Showed prior behavior / told others about idea to attack

-Did not intend to survive shooting incident

Teachers who attended the training said they’ve been teaching behind locked doors since Sandy Hook. They also wanted to know when it’s OK to act if a child seems suspicious.

“I already have children that fit into that profile,” said Laurie Gildstead, a second-grade teacher. “We need more awareness in the schools because, as teachers, we have to teach more than just the basic subjects, we have to teach basic manners to children who have parents who want to be their ‘friend’ and not their parent.”

Martello said the burden falls on the teacher, or those who spend the most time around the child, to report suspicious behavior.

What to report in during a shooting

If the worse happens, it’ll also be up to the people inside to report accurate and helpful information to law enforcement who will be charged with immediately entering the building and disarming the shooter. Police will want to know things like:

Are there any hostages?

Is there a barricade?

Have you heard any explosions others than gunfire?

Where is the shooter inside of the building?

When was the last time you saw the shooter?

What kind of weapon did the shooter have?

That last question about the type of weapon prompted Martello to show a variety of weapons – such as shotguns, rifles and handguns – so teachers would have a better understanding of what firearms look like and how to better described them to 911 call takers.

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Picture 1 of 7

Denise Miller, a H.H. Pool Middle School Counselor, takes a shot gun in hand at the training for emergency preparedness held at North Stafford High School on Thursday night. [Photo: Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]

News
Extra Funds Few as Stafford Teachers Flee for Better Pay

By KEITH WALKER
For Potomac Local News

Johnson

Johnson

STAFFORD, Va. — Prospects of extra money going to Stafford County schools next year doesn’t look promising.

Stafford County Public Schools School Board Chairman Stephanie J. Johnson met some resistance Tuesday afternoon when she presented the school board’s proposed Fiscal 2014 budget to the Stafford Board of County Supervisors.

Milde

Milde

The proposed budget includes an $18.8 million increase over last year’s $244 million budget.

Johnson said the extra money would help the school board buy two new school buses and security cameras for 230 buses, reinstate remedial summer school and hire 15 special education teachers, one gifted education teacher, 19 special education paraprofessionals, two bus drivers and two new bus monitors.

Johnson went on to say that the budget increase would also be used for a six percent pay increase for school employees as well as a 2.5-percent step increase for school employees and said that 85 percent of the schools budget went toward salaries and benefits.

Johnson’s told the board that Stafford County schools lost 118 teachers in 2009 and 172 teachers in 2010. In 2011, the school system lost 218 teachers and 239 teachers left the school system in 2012.

Johnson said she believes many of the teachers left for better pay in surrounding jurisdictions.

“Retaining our teachers has become more of a challenge over the past four years,” Johnson told the supervisors. “Highly effective teachers gravitate toward a school system that values their years of experience and expertise.”

Among other things, the school board’s proposed budget would also reduce class sizes in kindergarten through third grade at Ferry Farm Elementary School and expand slots in the Virginia Preschool Initiative Program for 4-year-olds from 50 to 154 students.

Even with the expansion, there would not be room for all of the 4-year-olds in the county to attend preschool, Johnson said.

“There are currently 200 children on the waiting list at our nationally-recognized Head Start program,” she said.

After her presentation, Johnson took questions from county board members that included how the school system calculates student-to-teacher ratios, the school system’s budget process, how the school board budgets for health benefits, if schools were safe and how much money comes into the system from outside sources.

Johnson said that $3.2 million of the requested $18.8 million increase came from state, federal and other sources. She promised the supervisors she would get back to them with detailed answers to the other questions.

Aquia District Supervisor Paul V. Milde, III said he recognized that teacher raises were always “held in the balance” of tight budgets, but reminded Johnson that money was still short.

“You know as well as we do that we don’t have $18 million,” Milde said. “I know you need money, but you know that we literally don’t have it.”

None of the other supervisors contradicted Milde’s statement.

News
Stafford High Wins ‘Buckle Up, Drive Sober’ Contest

STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. — Stafford High School won a statewide competition aimed at getting drivers to buckle up and drive sober.

A second high school in the county also was recognized by competition judges.

More in a press release:

Stafford High School in Stafford County isthe statewide winner of the 2013 “Buckle Up, Drive Sober” campaign sponsored by Youth of Virginia Speak Out About Traffic Safety (YOVASO), The Century Council, and the Virginia State Police Association (VSPA).

Stafford High School won the Northern Virginia Region of the campaign, and then defeated the four other regional winners,for the grand prize during an unannounced seat belt check by the Virginia State Police and YOVASO staff. Stafford recorded a 92.2% percent seat belt use rate during the check.

In addition to the statewide and regional winners ,five Judges’ Choice Winners were selected, based on creativity and implementation of the buckle up, drive sober message. Schoolst hat placed in the three? week safe driving campaign are listed below.

Regional Winners:

Northern Virginia – Stafford High School, Stafford Co.

Shenandoah Valley – Fort Defiance High School, Augusta Co.

Greater Richmond – Middlesex High School, Middlesex Co.

Central/Piedmont – Franklin County High School, Franklin Co.

SW Virginia – Blacksburg High School, Montgomery Co.

Judges’ Choice Winners:

Northern Virginia – Mountain View High School, Stafford Co.

Shenandoah Valley – Stuarts DraftHigh School, Augusta Co.

Greater Richmond –Glen Allen High School, Henrico Co.

Central/Piedmont –Heritage High School, City of Lynchburg

SW Virginia – Lord Botetourt High School, Botetourt Co.

As the statewide winner, Stafford High School students will receive a day with the UNITE International DUI/DWI Simulator, along with a banner and plaque. UNITE’s Arrive Alive simulator is the top ranked drunk driving and distracted driving prevention program for young drivers.

All other Regional Winners will receive $500, a banner and plaque. Judges’ Choice Winners will receive $100. All prizes were funded by The Century Council. Across Virginia, 41 schools participated in the campaign which challenged students to develop a creative project for their school that educated students about seat belt safety and the dangers of driving under.

News
Update: Manassas Park Schools Closed Today

Update 8 a.m.

All Manassas Park Public Schools are closed today. 

MANASSAS PARK, Va. – Manassas Park Public Schools are on a two-hour delay this morning.

The school division reports power lines fell across Euclid Avenue where both Manassas Park Middle and High schools are located.

Manassas Park police spokeswoman Karen Barton said a truck hit a utility pole this morning causing the downed lines. The lines are expected to be repaired by 9 a.m., she added.

News
Dumfries Plans $100,000 for School Police Officer, Others Do it for Free

DUMFRIES, Va. — Following the tragic December 2013 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Dumfries Elementary School will be the first and only elementary school in Prince William County to have a full-time police officer on campus. The school sits in the Town of Dumfries, which has agreed to fund the new position. 

The move was approved by the Town Council and will cost town taxpayers about $100,000 to implement the new police position, when taking into account for training, equipment, and a new police cruiser, according to police officials.

The new police officer could be walking the halls of the school in time for the new school year this fall. But the decision to put a police officer at Dumfries comes as another jurisdiction – Simpsonville, S.C. – has found a way to do it for free.

More now in a report from NBC’s Today Show: 

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

 

News
Stafford High School Championship Girls Softball Team Honored 30-Years Later

By KEITH WALKER
For Potomac Local News

STAFFORD, Va. — The 30th anniversary of the state championship the Stafford High School Girls Softball Team won in 1982 came and went without remark or notice.

Even some of the women who played on the team let the day slip by.

But late last year, Gary Quintero, a member of the team’s boosters club, noticed a banner denoting the win high in the rafters of the school’s gym and wondered why no one remembered in 2012 to commemorate the feat from 1982.

He asked around and it turned out that people just didn’t remember the winning team, so he decided to put together a ceremony even though it would be a year late in coming.

“It was a state championship team and there’s not that many in a lot of high schools” Quintero said. “It was the first ever championship ever in Stafford High School’s history.”

The women who were champions as girls, met again Wednesday at the Stafford Indians softball field where they hugged, laughed, looked at old scrapbooks and reminisced about the glory days.

Paula Schenemann, whose last name was Jett in 1982, said the best part of the ceremony was seeing everyone.

Ginger Wible, whose name was Ginger Cooper when she played as a sophomore, said winning the state championship win didn’t “sink in” until the following season.

“It was like, ‘Man, where do we go now?’” Wible said.

While she thought the ceremony was “awesome,” Wible said these days the win is a memory that only pops up occasionally.

“I think now, it’s just something that happened 30 years ago,” Wible

But the thing that happened in 1982 forged long-term friendships, Wible said.

“All of us are still in this area. We’re all still friends. We all still keep in touch,” Wible said.

Marla Brown-Carpenter, who played on the team as a freshman, was also pleased to receive the belated recognition.

“I didn’t think about it on the 30th, but I’m glad that they put this together,” she said.

Looking back on it and remembering, Brown Carpenter said the 2-0 win against Hanover County’s Lee Davis High School was “a great feeling.”

Rene Thomas-Rizzo brought her son Ryan to the event.

Ryan Rizzo, a sophomore at Chantilly High School, said his mother talks about the championship win.

“She thinks she’s the stuff,” the 16-year-old Ryan said.

“I always try to make him wear my number,” Thomas-Rizzo said of her son who plays lacrosse, basketball and golf.

Lorie Carneal said while the win was “overwhelming” she remembered that the girls tossed their Coach Bernard ‘Bunny” Humphrey into the pond nest to the softball field.

“That pond’s not clean,” Carneal said.

During the ceremony, Stafford High School Athletic Director Wes Bergazzi, read a quote Humphrey reportedly gave to the Free-Lance Star newspaper after the championship win years ago.

His remarks seemed to sum up what it takes to win big.

“This team has played together. When somebody was down, somebody else picked up the slack,” the quote read.

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Team members give each other a high five as they are called on to the softball field to receive their trophy. [Photo: Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]

News
Stafford and Prince William County Schools Receive Awards

By KJ MUSHUNG

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.”

News
Several Eye Woodbridge School Board Seat

By STEPHANIE TIPPLE

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.

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

By STEPHANIE TIPPLE
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.

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