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Ferry Farm Elementary Closed Today

The seal of Stafford County Public Schools.

Stafford County, Va. — Ferry Farm Elementary School in Stafford County is closed today after school officials say the building has no heat. Parents, students, and staff have all been told not to report to the school today.

The YMCA before and after school programs, as well as all after-school activities have been canceled.


7 Stafford Schools Exceed Standards

The seal of Stafford County Public Schools.

Seven Stafford Schools were among the 447 in Virginia to earn 2012 Virginia Index of Performance awards for advanced learning and achievement. The incentive program recognizes schools and divisions that far exceed minimum state and federal accountability standards and achieve excellence goals established by the governor and the board.

Garrisonville Elementary received the 2012 Governor’s Award for Educational Excellence by meeting all state and federal achievement benchmarks for the last two consecutive years and achieving all applicable excellence goals.

Two schools, Colonial Forge High School and Rockhill Elementary School, earned the Board of Education Excellence award, the second-tier honor in the VIP program.

Four elementary schools, Ferry Farm, Grafton Village, Stafford and Winding Creek, were among the 171 schools that earned the Board of Education Competence to Excellence Awards.

Governor Bob McDonnell stated, “I congratulate the educators in these schools and divisions for their unwavering commitment to academic excellence and to the success of their students,” McDonnell said. “They put students first and maintain high expectations for instruction, learning and student achievement.”

These schools will be recognized at the Stafford School Board meeting on Tuesday, January 24th, for their accomplishments.

-Unedited press release 

Colonial Forge Nets New Principal

The seal of Stafford County Public Schools.

Stafford, Va. — A former school principal in Manassas will take over at Colonial Forge High School in Stafford, the school now infamously known for the Banana Man controversy.

Michael Byers will begin his duties at the school Jan. 3, after relocating from his current position as assistant principal at Briar Woods High School in Loudoun County, said Stafford schools spokeswoman Valerie Cottongim.

During Byers’ 17 years in education, he has taught health and worked as an athletic trainer in Manassas Public Schools, and was promoted to assistant principal at Osbourn High School in that city.

Colonial Forge had been led by an interim administrator following the resignation of Dr. Karen Spillman, who ordered the suspension of a 14-year-old student who ran onto a football field during a game wearing a banana costume.

Beyers has worked in Loudoun County since 2005, is a graduate of George Mason University, and earned his Master’s degree from Virginia Tech.

UMW Students Want Louder Voice within School

Students who recently turned protesters at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg say the school has increasingly made education into a business.

In preparation for a planned “Occupy Mary Wash” event, similar to an Occupy Wall Street protest, the UMW Bullet reported earlier this month the students held a teach-in to express their frustrations about lack of representation on the school’s Board of Visitors.

“What’s important is that we all realize that education is becoming a business. What we can do with the BOV is to show them that we want our own voice,” the newspaper quoted one of the students.

Read the full story at

Holiday Craft Show Benefits Music Program

PL Box LogoWoodbridge, Va. — Gar-Field Senior High School will hold its annual holiday craft fair Saturday, Dec. 10.

The show will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the school, at 14000 Smoketown Road in Woodbridge across from Potomac Mills mall.

All proceeds from the show will benefit the school’s orchestra program with the purchase of new instruments, new music, awards and scholarships, and instrument maintenance, said craft show coordinator Kathy Kann.

This year there will be more than 150 spaces made available to crafters to showcase homemade food items and crafts like candles, jewelry, wood items, clothing, paintings, quilts, holiday decorations, stained glass, and more, said Kann.

Admission to the show and parking is free.

Gar-Field Lays Veterans Day Wreath

MCJROTC at Gar-Field Senior High School in Woodbridge lay a wreath at the school in honor of Veterans Day.

Woodbridge, Va. – Gar-Field High Senior High School in Woodbridge on Thursday held its annual Veterans Day wreath-laying ceremony Thursday morning.

Click here to see photos and see coverage of the event.

School Identifies Risks of Online Publishing

Stafford, Va. — Students at Brooke Pointe High School will get a lesson on responsible Facebook posting.

The month-long initiative, Pause Before You Post, begins with school officials showing students an informative video about posting personal messages on social media sites like Facebook for all to see, as well as identifying the risks and dangers of cyberbullying.

“With over 93 percent of teens using some form of digital media for personal publishing, we wanted to provide a vehicle to create awareness and start conversations in school and at home about using media responsibility,” said Brooke Point High School Counseling Director Dr. Marialena Bridges.

There are dangers to posting too much information online, officials said, including damage to personal reputations and the looming threat that discussions or arguments that begin online could carry over into real life.

Students at the school who sign a pledge banner will also be given a “Pause” pin to wear to show support for responsible online publishing, said Marialena.

Brooke Point High School opened in 1993 off of Courthouse Road (Va. 630) and currently has 1,650 students and 184 staff members.

Schools Band Together to Fight Hunger

Mountain View High School in Stafford.

The first annual “BAND Together to Fight Hunger” marching showcase of bands will be held on Thursday, Nov. 3, at 7 p.m., at Mountain View High School, at 2135 Mountain View Road in Stafford.

The event will take place on the football field and consist of an evening filled with exciting and powerful music and marching performances of all five Stafford County award-winning high school bands.

Admission requires a non-perishable food item to benefit the Fredericksburg Area Food Bank. Monetary donations will also be accepted.

This event is not designed simply to showcase musical talent, or highlight individual school band programs, but is designed as a way to bring our Stafford community together in the effort to raise awareness of the challenges in relation to food and hunger that 40 in 100 of citizens are facing daily.

For information, contact Julie McDonald at 678-491-4282.

-Press release 


School Land Swap Could be Lucrative

In 2010, crews work to upgrade the parking lot at Moncure Elementary School in North Stafford. (File photo)

North Stafford, Va. — As Stafford County eyes relocating Anne E. Moncure Elementary School from its site along Va. 610 in busy North Stafford, the Stafford County Board of Supervisors could benefit from the deal.

According to, the Board is prepared to pay $1.69 million for a nearby site to relocate the school to and then hand over the site to the county school system – in exchange for the land the school currently sits on which is worth a considerably high amount of cash.

NOVA Joins National Athletics Association

Northern Virginia Community College is stepping up their games with an announcement that they have joined the National Junior College Athletic Association.

The campus newspaper, the NOVA Fortnightly, has more on this story.

Born in 1964, NVCC, or NOVA, is the largest college in Virginia and is the second largest community college in the U.S. with more than 75,000 students enrolled.


Math Textbooks Up for Review

By Kristina Schnack Kotlus

Prince William County, Va. — Following a committee review, proposed math textbooks for Prince William County Schools are now on display for public review.

Mathematics textbooks for kindergarten through calculus will be available for viewing and comments from now until December 21, 2011.

“Citizens’ comments will be collected and considered by the textbook adoption committee as they prepare their recommendations to the School Board this winter,” stated a Prince William County Schools press release.

The textbooks from Kindergarten through Algebra II will be available at:

Professional Library of the Edward. L. Kelly Leadership Center

Chinn Park Regional Library

Bull Run Regional Libraries

Ashland Elementary School

Battlefield High School

Ellis Elementary School

Forest Park High School

Fred Lynn Middle School

Lake Ridge Middle School

Occoquan Elementary School

Penn Elementary School

Pennington Traditional School

Saunders Middle School

Signal Hill Elementary School

Swans Creek Elementary School

Victory Elementary School

T. Clay Wood Elementary School.

Upper level books for math above Algebra II will be available at the Edward L. Kelly Leadership Center, at 14715 Bristow Road in Manassas.

Math in PWCS has been a hot-button issue for many parents following the introduction of “Math Investigations” which prompted the creation of a website, “”.

The final adoption report for any new recommended materials is planned for presentation to the School Board for information and approval in February 2012.


School Bus Schedules Posted

It’s back to school Tuesday for public school students in the Potomac Communities.

Prince William and Stafford counties have both placed their bus schedules online making it easy for parents to find out what bus their child should take to and from school.

Stafford anticipates welcoming nearly 27,000 students to class on Tuesday while Prince William schools expect to see 86,000 students.

During the summer, Prince William also put the finishing touches on three new schools: Patriot High School, Piney Branch and T. Clay Wood elementary schools.

The school year for both divisions runs through June.

Marines Help Stuff the Bus

(Submitted photo)

Stafford, Va. — Volunteers on Friday worked to fill more than 500 backpacks full of school supplies for children, marking the end of the annual Stuff the Bus School Supply Drive.

Business owners from the area and Marines from Quantico helped the children who gathered at the Alvin York Bandy school administration building in Stafford to fill the backpacks.

“These backpacks will be distributed to children throughout the school system whose families would have difficulties providing the needed school supplies for their children,” said Stafford schools spokeswoman Valerie Cottongim.

The school supply drive ends and schools in Stafford and Prince William counties are preparing for the upcoming school year.

Today was the first day back to school for teachers in Stafford and Prince William counties. Students were set to return to school on Sept. 6, after Labor Day.

To get ready, Prince William County Public Schools is celebrating the hiring of 650 new teachers.

Stafford Eyes LEED School

Stafford High School (Mary Davidson/

Stafford County, Va. — School officials have sustainable, green buildings in their sights as at least one Stafford County School Board member plans to head to Henrico County on Thursday to tour an environmentally friendly school.

The tour group that includes at least one School Board member and one member of the Board’s advisory committee will tour Glen Allen High School, which opened in 2010 as a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified building, said Stafford schools spokeswoman Valerie Cottongim.

The tour comes as county school officials are eying construction of a new Stafford High School, which will be located near the existing school site in Stafford County. When finished in 2015, the school could be Stafford’s first three-story school building.

The tour group will leave Stafford at 1 p.m. headed to Glen Allen High School, which sits at 10700 Staples Mill Road in Glen Allen.


Help with Back to School


Apple Federal Credit Union in Garrisonville is one of several drop off points in the Potomac Communities where school supplies can be donated. (File photo)

Kristina Schnack Kotlus
Schools and Education Reporter

Local Businesses in the Potomac Communities are helping to ensure students are geared up for fall. Each year numerous students return to school without the necessary supplies they need to participate in class. Local businesses are hoping to inspire residents to help ensure every child has the basic supplies they need.

In Stafford, Apple Federal Credit Union has helped to coordinate a drive called “Stuff the Bus” in cooperation with numerous other business partners who are acting as drop-off sites. Booz Allen Hamilton, Costco and Rioch are also helping to support this endeavor. Donations are needed by August 20 for the “Stuff the Bus” program. School supply lists and details are available on their website, and a list of drop-off sites is below.

In Woodbridge, Chick-fil-A on the Prince William County Parkway is offering not only a drop-off site, but an incentive. Any customer who donates $5 of school supplies will receive a free original or spicy chicken sandwich.

Numerous local churches are also collecting backpacks, including Freedom Fellowship in Dale City and New Hope Church in Lorton. Apple Federal’s Stuff the Bus Program also occurs in Prince William County with drop off sites throughout Manassas and Woodbridge. Century 21 New Millennium will also be collecting school supplies through August 17th.

Larger companies, such as office supply giant Staples, run programs out of their own buildings and will have collection bins placed in stores through mid-September.

Stafford Drop Off Locations:
Apple Federal Credit Union, 50 Dunn Drive
Chick-fil-A, 25 Dunn Drive
Chick-fil-A 1094, International Parkway
NextCare Urgent Care, 15 S. Gateway Drive
NextCare Urgent Care, 330 White Oak Road
NextCare Urgent Care, 325 Garrisonville Road
Stafford County Public Schools, 31 Stafford Avenue
Stafford County Social Services, 1300 Courthouse Road
Storage 2000, 2865 Jefferson Davis Hwy
Storage 2000, 521 Garrisonville Road
Walmart-Stafford Lakes, 11 Village Parkway

Prince William County Drop Off Locations:
Chick-fil-A 2425 Prince William Parkway
Freedom Fellowship Church, 4320 Dale Boulevard
Apple Federal Manassas Branch, 8745 Mathis Avenue
Apple Federal Woodbridge Branch, 14229 Potomac Mills Road
Jackie’s Teacher Store, 4373 Dale Boulevard
Office Depot, 14053 Crossing Place
Super Walmart, 17041 Jefferson Davis Highway
Century 21 New Millenium, 12581 Milstead Way, Suite 400

19 Stafford Schools Fail AYP

By Kristina Schnack Kotlus
Schools and Education Reporter

Stafford County, Va. –– Stafford County Public Schools has received its preliminary 2011-2012 Adequate Yearly Progress results. The AYP is determined by Standard of Learning test scores, but are a function of the No Child Left Behind Act. Scores will continue to be finalized by the Virginia Department of Education over the coming weeks.

Based on their SOL results, all 30 Stafford County Schools are accredited for the 2011-2012 school year. Eleven Stafford Schools made Adequate Yearly Progress. However, a staggering 19 schools did not make their AYP goals. Mountain View, Stafford, and Brooke Point High Schools, T. Benton Gayle, Shirley Heim, A. G. Wright, H.H. Poole, Stafford, Rodney Thompson, Drew, and Dixon-Smith Middle Schools, Anthony Burns, Hartwood, Rocky Run, Conway, Kate Waller Barrett, Widewater, Moncure, and Margaret Brent Elementary Schools did not meet their goals. Stafford schools noted that there are 29 AYP Benchmarks and four of the 19 schools not making AYP missed by one benchmark with an additional seven schools that missed making AYP by two benchmarks.

Overall, Stafford County Public Schools as a whole did not meet AYP.

“We believe that we are providing the necessary supports and resources for improving student performance by emphasizing data analysis to know where our strengths and weaknesses are in our educational program while providing the necessary professional learning so that the quality of instruction meets the needs of every child in Stafford County,” said Assistant Superintendent for Instruction, Dr. Chris Quinn.

For some schools, not making AYP has additional implications under No Child Left Behind, which requires sanctions be imposed on schools that receive certain federal funds and do not make AYP for two or more consecutive years in the same content area. Because of this, Widewater, Rocky Run and Falmouth Elementary Schools will be offering school choice to parents for the 2011-2012 school year.

Affected families should receive notice via a letter from the school district.

Prince William Expands School Website Ads

By Kristina Schnack Kotlus
Schools and Education Reporter

Prince William County, Va. — Prince William County Public Schools announced this week that they are expanding upon an already successful program of selling advertising space on school websites.

PWCS was one of the first public school divisions in the country to offer advertising on school websites, featuring both regional businesses such as BB&T Bank and local business such as SwimKids Swim School on various school pages. These sponsorships were made available in 2008.

Chains stores and larger national brands, however, have not been a part of the current sponsorship program due to their decision making procedures.

With the help of SPARK, the School Division’s Education Foundation, PWCS recently signed an agreement with Education Funding Partners (EFP) who has secured commitments with national brands and stores that are interested in partnering with schools. EFP currently works with schools in Colorado and California, but is new to the East Coast. This agreement was approved by both the School Board and the SPARK Board of Directors.

“We have been able to successfully and tastefully provide advertising to local businesses on PWCS Web sites, raising funds annually to cover the cost of our Web services, which includes important school-to-parent communication tools,” said PWCS Superintendent Dr. Steven L. Walts in a press release.

Education Funding Partners (EFP) mitigates risk by finding multi-year corporate sponsors to support public education. The school district will still be able to control where sponsors are displayed. As part of the process, EFP will be sending teams to the county to compile a package explaining the value of various markets in the county to potential sponsors.

Marketing opportunities may include facilities naming, branding, and educational support messaging, in addition to more traditional signage and website advertisements. EFP will find sponsors and provide the funds to SPARK, which will then designate projects that could include turf fields, technology, and electronic signs and mini-grants to teachers and schools.

Woodbridge NOVA Campus Closed Today

PL Box Logo

Update 11 a.m.
Campus officials say a broken water pipe lead to today’s campus closure.

Woodbridge, Va. —
The Woodbridge campus of Northern Virginia Community College is closed today.

The college’s website or emails sent out to students state why the campus closed.

We are working to find out why, however, officials say campus activities and classes will resume tomorrow.


State’s First Online High School Turns 10

By Kristina Schnack Kotlus
Schools and Education Reporter

Prince William County, Va. –– Prince William County’s Virtual High School (VHS @PWCS) will celebrate its 10th school year this coming school year.

The celebration opened with a kickoff in June with a record 558 students attending the school.

VHS @PWCS was the first online high school program in Virginia and began offering classes in 2001.

The program offers online classes as well as blended components, such as the orientation where students complete their first session and orientation in person with teachers and classmates in a computer lab setting.

Testing also takes place in a classroom environment.

“I encouraged parents to share their experiences with the Virtual High School and to advocate for expansion of the program,” said Prince William County School Board Member Dr. Michael Otaigbe in a press release. “This is the future, and expanding online learning opportunities will reduce the pressure to build new schools.”

The virtual high school can be accessed online at the county school system’s website.

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