WE ARE LOCAL News in Prince William, Virginia




Nolan Bushnell, creator of Atari, is Game Pioneer in Residence at Prince William County’s Virginia Serious Game Institute


If your childhood included fun-filled visits to Chuck E. Cheese’s or countless hours playing on Atari, then you can thank this guy – Nolan Bushnell.   That’s correct, the founder of Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza-Time Theater Chain is also the creator of Atari, Inc. – the video gaming company that is widely credited to be the forerunner to video arcades and the modern video game industry.

So how does one man successfully pioneer two seemingly unrelated, yet equally iconic inventions? 

In his new capacity as Game Pioneer in Residence at Prince William County’s Virginia Serious Game Institute, Mr. Bushnell will provide this insight at the first in a year-long series of lectures, entitled “The Future of Video Game Technology.”

Prince William County and George Mason University (Mason) invite you to learn more and attend the first lecture for free, which is held by Prince William County-based Virginia Serious Game Institute(VSGI). 

A trained engineer who has started over twenty companies, Nolan Bushnell can aptly be described as a consummate entrepreneur, technology leader and visionary.  According to the World Video Game of Hall, by most measures of popular impact, Pong launched the video game industry and Atari into a preeminent role in the video game industry.  He has been inducted into the Video Game Hall of Fame and the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame; received the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Fellowship; and Nation’s Restaurant News “Innovator of the Year” award; and was named one of Newsweek’s “50 Men Who Changed America.” 

As part of his exclusive agreement with the VSGI, Mr. Bushnell will hold a public lecture each semester and work closely with students and companies in small groups; provide startup workshops on building game-related businesses; as well as other keynote events. 

More on why Stafford County Public Schools closed today

We emailed Stafford County Public Schools spokeswoman Sherrie Johnson some questions this morning asking her about the decision to close schools today. 

Here’s our Q and A: 

PL: Can you tell us why schools were closed today? Flooding at school sites? Traffic? 

Johnson: High Water, impassable roads, and roads closed. 

Route 1 was closed at the Potomac Fire Station and was not expected to open until after rush hour. Other secondary roads were closed by downed trees.

PL: Were any students able to safely make it to class today? If so, any idea of how many?

Johnson: No 

PL: Were school buses stuck on area roadways? If so, how many? 

Johnson: No

PL: How does the school division weigh the safety of its students / employees sitting in traffic on flooded roads? How was this weighted into today’s decision to close? 

Johnson: The safety of our students and staff is our top priority for Stafford County Public Schools. 

Johnson also included this situation report in her email to us: 


Stafford County Emergency Management: 2016-09-29 Severe Weather (Rain) Situation Report:

  • Weather

o   Rain accumulations:

  • South County: approx. 3-6”
  • North County: approx. 3-6”
    up to 2-4” more rain is expected from now until Friday AM, 30 September

    Detailed Forecast

  • Today, 29 September – Showers and possibly a thunderstorm. High near 73. East wind 8 to 11 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New rainfall amounts between 1 and 2 inches possible. Tonight Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm, then showers after 2am. Low around 66. East wind 10 to 13 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New rainfall amounts between 1 and 2 inches possible.
  • Friday, 30 September – Showers. High near 72. Northeast wind 8 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New precipitation amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible. Friday Night Showers likely. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 64. Northeast wind 3 to 8 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%. New precipitation amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible.
  • Saturday, 1 October – A chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 77. Light and variable wind. Chance of precipitation is 40%. Saturday Night A slight chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 62. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
  • Sunday, 2 October – Mostly sunny, with a high near 78. Sunday Night Partly cloudy, with a low around 61.
  • Roads

o   Road conditions:

  • Interstate: Clear with some water pockets – Traffic is moving VERY SLOW!
  • Primaries: Moderate
  • Secondaries: Severe (Limited)

o   Traffic lights out at 610 and Rte 1 (0740 SSO Traffic Units enroute)

o   Rte 1, all lanes, near Potomac Hills closed at 0501 for 3 hrs due to flooding (Stafford Alert)

o   Rte 1, 1 lane open at 0810 , near Potomac Hills (EM)

o   River Road closed (SSO FB)

o   Harrell Road Closed (SSO FB)

  • Power Outages (0900)

o   Dominion- 683 customers are out of power (down from a high of 4885) (Aquia Harbour Area is majority. Widewater Beach is also affected) Dominion Crews are on site in Aquia

o   REC-0

o   Novec-0

o   Northern Neck – 0

  • Ops Update:

o   SSO:

  • Traffic Units out in force
  • Deployed at 0200


o   Schools:

  • Stafford County Schools closed , Employees Code II, Liberal Leave in effect

Stafford closes schools after heavy rains, flooding


Updated 8:15 a.m. 

From Stafford County Public Schools: All Stafford County Public Schools are closed today, Thursday, September 29 due to severe weather, flooding and road closures. Employees will be on Code II. Liberal leave is in effect. Administrative Offices will open at 10 a.m. Thank you,

Sherrie Johnson

Director of Strategic Communication and Community Engagement

31 Stafford Avenue

Stafford, Va 22554

More information on weather-related delays. 

SAT scores up in Prince William, still short of state average

From Prince William County Public Schools: 

The newly released 2016 average of SAT scores for Prince William County Public School (PWCS) students was unchanged from last year, remaining above national averages. Over the past five years, PWCS student scores rose by a combined total of 17 points, largely matching the rise seen across Virginia, though falling short of the statewide average score.

  Reading Math Writing Combined Change Since 2011-12
PWCS 513 507 487 1507 +17
Nation 494 508 482 1484 -14
Virginia 520 517 498 1535 +18

Mulgrew noted that the number of PWCS students taking the SAT has increased by seven percent over the past five years, while statewide SAT participation dropped by six percent over the same period. “The increase in our SAT tests over the past few years is directly tied to our success in getting more students involved in rigorous AP, IB, and Cambridge courses,” he said. “Students who take courses like that are better prepared for college and for overall academic success.”

Among notable achievements in this year’s SAT results, Four schoolsBrentsville, Freedom, Potomac, and Woodbridge, increased scores in all three areas, with Freedom and Potomac, the schools most in need of improvement, showing the largest gains;

Osbourn Park increased in reading and writing; and

Combined totals at Battlefield, Osbourn Park, and Patriot all exceeded state and national averages. Brentsville, Forest Park, and Woodbridge all exceeded national averages.

At some schools, test participation decreased from last year because the released scores only go through January 2016. A new version of the SAT was introduced in March 2016. As of next

September, College Board Reports for seniors will reflect performance on the new test and launch a new trend. The new test combines Critical Reading and Writing into one score.

Shawn Brann to fill Brentsville District School Board seat while Trenum on active duty

Shawn Brann will serve on the Prince William County School Board as a temporary replacement for Brentsville District representative Gil Trenum. 

Trenum handpicked Brann and presented his resume, along with to others, to the School Board as a recommended temporary replacement. Trenum was deployed last month to Africa for duty in the U.S. Navy.

From Prince William County Public Schools: 

The Prince William County School Board voted unanimously on September 21 to select Bristow resident Shawn L. Brann to fill the seat of Brentsville District School Board Member Gil Trenum on an interim basis while Trenum is deployed on active duty in the U.S. Navy Reserve.

Brann was selected from among four applicants for the post. The newly sworn-in Brann will serve as Acting Member on behalf of Trenum and constituents of the Brentsville District.

A senior technical writer for General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, Brann has over 21 years’ experience working in the local community, the Department of Defense, and the intelligence community on highly-regarded and dynamic intelligence community-organization contracts. He has seven years’ experience in education, including teaching language arts at Woodbridge High School, where he also served as a teacher on administrative assignment, performing all the duties of a high school assistant principal. He coached high school lacrosse as an assistant coach for varsity and head coach for junior varsity.

Brann has been an active volunteer in the Piney Branch Elementary School community; has served on the Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS) budget committee led by Gil Trenum since 2012; and served on the PWCS Safe Schools Advisory Council for multiple years, including a year as chairman; and on multiple school boundary committees. He is a youth soccer coach for the Virginia Soccer Association and Northern Virginia Soccer Club and has served as committee chair and Chartered Organization Representative of Cub Scouts Pack 1343 at Piney Branch Elementary School.

Brann is a graduate of George Mason University, where he earned bachelor degrees in both English and Speech Communication and a master’s degree in Education, Secondary Education specialty. He also received certification in Mason’s Educational Leadership Licensure Program for administrative licensure.

Prior to Trenum’s deployment, local GOP leaders urged the School Board to choose one of Trenum’s handpicked replacements. Democrats on the School Board solicited an unofficial opinion from Virginia’s Attorney General’s Office that stated the Board must appoint someone to serve on a temporary basis, but that person may be anyone, not necessarily someone selected by Trenum.

Trenum is expected to get back his seat upon his return from active duty.

Linton Hall School in Bristow to offer #iCANHELP online harassment training


Kim Karr, co-founder of #iCANHELP is set to deliver a powerful presentation on social media to 4th-8th grade students at Linton Hall School in Bristow, Virginia on Wednesday, October 19, 2016.  #iCANHELP is a non-profit corporation that educates on the proper use of social media, empowers students to deal with conflict, negativity, and harassment online, and instructs students and adults on how to maintain a positive digital footprint. The day will culminate with a parent event to address raising a child in a digital world.  The parent workshop will be held from 6:30-7:30pm in the Linton Hall School Gym. Parents and their pre-teen or teen students from the community are invited to attend.

“We don’t usually think of it, but just like the way negativity can spread, people can be swayed or encouraged when the majority are doing ‘good’ online.  Students just need to be shown how to respond to the negativity.  We need to empower our future generation to take action against all the issues that are arising with technology,” says co-founder Kim Karr.  “Through #iCANHELP students are learning that kindness is saving lives and it doesn’t have to be anything big- a simple smile or a nice post-it note on a locker might be all it takes.”

For more information on #iCANHELP, visit canhelpdeletenegativity.org.

Never married, Louise A. Benton cared for children, and that’s why she got a school named for her

As the 2016-17 school year gets underway, new schools are opening, and the recent controversy over school names got me thinking “who are some of these people and what did they do to merit the honor of having a school named after them? “

There are schools that have the names of historical or political figures, but there are others named to honor educators or school administrators who served Prince William County. 

This series of articles will explore just a few of these special people.

Louise A. Benton

Louise A. Benton was born July 5, 1906. She spent much of her life in and around Washington D.C. Louise was a graduate of Benjamin Franklin University and one of the first Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company operators in the District of Columbia

After 36 years of service to the telephone company, she retired to begin a second career in Prince William County. In 1960 Louise moved to Prince William and took up residence on Hoadly Road. She worked at the Partridge School a Rehabilitation Center in Gainesville. 

Ms. Benton never married but was a foster mother to two daughters Louise was able to adopt and take responsibility for the raising of her grandson.

Louise collected used clothing, then washed, mended, and distributed the garments to families in need within the county. She tutored students housed at the County Juvenile Detention Home. At age 75, she was one of the first to take advantage of free classes being offered at then newly opened Northern Virginia Community College in Manassas to improve her skills as an educator.

She was an active member of the Manassas Women’s Club, Coles District Volunteer Fire Department and Ladies Auxiliary, Woodbine Homemakers Extension Club, Prince William Hospital Auxiliary, Church of the Brethren Sewing Circle, League of Women Voters, Coles Little League Baseball Association, Garden Club, and Woodbine Baptist Church.

Benton died January 18, 1988. After her death, the Juvenile Detention Home planted a tree commemorating her service to the young folks housed there. The Woodbridge Homemakers club also acknowledged her by placing a brick with her name on it at the Manassas Museum. 

The foster children she took in were instrumental in having her name put before the school board for consideration as the name of the Middle School on Hoadly Road near the home where she lived as a resident of the county. The Homemakers Extension Club also put her name up for this purpose. She was considered one of the county’s most notable senior citizens.

Benton Middle School, located at 7411 Hoadly Road near Independent Hill, opened its doors in September 2000. Today, the school houses 1,350 students.7411 Hoadly Road

This post is written by the Prince William County Historic Preservation Division.

North Stafford High School Marching Band Invitational is September 24


On Saturday, September 24th beginning at 10:00 AM the 34th Annual North Stafford High School Marching Band Invitational will be held at North Stafford’s A.J. Slye Stadium.

One of the longest running marching competitions in Virginia, this year’s event will feature performances by 20 different marching bands from all over Virginia. Performances will occur approximately every 15 minutes with an exhibition performance by North Stafford’s own Big Blue Marching Band at 4:30 pm. An awards ceremony will follow where judges will award competitive categories by school size.

General admission is $6 with discounts based on age and North Stafford students will receive a discount with ID while Stafford County middle school students will receive free admission if they wear their band shirt.

This event is run by the North Stafford Band Boosters, a non-profit organization that raises funds for the North Stafford High School Band program under the direction and guidance of Mr. Chris Mallory, the new Director of Bands at North Stafford High School

Sawyers’ motion: ‘Superintendent…is to not change the current regulations and practices regarding bathroom and locker room use’

Ryan Sawyers, Prince William County’s School Board Chairman, says he will tell the ” Superintendent that he is to not change the current regulations and practices regarding bathroom and locker room use” on Wednesday when he aims to update the division’s non-discrimination policy.

Sawyers posted this to his Facebook page: 



As you likely know, I proudly support adding “sexual orientation and gender identity” to our non-discrimination policy. This is not a bathroom or locker room issue for me but a fairness issue when it comes to employment, work environment, school environment, and of course, education.

However, many are concerned about what this updated policy will do to the current practices used at individual schools when it comes to bathroom and locker room use for transgender students.

Soon many of these concerns will be answered, one way or another, by the courts and the direction for the school system will be clear.

Therefore, on September 21st I plan on making a motion similar to what is below. It should remove the concern about bathrooms and locker rooms and put the attention back on stopping any discrimination, real or perceived, based on a student or employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity. A legally married LGBT employee shouldn’t have to feel the need to hide who they’re married to because their love isn’t officially protected by school board policy.

It’s time that the Prince William County School Board step-up and protect some of our most vulnerable students and employees. I will vote “yes” on protecting LGBT students and employees by adding “sexual orientation and gender identity” to our non-discrimination policy.

The motion, although not final, will look something like this:


That the Prince William County School Board adopt the changes to the non-discrimination policy, Policy 060, by adding “sexual orientation and gender identity”. In doing so, the Prince William County School Board gives guidance to the Superintendent that he is to not change the current regulations and practices regarding bathroom and locker room use. The Prince William County School Board may specifically address this at a later date once it, as a body, is satisfied with the guidance and/or rulings provided by the courts, or as required by law.

We request that the Superintendent provide the School Board with a presentation of the new regulations that implement this policy change by the last regularly scheduled school board meeting of the 2016-2017 academic year.

Coles District School Board member Willie Deutscg sent us this statement about what he expects to happen at the School Board meeting: 



I’m not sure what to expect.

If we believe in equality, Brentsville needs to be seated before we have the vote. We also owe it to the citizens to listen to them. We should also work out the result of the policy with staff before voting on it, so the board knows what they are voting on. If we want to be responsible with our money, and as least disruptive as possible, we should also wait and see what the courts say before we begin implementing anything.

Sawyers posted a letter from the Anti-Defamation League supporting Sawyer’s effort to update the policy. 

A group of pastors in Prince William County said they don’t support the move.

We’ve asked all Prince William School Board members to weigh in. We’ll post their statements here if/when we receive them.

Committee off 100 to tackle Prince William School funding

Two weeks after Prince William County Gainesville Supervisor Peter Candland held a town hall meeting to discuss school funding, the Prince William Committee of 100 will continue the conversation.


SCHOOL FUNDING: Everyone’s talking about it so what’s the best way to do it? What do the schools need for success and how do we measure that success?

Please join the Prince William Committee of 100 for our first forum of the ’16-’17 year and hear a timely discussions about our schools. Come join us for dinner if you can and renew old acquaintances as well as your membership! It’s bound to be an exciting evening you won’t want to miss!

Dr. Sam Hill, Provost
Northern Virginia Community College Woodbridge

Ruth Anderson, Supervisor
Prince William County Board of Supervisors

David S. Cline
Associate Superintendent for Finance and
Support Services
Prince William County School Board

Lillie Jessie, Board Member
Prince William County School Board

Riley O’Casey, President
Prince William Education Association

Members and Public Invited
RSVP Please
Carol Proven: carol.proven01@gmail.com

There is no charge for the Program.

Please note: An RSVP is requested for everyone for planning purposes only. There is no charge for the program. Dinner is $25.00/person for members, $30 for non-members.

Reader: Schools should wait for Supreme Court, Virginia Supreme Court to rule on LGBT matter


School Board Should Wait For The Courts
By Carrie Beliles, resident of Triangle, VA
Thursday, September 15, 2016
Word count: 638

Next week, the Prince William School Board will vote on a major policy proposal to add “gender identity” to the school’s non-discrimination policy. Enacting this new policy could allow transgender faculty and students to choose the bathroom, locker room, showers and athletic team participation of their preferred choice, regardless of current biological anatomy.

My family moved to Prince William County because it is a welcoming and compassionate place for all people. I enjoy that multiple cultures and people with diverse belief backgrounds all live together in relative harmony. While I believe we should protect transgender students from harassment and discrimination, this policy proposal could have far-reaching ramifications.

This gender identity policy is being debated in Courts all across the nation, and is even on its way to the Virginia Supreme Court. In August, a federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked President Obama’s guidance directive on the use of bathrooms by transgender students, (State of Texas et al v. United States of America). Also in August, the U.S. Supreme Court halted a lawsuit by a student in Gloucester County, Virginia, effectively ruling that the County did not have to open up their bathrooms, locker rooms and showers to opposite gender students (G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board). Earlier this year, 51 families in Illinois (the district in which I graduated High School, Palatine High School) filed suit against two federal agencies and Township High School District 211 on this issue, as well (Students and Parents for Privacy, et al v. United States Departments of Education and Justice, Township High School District 211, and Cook County, Illinois).On Monday, the Virginia Supreme Court decided to take up a challenge to Fairfax County’s “gender identity” policy change (Andrea Lafferty, et al, v. School Board of Fairfax County). This is the very same policy being voted and considered by the School Board on September 21 in Prince William.

Moving forward with this policy now in Prince William could open up the County to frivolous lawsuits and protracted litigation that drain taxpayer resources that could be allocated to classrooms across the county. While the constitutionality of this policy change is debated in the courts, Prince William School Board Chairman Ryan Sawyers should put this on hold until the Supreme Court and the Virginia Supreme Court have ruled on this matter.

In law school, I was taught the importance of judicial precedence in how the law is administered; which means that previous rulings have significant sway on future rulings. Judicial precedent provides a blueprint for how a law should be implemented and interpreted. Precedent will be created by the US Supreme Court and Virginia Supreme Court very soon. The Prince William School Board should align itself with judicial precedent as the way forward on this issue.

If the School Board believes some action is necessary in the here and now, they should do three things: 1) evaluate the track-record of transgender welfare and determine if a problem exists; 2) take their time to debate implementation logistics and unintended consequences of this policy change; and 3) wait for the Supreme Court and Virginia Supreme Court to rule on this matter.

The Prince William County Public Schools have conducted numerous forums and outreach events regarding discrimination and school bullying, and the issue of discrimination toward transgender students and staff has not be cited as a problem at this time. This is good news.

To summarize, in order to protect our County from unnecessary lawsuits and to avoid the embarrassing possibility of a policy reversal, School Board Chairman Sawyers should push this vote to a later date allowing higher judicial precedent to pave a smoother way for our community.

Prince William Black Pastors: Revised schools discrimination policy ‘would threaten the privacy rights of our students’

The following letter to Prince William County School Board Chairman Ryan Sawyers was sent to use in an emailed titled “PWC BLACK PASTORS OPPOSE SCHOOL BOARD “GENDERIDENTITY” REVISION”

Dear Chairman Sawyers and School Board Members,

We are writing to express our concern and objection to Revision of Policy 060, “Nondiscrimination And Commitment To Equity”, because of its expected implementation regarding the use of private facilities by transgender students in Prince William County schools. 

This revision would update the school system’s non-discrimination policy to include “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” to the group of protected classes, along with race, color, religion, national origin, and gender. Adding “gender identity” to this non-discrimination clause would allow transgender students and staff to choose the bathroom, locker room, showers and athletic team participation of their preferred choice, regardless of biological anatomy.

While you may consider this potential change as ensuring diversity within our schools, the reality is this potential policy change would threaten the privacy rights of our students. No female or male student nor teacher should be forced to use a bathroom, locker room or shower area with someone of the opposite gender simply because that individual no longer identifies with or ignores their biological anatomy.

Our concern is also that we do not recall there being a lengthy and thorough discussion of how the county plans to safely enforce such a policy change. There has been no regulatory analysis on how this policy would be implemented. There has been no discussion or meetings on making sure that sexual misconduct does not occur or that sexual predators do not take advantage of this policy change.

Finally, this policy revision would force many students to compromise their deeply-held beliefs about privacy, modesty and sexuality. This policy revision would place children in the uncomfortable position of compromising their beliefs or face disciplinary action for having those beliefs.

Our churches are politically diverse congregations in Eastern Prince William County, and represent Democrats, Republicans and Independents. It would be wrong for the Prince William County School Board to ignore the will of its people by making this change while so many citizen concerns exists within our community.

We believe that every person is created in the image of God and deserving of respect and compassion. We unequivocally denounce all violence and bullying against LGBTQ people, but this revision will result in the discrimination against the majority of our children. To deny basic privacy to our students is the suppression of their rights. Like you, we want to make sure our children can learn absent a hostile environment, such as bullying. For that reason, as parents and pastors, we are grateful for your anti-bullying policies as they stand because they promote decency and order.

The Prince William County Public Schools have conducted numerous forums and outreach events regarding discrimination and school bullying, and the issue of discrimination toward transgender students and staff has never been a problem. For years, Prince William County Public Schools have protected and accommodated transgender students and staff in a respectful, private and genuine manner, therefore no revision is needed. The changes you are considering will place the ideology of a few powerful politicians above the right to privacy for the overwhelming majority of our families. 

Therefore, we humbly request that you not pursue such a policy change.


Bishop Lyle Dukes, Harvest Life Changes Church, Woodbridge

Bishop Derek Grier, Grace Church Dumfries                                            

Pastor Eric Kellum, Zion Church Woodbridge                                          

Pastor Kurt Wallace, Freedom Fellowship Church, Dale City

Pastor Stephen Oni, Christ Apostolic Church, Joy Vineyard, Woodbridge  

Pastor Sharon Fernandez, Spirit of the Living Christ Ministry, Woodbridge 

Bishop John H. Reid, III, Victory Family Outreach Ministry, Woodbridge   

Pastor Madlin Edmonds, New Creatures-in-Christ Community Church, Woodbridge

Pastor Victor Stanley, Calvary Baptist Church, Woodbridge                                 

Pastor Al Stith, Word of Life Church, International, Woodbridge

Cuccinelli to moderate home school panel at Montclair library


The Prince William Republican Women’s Club is excited to present a Homeschooling Legislative Forum on Wednesday, September 21st at 7:00 PM at the Montclair Public Library located at 5049 Waterway Drive, Dumfries, VA.

Our panel includes key legislators and leaders working to champion legislation and initiatives to empower Virginia families to provide the best education for their children. Former Virginia Attorney General and homeschool dad Ken Cuccinelli will serve as moderator and our panel includes Delegate Rob Bell, sponsor of Virginia’s Tebow Bill in the 2015 and 2016 Virginia Legislative Sessions and candidate for Attorney General in 2017, Dr. Wayne Stilwell, President of the Northern Virginia Homeschool Athletic Association and homeschool dad, Marty Nohe, Supervisor for the Coles Magisterial District and homeschool dad along Kevin Hoeft representing the Home Educators Association of Virginia (HEAV).

PWRWC is providing a unique opportunity for homeschool families to have direct access to our leaders battling for the rights of homeschoolers and to ask questions concerning the issues impacting the education of their children. These range from access to educational facilities, receiving the same tuition discounts for dual enrollment in our Virginia Community College System as students enrolled in public schools, opportunities to tryout for and participate on interscholastic sports teams and potential tax credits for families who homeschool their children saving local school systems millions of dollars.

This program is not just for homeschool families or parents of school age children. These issues impact our community as a whole including influencing our school system, our property values and the vibrancy of community.

I hope you will all attend and feel free to invite friends, neighbors and acquaintances who have an interest in the education of our children.

Prince William schools filter rejects letter about non-discrimination policy

Prince William County resident and former Prince William Republican Committee Chairman Bill Card was moved to write a letter to members of the County School Board after it, on Sept. 7, 2016, discussed changes to a non-discrimination policy. 

School Board Chairman Ryan Sawyers wants to add the words “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” to the school division’s non-discrimination policy 

That email letter to the School Board was rejected due to offensive content. We’ve posted a follow-up letter from Card to the School Board, one that wrote after his first email was not delivered. 

We’ve also included a statement from Prince William County Public Schools spokesman Phil Kavits on why, and how the letter might not have been delivered to School Board members. 

From Bill Card: 

You might find hilariously ironic that in order to get this note to you on the @pwcs.edu server, I could not directly use the terms that are key to the Chairman’s ill-advised new policy proposal.  Four emails sent Tuesday were rejected by the school system’s server for “Offensive Content” which makes one wonder whether or not you are getting the full effect of the outrage of the community.  The “offensive content” proved to be the use of the word “s**” since that is the only substantive change made to this email.  Perhaps we should take a lesson from the IT Department and forget this foolishness. 

I appreciated the opportunity to address the Prince William County School Board on this past Wednesday/Thursday.  I only regret that the Board meeting not only started late but that the bulk of the speakers were pushed to the late evening/early morning such that the public and press did not get the benefit of several substantive presentations.  Further, it is very likely that you missed important feedback from the community on “gender identity, s**ual orientation” as many people left rather than wait to speak given the late hour.

You have received plenty of legal and common sense rationale not to proceed with the Chairman’s vision on “gender identity and s**ual orientation.”  It is certainly reckless given the current legal and political climate.  As I stated early Thursday morning, the Chairman is also on the wrong side of science in what he is proposing. 

Several of the late presentations referenced the special report “S**uality and Gender; Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences” (link provided and report attached).  I think that this is of particular import in the discussion of how our community and by extension the school system treats gay and trans gender individuals.  If you do nothing else – I ask that you at least read the “Executive Summary” which should provide important insight to this issue. 

One of the throw-away accusations is that those of us opposed to what the Chairman is contemplating are doing so out of hate.  Nothing could be further from the truth, and I could not say it better than the principle author of this report who states in the Preface:

“I dedicate my work on this report, first, to the LGBT community, which bears a disproportionate rate of mental health problems compared the population as a whole. We must find ways to relieve their suffering.”

This is essential to understanding the resistance that you are facing.  Many will try to reduce or stigmatize opposition to this issue through bumper sticker phrases about bathrooms and hate.  However, the Chairman is dragging us all into a situation which is at best foolish and at worst dangerous and deadly to the very population he expresses interest in helping.  Again, I implore you to at least read the Executive Summary to understand this issue and the dangers you are subjecting children to who are under your care.  However, you owe it to all of us to read the entire report. 

It is also important to note that the Virginia Supreme Court just agreed to hear the suit brought against the Fairfax school system for the very same thing:

Don’t get lost in the emotional argument.  Again there are principled legal, medical, and now scientific rationale for just leaving the policy as written.  Do the right thing and vote “No” to the change proposed by the Chairman. 

Here’s the response from Prince William County Public Schools spokesman Phil Kavits after we asked him how, or why Card’s original letter went undelivered. 

“It is likely that a message could be rejected for offensive because of filters meant to protect students, provided that the message included multiple references to “offensive content.”
Keep in mind that PWCS students have pwcs.edu email addresses. Consequently, as required by federal law, our system employs software that rejects a message based on a too many references to one or more words that could potentially indicate inappropriate content.
Consequently, one or two references to a term would be unlikely to be blocked. However, if that word and others that deemed as potentially inappropriate are repeated multiple times, the sender might get the message that the individual shared with you.  The issue comes down to how many times the word/words are repeated. The filter are pretty tight.  Not knowing what other terms the sender’s message contained, it is hard to speculate on what set off the filter. I can tell you that this is the first time that anyone has reported having this issue with a “legitimate” message.”

Kavits said he would contact Card and offer to “find a way to get his message through.” 


Candland wants to abolish schools revenue-share agreement

Candland wants to abolish schools revenue-share agreementThe Republican on the Prince William County Board of Supervisors wants to abolish the revenue sharing agreement — a funding mechanism in place since 1986 between the taxing authority Prince William County Board of Supervisors and the county’s School Board. Under the agreement, the schools automatically receive just over 57% of the total county government budget.

Candland did not say what would replace the revenue-share agreement.

The revenue sharing agreement was put in place, in part, to stop politicians on both Boards from arguing over how much funding the school should receive annually. Candland’s call to abolish it comes after he called to increase it from the current 57.23% of the total county government budget going to fund local schools.

About half of the Prince William County school division $1.4 billion budget comes from the revenue share.

“Since we are the ones taking the tax money from you, the taxpayer, we said [the Board of Supervisors] should get involved [in the school funding process],” Candland told a group of about 20 people who came to his town hall meeting on education funding on Sept. 1 at Gravely Elementary School near Haymarket. “The reaction is always ‘we need more money for schools, so we thought we would increase the revenue-sharing agreement from 56.75% to 57.23%.”

But the increase hasn’t helped, said Candland, as Prince William County still boasts the largest number of students per classroom than any other local school system in the Washington, D.C. region, leading to unsolved overcrowding issues that require some students to eat lunches at 10:30 a.m. and some as late as 1:15 p.m.

He’s also criticized the School Board for opting to build an $11 million indoor swimming facility at Colgan High School, which opened Saturday.

“Some of the decisions that get made on the School Board are infuriating,” said Candland, adding the cash could have been better spent on lowering class sizes.

The school pool had so much community support when the School Board approved its construction in December 2013, however, his own Board of Supervisors would have approved the pool had the decision been up to its members, Candland admitted.

Alyson Satterwhite, the elected School Board member in Gainesville, also spoke at the town hall meeting. She called the revenue sharing agreement a “cop-out” for politicians who would rather give a set percentage of cash to the School Board rather than address school funding needs on an annual basis.

Both politicians said that if the revenue-sharing model is dumped for something else, safeguards are needed to ensure the School Board doesn’t receive less money from the Board of Supervisors that it does today.

The Board of Supervisors automatically transfers about 57% of its annual budget to the School Board, which may spend it however it wants. This year, the county sent  more than $456 million to the school division, making up at least 46% of the school division’s $1.4 billion operating budget.

The county increased the amount of its funding by $21 million. Coupled with a state funding increase of about $17 million, the school’s overall operating budget this year saw about a $34 million increase.

The meeting was the first in planned series of town hall meeting Candland plans to hold to discuss education funding.

Stafford fire and rescue collecting coats for children

From Stafford County fire and rescue: 

With winter just around the corner the Stafford Fire and Rescue Department, Stafford Professional Firefighters Association Local 4012, Stafford County Public Schools, Apple Federal Credit Union, Walmart and many others will partner to provide coats for Stafford County children in need.  With your  donation you can help relieve the burden of poverty and bring the gift of warmth to children in need.  To date, Operation Warm has given new winter coats to over 1.4 MILLION children throughout America. We invite you to become our partner, a hero in your community, and help us ensure that all children feel warm, healthy and valued.

With your  donation you can help relieve the burden of poverty and bring the gift of warmth to children in need.  To date, Operation Warm has given new winter coats to over 1.4 MILLION children throughout America. We invite you to become our partner, a hero in your community, and help us ensure that all children feel warm, healthy and valued.

Operation Warm’s mission is most effectively executed in collaboration with organizations serving impoverished children and their families.  Providing brand new winter coats brings families facing challenges closer to reaching their goal of financial independence.   Through community-based partnerships, Operation Warm provides families with brand new winter coats for their children.   Alone we cannot effectively conquer the overwhelming need to assist children in poverty. 

If you would like to help us ensure our children are warm this winter please select the following link and help us ensure our children are warm this winter.   https://donate.operationwarm.org/page/contribute/stafford-county


Prince William schools’ first indoor swimming pool opens

The new indoor pool opened to the public for the first time on Saturday. 

The Prince William County Aquatics Center at Charles Colgan Sr. High School offered free admission all day September 10. It was a chance for area residents to check out the new $11 million center complete with an Olympic-sized swimming pool, children’s pool, waterslide, and spectator area. 

The indoor pool is the first to be constructed inside a Prince William County public school.

Here’s our full story on the new aquatics center.

Submitted photo

Submitted photo

Raulston aims to look beyond recall effort

Diane Raulston said she has spent the past few days working with community groups like the VFW collecting backpacks for elementary school children in her Neabsco District.

It came as a surprise to the Prince William County School Board member when she learned of an effort to have residents hold a recall election to remove her from the Board. The website alleges that after six months in office, Raulston no longer meets with constituents, threatened teachers, and “pledged to fill a vacant board seat with a Republican instead of the qualified candidate endorsed by Democratic leadership.”

Raulston said man the behind the website is Nate Salzman, a Democratic party operative and the former campaign manager for Prince William County School Board Chairman Ryan Sawyers. She said she met with Salzman two and a half weeks ago to discuss who would temporarily replace Brentsville District School Board representative Gil Trenum, a naval commander who was dispatched to serve in Africa for the next year.

“He’s doing this because I said I would consider supporting one of the people whom Mr. Trenum said should take his place,” said Raulston, who is one of eight members on the county school board that, by Virginia law, is to be non-partisan.

Raulston said Salzman wanted her to support JerMonica-Boose Davis, one of the five candidates that had been vying to temporarily Trenum. She withdrew her name from consideration and did not return multiple requests from Potomac Local on the matter before her removing her name from consideration.

Raulston did not say who would pick to temporarily replace Trenum.

The mission of finding Trenum’s temporary replacement has polarized political parties on the right and left. Republicans last month held a press conference urging the School Board to move forward and approve one of two hand-picked names Trenum suggested.

Democrats asked for and got an unofficial opinion from the state’s Attorney General’s office that told them the School Board could choose whomever they wish to Trenum, and that the seat must be given back to the commander once he returns from his military deployment.

Salzman and Sawyers did not reply to request for comment for this story.

Prince William County Democratic Chairman Harry Wiggins also said Salzman is behind the Raulston recall effort, adding that Salzman attended a recent committee meeting last Friday. Wiggins said his committee has no affiliation with the recall effort, and that doesn’t support it. Prince William Democrats last fall endorsed Raulston for School Board.

“This is not the right thing to do,” said Wiggins. “Any recall election is going to have to go to the circuit court, and frankly, we’ve got bigger problems to solve right now in the school system.”

Salzman urged support of JerMonica Boose-Davis, one of the five people vying to fill Trenum’s seat, said, Raulston.

This move is yet another distraction from the business of empowering teachers and fostering the development of school children, said Raulston.

“We spent our first six months in office putting out fires all over the place,” she said, referring to the School Board’s surprised and contentious decision to rename Godwin Middle School, and multiple meetings with the county Board of Supervisors about the tax rate and school budget.”

Candland: The school revenue-sharing agreement has a ‘clear record of failing our kids’


We asked Prince Willaim County Public Schools Associate Superintendent for Communications and Technology Services Keith Imon what could happen if the decades-old revenue-sharing agreement between the County School Board and Board of Supervisors changed:

As early as 1986, there was a revenue share in place. The current approach dates back to 1998 when the two boards created the formal agreement. It has evolved over the years with changes in the percent of the split in county revenue.For FY 2016, the School Division’s share of the revenue agreement is 57.23%, with PWCS receiving $507,302,048.

Even when the five-year budget plan is fully funded, it and the revenue sharing agreement are just a starting point. It is always a challenge to fund the School Division’s long list of critical unmet needs or to allow for significant new initiatives.

Eliminating or changing the revenue share would probably not require any changes to the way the School Division conducts most business. However, it could change the way the School Division approaches its budgetary planning process – perhaps lengthening the duration of the process and requiring the School Division to make budgetary decisions in the absence of a clearly understood county transfer of revenue. Uncertainty could make long-term planning more challenging for schools, staff, and parents.

Original post

Peter Candland’s next target: A revenue-sharing agreement between his Board of Supervisors and the School Board.

The agreement is the mechanism put in place by the Prince William County Board of Supervisors — the elected officials that set the tax rate — to fund the county’s School Board.

Candland, who represents Gainesville residents on the Board of Supervisors, has long argued against the revenue-sharing agreement in its current form.

“The Revenue Sharing Agreement has been in place for nearly two decades and, as a result, Prince William County currently has the largest average class sizes in the Commonwealth, some of the lowest SOL, ACT, and SAT scores, and some of the lowest paid teachers in the region,” Candland stated in a press release. “This is a clear record of failing our kids in providing the quality of education they deserve.”

Candland plans the first in a series of town hall meetings on Thursday to discuss the revenue-sharing agreement. The Supervisor is requesting feedback from voters during the meeting slated to begin at 7 p.m. at Gravely Elementary School, located at 4670 Waverly Farm Drive in Haymarket.

The Board of Supervisors automatically transfers about 57% of its annual budget to the School Board, which may spend it however it wants. This year, the county sent $456 million to the school division, making up 46% of the school division’s $1.4 billion operating budget.

The county increased the amount of its funding by $21 million. Coupled with a state funding increase of about $17 million, the school’s overall operating budget this year saw about a $34 million increase.

The revenue-sharing agreement is not unique in Virginia — Albermarle County has a similar arrangement. It’s supposed to make things easier come spring budget season when leaders are working on annuals budgets, deciding what to expenses to fund, and by how much to fund them.

School Board member Alison Satterwhite, who also represents Gainesville District voters, said addressing the topic is a conversation worth having.

“I’ve talked to people who served on the School Board before the revenue-sharing agreement, and things between the two boards were contentious,” said Satterwhite. “I’ve also heard from people who say the revenue-sharing agreement is just a big cop-out for politicians.”

Virginia law mandates the School Board can spend its money how it wants, and it prevents the Board of Supervisors from selectively funding items in the School Board’s budget. While there may be room to modify the agreement, there may not be a need to toss it out altogether, added Satterwhite.

Page 5 of 30« First...34567...102030...Last »