Tracy Conroy will participate in the Prince William County School Board Chairman debate scheduled for Oct. 12.
Candidates Tim Singstock and Ryan Sawyers for the Prince William County School Board
Chairman’s race will meet for a debate hosted by Potomac Local on October 12 at 7 p.m.
The candidates are hoping to fill the seat of vacating incumbent Milt Johns, and will debate local issues concerning the schools in Prince William County.
The debate will be held at the Dar Alnoor Islamic Community Center at 5404 Hoadly Road in Woodbridge.
Tracy Conroy, the independent candidate for the race, was invited to participate in the debate. We have not received confirmation as to whether she will participate.
Potomac Local is hosting the event, in partnership with the Prince William County Democratic Committee and the Prince William County Republican Committee.
The candidates were briefed on the format of the debate as follows:
— Candidates will be introduced to the audience
— Short bios for each candidate will be read
— A candidate will be asked a specific question
— The candidate will have three minutes to respond
— An opposing candidate will have three minutes for rebuttal
— A new question is asked of different candidate and process repeats
The event is open to the public.
Campaign literature and signs are only permitted outside of the community center building and must be removed upon event conclusion.
The high school, which was built in 1972, was demolished to make way for a new high school, which will be completed in the 2015 – 2016 school year.
According to a Stafford schools release, furniture and other items that were used in the old high school that cannot be repurposed on the new site, are up for sale.
Up for sale are wooden chairs, a generator and pottery wheels, according to the Public/Surplus website.
Currently there are wooden classroom chairs and a number of other items available. More items will be placed on this site as they become available.
The bid for the chair pictured is currently $25.
Tim Singstock and Ryan Sawyers met for a discussion Tuesday at the Prince William Chamber of Commerce.
Overcrowded classrooms in Prince William
One topic discussed was the overcrowding in the county’s public schools, and how to reduce class sizes.
Singstock, a Republican, said that he would put forth a budget plan and bring in the community for feedback on what they felt needed to be funded or cut.
“The way we’re going to confront the problems we’re facing here in Prince William with respect to overcrowding and competitive compensation for our teachers is by making fiscally responsible decisions. We’ve got to be able to build a consensus. Just one person isn’t going to be able to get anything done,” said Singstock.
Sawyers, a Democrat, agreed that crowding was an issue, and stated that while setting a budget was the easy part for the school board, sticking to the outlined budget was the difficult part.
“I think the community outreach is clear when it comes to things like class size – everyone wants them to come down. We only control one side of the income statement. We can’t raise or lower taxes – we can only spend, and invest the money that is given to us. Our job as a school board is oversight. Quite frankly setting a budget is the easiest thing to do…keeping to and holding to the budget is the most difficult part,” said Sawyers.
The third candidate for the seat, Tracy Conroy, was scheduled to attend, but was ill.
Is the revenue sharing agreement enough to fund the schools?
Currently, the primary funding source is a 57% of Prince William County’s annual budget, set by the county board of supervisors.
Sawyers and Singstock were both in agreement that the school system was underfunded and that the revenue sharing agreement funding needed to be readdressed.
“I think [the revenue sharing agreement] should be turned into a floor and not a ceiling. 57.23 percent should be the jumping off point, if we’re going to keep a semblance of the [agreement] – which we certainly don’t have to,” Sawyers said.
“The revenue sharing agreement is a policy tool – it’s a tool we use in Prince William County to fund our school system. Our school system is underfunded. We know that because we can look at the magnitude of overcrowding we have…we can look at the disparity of pay for our teachers…we need a better tool to fund the school system adequately…,” stated Singstock.
Additionally, Sawyers stated that a big reason for the overcrowding in schools was that too many homes in the county were being built without giving the school system time to catch up, and pointed to the board of county supervisors for approving more housing projects and developments in Prince William.
Superintendent Walts’ performance
Prince William County Public Schools Superintendent Steven Walts has been on the job for 10 years. He reports to the school board, who evaluates his job performance.
Singstock stated that he would give Walts a year before making a decision on his performance.
“My position is that I would work with [Dr. Walts] for a year, and make my own evaluation as to whether or not he needs to be leading Prince William County Schools,” said Singstock.
According to Sawyers, it is the job of the entire school board to handle oversight – including the leadership employed by the Prince William school system – and that firing Walts could be on the table.
“I would want to know that the person looking to oversee [the school system] is doing their job…I would have absolutely no problem firing anybody if it needed to come. I’m not running on a ‘fire Dr. Walts campaign’ but I think at the same time it’s the school board’s job for oversight…and especially when it comes to the top dog that we hire and can fire is a duty I would take very seriously,” said Sawyers.
Election Day in Prince William County is on November 3.
Manassas City school board member Arthur Bushnell was honored for 25 years of service on the board.
The school board voted to nominate Bushnell for the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) Regional School Board Member of the Year Award.
According to a release, Bushnell first joined the Manassas school board in 1990. Bushnell is the longest-serving member of the school board in the history of the city, said a release.
Bushnell was a leader in bringing full-day kindergarten to Manassas, according to a release. His most recent initiative has been the Footsteps2Brilliance program – which is a mobile literacy program, said a release.
More on Bushnell’s accomplishments from a Manassas City Public Schools release:
Additionally, Bushnell approved the building of two new schools and the renovation of several others during his tenure. He led the way in bringing baseball and softball fields to the city’s sole high school and ensured students a strong arts program system-wide by preventing the elimination of programs. He participated in the establishment of the regional Governor’s School @ Innovation Park and has served on its joint board since inception.
As a Board leader, Bushnell served six years as vice chairman and eight years as chairman. He has also served as chairman of the Finance Committee for ten years and changed the financial approach for the school system’s budget to a more business-oriented one. He has also served on the Personnel Committee since 2010. During his tenure, he has presented at Virginia School Board Association (VSBA) conferences, and consistently participated in VSBA development, including the virtual finance series.
“It is not always easy but it is always meaningful because every day this board looks at issues that touch and effect the education of the children of the city. That’s why we do this,” stated Bushnell in a release.
We cannot display this gallery
A new workforce development center is set to open in Woodbridge in January.
First, the specifics from Northern Virginia Community College Woodbridge Campus spokeswoman Charlene Wilkins:
On January 2016, the Regional Center for Workforce Education and Training (RCWET) will open on the NOVA Woodbridge Campus offering a convenient, local solution for highly specialized continuing professional education.
The RCWET is a 55,000 square-foot state-of-the-art building that will be the epicenter of high-quality training and education delivery, creating a workforce to meet the technological demands of Northern Virginia businesses, government and military communities.
Training programs provided will include:
· Program Management
These programs will allow area employers and their incumbent workers the ability to expand their professional expertise and stay in step with the ever-changing advancements in today’s business environment. The Regional Center will also include a Certified Testing Center and 7,500 square-foot Conference Center designed to host a range of events from industrial-type training, exhibits and trade shows, to formal gatherings and special events.
The Prince William County Board of Supervisors committed $1 million to the project, and that caught the attention of Virginia lawmakers in Richmond who opted to fund the remainder of the $27 million project.
Woodbridge Campus Provost Dr. Sam Hill said the center’s ability to hold events would make it attractive to several organizations in the region.
“Prince William now has a center to hold events on the eastern side of the county,” said Hill.
Many events for Prince William County are held at the Continental Events Center in Manassas City, and at the Hylton Performing Arts Center just outside the city where Hill made his presentation about the new workforce development center.
At a work session on June 27, the Stafford school board established some of their priorities for the next year.
The school board had an efficiency study for the school system conducted by Evergreen Solutions, LLC, which led to 16 recommendations that the school board reviewed.
Of the 16, two items in particular were selected as top priorities for the coming school year – one related to strategic planning, and another being a communication plan.
More from a Stafford school board release:
The Board would like Superintendent W. Bruce Benson to develop a plan to review and revise the division’s vision, mission, and goals, and identify measurable outcomes and strategies connected to desired outcomes. The Board requested that a Superintendent’s Strategic Planning Committee be developed. The committee representation shall include School Board members, parents, teachers, administrators, and government and community leaders.
The second area identified was communication. It was noted that the division does not have a formal communication plan and division-level communication often appears reactive.
Additionally, during the work session, school board members voiced their concerns about class size. An analysis of class sizes from 2014 to 2015 showed numbers were higher than school board members felt comfortable with, according to a release.
Members of the school board advised the Superintendent to draft staffing and class recommendations for the next year’s 2016-2017 budget to address the issue, said a school release.
Yesterday, Jennie Dean Elementary School finished their school year with a special surprise.
One of the school’s teachers Dianne da Silva, gathered the students in the auditorium for a presentation of the school’s history and to show a piece of artwork she had created and dedicated to the school.
According to da Silva, the oil painting she created – titled Onward and Upward Dolphins – was meant to symbolize the diversity and history of the school.
“There’s a meaning behind the figures of children that I have chosen–to include an African-American child at the forefront representing the rich history of the Manassas Industrial School for Colored youth…there is also a child with Down’s Syndrome to her left in a prominent position to represent the preschool program for special needs children that has been an integral part of Jennie Dean since 1990. The remaining figures represent our diversity, in particular highlighting the presence of our large Hispanic community,” stated da Silva.
In order to complete the painting, da Silva partnered with the Manassas Museum to research the school’s history.
da Silva has donated the painting to the school as a farewall, as she will be leaving with her husband to be in Malaysia.
Parker Haller had a 4 percent chance of walking after an accident three years ago, but he astounded classmates and doctors by walking across the stage to receive his high school diploma. [See more at NBCWashington.com]
We received clarification on the legislative priorities listed on the Prince William school board website from Associate Superintendent Keith Imon:
The School Board has not yet approved the School Division’s Legislative Priorities for next year. Instead, the Board simply agreed to send the items in your article and on the School Board’s June 3 agenda to the VSBA for their consideration to include them in the VSBA’s legislative agenda. This is the time of the year that the VSBA seeks input from all of Virginia’s local school boards. The PWC School Board will begin the work to finalize the School Division’s Legislative Priorities in September and typically adopts them around October. Of course, the items submitted to the VSBA for its consideration will be part of the School Division’s recommendation to the School Board as part of that process, but in all likelihood there will be other recommendations as well.
The PWCS webpage has a link to our Legislative information and the adopted list of the 2015 priorities are there. Once the Board adopts next year’s we will post the 2016 list to that same location.
The Prince William school board has set their legislative priorities for the next year.
The Virginia School Board Association (VSBA) presented their own legislative priorities for 2016 to the Prince William school board at their last meeting, asking for their input.
According to the Prince William school board’s site, school staff from the Superintendent’s office outlined their priorities. Potomac Local has reached out to obtain their drafted copy.
Here’s the list of what the VSBA thinks is important this year:
That the state eliminate the local school division budgetary match currently required to receive Virginia Preschool Initiative (VIP) funding to allow school divisions to expand preschool opportunities without negatively impacting funding for other programs and services.
That the state define comparable verified units for students transferring to Virginia school divisions from other states for graduation purposes.
That the state provide school divisions with flexibility on the requirement for 140 seat-hours to allow for greater opportunities for virtual and dual enrollment courses.
That the state provide local school boards with the option of allowing at-home, digital e-learning (or offline assignments when home technology and/or connections to the Internet is not available) to count for required days/minutes of instruction when students are home doe to unexpected school closures (e.g., inclement weather, natural disaster, facility problems).
That the state allow school divisions to use the WIDA (World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment) ACCESS (Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State-to-State for English Language Learners) score of 5.0-6.0 on the Tier C test for English Language Learner (ELL) students as an alternative for fulfilling Virginia’s requirement for a verified credit in the English Reading End of Course (EOC) Standards of Learning (SOL) test by substituting the WIDA ACCESS for ELLs assessment.
Looks like Dr. Bruce Benson will continue to be the Stafford superintendent through 2019.
The Stafford school board voted to extend his contact at their meeting on Wednesday night.
Benson began working in the Stafford County School system as superintendent last year, after Dr. Randy Bridges left to spend more time with his family.
There will not be a salary increase, according to a school release.
“I appreciate the Board’s confidence in my ability to continue guiding Stafford County Public Schools. I have enjoyed my first year in Stafford County and welcome the excitement and challenges the next four years will bring. There are few places in Virginia that rival the advantages of Stafford County and I am honored to call Stafford County my home. I look forward to ensuring improved community engagement and transparency for the school division over the next four years,” stated Benson in a release.
Submitted News Osbourn High School Grammy Signature Enterprise Award,$5,500
In March, OHS was recognized as one of 13 schools across the country to be named a 2015 GRAMMY Signature School. The recognition cites U.S. public high schools that have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to music education during an academic school year and beyond.
On May 13, The Osbourn High School (OHS) Performing Arts Department was presented with the GRAMMY Foundation Signature Enterprise Award and a check for $5,500 presented by Tom Goldfogle, president of the DC Chapter of the Recording Academy for their profound efforts in music education.
The contribution will allow students greater access to music studies by incorporating the latest in music technology into the program at Manassas City Public Schools (MCPS). OHS teachers Austin Isaac (Orchestra), Dustin Faltz (Chorus), Bill Stevens (Band) and Stacey Rubach (Guitar Ensemble) were instrumental in achieving the recognition.
The City of Manassas school board has appointed Kimberly Buckeit as the new principal of Metz Middle School in Manassas.
Buckheit is currently principal at a middle school in Maine – where she has worked since 2004, said a release.
More on Buckheit’s background from Manassas City Public Schools:
Prior to her current position, she served as an elementary school principal for five years. Additionally, she has experience as director of the Gifted and Talented program and an Affirmative Action Officer for the school district. Buckheit also has eight years’ experience as a behavior specialist in Baltimore, MD, and a behavior resource teacher for two years for Baltimore County Public Schools. She also has experience as an adjunct graduate professor at Goucher and New England colleges.
“I am excited to have Mrs. Buckheit join the Manassas City Public Schools family as the new principal at Metz. Her solid leadership background and focus on school improvement and student success will be an asset to our school community,” said Superintendent Catherine Magouyrk in a release.
Buckheit will begin working in her new role in July.
Osbourn High School’s performing arts department was given the Grammy Foundation Signature Enterprise Award for their work with students on music education.
During a ceremony, members of the department received the award, along with a $5,500 check to help fund future music programs, said a Manassas City Public Schools release.
“The contribution will allow students greater access to music studies by incorporating the latest in music technology into the program at Manassas City Public Schools (MCPS),” said a release.
Osbourn was one of the 13 schools across the United States to be given distinction as a 2015 Grammy Signature School back in March, said a release.
We cannot display this gallery
What started as a family tragedy and a school project has become a large community focus on the impact of suicide in young adults – and residents coming together for a suicide awareness walk on May 23.
The 6-mile walk – which begins at 9 a.m. that morning – has been organized by students at Forest Park High School.
Hannah Kolkmeyer, the leader of the project, had the idea after a relative committed suicide.
“It all started with a death in my family…back in March my cousin committed suicide, and my family was obviously heartbroken over the situation. So, I came up with the idea to have a walk to raise awareness,” said Kolkmeyer.
According to Kolkmeyer, suicide is the third leading cause of death for individuals from 18 to 24.
“It started off as a project, but now it’s turned into such a huge thing,” said Kolkmeyer.
Shannon Geraghty, a civics teacher at Forest Park High School, said that the project is a way for her students to put their knowledge to work – instead of simply taking a test.
“This project takes the place of a final exam. It is called an alternative assessment. I never have them take an exam; instead they have to put all their civic knowledge to work by making an impact in their community,” said Geraghty.
In order to get residents out to the walk this Saturday, Kolkmeyer and her classmates have been out in the community and speaking to elected officials to gain their support.
“We’ve gone to school board meetings – we’re going to the [Prince William] Board of County Supervisors meeting next week…we’re trying to get as many people as we can to come to this,” said Kolkmeyer.
At the end of the walk, participants will hear from speakers about the dangers of suicide at a post-race rally.
The president of the Anne E. Moncure Elementary School Parent-Teacher Organization, Emily Fallon, has announced that she is running for the Stafford County School Board in the Griffis-Widewater district. Dana Reinboldt currently holds that position.
“The status quo is not good enough for our kids,” said Fallon in a press release. “Our kids and the taxpayers of Stafford County deserve schools that have a plan for excellence and milestones to measure our progress.”
Fallon has been president of the Moncure PTO for three terms and has served as a substitute teacher in the county. She’s also worked as a paraprofessional in the D.C. Public Schools, according to her campaign. Additionally, Fallon has served as a member of the Stafford County Public Schools Special Education Citizens Advisory Committee, the SCPS Elementary School Redistricting Committee and was a founding member of the Stafford Special Education Parent Teachers Association known as SEPTA.
“We need a real strategic plan for our schools, developed with the help of parents
and teachers, where we lay out a vision for Commonwealth-leading schools by bringing new technology to the classroom, increasing access for all SCPS students to our current programs,” stated Fallon in the release.
Some of Fallon’s main goals are:
– The development of a five-year plan that sets the educational goals for the school division and aligns those goals with future funding expectations and metrics of success.
– The expansion of student access to existing programs, regardless of their base school.
– A partnership with employers in the area to develop new programs and internship opportunities.
– Making greater use of technology in the classroom.
– A comprehensive review of SCPS Special Education programs to ensure the school system is meeting the needs of those with special needs.
“Special education is an area that is near and dear to my heart and is one of many areas that I think SCPS can and should be doing better in,” said Fallon.
Fallon is a graduate of Strayer University and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in anthropology. She reports that she’s a strong believer in lifelong learning.
Fallon resides in Aquia Harbour and has three children who are all currently attending Stafford County Public Schools. Her husband, Ben Fallon, works in Congressional Affairs for the Department of Defense.
The Stafford County School Board has appointed new administrators for two schools in Stafford – Terri Rivero and Brian Fitzgerald.
According to a release, Rivero – a graduate of Stafford County Public Schools – will serve as the new principal at Rockhill Elementary School.
Prior to her appointment, she worked as an assistant principal at Rodney Thompson Middle School, as well as Falmouth Elementary School. Rivero began as a teacher at H.H. Poole Middle School and Dixon-Smith Middle School.
Brian Fitzgerald was also appointed by the school board, as the new principal at Margaret Bren Elementary School, said a release.
Fitzgerald worked previously as the assistant principal at Kate Waller Barrett Elementary School. He started off his career as a teacher in Prince William County before coming to Mountain View High School in Stafford.
McDonald’s Restaurants of Greater Washington, D.C., have awarded 43 scholarships to students in the D.C. area, with three of them going to students in Prince William and Stafford counties.
According to a release, more than 500 applications were received and reviewed by a panel of judges that included Greater Washington, D.C., McDonald’s owners and operators. Requirements for applicants included a completed application, a letter of recommendation from a teacher, guidance counselor or community service leader, plus two short essays.
Scholarships in amounts of $1,500, $5,000 or $50,000 were awarded. The scholarship money will go directly to the college or university the student will be attending.
The local 2015 McDonald’s Educates Scholarship recipients are Rachel Dooley of C.D. Hylton Senior High School, Ammara Khursheed of Forest Park High School and Precious Mathis of North Stafford High School. Dooley and Khursheed each won a scholarship worth $1,500. Mathis won a $50,000 scholarship.
The scholarship winners were recognized at reception at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on May 5.
“As part of McDonald’s commitment to education and the community, the McDonald’s Family Restaurants of Greater Washington, D.C., believes it is important to recognize young people who try to make a positive contribution to their community,” said Cindy Levine, who is a franchisee and McDonald’s Educates Scholarship Committee member. “We are proud to honor those students through the annual scholarship program and celebrate their achievements.”
Following the adoption of the county budget by the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, the Prince William school board will meet to revise and adopt their own budget.
The Prince William County School Board has an operating budget of around $1.3 billion.
According to school board Chairman Milt Johns, the budget will be revised and adopted at the May 6 and May 20 meetings.
Their initial budget draft was passed unanimously 8 to 0.
The school funds their budget each year using the 57.1% revenue sharing agreement in place with the county, along with any additional grant funding.
“[Our] budget included a step increase for all employees – which on average is a 2.85% increase. It also included another round of class size reductions,” Johns said.
Johns stated that because the board of supervisors passed the same rate that was advertised back in March., there will be very few changes needed in the school board’s budget draft.
One change that the school board will need to account for is the class size reduction program, introduced by Supervisors Candland and Lawson.
The program was tweaked during board of supervisors budget hearings to incorporate a $1 million matching component from the school board, which will now have to be accounted for in their revised budget, said Johns.
“We are setting up the $1 million dollar matching grant…as long as the supervisors [are] willing to [match funds] and realize that you have to continue to fund class size reduction – I think that’s a step in the right direction,” Johns said.
During a ceremony last week at the Edward L. Kelly Leadership Center, Prince William County Public Schools was honored for their energy savings program.
Brian Gorham, Energy Management Administrative Coordinator for Prince William schools stated that since the program began in all county schools, he’s seen a huge savings – $11 million to be exact.
“In 2011, we actually spent over $23 million dollars on utility expenses as a school division…since instituting the energy management program…I’m proud to report that through the efforts of [school employees] we’ve been able to reduce our utility expenses down to $19.5 million dollars on an annual basis,” said Gorham.
Additionally, Gorham also stated that the schools have reduced their CO2 emissions footprint by 46,000 tons.
For Superintendent Steven Walts, the savings the county has seen since implementing the plan, which includes upgrading HVAC systems, weather stripping, and converting some fixtures to solar or battery power, has been a huge help during tough economic times for the school district.
“[I’ve been] trying to navigate through one very difficult budget year after another, and one of the things that has been instrumental in getting through the last couple of budgets…we’ve got another $2 million in energy savings…these savings have made a humongous monetary impact without major disruption to people’s comfort and convenience,” Walts said.
Jean Lupinacci, director of an Energy Star program for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was in attendance at the ceremony to award district schools for their conservation efforts.
The following schools were honored:
Alvey, Antietam, Bennett, Buckland Mills, Cedar Point, Coles, Dale City, Enterprise, Featherstone, Fitzgerald, Gar-Field, Graham Park, Henderson, Kerrydale, Kilby, Leesylvania, Lynn, Marumsco Hills, McAuliffe, Montclair, New Dominion, Old Bridge, Pattie and Washington-Reid, Pennington, Rockledge, Rosa Parks, Springwoods, Swans Creek, Westridge, Woodbridge HS, Woodbridge MS.
It wasn’t on the agenda, but the issue of whether or not to close a location of the Commonwealth Governor’s School in Stafford was the central topic during the citizen comments period of the county school board meeting April 14.
Stafford County Public Schools hired a firm to conduct an efficiency study of district operations in November 2014. That report, which the Stafford County School Board recently received, recommends the closing of one of the three sites for the Commonwealth Governor’s School within the county. There are a total of six Commonwealth Governor’s School sites in the region, but the study focused only on Stafford’s sites, which are at Colonial Forge High School, North Stafford High School and Stafford High School.
The speakers at the school board meeting contend that the report is flawed and contains multiple inaccuracies.
The efficiency study was done by Evergreen Solutions LLC, of Tallahassee, Florida. Stafford County budgeted approximately $100,000 to conduct the study.
“Stafford County Public Schools understands that, in order to succeed in this mission, in the face of continuing economic constraints impacting operations and management, the school division will have to be even more effective and efficient than ever before,” stated the report on why the study was conducted.
The report also stated that approximately 27,000 students are currently enrolled in the county’s public schools, which consists of 30 schools and has approximately 3,750 members on staff. It also listed operating expenditures of over $272.9 million.
The report claims that eliminating one CGS site will save more than $680,000 a year. (more…)
On May 15, the Baldwin Elementary School PTO will be hosting their annual Family Movie Night on the Manassas Museum lawn.
The movie – Paddington Bear – will begin at 8:15 p.m.
Entry to the movie is free for all participants.
Prior to the movie, residents can take part in lawn games at 6:30 p.m. with the OHS Community Action Athletes, OHS Honors History Club, OHS, Mayfield & Metz Robotics teams, Premier Martial Arts and the NOVA Music Center Conga drum line.
Pizza, hot dogs, popcorn, candy, chips and other food items will be available to purchase with cash. All food and drink sales will benefit the Baldwin Elementary PTO.
If there is rain, the event will be rescheduled for May 29.