Slower growth would give schools time to catch up, panel says
This past weekend, the Virginia Leadership Institute hosted a forum at the Northern Virginia Community College Woodbridge campus to examine the state of education policy in Prince William County.
The October 18 forum, “Divinely Standing For Scholarship: The State of Education Policy In Prince William,” panel included vocational and community leaders in education who represent the nine historically Black Greek Letter Organizations.
The panelists focused on school overcrowding, the recent drop in full accreditation for some county schools, the achievement gap among ethnic communities, minority parent involvement, and testing measurements. The members of the Prince William County chapter of the Virginia Leadership Institute planned, coordinated and hosted the Forum.
Among the many solutions discussed, the panel supported a slower County development strategy that allowed the school system to catch up with population growth, a more robust initiative to hire teachers that reflect the cultural diversity of the student body, a plan to build greater awareness about available local scholarships, and a better method to inform parents of expected academic standards for incoming kindergarten students.
The panel also stressed the need to use creative methods to engage parents who might work long hours or several jobs throughout the week, such as phone conference-calls and weekend meetings.
“Today’s forum provided a great dialogue on the state of education policy in Prince William County,” said Virginia Leadership Institute founder and CEO Krysta Jones. “The nine represented fraternity and sorority organizations are doing great work in the community; this forum further demonstrated their commitment to work together, with local government, to improve an already solid education system.”
“Prince William County is a great place to live and raise children, however, there are some challenges that our school system faces,” said forum moderator and Member of the Virginia State Board of Social Services D.J. Jordan. “Rapid growth and development has put a tremendous strain on our schools, and overcrowded classrooms are making it difficult for our teachers to try to improve achievement gaps.”
Jordan continued, “Because of our reputation as one of the top ten wealthiest counties in America, it is easy to forget about the family challenges of the 37 percent of our students who are economically disadvantaged. Education provides a pathway out of poverty, so we must make sure that every child has an opportunity for a quality education here in Prince William County.”
The nine historically Black fraternity and sorority organizations are often referred to as “The Divine Nine”.
On the panel, NVCC Manassas campus Dean of Students Mark Kidd represented Phi Beta Sigma; local teacher and Army veteran Steve Blakely represented Omega Psi Phi; federal government worker and Kappa Alpha Psi
Fraternity Guide Right Mentoring Program Vice Chairman Robe’rt Palmer represented Kappa Alpha Psi; local teacher and owner of The Educated Babysitter, LLC in Alexandria Tracy Smith Houston represented Sigma Gamma Rho; local special education teacher Brenda Bowden represented Zeta Phi Beta; consultant and author Melvin Brown II represented Alpha Phi Alpha; Occoquan School Board Member Lillie Jessie represented Delta Sigma Theta; NVCC Woodbridge campus professor Cedric Howard represented Iota Phi Theta; and local elementary school principal Marlene Coleman represented Alpha Kappa Alpha.
In addition to School Board Member Jessie, Woodbridge School Board Member Loree Williams and Gainesville School Board Member Alyson Satterwhite were in attendance.
The Virginia Leadership Institute (VLI) aims to empower the African-American community to engage local and state government through training, mentoring, and networking opportunities. To learn more about VLI, visit virginialead.org
School took early root in Virginia, expanded to 5 states
American National University’s Northern Virginia Center opened its doors in Manassas in February, and it is the university’s 31st and newest campus.
Doug Earhart, a retired Army Officer, has been working in higher education since his retirement. In 2009, Earhart was the Director of Financial Aid and eventually became a Dean at a large university before becoming the Director of the Northern Virginia Center of ANU. Earhart has seen the Manassas location grow from a few employees into a “viable campus,” complete with courses, faculty, and educational resources.
American National University has a long-standing tradition of higher education excellence in the Commonwealth dating back to 1886 when it began as a local business school in Roanoke, Virginia. It expanded quickly into a national business school and developed multiple campuses within the state, including in the cities of Charlottesville, Danville, Harrisonburg, and Lynchburg. Eventually, it expanded into West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana and Tennessee. Since its expansion, American National University has added on various academic and medical programs including its highly acclaimed Medical Assistant Associates (MAA) Degree.
ANU’s MAA program is one of the few in the region fully accredited by the Commission of Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).
The Manassas center offers an English as a Second Language (ESL) program at its English Language Institute, including preparation for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). In addition, the Northern Virginia Center offers the MAA program as well as Pharmacy Technician and Medical Coding and Billing diplomas. Next year the campus will expand its academic programs to include bachelor degrees in Cybersecurity and Business Administration.
The Northern Virginia Center has developed valuable educational programs that caters to both international and local students. Earhart said that many students have come from embassies to learn English at the Northern Virginia Center and upon completion, they can have a “seamless” transition into an academic program.
The Northern Virginia Center’s medical assistant program began on Sep. 15. One student, Earhart said, was a single mom, working at a fast food restaurant when she chose to attend ANU. The student had to make a “hard decision” to go, but now with medical assistant coursework under her belt she will graduate and go on to find a job and a limitless futures said Earhart.
“Another student had faced significant life challenges but after enrolling in that same program, she now has plenty of options and can essentially start over. The people who are ‘perfect’ for ANU are those who may be “lost…[or] unemployed” and have General Education Development (GEDs) that are not allowing them to reach their full potential. On average, the students at the center are in their late 20s and 30s, with some exceptions,” said Earhart.
Earhart believes American National University stands apart from other colleges and universities in the area by their CAAHEP accredited programs, by offering internships and by placing students into careers. Unlike at many other colleges and universities, at the center, career placement is not only a “nice thing to do” it is something that Earhart regards as both his and the university’s “responsibility” to find students good jobs that “directly correlate” with their degrees. The university’s success is ultimately measured by this factor.
Lastly, Earhart explained that there is much more focus on career training than on socializing the students. Career training is the main goal of the school and so far, that and ANU’s crucial formula has resulted in great “success” for the Northern Virginia Center. Finally, Earhart added “students do have fun while learning” and urged anyone looking for more information to check out ANU on Facebook or at an.edu.
Growth continues to be a challenge in Prince William County, organizer says
On Saturday, October 18, 2014, Virginia Leadership Institute (VLI) will host a forum that will examine the state of education policy in Prince William County. The panelists are vocational and community leaders in education who represent the nine historically Black Greek letter organizations.
The forum is entitled “Divinely Standing For Scholarship: The State of Education Policy In Prince William” and will take place at the Northern Virginia Community College, Woodbridge campus, in the Lakeside Theatre from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. The recent drop in full accreditation, overcrowded schools, the achievement gap, minority parent involvement, testing measurements, and other similar topics will be debated during the forum.
“The Virginia Leadership Institute is excited to host a substantive dialogue about the current state of education in Prince William County, and the County’s vision for the future,” said Virginia Leadership Institute founder and CEO Krysta Jones. “As the County experiences rapid growth, education continues to be a major challenge for many families around Prince William. This forum will not only analyze some of those challenges, but provide possible solutions that could be initiated by the County school system and the community.”
The event, which will include a light dinner, is free and open to the public. Confirmed panelists include a sitting Prince William School Board Member, a local NVCC professor and dean, a Prince William Schools System teacher, as well as a childcare small business owner.
The nine historically Black fraternity and sorority organizations are often referred to as “The Divine Nine” and include the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, and Iota Phi Theta Fraternity.
STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. — It’s the first day of school and already some activities are already canceled.
This is what SCPS posted to their Facebook page:
All Outdoor Activities Canceled at Stafford Schools for Tuesday, September 2 All outside activities at all Stafford County Schools have been canceled due to heat index/temperatures. This includes elementary school recess, all physical education classes, and middle and high school after-school athletic and after-school activities. High School games will be rescheduled and afternoon and evening practices may be moved indoors. Please contact the individual school with any questions regarding rescheduling or practices.
At 1:30 p.m., the temperature in Stafford County was 90 degrees with scattered thunderstorms in the forecast, according to the National Weather Service. I’ll be hot again tomorrow with highs in the upper 80s.
It’s the first day of school across the area today. For nearly everyone — especially those with children — summer has come to a close.
Students in Stafford County are going back to school today, and the school division wants parents to know their child is a bit safer thanks to precautions put in place at the front door of the school.
Here’s more in a press release:
In an effort to increase the security of its schools and facilities, Stafford County Public Schools is installing a video intercom entry system at each of its 30 schools and 4 operating sites.
The system, called AIPHONE, will be installed at the main school entrance and allow the main entrance doors to be locked during the school day and still permit visitors to enter (all exterior school doors are locked during the school day). Visitors will push a button on an intercom located on the wall by the main front door of the school. A security camera at the door will allow a school staff member to view the visitor on a screen inside the building. The visitor will be asked for identification and the reason of the visit.
Once the visitor is approved by the staff member, an electronic door lock will be released so that the visitor may enter the building. As is current practice, upon entry into the school, visitors will sign-in at the office and obtain a visitor’s badge. A photo identification card (driver’s license, state ID card or military ID) is required to sign-in. In the event school staff believes the person requesting entry is a danger to the students or staff, entry into the building will not be allowed.
Installation of this system is taking place this summer for the majority of schools and facilities. Several schools will have the system installed in 2015 and 2016 as part of ongoing or planned construction projects.
SCPS asks for the cooperation of all parents and school visitors as this security enhancement is implemented. We encouraged parents to visit their child’s school prior to the school year to become familiar with this new security feature.
WOODBRIDGE, Va. — More help is coming for economically disadvantaged students at schools in Woodbridge.
Three schools – Mills Godwin and Fred M. Lynn middle schools, and Freedom High School – will awarded grants from the Virginia Department of Edudcation for their 21st Century Community Learning Centers.
The programs allow children and their parents to participate in reading and math learning on evenings and weekends. There are about 140 community learning center programs at schools across the state.
Here’s more from the Virginia Department of Education:
The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) is awarding 47 new grants to fund 21st-Century Community Learning Centers across the commonwealth. The competitive grants, ranging from $50,000 to $200,000, will allow school divisions, faith-based organizations and community groups to provide tutoring, enrichment activities that complement regular academic programs, literacy and other educational services to the students and their families.
In addition, VDOE continues funding of 52 programs that received initial grants in 2012 and 2013. The 21st-Century Community Learning Centers program is authorized under Title IV, Part B, of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA).
Applicants were encouraged to consult with parents, community groups, businesses, arts and cultural organizations and other youth development agencies to develop successful applications and programs before school, after school, Saturdays and during school breaks and summer vacation.
So, have these programs helped children?
A recently authored report on the VDOE’s website has some mixed findings. For children in third through eighth grades in the reading component of the program, “the proficiency and standardized SOL scaled score analyses showed that there was no statistically significant impact of 21st CCLC participation on statewide reading assessments.”
But scores showed improvement in the same age ranges for children in the math programs.
Some Prince William residents have expressed concern over a Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) memo requiring that unaccompanied alien children be enrolled in school even without receiving immunization.
Written on July 25, and disseminated to all Virginia public school divisions, the memo states that children without citizenship, living on their own or with others in the community are considered homeless students if they have no fixed address or are staying in a temporary placement.
While most of the unaccompanied minors to have recently entered the country are being educated at private facilities paid for by the Federal Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), this memo details how to process those students outside of that system.
What Does the Memo Say About Enrolling Unaccompanied Minors?
The memo includes this statement explaining that homeless children must be enrolled and that the school division must provide them with assistance in getting them the necessary immunizations.
School divisions must immediately enroll homeless students and coordinate the provision of services to homeless students with relevant local social services agencies and other agencies and programs providing services to such students, and with other school divisions. In addition, division superintendents cannot exclude from school attendance those homeless children who do not provide the requisite health or immunization information required of other students. School divisions must immediately refer the student to the school division liaison required to assist the student in obtaining necessary physical examinations or proof of completion of immunizations.
The Response from Prince William County Schools
Prince William County School Director of Communication Services Phil Kavits said the district is not seeing an increase in its immigrant population.
He explained that public schools are prohibited from tracking a child’s immigration status; thereby, “consequently, we have no number or estimate of registrants related to the recent increase in unaccompanied minors crossing the Border.”
However, he added that, “PWCS is not currently anticipating any significant new influx or recent immigrants, whether documents or undocumented.”
Kavits agreed to look into whether PWCS will provide any specific plans to ensure that students have or get the required immunizations when they start school. He explained that the immunization issues are something the school division routinely deals with for all students.
STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. — Stafford school officials announced the appointment of several new key positions inside the public school system:
Allen Hicks was appointed as the assistant principal at Hampton Oaks Elementary. He is currently a teacher at the school.
Nicole Ochs was appointed assistant principal at Conway Elementary School. She currently teaches second grade in Joshua Tree, Calif.
Laura Sullivan was appointed assistant principal at Brooke Point High School. She currently serves as a principal intern at Mountain View High School.
Rebecca Wardlow was appointed principal at Winding Creek Elementary School. She currently serves as the assistant principal at Anthony Burns Elementary School.
Carrie Neeley was appointed as the Chief Elementary Officer. She currently serves as principal at Stony Point Elementary School in Albemarle County, Va.
David White was appointed as the Chief Secondary Officer. He currently serves as the supervisor of Career and Technology Education and as acting assistant superintendent of secondary education.
PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — He spent 20 years Gar-Field High School in Woodbridge.
Now, long-time principal Roger Dallek has been called back out of semi-retirement to help neighboring Forest Park High School near Dumfries as that school finds a permanent principal.
Former Forest Park Principal Eric Brent, who served as the school’s top administrator from 2006 to 2014 and was awarded Prince William County’s Principal of the Year in 2009, recently accepted another job with Fairfax County Public schools.
Dallek will spend the summer overseeing administrative tasks for the school like hiring new teachers, a bookkeeper, and new coaches for the upcoming school year. He does not, however, expect to be the principal at the start of the school year come Sept. 2.
Dallek says his permanent replacement should be someone who is community minded and someone who likes to work with people.
“They need somebody with vision. I can remember when I first interviewed for Gar-Field…I said you gotta have a vision for what you want this school in this community to be 25 years down the road, not just now but years down the road,” said Dallek.
Because Forest Park specializes in information technology, having someone who can implement the curriculum effectively is also important, he adds.
Dallek went into semi-retirement when he left Gar-Field seven years ago. Since then he’s worked at various schools in Prince William on a temporary basis under the system’s Retirement Opportunity Program.
Over the next few weeks, Dallek will be focused on a few upcoming key events at Forest Park: a new teacher orientation, freshman orientation, and planning a back to school night for parents and teachers.
MANASSAS, Va. — Megan Devine says she was never one of those “rich kids” who didn’t have to worry about paying for college.
The 28-year-old is a research assistant at George Mason University put herself through school in her home state of Illinois, and did well by finishing her required undergraduate coursework by the end of her junior year. Though she finished work for her undergraduate degree during her junior year she still had to take elective classes her senior year.
“I was told, specifically, I was not allowed to graduate because my school needed my tuition money,” said Devine.
She’s now working doing research at George Mason University for the Department of Defense and living in Northern Virginia with her husband. But she could have moved from college faster, she says, if she had access to advanced placement (AP) courses when she was still in high school.
The courses could have given her dual enrollment, allowing her to get college credit for work completed in high school.
Virginia Sen. Timothy M. Kaine is pushing for more funding that would allow more students to take college-level courses sooner by pushing forward a new bill called Educating Tomorrow’s Workforce Act. It would allow more government funding from the Perkins Career and Educational Act of 2006 to be used for job training, and to create more governor’s career and technical academies.
Now, says Kaine, Perkins money can only be used purchase equipment.
If his bill is passed, more teachers would be trained with the money, and a high-quality curriculum for career education would be developed to be used as a model for other schools.
“What I found when I was governor is, once you put [the education model] out there, people want to achieve the high quality status,” said Kaine.
The Senator came to George Mason University’s Prince William Campus on Wednesday to discuss his bill. He was joined by several students and professionals in the technical and education fields.
Finding talented workers is critical for BAE Systems, a global engineering firm that specializes in defense and cyber intelligence. The firm has a large presence throughout Virginia.
BAE Director of Space Products and Processing Ian A. McDonald said he’s seen quality talent from outside the non-traditional classroom.
“There are a lot of kids out there that shouldn’t go onto a four year college, shouldn’t take on that debt, but should be getting that training…they have an aptitude that’s different,” McDonald told Kaine.
Many of his employees have graduated from technical schools or picked up necessary skills while on the job.
Kaine expects little pushback from traditional four-year schools and graduate programs for his bill.
“For the past 25 years we’ve had a model to push everyone to go to traditional four-year schools but now they don’t have the buildings to house everyone, so it’s best to encourage to go variety of programs,” said Kaine.
The Senator added he was able to complete his undergraduate degree in just three years instead of four. Not having to take a 4th year of classes was a tremendous financial help for his parents, he added.
STAFFORD, Va. — At their meeting on Tuesday, June 24, 2014, the Stafford County School Board approved the appointment of Cessy Mallory as the assistant principal in charge of athletics and activities at Stafford High School. She began her career as a professional educator in 2002 teaching special education classes in Prince William County.
She is currently a health and physical education teacher and department chair at Mountain View High School. Ms. Mallory has been with Stafford County Schools for nine years and in addition to her current duties as department chair, she has served as a principal intern and managed responsibilities for attendance, in school suspension, expanded recognition opportunities for students and has served as an interim activities director.
Ms. Mallory holds a bachelor’s of science degree in sociology and pre-law from Longwood University. She also earned a master’s of science degree in physical education from Pittsburg State University and a master’s of education in educational leadership from Virginia Commonwealth University.
Also during this meeting, the School Board approved the appointment of Dr. Christopher Quinn to the position of Director of Instructional Services. Dr. Quinn has been a part of the Stafford Schools community since 2005 and will maintain his role as a major contributor to the school division’s instructional leadership.
“We appreciate Dr. Quinn’s great knowledge of learning strategies and will rely on his considerable talents and experience as we continue to move the school division forward to even greater success in the area of instructional services,” stated Superintendent Bruce Benson.
Dr. Quinn earned his bachelor of arts degree in history and master’s degree in secondary education from Augusta State University in Georgia. He is a proud graduate of the State University of New York at Buffalo where he earned a Ph.D. in educational leadership.
PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — Prince William County Public Schools is asking for your patience as the school system is having difficulty with their phone and internet lines today.
The problems have disrupted some testing taking place today.
Here’s the latest in a statement from the school system:
Verizon is reporting trouble with a key circuit, resulting in sporadic problems with email, Web sites, and Internet connections at our schools and facilities Divisionwide.
It is uncertain whether messages are being sent or received in a timely manner. In addition, the problems are also interfering with some SOL testing, thought the extent is not known.
We ask the public’s patience as Verizon works to resolve the issues.
Owner of Devine Barbeque in Motion, and a Dumfries Town Councilman, Wood received his Bachelors Degree from Stratford University in 2011. He continued on at the for-profit college to obtain his MBA in hospitality management.
Now working as employee at the school, another hat he wears, Wood has found its his mission to tell the community about the work being done at Stratford, and about how its program set him up for success.
“It challenged me early on to sit down and do the business plan, to learn how to the research methods and to learn how to do the fact check,” said Wood.
Wood, and a small handful of other elected officials came to an open house at Stratford University’s Potomac Mills location at 14349 Gideon Drive in Woodbridge on Thursday. The list of elected officials included Virginia House Delegate Micheal Futrell, Prince William County School Board member Betty Covington, Dumfries Town Councilwoman Helen Reynolds, and Wood
While there, they took a tour of the three-story academic building where students take courses in business administration, culinary management, and information technology.
Director of Career Services Peter Bartell says the school prides itself on its 70% employment placement rate for graduates, helping them find jobs after they complete their classes. While the school’s culinary programs are its most popular, there is a strong demand for their IT graduates, as well, in places like offices to vacation resorts.
“I think I’m going to have someone who is going to hire some if my culinary graduates and they end up hiring my IT people,” said Bartell.
One of the drawbacks for his placement efforts can students, such as the ones who graduate from the school’s culinary program, who themselves choose to work in the field.
Stratford has six campuses in Virginia including its Woodbridge center, a campus in Baltimore, and a center abroad in New Delhi, India.
NOKESVILLE, Va. — The annual Nokesville Day draws many natives for a day food and fun. This bird, which was keeping watch over the new Nokesville kindergarten through eighth grade school, is not one of those natives.
Chris Connell, of Locust Grove, Va., saw the bird while with her husband and daughter when they were leaving the Nokesville Day festival. They came to see her 12-year-old son drive a tractor in the annual parade.
Afterward while on the way back to their parked car outside the new K-8 school on Aden Road, they saw the large bird.
“We didn’t think it was a real bird at first,” said Connell. “I started taking pictures and the bird let us get really close to it.”
The bird appears to be a Sandhill Crane, which can be found year-round in Cuba, and in parts of the western U.S. when it migrates. But rarely in Virginia.
“I hear the most likely scenario is that it is a pet that escaped from a nearby farm, although it could be wild,” said Kim Hosen, director of the Prince William Conservation Alliance. “I heard a story about a previous sighting where everyone was excited but the bird turned out to be tame. However, it could be a wild bird, Sandhill Cranes are rare but have been seen in [Northern Virginia], including at the Occoquan Bay Refuge.”
Connell said the bird seemed to be at home at the school, almost as it was keeping watch over the grounds. The crane began pecking at a glass door at the front entrance of the school after he saw his reflection in it.
Since the crane took such a liking to the new school building that will open in September, perhaps school officials will take notice.
“Maybe the school could use the bird as a mascot for the school,” said Connell.
Thursday, May 15, 2014
Police have charged Alma L Davila, 24, of Lorton, with failure to maintain control of her vehicle in connection with the school bus crash.
All of the children that were on board the bus, including the ones that reported minor injuries, are now OK, said Prince William police spokesman Jonathan Perok.
New information from Prince William police indicates some children onboard the bus involved in this morning’s crash were injured. We don’t know the severity of the injuries, but we’ll work to bring you more details and will post them here as soon as we have them.
Tuesday, May 13, 9:30 a.m.
WOODBRIDGE, Va. — A school bus with 35 students onboard crashed this morning in Woodbridge.
None of the students onboard were injured, though police could not provide immediate information on whether or not the occupants of any of the other vehicles involved suffered injuries.
The crash happened just before 7 a.m. near the intersection of Prince William Parkway an Minnieville Road. The “transfer” bus was taking children from various locations in Prince William County to Hylton High School in Woodbridge, brining transfer students to class who live outside the defined boundaries for Hylton High School.
“At this stage of the game, the priority is making sure everyone is OK, gathering all the final facts, and getting all of the other information back out,” said Prince William County Public Schools spokesman Phil Kavits.
The largest institution of higher learning in Virginia is making some changes as to how it enrolls students.
Starting this fall, new students at all campuses at Northern Virginia Community College, also known as NOVA, will be required to take placement tests and attend a new student orientation seminar. They’ll also have to register and pay for all of their classes upfront, as students will no longer be able to pay late and still attend classes.
Here’s more information distributed by the college:
Starting with NOVA’s fall 2014 semester, all first-time-to-college students from 17 to 24 years old will be required to take placement tests, attend Student Orientation, meet with an advisor before registering, enroll in development courses during the first semester (if placed), and complete a Student Development course within the first year.In addition, all students are required to register no later than the day before a session begins to meet the new on-time registration policy.
For fall 2014, students must register by 11:59 p.m. Aug. 19 to meet the on-time registration requirement for the 16-week and first eight-week sessions. Students who miss that deadline can register for a later session or online courses with a later start date.Placement tests help students choose appropriate classes when they meet with their advisors.
If developmental courses are needed, students must enroll during the first semester to give them the chance to be successful in college-level courses.Student Orientation and the Student Development course teach students skills critical to college success. Students will learn about NOVA’s policies and procedures, and develop skills in time management, note taking and test preparation, academic planning, career decision making, financial literacy and critical thinking.
Officials are calling the new on-time registration program “start strong at NOVA” and encourage all students to register for their classes at least one week prior to the date in which classes begin. The move is a change from previous college policies that allowed students to enroll in a class and pay tuition costs at a later date.
Registration for the fall semester at NOVA begins Tuesday, May 6. The fall semester begins Wednesday, August 20.
The college recorded 78,635 students enrolled in some class or program at NOVA in the 2013-13 school year, and 35,721 students enrolled full time.
STAFFORD, Va. — School officials in Stafford County want to give teachers a raise.
Salary increases, to the tune of 3%, are a priority outlined in the Stafford County Public Schools proposed $273.8 million budget for fiscal year 2015, which takes effect July 1. To get there, the School Board is asking the Board of Supervisors for an additional $19.6 million to cover the costs of the raises, as well as other “unavoidable” increased costs mandated by the state to include rising healthcare, retirement, text books, and capital improvement costs.
“I know money doesn’t mean money doesn’t mean money in education, but lowering class sizes costs money. Quality educators don’t come cheap. That’s what makes a difference in education,” School Board Chair Nanette Kidby told the Stafford County Board of Supervisors.
First-year teachers in Stafford are the lowest paid in the region with a starting annual salary of $38,335, according Kidby. In neighboring Prince William, a county with nearly a $1 billion school budget, teachers start paid an annual starting salary of $45,370.
That funding gap makes it difficult to attract new educators to a county that boasts a low tax rate and a successful record of luring large businesses to set up shop.
“We are finding it very, very difficult to convince bright, young school teachers to come into your district. Your math teachers are going to Prince William and Fairfax County and there is not going to be anyone to replace them,” said Patricia Reynolds, a professor of education at Mary Washington University in Fredericksburg.
Reynolds’ students have examined the average cost per pupil that area school divisions spend to educate their students. They’ve found that Stafford’s $9,165 spent per student, when compared to $10,116 spend in Spotsylvania County and Prince William’s $11,984 per student, is a key factor that is driving teachers to work elsewhere.
In addition to state funds, Stafford officials will transfer $140 million of the county’s 2015 budget to the school division. That amount is $2.9 million more than last year.
“We are putting more local money into schools. That’s what the numbers keep saying. We are funding the schools at an increased rate. But if you listen to what is being put out there…you would think that were starving the schools,” said Rockhill District Supervisor Cord Sterling, who called for more accountability as to where the School Board spends their money.
Falmouth District Supervisor Meg Bohmke, who served on the School Board prior to being elected to the Board of Supervisors, agreed, and noted she has had problems getting information that she’s requested from the School Board on expenditures on things like the county’s International Baccalaureate program.
“If we can’t analyze the numbers we can’t make decisions,” said Bohmke.
The Board of Supervisors has invited the public to come speak on the 2015 budget at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Stafford County Government Center.
WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Residents tonight will have their say on how and government and schools should be funded in the coming budget year in Prince William County.
The Board of County Supervisors at 7 p.m. will hold a public hearing inviting feedback on the fiscal year 2015 budget to take effect July 1. The $975.9 million budget would be funded by an advertised tax rate of $1.158 per every $100 of assessed value of homes in the county. Expected to be approved later this month, the budget will fund local government expenditures, parks, transportation efforts, and community services, just to name a few.
At that tax rate, the average residential tax bill for county homeowners would be $3,599, an increase of 5.4% over the previous year. The total automatic annual budget transfer from the local government to the county’s public school division would increase by $8.9 million to a total of $489.5 million.
Supporters of the advertised tax rate – which officials could choose to lower but cannot increase — say it will allow schools to lower the student to teacher ratio inside the county’s classrooms. Prince William has the highest such ratio in the Washington area.
“We believe this rate is a reasonable compromise of competing community interest, bill hosp. This rate will fully fund the school board budget request to reduce class sizes, improve safety, and more fairly compensate teachers and staff,” said Prince William Federation of Teachers spokesman Bill Hosp.
A $3.6 million plan that would have reduced class sizes at the kindergarten, 6th, and 9th grade levels was cut back to include only 6th graders after the county schools determined this year’s advertised tax rate wouldn’t be enough to fund reductions at all three grade levels. Superintendent Steven Walts moved monies from inside the school’s current budget to cover the cost of the reductions at the 6th grade level in the coming school year, a schools spokesman said.
Prince William County has the second lowest cost-per pupil in the region at $10,158 per student each year, $162; more per student than neighboring Stafford County spends, according to the Washington Area Boards of Education.
On the Board of Supervisors, Gainesville Supervisor Peter Candland has been a outspoken opponent of the $1.158 tax rate. He’s continually called for a lower tax rate, and maintains the approval of a $10 million swimming and aquatics facility in the soon-to-be-built 12th high school is a sign the school division is not spending its money wisely.
Board Chairman Corey Stewart supports the rate tax rate because it will allow the county to fund more police officers, fire and rescue personnel, and pay for two new public libraries in which have been on the books for 20 years.
Tonight’s public hearing will take place inside the Board of Supervisors Chambers at the Prince William County Government Center at 1 County Complex on Prince William Parkway.
WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Sirens warning of a budget shortfall for Prince William County’s public schools have silenced for now.
School officials told members of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday the advertised tax rate set by the Board – $1.158 per every $100 of assessed property value – would be enough to make up for a $8.7 million in funding the schools thought they would have lost out on in the coming year when new tax estimates came in back in December.
The Board could choose to adopt the tax rate later this month. It would be used as a baseline for the county’s fiscal year 2015 budget that goes into effect July 1. If they go with a lower rate, sirens could sound again.
Prince William County School Board Chairman Milton C. Johns on Tuesday night presented the school system’s proposed $917.2 million operating budget for 2015. Funded this year are teacher pay increases, $1 million for class size reduction at the sixth grade level, as well as reductions in utility costs.
The school system has also budgeted $85,000 cost for its hotly debated, soon-to-be built indoor swimming facility at the county’s 12th high school on Va. 234 near Hoadly Road. Schools spokesman Phil Kavits said this budgeted money is for “mortgage costs” and are not dollars that will go to fund the operation of the swim facility. Those will be budgeted for 2016 when the school opens.
The top budget driver: the continually rising number of new enrolled students.
“While the enrollment has been on an inexorable upward glide slope the state and county funding has been on a rather level trajectory,” said Johns.
Out of all of the counties in the immediate Washington, D.C. area, Prince William County spends the lowest amount of money per pupil, at $10,168 per student. In the City of Manassas Park, located inside Prince William County, schools spend $10,173 per pupil, and Fairfax County schools spend $11,472 per pupil, according to the Washington Area Boards of Education.
Prince William also has the largest class sizes in the Washington area. According to Supervisor Peter Candland, the $1.158 tax rate, if adopted, would give county schools $18.4 million more than it received last year, and he says more of that money should go to reducing class sizes.
“One million dollars for class size reduction in the budget? That’s 0.2% of [the overall] budget going to class size reduction, and I think that, to many, would seem pretty small,” said Candland.
The School Board on Tuesday also addressed unbudgeted revenue sources, such as fees for instrument rentals and repairs, and for lost or stolen library books. Officials said they don’t budget those funds and instead return them to the individual schools that collect them.
Since Virginia has yet to adopt a final budget its unclear if the school division will get all of the $458.8 million it expects for 2015. If they don’t, school officials on Tuesday did not say what items in the budget they would be willing to cut to make ends meet.
*This story has been corrected.
LAKE RIDGE, Va. — Work will soon begin on a new sidewalk that will provide students a safer route to school.
At total of $252,400 will be spent on the installation of the new sidewalk along Antietam Road, from Old Bridge Road to Woodfern Court, in Lake Ridge. Part of the Safe Routes to School program, the new sidewalk will be used by students at Antietam Elementary School.
Prince William Occoquan District Supervisor Mike May told us this about the new sidewalk in his district.
“This new stretch of sidewalk will connect the existing sidewalk along Antietam to the pedestrian crossing at Old Bridge Road. Once completed, it will serve as a vital link for elementary students who walk to Antietam Elementary. Moreover, it will also serve Woodbridge High School and Lake Ridge Middle School students who will no longer have to walk along the shoulder to get to and from school. Finally, it will be a nice community amenity for families and individuals who want to traverse the area in a safe manner. In short, this project will be a great addition to our community and represents another step in our continued efforts to improve pedestrian access and safety in the Occoquan District.”
The project will be managed locally by Prince William County. The Safer Routes to School program is a federal program which doles out monies to the Virginia Department of Transportation, which provided it to Prince William County for the project. May will provide matching dollars through Transportation and Roadway Improvement funds.
The total cost of the project will be $504,800.
STAFFORD, Va. — The Chamber Ensemble singers of Brooke Point High School in Stafford are going to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington on March 16. Their performance will be apart of a larger show of student choirs from across the U.S., according to Brooke Point Choral Director Stephen Shelburne.
Here’s Shelburne’s letter to Stafford County Public School administrators telling them of the students’ upcoming trip and how the public can attend the concert in Washington, D.C.:
I want to let you know that 14 of our students, my Chamber Ensemble class, will be performing at The Kennedy Center in D.C. on March 16th as part of a large choral ensemble made up of students from all over the U.S. This concert is sponsored by Manhattan Concert Productions in New York City.
Not only is the performance venue incredibly exciting for our students but so is the conductor they will be working with – Z. Randall Stroope – he is a huge name in choral music and it is an honor to be able to work and sing with him. http://www.zrstroope.com/
I know that you will be impressed by the entire concert and no doubt the students and I would appreciate your support as well. If you are able to or interested in coming you would have to purchase a ticket from The Kennedy Center’s Box Office. Attached to this e-mail is a document explaining how to receive a 25% or 15% discount on the ticket price.
Regardless of this event, I sincerely appreciate the support that each one of you provide myself and our young musicians. Not every school is fortunate enough to be supported like we are here and I do mean it when I say thank you.