By RENEE ORDOOBADI
For Potomac Local News
WOODBRIDGE, Va. – For three years, Woodbridge Senior High School Center for the Fine and Performing Arts (CFPA) Creative Writing students performed self-written pieces at ‘A Play on Words’ for their friends and family. The event took place in the Studio Theater on Saturday.
CFPA is one of the many specialty programs that Woodbridge Senior High School offers. The program is broken down into various concentrations including Dance, Creative Writing, Music: Instrumental, Music: Vocal, Music Technology, Theater and Visual Arts.
‘A Play on Words’ gives freshman, sophomore, junior and senior CFPA Creative Writing students a chance to read fiction, nonfiction, poetry and script, all of which they have been working on since the beginning of the school year.
“I read a fictional piece called ‘Heat Stroke.’ The southern accent that I used came through partly involuntarily because I’m from Texas, but also because that is the accent I imagined my character would have,” Junior Katelyn Portorreal said.
Portorreal admitted that she was completely terrified reading in front of the audience.
“Without Mrs. Hailey’s (CFPA Creative Writing teacher) encouragement, I don’t think I could have done it.”
Mrs. Catherine Hailey said that her proudest moment was difficult to pin down.
“’Play on Words’ is the only opportunity I have to listen to students read straight through – beginning with freshmen and ending with seniors – so it’s a real testimony to the growth that occurs in our program. I feel pride in seeing that growth and knowing I’ve contributed in some small way,” Hailey said.
Hailey was especially pleased seeing Maria Schleh’s script ‘The Firing Squad’ performed.
“It was longer than we would usually pick for ‘A Play on Words,’ but hearing multiple voices made it very powerful for the audience. I was also pleased to hear Katelyn Portorreal read her fiction excerpt since she has often been hesitant to read in front of large groups. She told me later that she was glad she read, and I hope it is a turning point for her,” Hailey said.
Hailey was not the only one enthused by the students’ performances.
Junior Mikayla Thompson, who read a nonfiction piece about art and what it means it her, claimed that her parents enjoyed hearing her read.
“They were super proud when I got up there. They told me I was very elegant and poised,” Thompson said.
Besides the senior showcases, which are on May 29, ‘A Play on Words’ is one of the last chances for CFPA Creative Writing seniors to perform their work in high school.
“I read my poem, ‘Thoughts (The Consequence of a Rumor)’ which is actually going to be in Eddas! (Eddas is Woodbridge Senior High School’s lterary and ats magazine.) This is my first time getting published in Eddas,” Senior Kadie Bennis said.
Bennis said that reading in front of people has slowly become easier for her.
“After having four years of reading in front of a big audience on a microphone, I was quite comfortable with it; not to mention I was with some really awesome friends I’ve known and been with since freshmen year. Through the years, I’ve learned to experiment with different styles of writing and I actually learned to revise my works based on other people’s critiques,” Bennis said.
Renee Ordoobadi is a student at Woodbridge Senior High School.
MANASSAS, Va. – On Arbor Day, April 26, the third-graders at West Gate Elementary School in Prince William County had a chance to get their hands dirty and plant some trees. It was all part of Dominion Virginia Power’s environmental program Project Plant It!, a fun and educational way to help the kids learn about trees and the environment.
Thousands of elementary students in Northern Virginia, including all of the third-graders in Prince William County, were enrolled in Project Plant It! this spring. Teachers got a kit of lesson plans and other instructional tools that aligned with state learning standards for math, science and other subjects. Dominion also provided the students with their own redbud tree seedling to take home on Arbor Day.
Since 2007, Project Plant It! has distributed more than 160,000 tree seedlings to students in several states where the company operates. For more information or to view videos and games about trees, visit projectplantit.com.
MANASSAS, Va. – Two educators are moving on from public schools in Manassas to other divisions in the state.
More in a press release from Manassas Public Schools:
Dr. John Werner, in his second year as principal of Osbourn High School, has been named principal of Western Albemarle High School effective July 1 of this year.
“We wish Dr. Werner the best as he pursues this opportunity to expand his professional experience as a principal,” says Dr. Catherine Magouyrk, superintendent of Manassas schools.
Dr. Michaelene Meyer, Deputy Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction has been named Superintendent of Tazewell County Public Schools.
“Dr. Meyer has been a part of the MCPS family for the past six years and we wish her much success in her new role as superintendent for Tazewell,” Magouyrk says. Meyer will begin her position as superintendent July 1.
The following graduation dates, times, and locations have been announced for Prince William County Public Schools high school, summer school, practical nursing program, and adult education students. Events scheduled at Jiffy Lube Live Pavilion and the Patriot Center are subject to change. Members of the Prince William County School Board are expected to attend many of these events.
Adult Ed & Summer School
Thursday, August 1
7:30 p.m. at Hylton HS
Friday, June 14
7 p.m. at Jiffy Lube Live
Brentsville District HS
Tuesday, June 11
2 p.m. at Jiffy Lube Live
Forest Park HS
Saturday, June 8
2:30 p.m. at Patriot Center
Saturday June 8
7 p.m. at Patriot Center
Friday June 14
7 p.m. at Patriot Center
Governor’s School Awards Ceremony and Banquet
Saturday, June 1
10 a.m. at Mason PW Campus Verizon/Occoquan Bldg
Saturday, June 8
9:30 a.m. at Patriot Center
Independent Hill School
Thursday, June 6
1 p.m. at IHS Gymnasium
New Directions Alternative Ed Center Senior Awards
Thursday, June 6
6:30 p.m. at Hylton Performing Arts Center
Osbourn Park HS
Saturday, June 15
2 p.m. at Patriot Center
PACE East Senior Awards
Friday, May 31
9:15 a.m. at IHS Gymnasium
PACE West Senior Awards Luncheon
Thursday, June 6
12:30 p.m. at PACE West Gymnasium
Thursday, June 13
6:30 p.m. at Patriot HS
Monday, June 10
2:30 p.m. at Jiffy Lube Live
Practical Nursing Program
Friday, May 31
6:30 p.m. at Osbourn Park HS Auditorium
Stonewall Jackson HS
Tuesday, June 11
7 p.m. at Jiffy Lube Live
Thomas Jefferson HS for Science & Technology
Saturday, June 15
7 p.m. at Patriot Center
Saturday, June 15
9 a.m. at Woodbridge HS
-Prince William County Public Schools
By AMBER GALAVIZ
Capital News Service
RICHMOND, Va. – During the General Assembly’s 2013 session, state legislators debated how much to spend on public education. But has education funding been going up or down? It depends on whom you ask.
Democratic politicians and the Virginia Education Association say funding for the commonwealth’s public schools is at its lowest level since 2008.
Gov. Bob McDonnell disputes that.
“You can cherry-pick statistics to say that we’re grossly underfunding K-12,” McDonnell said. “If you look back over the last decade, we’ve had significant increases in K-12 education per capita.”
The governor’s office says that McDonnell’s numbers come from the Virginia Department of Education. They also say that to get the full picture, you must also look at enrollment as well as dollars spent.
Public education money comes from the state, localities and the federal government. In a report issued in November, the Senate Finance Committee noted how much the state spends per pupil.
In 2009, the report said, the state spent $4,691 per student. This year, the figure is $4,286 – a drop of $405, or almost 9 percent.
The VEA, which represents more than 60,000 teachers, supported the governor’s education agenda during the legislative session in January and February. But VEA President Meg Gruber says more work must be done.
“The state needs to go back to funding their full share of the state cost of education,” Gruber said.
Virginia is the ninth wealthiest state yet ranks 38th in state funding per pupil, according to the VEA. The association says the state is spending $4,812 per student this year – compared with $5,274 in 2009.
The commonwealth budgeted about $5.8 billion for public education this year. Over the past three years, state support has been cut by about $1.7 billion, the VEA says. The state is responsible for 44 percent of public education costs.
Gruber said the VEA wants the Joint Legislative and Audit Review Commission, the General Assembly’s investigative staff, to study the situation.
Democrats also are concerned.
“We cannot have a 21st-century economy without a 21st-century education system, from K-12 to colleges and universities. And recently, we have been neglecting both,” House Minority Leader David Toscano of Charlottesville said in the Democratic response to McDonnell’s State of the Commonwealth address on Jan. 9.
“Every investment in education is a down payment on our growing economy.”
Jeff Caldwell, the governor’s press secretary, said the state will spend $4,826 per student in 2014 – an increase from the current year. He said Virginia is spending far more on public education than it did a decade ago.
“Over the last 10 years, we’ve increased state spending on public education by 39%, or $1,682,704,444, while enrollment has only increased by 5% from fiscal year 2004 to fiscal year 2014,” Caldwell said in an email.
“The governor has been very clear that he does not believe you can spend your way out of the challenges facing our schools and students. You must look at outcomes and figure out how to improve student achievement (especially in core STEM-related subjects), and give educators the tools they need to excel in the classroom. That is why his education legislation has focused on several different ways to improve schools and support the best teachers.”
William C. Bosher, a professor of public policy and education at Virginia Commonwealth University, says there are different ways to interpret numbers.
“Usually the numbers only have meaning if you are able to look at the definitions used to generate them. The context is also important as is the political or policy agenda that is driving the numbers,” Bosher said.
By KEITH WALKER
For Potomac Local News
STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. – Stafford County’s Aquia District Supervisor Paul Milde doesn’t plan on yielding on his position on renovating Stafford Senior High School rather than building a new one.
Even though the board has voted several times to demolish Stafford Senior High School and build a new one in its place, Milde said he is determined to once again bring the matter before the board.
“I’ll make them vote on that,” Milde said.
In a recent editorial published at PotomacLocalNews.com, Milde wrote that it didn’t make sense opposition to tear down the 285,000-square-foot Stafford Senior High only to replace it with a new 275,000-square-foot high school at a cost of $66 million.
Milde wrote that renovating Stafford Senior High School would give the county afford the county better financial standing.
“Why tie up $66 million in County borrowing capacity to build a new school when renovating the existing facility would fulfill our needs for about a third of that?” he wrote.
In a recent phone interview, Milde said one reason he favors renovation is that the savings could be used to give teachers pay raises.
He said the savings in the monthly payments and interest on a $66 million loan, or the debt service, would easily pay for teacher pay raises for years to come.
“The debt service on that kind of money is $5 million. It’s four cents on the tax rate,” he said. “In the out years it’s a savings of $3 million a year in debt service for 20 years.”
Vice Chairman Robert Thomas favors building a new school while leaving the existing building in place, but he found that option unlikely. He said he had his staff evaluate the cost of land for a new school which would allow the county to keep the old building.
“I had them looking at different options and trying to find property on the outskirts of the existing school …but I can’t make that puzzle work to keep both buildings,” said Thomas, who represents the George Washington District.
Stafford County Board of Supervisors Chairman Susan B. Stimpson, Garrisonville District Supervisor Ty Schieber and Hartwood District Supervisor Gary Snellings sided with Thomas in the board’s latest vote.
Griffis-Widewater Supervisor Jack Cavalier, sides with Milde on the issue.
One of the reasons he voted with Milde was because the county’s population isn’t growing as fast as it was a decade ago.
“We’re not in a ‘build-a-high-school’ mode right now like we were back in the early to mid-2000s,” said Cavalier who voted for renovation in the latest board vote. “I’m sure eventually we’re going to get there, but I don’t think we’re at critical mass right now.”
Rock Hill District Supervisor Cord Sterling said he would once again look at the county’s ‘0verall budget and what advances the county in its financial goals infrastructure,’ before deciding how he would vote if Milde sways the board toward reconsideration
“It depends on all of the factors that are going into this budget,” Sterling said.
Sterling doesn’t necessarily agree with the notion of borrowing money simply because interest rates are low.
“It doesn’t matter how cheap money is, if you can’t afford to pay it back, you go bankrupt,” he said.
Sterling, who voted in favor of renovation in the latest vote, went on to say that reversing the board’s decision to build a new high school would be “difficult.”
Cavalier said he understood that disagreement over the issue remained, but agreed with Sterling.
“It’s a fairly controversial topic. People have their opinions. It’s just like anything else with schools. It’s a hard decision. A decision’s been made and right now that’s the one we have to live with,” Cavalier said.
Milde said he would persevere.
“It’s not too late,” he said.
By RENEE ORDOOBADI
For Potomac Local News
LAKE RIDGE, Va. – Comedy, Romance, singing, dancing and a live orchestra – Woodbridge Senior High School students combined all of these talents to perform the musical ‘Oklahoma,’ on Saturday.
Without a doubt, excessive work was needed on stage and behind the scenes for such a grand performance to be made possible.
Michael Viola, an English teacher at Woodbridge Senior High School, voluntarily involved himself in the production of ‘Oklahoma.’
“My involvement began simply by me asking [Woodbridge Senior High School Arts program director] Ms. Carol Rethmel if she needed help. When she said that she would love some help, I jumped right in,” Viola said.
In addition, Viola was glad to put a lot of his artistic vision into the show.
“Some of my favorite things to do as a director is evoke more realistic characters out of each and every actor, choreograph and stage large production numbers, and make the show seamless through fluidity of movement. I was able to achieve all of that. I am very proud of the final product – the overall production quality exceeded my highest expectations,” Viola said.
Junior Reece Miller took note of Viola’s efforts.
“I liked the choreography of the wedding, it was so mystical. And my favorite part was the fight scene; the actors did really well,” Miller said.
Woodbridge Senior High School’s orchestra students put the audience in a sweet disposition before act one began. When the curtains rose, sophomore Patrick Kelly (who played Curly) captured the audience’s attention as he sang ‘Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.’
“The Oklahoma Song, where the whole cast came together with such enthusiasm and teamwork was my proudest moment on stage. All of our hard work came together as one,” Kelly said.
Although singing in front of an audience can be nerve-racking, acting may also put people out of their comfort zones, depending on the characters they must portray.
For junior Jordan Frederick (Ado Annie) and Duane Macatangay (Ali Hakim) they learned to overcome certain difficulties when performing in ‘Oklahoma.’
“Well Duane had to overcome his fear of kissing people on stage, and for me, I had to overcome my conservative qualities and be more out there with my physicality. It was a little tricky because I was not used to being all over boys, and with my character that’s all she thinks about. I’m going to miss that show; it was so much fun!” Frederick said.
For many seniors, including Jenna Grazzini, ‘Oklahoma’ was officially their last high school musical/play.
“Yeah, it is (‘Oklahoma’) my last play at Woodbridge, sadly. I can look forward to our choir department’s Spring Show at least, which still incorporates costumes and choreography,” Grazzini said. “Last night was so rewarding because the huge crowd was so responsive that we truly felt as if our hard work paid off. Every actor had been put in the perfect role and it showed.”
Photos By MARY DAVIDSON
STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. – Stafford County Public Schools held it’s annual art show at Brooke Point High School on Saturday.
STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. – Congested roadways in Stafford County this morning lead to students on school buses being late to class.
The county school division put out a notice to social media followers on Facebook:
Due to the traffic congestion on I95 and the overflow on county roads, our school buses are unable to get through the county and are delayed. Please be patient as our bus drivers work through their routes. Their job is to get your child safely to school! And take an umbrella to the bus stop with you–we’re having April showers today too!
The Virginia Department of Transportation reported a crash on Interstate 95 north near Dumfries about 6 a.m. When crews closed two lanes of traffic to respond to the crash, traffic backed apparently backed up in Stafford County.
It’s unclear how many buses and students were late to class this morning.
By CATHERINE MAGOUYRK
Manassas City Public Schools
When I entered the world of public school education as a starry-eyed math teacher, it didn’t take long for me to learn that although I was charged with the task of teaching formulas and equations, I, and the other educators in my building were not the most important teachers in my student’s lives.
The truth of the matter is parents, family members and even neighbors are the first teachers children encounter. The adage that “it takes a village to raise a child” is still true. This is why Manassas City Public Schools recently launched a new initiative called, “Be There”.
Be There is a multi-media campaign designed to inspire families to become more involved in their children’s education. While parent involvement in the school building is very important, Be There focuses on the benefits of parental involvement at home. Research shows that family and community involvement makes a huge difference in student achievement. Basically, we can’t do it without you, whether you are a parent, a sibling, a mentor or a supportive community member and taxpayer. The home environment is the strongest indicator of student success.
We are reaching out to families with the Be There campaign based upon solid research. National surveys show schools where teachers reported high levels of outreach to parents, test scores grew considerably higher than in schools where teachers reported low levels of outreach. Research indicates the following benefits of family and community involvement for students:
• Higher grades and test scores
• Better attendance and more homework done
• Higher graduation rates
You may think it’s difficult to be involved because your days are full. We understand. As I mentioned, the Be There campaign takes a little different approach to traditional parent involvement. Simply engage your child in a conversation about what happened each day at school. Ask specific questions about teachers, friends and extra-curricular activities. No matter your child’s age, use everyday moments — like trips to the bank, grocery store or gas station — to teach your child about money matters, reading food labels or conserving energy. Turn routine trips into games. For more information and ideas, visit www.betheremcps.org.
As our division’s Strategic Plan is being developed, community engagement and family involvement have been deemed as a top priority. The Be There campaign is an excellent way to put this in action.
DALE CITY, Va. – Police said a child brought an air soft gun to Godwin Middle School and that led to a lockdown of the building.
More in a press release:
Brandishing a Weapon on School Property – On April 11th at 3:56PM, police responded to Godwin Middle School located at 14800 Darbydale Ave in Woodbridge (22193) for a subject with a gun. Multiple police units responded quickly to the school and secured a perimeter. Once on scene, officers learned that the suspect was a student of the school and was detained in the principal’s office.
Officers further learned that the weapon was an air-soft gun and not a real firearm. The investigation revealed that the student had brought the air-soft gun onto school grounds and was outside of the building with a group of friends. The suspect began playing with the air-soft gun and fired it multiple times at the ground inadvertently striking one of his friends in the leg causing a minor mark. A school staff member witnessed this encounter and, believing the weapon was real, alerted additional school staff leading to a lockdown of the building and police response.
The student was quickly identified by school staff and the situation was quickly deescalated. This incident was not directed at any student, staff member, or the school itself and no threat was made by the suspect prior to the incident. Following the investigation, charges were placed against the student.
Charged on April 12th: (Juvenile)
A 14 year old male of Woodbridge
Charged with brandishing a weapon on school property and possession of a firearm or other weapon on school property
Court date and status information unavailable
STAFFORD, Va. – Art, jazz, African drum ensembles, choirs, and dramatic performances – organizers said there is something for everyone at Stafford County’s Fine Art Festival.
The annual spring show features work from 5,000 students from kindergarten to seniors in high school. It’ll be held Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Brooke Point High School in Stafford.
“Our visual art teachers put on stunning exhibitions, collecting student art work from the beginning of the year, matting, and labeling each piece carefully to prepare for the festival. Many volunteers help to make the event a success, including parent volunteers, students, and staff members,” said Annamarie Bollino, fine and performing arts coordinator.
The show is not a competition so there will be no judging happening. It’ll just be a place where the community can come appreciate the artistic talent of Stafford’s public school students.
“Stafford County has outstanding arts programs, thanks to the support of the community, our parents, and our talented teachers. Because of the strong commitment to the arts in our community our students are privileged to have the opportunities to pursue their artistic goals, said Bollino.
The show is free and is made possible by many parents, teachers, and community volunteers.
By KEITH WALKER
For Potomac Local News
STAFFORD, Va. – Applause isn’t allowed during discussions and meetings in the Stafford County Board of Supervisors chamber, so a room full of teachers held up little signs, with flat wooden handles and waggled them above their heads when they liked something they heard.
Judging by the sign waggling, the teachers liked hearing their fellow teachers talk about pay raises, overcrowded classrooms and teacher retention during citizens’ time at the evening Board session.
Many of the teachers told board members that Stafford County schools loses about 10 percent of its teachers each year to school districts that offer better pay.
Eric Herr, one of about 25 who spoke to the Board, brought along a visual aid which consisted of two mason jars, a rock, and some pebbles.
Herr’s rock was too big to fit into the smaller of the two jars.
Herr told board members that the rock represented the needs of Stafford County residents.
“The rock is appropriate because this is the rock that our children, our students and society is built upon,” Herr said.
Herr went on to say that the smaller jar represented the school budget and the rock represented the needs of the school system.
“If we can’t fit this rock into the budget, we’ve got a problem” said Herr, a former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot.
So Herr put the rock in the larger glass along with a handful of pebbles representing students to illustrate the need for more money to support the school system.
“We can take care of our students. We can take care of our teachers. My message is, let’s put our teachers first. Let’s do our job, take care of our students,” Herr said.
The signs, which bore messages written in red, with felt-tip markers, waggled.
This year’s school board budget include a request for $18.8 million more last year’s $244-million budget.
In a board meeting last month, School Board Chairman Stephanie J. Johnson, told the county board that, among other things, the extra money would be used to hire 15 special education teachers, to reduce class sizes for kindergarten through third-grade students at Ferry Farm Elementary School, and reinstate remedial summer school.
During that meeting, Aquia District Supervisor Paul Milde told Johnson that scarcity of money prevented more finding for schools.
“You know as well as I do that we don’t have $18 million,” Milde told Johnson. “I know you need money, but you know that we literally don’t have it.”
Art Jackson dissented from most of the speakers Tuesday and told the Board he is taxpayer who “puts my hand in my pocket and gives you money.”
Jackson said he has a personal stake in quality education since his grandchildren attend Stafford County Public Schools.
Jackson went on to say that he thought the supervisors and school board members should talk with each other to resolve budgetary issues.
“I don’t think we can afford to have the lack of communication between the school board and this body. I think this body should be congratulated for the work that it’s done on the economic picture,” Jackson said.
Still, Jackson said he was worried about the quality of education in county schools.
“As I go around and talk to children in this community, I’m amazed at the lack of knowledge that they have on basic things,” he said. “History is an unknown quantity to them. When I grew up in the schools, all the classrooms had a picture of George Washington in there. Now we are lucky for them to know who George Washington was.”
Robert Thomas, a Stafford County physical education teacher who has a son who graduated from Stafford County Public Schools and a daughter who attends Mountain View High School, told the Board that teachers needed help if they were to continue giving students a quality education.
“Ya’ll got to give us a little bit of sometin’” said Thomas, who has taught in Stafford County schools for 20 years.
Laughter accompanied the sign waggling.
STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. – Two Stafford County High Schools recently received awards for their participation in the state wide 2013 Buckle Up, Drive Sober Challenge sponsored by the Youth of Virginia Speak Out youth leadership program.
These students, members of the Stafford High School YOVASO Club and the Mountain View High School YOVASO Club, developed various activities and programs directed to their classmates that dealt with the importance of always wearing seat belts when in motor vehicle, car safety seat checks at a local fire station, being on a local radio station and students signing a banner at the school pledging to “BUCKLE UP & DRIVE SOBER.”
Each YOVASO Club has a teacher sponsor as well as a deputy from the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office Traffic Safety Unit.
Mountain View High School was awarded a $100 check for their regional YOVASO Award in the presence of Haley Glynn, YOVASO Marketing and Project Manager, numerous school administrators as well as Major David Decatur and several members of the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office.
Stafford High School was awarded a winner banner, plaque and recognition as the YOVASO Winner for the entire State of Virginia. Sheriff Charles Jett joined YOVASO’s Project Manager, school administrators, parents and Sheriff’s Office Traffic Safety Unit deputies at the award ceremony. Due to winning the YOVASO State Award, Stafford High School will have the use of an impaired driver simulator for an entire day that the students at Stafford high School may utilize.
By AMBER SHIFFLETT and BLAKE BELDEN
Capital News Service
RICHMOND, Va. – During the final hours of Wednesday’s reconvened session, the General Assembly approved a state budget that boosts funding for Virginia’s public schools next year.
Legislators considered changes that Gov. Bob McDonnell wanted them to make to House Bill 1500, which lays out the state budget for the 2013-14 biennium. The assembly had passed the bill in February, but McDonnell recommended 52 amendments.
The House and Senate approved most of the governor’s recommendations, including three that provided $2.35 million in additional funds for education.
For example, the General Assembly adopted McDonnell’s recommendation to add $2 million to his Strategic Compensation Grant initiative, increasing that pool of money to $7.5 million for next year. The governor said the additional funding “will allow more school divisions to participate in this program, which rewards effective teaching.”
The initiative allows school districts to provide additional compensation to teachers who take jobs at more challenging schools and help students succeed academically.
Legislators also approved McDonnell’s request to boost funding for the Virginia Community College System by $100,000 next year. The additional money will help develop the Governor’s Academy for Student Apprenticeships and Trades. The academy will target high school students looking for full-time employment after graduation.
Besides helping high school students establish careers, the General Assembly also approved more funds for medical education.
As part of the state’s community development and revitalization efforts, the General Assembly approved McDonnell’s amendment for $250,000 to plan the construction of a medical college in Abingdon.
Delegate Joe Johnson, D-Abingdon, said he supports the amendment because the proposed medical facility will bring economic growth to less prosperous areas of Virginia.
“Southwest Virginia is the poor part of the state, so to speak; there’s not a lot of opportunities down there,” Johnson said before the House voted on the amendment Wednesday. Johnson said the facility will generate more than $100 million and about 500 jobs.
The General Assembly rejected two of McDonnell’s education-related budget amendments.
One would have provided $450,000 next year for the Opportunity Educational Institution, a new state-level unit to oversee public schools that have received accreditation warnings for three consecutive years.
Legislators also rejected McDonnell’s recommendation to award $1 million to the Hampton Roads Proton Beam Therapy Institute at Hampton University. The university is a private institution that has historically served African Americans.
“We ought to give the money to public institutions, not private institutions,” said Delegate Johnny Joannou, D-Portsmouth.
By URIAH KISER
PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. – In the nation’s seventh wealthiest county Tuesday night, officials from county government and schools went back and forth over how much money to invest into education.
Prince William County lags behind others in the Washington, D.C.region, spending about $10,000 per student in it’s public school system. Neighboring Loudoun County spends about $1,400 more per student, and Arlington County spends $18,000 per student, according to information presented by Prince William County School Board Chairman Milton C. Johns.
So, as officials hammer out a budget for fiscal year 2014 to be approved by May 1, some have called into question a unique agreement between the schools and the county government forged in 1998 – an accord that automatically funds the schools with 56% of Prince William’s annual budget. The money is simply transferred and the county’s School Board and they spend it how they see fit.
But is 56% enough?
“It’s my personal opinion that having the highest classroom sizes in the commonwealth of Virginia is unacceptable, and we have to do something different,” said Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland, whose wife is a former Prince William school teacher. “A revenue share agreement designed in 1998 has served us well… but we are a completely different county than we were then, and we are in a different postion, and the 56.5 percent share is not enough.”
School officials agree, and they like a plan put forth by Candland that would give schools 62% of the county’s budget, about $15 million more each year to a school budget that’s already projected to be $1.3 billion.
“I think it was once said a billion here and a billion there, put them together and then you’ve go real money. We’ll, our budget is now in the real money category,” said Johns, who said the revenue sharing agreement should be “revisited.”
At a rare meeting of both the School Board and Board of County Supervisors last night, the schools made their case for additional funding. Prince William County Public Schools:
–Receive 2,000 new students each year (the equivalent population of an entire high school)
– Is the second largest school system in Virginia, 39th in the nation
– Has a student population where 17% of children qualify for free or reduced lunch
– Needs to hire 121 new teachers to keep up with pace of growth
– Has not seen revenues (dependent upon tax dollars) keep pace with growth
So, they’ve made cuts, according to Johns.
– $25,000 cut from elementary schools
– $40,000 cut from middle schools
– $70,000 cut from high schools
– 1% cut to the schools’ central office
And, as enrollment continues to grow by 3% each year, teachers salaries– unlike those of some county government employees – do not.
“We have been to mirror the county’s pay plan but, so far, but we have not found the revenue to match it,” said Johns, and added the school system is eying a 2% pay raise for teachers in the coming year.
The Prince William County Board of Supervisors in February set the advertised tax rate at 3.59 percent (instead of a projected 4% rate), which, if approved, residents will pay an average $3,435 tax bill next year. Tuesday night, some of those same officials said the current revenue transfer agreement works, and that officials should do a better job sticking to a five year plan that consistently projects higher revenues for the county based on growth.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart said it’s easy to say we need more funding for students and schools, but doing it without thinking it through could bring unintended outcomes.
“If we’re going to change that percentage there are very real life consequences to other county services that will have to be specifically enumerated before we can consider changing the percentage,” said Stewart.
Under Candland’s 62% / 38% revenue split, it’s clear schools win. But so do people like police officers, fire and rescue workers, public safety communication workers, librarians, parks and recreation employees, and those whom the county owes money – all would be continue to be funded at current levels.
But, according to county budget officials, the plan would shrink the remaining portion of the county’s budget to just $92 million after things like insurance, judicial costs to operate a courthouse in Manassas, and federal mandates are all paid for. Other services like the public works, planning, economic development, budget, senior citizens care, even cuts to the County Executive’s office would become a reality.
Overall, if the revenue share agreement with the schools is increased, $41 million in cuts to the county’s budget must be made by July 1. Candland assured many in the audience, as well as fellow Board members, that those cuts can be found and executed in order to provide children a better education.
*This story has been corrected.
Brooke Point High School students dressed in Blue on March 1 for National dress in Blue day for Colon Cancer Awareness. Freshman Danielle Cornwell, whose father battled with stage IV colon cancer, is leading the charge at her school this March along with the school’s Learn & Serve program.
Danielle states, “It was hard to watch my dad fight colon cancer. Not many people talk about colon cancer and I use to get upset every time I saw a breast cancer commercial and nothing for colon cancer. So I am breaking the silence, someone has too.”
High school students are far from the recommend age for colon cancer screening, which is 45-50, depending on family history. So why bring it into the schools? In a study done by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, the average age of first time parents in the DC Metro area was 26 years old in 2006. That means that the majority of students in high school in this area have parents that are approaching the age 45-50 in a few short years.
The student lead charge will include national dress in blue day, lunch room educational booths and putting together a large student team to participate in Scope for Hope 5k on March 16th. Scope for Hope is an awareness 5k race hosted by Associates in Gastroenterology**, a local GI practice.
Danielle continues, “It may be a hard topic for my friends to bring up at the dinner table but I feel like I can help them start the conversation with their parents. National Dress in Blue Day is an awesome opportunity to explain to someone why you are in blue. And they [students] can invite their parents to support them at the 5k race, which is both fun and educational.”
* March is Colon Cancer Awareness month. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Why? Rectum…anus…colonoscopy . These might as well be four letter words. Unlike the recent stigma change about breast cancer, society hasn’t jumped on the colorectal cancer wagon quite yet. And the silence is deadly. 60% of deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented with routine screening.
**Associates in Gastroenterology specialize in the evaluation, diagnosis, and management of all diseases and disorders affecting the digestive system. Dr. Josovitz, Brown, Marathe, Huang and Aram are locally recognized as Northern Virginia Magazine’s Top 100 Doctors in this February’s issue and in years past. They are the top in their field and would be available for interviews, quotes or expertise in this or future stories. Please see our website for additional information www.assocgi.com .
By URIAH KISER
NORTH STAFFORD, Va. – In the event of a school shooting, it can be survival of the fittest.
That’s why officials in Stafford County worked to exercise the minds of teachers and school administrators, to prepare them for the possibility of an armed intruder who could potentially kill them and their students.
A special seminar was held Thursday night at North Stafford High School for teachers from across the county. A partnership between the schools and sheriff’s department, it was billed as the first of its kind in the state following the school shooting that killed 27 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
A retired Stafford sheriff’s deputy, 1st Sgt Frank Martello, told teachers who don’t normally confront violent situations that they need to be prepared to run, hide or fight in the event of an active shooter situation at their schools. In many cases, attackers are thwarted before police arrive, so its important teachers have a plan and know what to do.
“If we have police on the scene in two minutes and you have an active shooter, that could be one minute and 58 seconds too late,” said Martello. “We will get there and we will find you. But the idea is to find you while you are still alive… inaction is not an option.”
Teachers were urged to go back to their classrooms following the training and take inventory of anything that could be used as a weapon and locate anything that would provide cover to hide behind in the event on an armed intruder. A chair is one of the weapon teachers were suggested to use, but it’s not the only one.
“…look around… almost anything, with a little practice, can be used as a weapon,” said Martello.
Profile of a possible school shooter
This countywide training is the first of many new security initiatives planned for the schools, said Sheriff Charles E. Jett. It wasn’t held in response to a specific threat but due to concerns about improved security in the county’s schools. Such improvements might include placing large numbers over every school entrance to make it easier for public safety crews to respond to shooting victims and giving police access to hallway security cameras at schools.
“There are a lot of things you don’t know about, and then there are a lot of things you know about that we don’t,” said Jett, urging cooperation and better communication between teachers and law enforcement.
School shootings are nothing new, with the first in the U.S. dating back to 1927 when 38 children were shot and killed, said Martello. Since then, in mass shootings like Columbine High School in 1999, Virginia Tech in 2007 and Sandy Hook in December, the shooters all had things in common, said Martello:
-Usually bullied in past
-Did not threaten victims
-Showed prior behavior / told others about idea to attack
-Did not intend to survive shooting incident
Teachers who attended the training said they’ve been teaching behind locked doors since Sandy Hook. They also wanted to know when it’s OK to act if a child seems suspicious.
“I already have children that fit into that profile,” said Laurie Gildstead, a second-grade teacher. “We need more awareness in the schools because, as teachers, we have to teach more than just the basic subjects, we have to teach basic manners to children who have parents who want to be their ‘friend’ and not their parent.”
Martello said the burden falls on the teacher, or those who spend the most time around the child, to report suspicious behavior.
What to report in during a shooting
If the worse happens, it’ll also be up to the people inside to report accurate and helpful information to law enforcement who will be charged with immediately entering the building and disarming the shooter. Police will want to know things like:
Are there any hostages?
Is there a barricade?
Have you heard any explosions others than gunfire?
Where is the shooter inside of the building?
When was the last time you saw the shooter?
What kind of weapon did the shooter have?
That last question about the type of weapon prompted Martello to show a variety of weapons – such as shotguns, rifles and handguns – so teachers would have a better understanding of what firearms look like and how to better described them to 911 call takers.