Dallek Tapped to Lead Forest Park High School While Permanent Principal Sought

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.

Kaine Pushes for More Funding for Career Training for Students Bypassing Traditional College Path

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.

Mallory, Quinn Appointed New Roles at Stafford Schools


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.


Phone, Internet Problems Disrupt Tests

(Photo: Prince William County Public Schools)

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.

Culinary, IT Programs Popular at Woodbridge’s Stratford University

Elected officials attend a luncheon at Stratford University in Woodbridge to learn more about the school's degree programs. [Uriah Kiser / Potomac Local News]

Elected officials attend a luncheon at Stratford University in Woodbridge to learn more about the school’s degree programs. [Uriah Kiser / Potomac Local News]

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Derrick Wood knows barbeque, but he honed his culinary and business skills at a private university in Woodbridge.

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.

Crane Keeps Watch over Nokesville K-8 School

051814 craneNOKESVILLE, 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.

Updated: Kids OK, Woman Charged in School Bus Accident

(Photo: Prince William County Public Schools)

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.

10 a.m. 

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.


NOVA Ending Enrollment Grace Period


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.

Lower Pay, Student Funding Has Teachers Going Elsewhere for Work: Professor

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.

School Funding Remains Top Issue Ahead of Tonight’s Budget Public Hearing


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.

Advertised Tax Rate Enough to Cover School Funding Shortfall

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. 

Antietam Sidewalk will Help Children Safely Get to School

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.

Brooke Point Students to Perform at Kennedy Center

082711 Brooke Point High School

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.:

Dear Administrators,

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.

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.


School Budget Process Scolded as Prince William Officials Adopt Advertised 2015 Tax Rate

Prince William County School Board Chairman Milton Johns. [Photo: Uriah Kiser / Potomac Local News]

Prince William County School Board Chairman Milton Johns. [Photo: Uriah Kiser / Potomac Local News]

Officials took issue with how the Prince William County Public School System budgets its money.

The County’s Board of Supervisors, the taxing authority, on Tuesday set the advertised property tax rate at $1.158 per $100 of assessed value for the FY2015 budget. While the final tax rate won’t be adopted until April, tax revenues collected under the tax rate of $862.3 million will go to fund the operation of county government, and 57.23% of it automatically will go to fund schools.

The advertised tax rate would be enough to backfill some of the school division’s $8.7 million projected budget shortfall over the next five years. That’s money that would be used to pay teachers and to reduce the average teacher per student ratio in classrooms (Prince William County currently has the largest average class size in the Washington, D.C. region.)

The average residential tax bill would increase 5.4% topping out at $3,599 per household if the advertised rate is adopted by the budget deadline in April.

Starting from zero

School officials this week told the Board of Supervisors that while the have a balanced budget as required by law, many of the division’s needs – like replacing new roofs, boilers, and other general school building renovations in their capital improvement plan, teacher pay raises, and funds for telephone system replacement and wireless internet connectivity in schools – remain unfunded to the tune of $20 to $60 million.

The Board of Supervisors responded and put increased pressure on the school division to change its budget process, as it has, and develop a zero-based budget where no monies from any department are carried over from the previous year. The School Board in March is set to vote to hire an outside contractor to help it begin the process of developing such a budget, said Prince William County School Board Chairman Milton C. Johns.

Monies left over

Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland on Tuesday read aloud some of the school division’s budgeted numbers and compared them with the actual monies spent, and each category Candland chose to highlight showed carryover funds he says could have went to reduce class sizes and give raises to teachers.

Woodbridge District Supervisor Frank Principi agreed.

“…the desire of this Board is that [the School Board] drill down and do some zero-based budgeting because the budget to actual numbers that he presented are just not acceptable,” said Principi.

The School Board is expected to make present their budget in April after they learn how much funding will come from state and local governments.


Smaller Class Sizes, Increased Teacher Pay Hinges on Tax Rate

Chairman Corey Stewart says and says money to lower class sizes and increase teacher pay has to come from somewhere.

He and the Prince William County Board of Supervisors is now wrangling over a proposed $975 million budget that doesn’t leave much room for the hiring of new police officers and fire and rescue personnel, or bringing on new employees into government that saw positions go unfilled or slashed since the start of the recession in 2008.

Because county officials are committed to capping the increase of the growth of the average tax bill at 2.5% per year between now and 2019, and because of unexpected growth and revenue in the housing market over the past year, the tax rate will have to be reduced 5.5 cents to $1.126 per every $100 of assessed residential and commercial property value to keep pace with the 2.5% tax bill growth cap.

Prince William County Public Schools are expected to lose $8.7 million in the coming budget because of the lower tax rate. Those funds, along with the remainder of school funding from the Prince William County Government, would have been automatically transferred to the School Board under a 57.23% revenue sharing agreement.

The School Board earlier this month, by a motion set forth by Potomac District School Board member Betty Covington, unanimously passed a resolution urging the Board of Supervisors to find a way to fund the $8.7 million shortfall.

Stewart is in full support of continuing the automatic revenue sharing agreement, something that is unique to Prince William and Albermale counties in Virginia.

“I talk to many other localities a lot more than any other person on the Board and I can say the rev sharing agreement is the greatest thing… you take the bickering out of the split,” said Stewart.

School officials met with the Board of County Supervisors several times during the previous year and each time stressed that lowering class sizes (Prince William currently has the largest student to teacher ratio in the Washington, D.C. area) and increasing teacher pay are top priorities.

Now, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday must vote on whether to move forward on a reduced tax rate of $1.126 to keep the promise of an average tax bill growth of 2.5%, which would increase the average tax bill about $85 per year to just under $3,500.

Stewart says he’ll be speaking to residents about how they feel about the proposed tax rate in an effort to make sure schools, as well as departments in county government are funded at critical levels.

“When I leave this place I want people to look back and say ‘the community had this challenge… and it had that challenge,’ and that they say I met them and I got the job done,” said Stewart.

The Board of County Supervisors is also scheduled to hear from School Board Chairman Milton C. Johns on Tuesday night to learn more about the School Division’s annual budget for FY2015.

Heartwarming Homecoming: Sailor Surprises 10-year-old Daughter at School


There was a surprise for a little girl in the fifth grade at Antietam Elementary School in Lake Ridge on Thursday.

Lt. Commander Brian Harper returned home from Afghanistan to greet his 10-year-old daughters Isabella and 4-year old Grace during a school assembly. With her classmates watching, Isabella and her mother Shannon, welcomed the sailor with loving arms following his tour in the foreign country.

Members of the press were tipped off about the heartwarming homecoming by the school division’s central offices.





Students Plea for School Funding to Lower Class Sizes

With the possibility of fewer local and state school funding next year, public school students made an impassionate plea to Prince William County officials Tuesday night. They said their overcrowded classrooms have led to disruptions, fighting among students, and have negatively impacted the academic process.

The students, as well as members of the Prince William Federation of Teachers, urged the Board of Supervisors to fully fund the county’s public school system during the upcoming budget season. Students also said there too much focus has been placed on Virginia’s Standards of Learning exams.

“In my classes, the focus has been put on passing a test and not succeeding overall in life. We should put more focus into learning form all sides,” said Kimberly Alfaro, 17, a junior at Gar-Field High School in Woodbridge. “I love to learn…I love to ask questions from all angles, not about just what’s on the next test.”

With only one teacher to an average classroom of 25 or more learners, keeping students well-behaved and under control can often get in the way of educational time.

“I’ve seen a lot of wandering eyes on tests, and when we have chaotic classrooms – when a large amount of adolescents are in confined spaces – it can be a danger to others and learning” said Jessica Wilson, 17, a senior at Woodbridge Senior High School.

Prior to coming to Woodbridge high, Wilson spent a year in an all girls classroom at Woodbridge Middle School where, she said, the classroom was rife with student disruptions and misbehavior.

“In a classroom of all 28 girls, you can image how that went,” she said.

Prince William officials give just over 57% of the county’s entire budget to the school division. Schools Superintendent Dr. Steven Walts told school officials that an expected reduction in state and local funds in the coming year could impact efforts to reduce the average number of students in classrooms. Prince William County has the largest number of students per teacher in the Washington area.

“We urge you to fully fund our school system for the good of the county,” said Bill Hosp, with the Prince William Federation of Teachers. “Great things can happen if we put our differences aside for the moment and focus on what’s good for our students.”

Photo: Woodbridge Senior High School student Jessica Wilson addresses the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. 


No School for Stafford Tomorrow, Exams Canceled

Stafford County canceled classes for Friday as well as mid-term exams.

More in a statement from Stafford schools:

Due to the loss of instruction time during the inclement weather this week, Friday, January 24th, will now be a professional day/teacher work day, however; teachers will have the option to work from home. To allow for the parking lots and sidewalks to clear, all staff including teachers will report on a two-hour delay on Friday. All buildings and offices will open at 10 a.m.

There is no school for students on Friday, January 24th. All exams are canceled. Monday, January 27th will now be a regular school day (an X day for middle and high school students) and will be the last day of the first semester. All grades will be submitted by Friday, January 31st and report cards will be issued on February 11th.

The time lost from today’s (January 23) closure means that Stafford County Schools will be in session on Monday, February 17th, 2014 (the President’s Day holiday).

All scheduled activities for Friday, January 24, and Saturday, January 25, may continue as scheduled. This includes all high school athletic competitions, the SATs and the AP Mathematics Prep Sessions. For information regarding activities at a specific school site, please contact that school directly (or check their webpage).


School Buses Victim of Cold, Some Students Late to School Today

(Photo: Prince William County Public Schools)

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — The recent cold weather brought by the polar vortex that engulfed our region over the last two days brought problems for Prince William schools.

This morning as children headed into the cold, with temperatures below 10 degrees in some places, and back to class after school was canceled Tuesday due to cold weather, a total of 60 county school buses failed to start. That meant children were late getting across the county, and school officials said the nature of the isolated mechanical problems and its timing made it difficult to send out alerts.

The vast majority of our bus fleet operated on time and without difficulty this morning. Approximately 60 buses (about 5% of the fleet) did not start immediately or exhibited other mechanical problems. While that is three times higher than in normal 70 degree temperatures, it is not at all unusual for periods of such extreme cold. To reduce problems, drivers and service personnel employed special preventative measures that were issued Monday and reinforced over the past few days.

— Phil Kavits, Prince William County Public Schools spokesman

A few school buildings sustained water damage after pipes burst in last night’s cold temperatures that dropped below 10 degrees. Overall, children had a normal day back at school today.

While neighboring counties like Fairfax and Stafford opted to open schools two hours late, Kavits said the lack of a wind chill factor (wind gusts factored into the cold temperature that makes it feel colder than it really is) led to the decision to open Prince William schools on time today.

Prince William Schools Closed Friday

Road conditions deteriorated fast was snow fell fast on Jan. 26, 2011, on  Garrisonville Road (Va. 610) in North Stafford. [File Photo: Mary Davidson/Potomac Local News]

Prince William County Public Schools are closed today due to last night’s snow and this  morning’s icy road conditions.

Here’s the statement from the school division:

On Friday, January 3, 2014, all Prince William County Public Schools will be closed due to inclement weather in certain areas. Code Red for employees. All school division activities including Professional Development sessions are cancelled. SACC will not open.


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