After months of investigation, the independent review of Prince William County Public Schools (PWCPS) Superintendent Dr. Steven L. Walts’ Twitter account is complete.
The Prince William County School Board has received a detailed briefing from the outside law firm it contracted to assess the division’s policies and activities. It remains to be seen if the information obtained during the investigation will be released to the public.
The Prince William County School Board hired the firm in March to review Walts’ communications with students after several allegations arose regarding inappropriate interactions with students. PWCPS Policy 503.02-1 provides direction and regulations for school district employees’ electronic communication with students which states that employees should not “access” students’ personal social media accounts.
Walts initially used Twitter for school system news and gained a strong following when he sang about school closures due to snow. His Twitter presence has over 30,000 followers. A Potomac Local News (PLN) investigation of Dr. Walts’ Twitter timeline found that he used his Twitter account to communicate directly with students’ personal accounts in a manner that disregarded the school division’s electronic communications policy. PLN discovered that Walts regularly used the platform to communicate with students during the late hours of the evening as well as during the school day.
After allegations were received by the School Board, Walts temporarily suspended his Twitter account @SuperPWCS on May 8. PLN as well as the Prince William County Board of Supervisors requested the school division to release the Tweets but were denied on grounds that the release would “interfere with the investigation”.
“We undertook this independent review in May after questions were raised about the administration’s use of social messaging to communicate with students,” said Dr. Babur B. Lateef, the School Board Chair. “We will now take the information we received and review it with the appropriate administration officials, including the superintendent.”
Lateef said the board would use the information to undertake a range of responsive actions, including an evaluation of current policies, processes, and training with the official use of social media platforms.
Walts has been the Superintendent of Prince William County Public Schools for the last 15 years. Over this period, he has become one of the highest-paid school superintendents in Virginia. His full compensation package including benefits comes out to $430,752.
The School Board will be meeting on Tuesday, July 28 in a closed session meeting to discuss Dr. Walts’ evaluation. The evaluation looks at the Superintendent’s performance based on criteria set by the Department of Education and the Prince William County School Board.