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Math Textbooks Up for Review

By Kristina Schnack Kotlus

Prince William County, Va. — Following a committee review, proposed math textbooks for Prince William County Schools are now on display for public review.

Mathematics textbooks for kindergarten through calculus will be available for viewing and comments from now until December 21, 2011.

“Citizens’ comments will be collected and considered by the textbook adoption committee as they prepare their recommendations to the School Board this winter,” stated a Prince William County Schools press release.

The textbooks from Kindergarten through Algebra II will be available at:

Professional Library of the Edward. L. Kelly Leadership Center

Chinn Park Regional Library

Bull Run Regional Libraries

Ashland Elementary School

Battlefield High School

Ellis Elementary School

Forest Park High School

Fred Lynn Middle School

Lake Ridge Middle School

Occoquan Elementary School

Penn Elementary School

Pennington Traditional School

Saunders Middle School

Signal Hill Elementary School

Swans Creek Elementary School

Victory Elementary School

T. Clay Wood Elementary School.

Upper level books for math above Algebra II will be available at the Edward L. Kelly Leadership Center, at 14715 Bristow Road in Manassas.

Math in PWCS has been a hot-button issue for many parents following the introduction of “Math Investigations” which prompted the creation of a website, “”.

The final adoption report for any new recommended materials is planned for presentation to the School Board for information and approval in February 2012.


School Bus Schedules Posted

It’s back to school Tuesday for public school students in the Potomac Communities.

Prince William and Stafford counties have both placed their bus schedules online making it easy for parents to find out what bus their child should take to and from school.

Stafford anticipates welcoming nearly 27,000 students to class on Tuesday while Prince William schools expect to see 86,000 students.

During the summer, Prince William also put the finishing touches on three new schools: Patriot High School, Piney Branch and T. Clay Wood elementary schools.

The school year for both divisions runs through June.

Marines Help Stuff the Bus

(Submitted photo)

Stafford, Va. — Volunteers on Friday worked to fill more than 500 backpacks full of school supplies for children, marking the end of the annual Stuff the Bus School Supply Drive.

Business owners from the area and Marines from Quantico helped the children who gathered at the Alvin York Bandy school administration building in Stafford to fill the backpacks.

“These backpacks will be distributed to children throughout the school system whose families would have difficulties providing the needed school supplies for their children,” said Stafford schools spokeswoman Valerie Cottongim.

The school supply drive ends and schools in Stafford and Prince William counties are preparing for the upcoming school year.

Today was the first day back to school for teachers in Stafford and Prince William counties. Students were set to return to school on Sept. 6, after Labor Day.

To get ready, Prince William County Public Schools is celebrating the hiring of 650 new teachers.

Stafford Eyes LEED School

Stafford High School (Mary Davidson/

Stafford County, Va. — School officials have sustainable, green buildings in their sights as at least one Stafford County School Board member plans to head to Henrico County on Thursday to tour an environmentally friendly school.

The tour group that includes at least one School Board member and one member of the Board’s advisory committee will tour Glen Allen High School, which opened in 2010 as a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified building, said Stafford schools spokeswoman Valerie Cottongim.

The tour comes as county school officials are eying construction of a new Stafford High School, which will be located near the existing school site in Stafford County. When finished in 2015, the school could be Stafford’s first three-story school building.

The tour group will leave Stafford at 1 p.m. headed to Glen Allen High School, which sits at 10700 Staples Mill Road in Glen Allen.


Help with Back to School


Apple Federal Credit Union in Garrisonville is one of several drop off points in the Potomac Communities where school supplies can be donated. (File photo)

Kristina Schnack Kotlus
Schools and Education Reporter

Local Businesses in the Potomac Communities are helping to ensure students are geared up for fall. Each year numerous students return to school without the necessary supplies they need to participate in class. Local businesses are hoping to inspire residents to help ensure every child has the basic supplies they need.

In Stafford, Apple Federal Credit Union has helped to coordinate a drive called “Stuff the Bus” in cooperation with numerous other business partners who are acting as drop-off sites. Booz Allen Hamilton, Costco and Rioch are also helping to support this endeavor. Donations are needed by August 20 for the “Stuff the Bus” program. School supply lists and details are available on their website, and a list of drop-off sites is below.

In Woodbridge, Chick-fil-A on the Prince William County Parkway is offering not only a drop-off site, but an incentive. Any customer who donates $5 of school supplies will receive a free original or spicy chicken sandwich.

Numerous local churches are also collecting backpacks, including Freedom Fellowship in Dale City and New Hope Church in Lorton. Apple Federal’s Stuff the Bus Program also occurs in Prince William County with drop off sites throughout Manassas and Woodbridge. Century 21 New Millennium will also be collecting school supplies through August 17th.

Larger companies, such as office supply giant Staples, run programs out of their own buildings and will have collection bins placed in stores through mid-September.

Stafford Drop Off Locations:
Apple Federal Credit Union, 50 Dunn Drive
Chick-fil-A, 25 Dunn Drive
Chick-fil-A 1094, International Parkway
NextCare Urgent Care, 15 S. Gateway Drive
NextCare Urgent Care, 330 White Oak Road
NextCare Urgent Care, 325 Garrisonville Road
Stafford County Public Schools, 31 Stafford Avenue
Stafford County Social Services, 1300 Courthouse Road
Storage 2000, 2865 Jefferson Davis Hwy
Storage 2000, 521 Garrisonville Road
Walmart-Stafford Lakes, 11 Village Parkway

Prince William County Drop Off Locations:
Chick-fil-A 2425 Prince William Parkway
Freedom Fellowship Church, 4320 Dale Boulevard
Apple Federal Manassas Branch, 8745 Mathis Avenue
Apple Federal Woodbridge Branch, 14229 Potomac Mills Road
Jackie’s Teacher Store, 4373 Dale Boulevard
Office Depot, 14053 Crossing Place
Super Walmart, 17041 Jefferson Davis Highway
Century 21 New Millenium, 12581 Milstead Way, Suite 400

19 Stafford Schools Fail AYP

By Kristina Schnack Kotlus
Schools and Education Reporter

Stafford County, Va. –– Stafford County Public Schools has received its preliminary 2011-2012 Adequate Yearly Progress results. The AYP is determined by Standard of Learning test scores, but are a function of the No Child Left Behind Act. Scores will continue to be finalized by the Virginia Department of Education over the coming weeks.

Based on their SOL results, all 30 Stafford County Schools are accredited for the 2011-2012 school year. Eleven Stafford Schools made Adequate Yearly Progress. However, a staggering 19 schools did not make their AYP goals. Mountain View, Stafford, and Brooke Point High Schools, T. Benton Gayle, Shirley Heim, A. G. Wright, H.H. Poole, Stafford, Rodney Thompson, Drew, and Dixon-Smith Middle Schools, Anthony Burns, Hartwood, Rocky Run, Conway, Kate Waller Barrett, Widewater, Moncure, and Margaret Brent Elementary Schools did not meet their goals. Stafford schools noted that there are 29 AYP Benchmarks and four of the 19 schools not making AYP missed by one benchmark with an additional seven schools that missed making AYP by two benchmarks.

Overall, Stafford County Public Schools as a whole did not meet AYP.

“We believe that we are providing the necessary supports and resources for improving student performance by emphasizing data analysis to know where our strengths and weaknesses are in our educational program while providing the necessary professional learning so that the quality of instruction meets the needs of every child in Stafford County,” said Assistant Superintendent for Instruction, Dr. Chris Quinn.

For some schools, not making AYP has additional implications under No Child Left Behind, which requires sanctions be imposed on schools that receive certain federal funds and do not make AYP for two or more consecutive years in the same content area. Because of this, Widewater, Rocky Run and Falmouth Elementary Schools will be offering school choice to parents for the 2011-2012 school year.

Affected families should receive notice via a letter from the school district.

Prince William Expands School Website Ads

By Kristina Schnack Kotlus
Schools and Education Reporter

Prince William County, Va. — Prince William County Public Schools announced this week that they are expanding upon an already successful program of selling advertising space on school websites.

PWCS was one of the first public school divisions in the country to offer advertising on school websites, featuring both regional businesses such as BB&T Bank and local business such as SwimKids Swim School on various school pages. These sponsorships were made available in 2008.

Chains stores and larger national brands, however, have not been a part of the current sponsorship program due to their decision making procedures.

With the help of SPARK, the School Division’s Education Foundation, PWCS recently signed an agreement with Education Funding Partners (EFP) who has secured commitments with national brands and stores that are interested in partnering with schools. EFP currently works with schools in Colorado and California, but is new to the East Coast. This agreement was approved by both the School Board and the SPARK Board of Directors.

“We have been able to successfully and tastefully provide advertising to local businesses on PWCS Web sites, raising funds annually to cover the cost of our Web services, which includes important school-to-parent communication tools,” said PWCS Superintendent Dr. Steven L. Walts in a press release.

Education Funding Partners (EFP) mitigates risk by finding multi-year corporate sponsors to support public education. The school district will still be able to control where sponsors are displayed. As part of the process, EFP will be sending teams to the county to compile a package explaining the value of various markets in the county to potential sponsors.

Marketing opportunities may include facilities naming, branding, and educational support messaging, in addition to more traditional signage and website advertisements. EFP will find sponsors and provide the funds to SPARK, which will then designate projects that could include turf fields, technology, and electronic signs and mini-grants to teachers and schools.

Woodbridge NOVA Campus Closed Today

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Update 11 a.m.
Campus officials say a broken water pipe lead to today’s campus closure.

Woodbridge, Va. —
The Woodbridge campus of Northern Virginia Community College is closed today.

The college’s website or emails sent out to students state why the campus closed.

We are working to find out why, however, officials say campus activities and classes will resume tomorrow.


State’s First Online High School Turns 10

By Kristina Schnack Kotlus
Schools and Education Reporter

Prince William County, Va. –– Prince William County’s Virtual High School (VHS @PWCS) will celebrate its 10th school year this coming school year.

The celebration opened with a kickoff in June with a record 558 students attending the school.

VHS @PWCS was the first online high school program in Virginia and began offering classes in 2001.

The program offers online classes as well as blended components, such as the orientation where students complete their first session and orientation in person with teachers and classmates in a computer lab setting.

Testing also takes place in a classroom environment.

“I encouraged parents to share their experiences with the Virtual High School and to advocate for expansion of the program,” said Prince William County School Board Member Dr. Michael Otaigbe in a press release. “This is the future, and expanding online learning opportunities will reduce the pressure to build new schools.”

The virtual high school can be accessed online at the county school system’s website.

Area Schools Exceed Standards

By Kristina Schnack Kotlus
Schools and Education Reporter

It’s nice when your car can be registered for two years, but it’s even better when your school can be accredited for three.

Colonial Forge High School in Stafford County, and Mary G. Porter Traditional School, Springwoods and Mountain View elementary schools in Prince William County were among the 54 schools in the state that have been guaranteed full accreditation for the next three years, according to the Virginia Department of Education.

Schools receive extended accreditation because they have a pass rate of 95 percent or more on all four Virginia Standards of Learning tests in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia Wright stated in a press release that “The waivers provide an opportunity for high-achieving schools to try new approaches in covering the SOL content without worrying about a potential short-term impact on test scores and accreditation ratings.”

The exempt schools will continue to administer SOL tests and report the results to the public.

$48.7 Million to Benefit Schools

Potomac Senior High School in Woodbridge. (Mary Davidson/

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. –– Some public schools in Prince William County will see improvements following the sale of $47.8 million in bonds Tuesday.

Thirty new classrooms will be added to Potomac Senior High School, and six classrooms will be added to Swans Creek and Westridge elementary schools. A bus parking lot will also be added to Westridge, according to county documents.

The Bonds were awarded to Citigroup Global Markets after a competitive bidding process that attracted 14 bidders. This is the largest number of bids received on a County bond sale. The County’s new credit status as a “Triple-Triple-A” rated jurisdiction, low market rates and heavy demand for the issuance were all factors in obtaining an extremely low interest rate bid of 3.147 percent, this is the lowest interest rate the County has ever received on a 20 year bond sale. The Bonds received the highest rating by Fitch, Standard & Poor’s and Moodys. Note: This rating level is awarded by all three rating agencies to only approximately 0.4 percent of all local governments in the United States.

The bond sale is expected to save the county school system $1.6 million in interest payments, officials said.

Help Offered to Prepare Children for School

Potomac Senior High School in Woodbridge. (Mary Davidson/

By Kristina Schnack Kotlus
Schools and Education Reporter

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — Children under age five in Prince William County, Manassas City and Manassas Park areas will benefit from a new school readiness initiative called Smart Beginnings Greater Prince William.

The initiative was launched with a $50,000 planning grant from the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation and the PNC Foundation’s Grow-Up Great Program.

A May 2010 summit sponsored by PNC Bank included a discussion among senior managers about the importance of developing a strong future workforce. Regional PNC president Glenn Kindard, who is also vice chairman of the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, helped foster growth of the summit’s ideas from there.

“It was exciting to watch this important initiative gain momentum as community leaders from the public and private sectors recognized the huge return on investment when young children are equipped to succeed in school and, ultimately, in the workforce,” said Kindard in a press release.

The grant itself will be used to fund an assessment of early learning needs in the Prince William region, as well as to develop a strategic plan and leadership team between July 1, 2011 and December 31, 2012.

SPARK, the education foundation for Prince William County Public Schools will serve as fiscal agent for Smart Beginnings Greater Prince William during the development process.

6th Graders Must Have Shots, Say Schools

Prince William County, Va. –– Parents are once again reminded that students entering sixth grade in Prince William County Public Schools this fall must present proof that they have had a tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) booster shot within the past five years. By state law, without proof of this immunization, children will not be able to enroll in school for the 2011–12 school year.

If the last Tdap booster shot was administered more than five years from the beginning of the upcoming school year, this immunization must be administered over the summer. The booster shot may be listed as T, Td, Dtap, and/or Tdap. Parents are urged to call their child’s doctor or local health department if they have questions.

Shots may be obtained from a doctor, military clinic, or the Prince William County Health Department. Documentation should be taken to your child’s middle school or Central Registration.

The Prince William County Health Department may be reached at the following locations and telephone numbers: 9301 Lee Avenue, Manassas, VA 20110, 703.792.6301, and 4001 Prince William Parkway, Ste. 101, Woodbridge, Va. 22191, 703-792-7300.

-Press release

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Head Start Center Proposed

The seal of Stafford County Public Schools.

By Kristina Schnack Kotlus
Schools and Education Reporter


Stafford County, Va. –– In a report from Stafford County Head Start Director Kathryn Massie presented Tuesday night, an independent consulting firm suggested the county construct a new facility for Head Start students.

The Head Start is a program for preschoolers who come from low income households.

It’s currently housed in the Gari Melchers Museum complex in south Stafford. The complex also houses Early Head Start, which offers day care for teen parents, reports.

Stafford currently funds Head Start for 339 children, turning away an additional 100 each year.

The proposed Head Start building would include 20 classrooms, seven special education classrooms, two Early Head Start rooms, parent training rooms, a gym-assembly area and a cafeteria.

It has been suggested that the building be added on to the back of an existing elementary school complex.

School board officials have suggested private funds and grants to pay for the expansion.

AP Diploma Transfers Blocked

Stafford County, Va. — Colonial Forge High School next year will offer for the first time an advanced studies degree. But students will not be able transfer from other schools to participate in the program.

The program is the first of its kind in the school division, but Colonial Forge is enrolling 192 more students in the fall than the school was designed to hold, reports

The school system’s policy allows high students to transfer into other schools that do not offer similar academic programs at their own schools. However, the policy was revised last year to allow the school superintendent to override transfer decisions.

The new program will offer an international studies diploma and a distinguished scholars’ recognition. The courses are taught by instructors with college-level experience, and students must complete a community service requirement before graduation.

Stafford and North Stafford high schools plan to implement similar AP studies diplomas in 2012.

2,000 Graduates Ready to Walk

Stafford County, Va. –– More than 2,000 students are preparing to graduate from high schools in Stafford County on Saturday.

Mountain View High School will graduate 460 students in its fifth graduating class tomorrow morning at 8:30 a.m.  This class collectively earned over 3.5 million dollars in scholarships, a school record. The Valedictorian is Miranda Reichhardt.  The Salutatorian is Brittany Scites.

Stafford High School will graduate 418 students at their ceremony Saturday at 8:30 a.m.  The Valedictorian is Ik Su Oh and the Salutatorian is Matthew Francom.  Stafford High has 4 sets of twins (Brittany and Michael Hicks, Chris and Maya Mardini, Jennifer and Michael Mongrain and Britney and Lauren Wible) in this graduating class and the first of the African refugee students, Nijimbere Eliphase, will graduate.

Colonial Forge High School will graduate 493 students at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday morning.  The Valedictorian is Emily Schutzenhofer with a 4.909 grade point average.  The Salutatorian is Chester Gray with a 4.88 grade point average.  Their graduating class includes a National Merit Scholarship Recipient, Kristin Asmus, who plans to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Brooke Point High School will graduate 427 students on Saturday morning at 8 a.m..  Their Valedictorian is Valeria Giberti and their Salutatorian is Erin N. Zalewski.  Also in the graduating class is Kevin McGlade who tried out for the Olympic Skeleton Training team and made it.  He will be attending college in Lake Placid, New York, while training in the skeleton event.

North Stafford High School will graduate 420 students on Saturday morning 8 a.m.  Their Valedictorian is Caroline Jansen who received a perfect score on the SAT.  The Salutatorian for North Stafford is Matthew Nicholas who has served as the commander of the Air Force JROTC unit and will be attending the United States Air Force Academy.

-Press release

As Principal Retires, Replacements Named

Michele Egan and her 5 sons came by Dixon-Smith Middle School library Tuesday afternoon for the open house held for Principal Steve Trant (left). He is retiring after 36 years with Stafford County.

By Kristina Schnack Kotlus
Schools and Education Reporter

Stafford, Va. –– Officials named four new administrators to fill positions at schools in Stafford County. 

Lisa Besceglia, a former special education teacher and assistant principal at Dixon-Smith Middle School since 2005 has been named the principal. She replaces Principal Steve Trant who opened the school in 2006 and has spent 36 years working within the school system, said Stafford County Public Schools spokeswoman Valerie Cottongim.

A farewell ceremony was held for Trant on Tuesday afternoon.

Besceglia has taught at Dixon-Smith for six years and holds degrees from California University of Pennsylvania and George Mason University.

At Stafford Middle School, Mark Smith has been named the new principal. He began teaching in 1995 at North Stafford High School. 

In 2003 he became the assistant principal at Gayle Middle School, and in 2005 he was named assistant principal of Mountain View High School. Smith holds degrees from the University of Virginia and George Mason University.

On the county level, Pam Kahle was named the new Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education and Support Services.  Kahle has worked for Stafford County Public Schools since 1983 when she began as a kindergarten teacher at Hartwood Elementary School.

During her tenure with the county Kahle also served as assistant principal at Widewater and Garrisonville Elementary Schools.  She has served as principal of Garrisonville Elementary since 1994.

In 2000, Kahle was named Stafford County Principal of the Year and has also won the Washington Post’s Distinguished School Principal Award, “Project Great Idea” award, and “Golden Rule Award.” Kahle holds degrees from Longwood College and the University of Virginia.

Lisa Martin will serve as Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education and Support Services.  Martin previously taught in Florida, Richmond, and Portsmouth before coming to Stafford in 1994 as assistant principal of North Stafford High School. 

In 1998 Martin began as principal at Colonial Forge High School where she has worked for the last 13 years.  Martin was this year’s Principal of the Year for Stafford County.  Martin has earned degrees from the University of Central Florida, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Virginia Commonwealth University.

Schools Get New Start Times

By Kristina Schnack Kotlus
Schools and Education Reporter

Prince William County, Va. –– Some Prince William County Schools will be starting and ending their day at a different time next year.  Prince William County uses a three-tier approach when busing children to school which allows drivers to serve multiple routes.

High schools will begin between 7:20 and 7:30 a.m.  Middle school start times range from 8:10 to 8:20 a.m., and elementary schools have the widest range, with schools beginning their day anywhere from 8:15 to 9:20 a.m.

This year three schools will be beginning and ending at a new time. Antietam Elementary is one of three schools in Prince William County that will begin the day at 8:15 a.m., with 2:40 p.m. marking the end of the school day.

“It is typical that a couple of schools’ bell times have to be adjusted each year, particularly when we have additional schools coming online”, said Ken Blackstone for PWCS.

Patriot High School in Nokesville (opening this fall) and Marsteller Middle School in Bristow are the two other schools that will experience schedule changes.

Parents at the affected schools should have received notification via website about the changes.  The full schedule of start and end times for Prince William County Schools is available online.

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