Guest contributor Joseph George shares his thoughts about the political landscape in Prince William County. Joseph ran unendorsed for the school board seat in the Neabsco District in the last election. We hope he continues his county involvement.
Still Learning the Prince William County Political Landscape
As a person who is still new to the political landscape of PWC, many of the current situations remind me of a circumstance that I became a part of during a leadership training class that I attended:
Two people were having a disagreement. One person stated that this house had four windows and two doors, where as the other believed the house in question had five windows and one door. Each side presented diagrams and provided downloads of city permits to validate their perspectives. When neither side was willing to concede, insults were thrown, challenges of the other’s level of intelligence were made, and conspiracies of a bigger scheme were made. I decided to intercede by asking what the address of the house in question was. Upon hearing of the location, I informed them they were both correct, which caused both combatants to look confused. One was referring to the front side of the house, while the other was referring to the backside of the house.
I feel that many of the political conversations over the past several months in PWC have been doing the same thing, defending someone’s perspective, without considering the other’s viewpoint, even becoming venomous in their justification. The next three situations are solely from my experiences and background.
“The Great Compromise” came after months of the previous Board’s handling of determining whether the Ferlazzo site would be the new site for one of PWC’s highest graded schools, Mary Porter Traditional, so that more families on the waiting list could enjoy the environment that this community has created, or become a community elementary school, as previously intended. After the right decision was made to keep this site as a community school, the school needed a name. Many entries were submitted, but two rose to the top, fallen Firefighter Kyle Wilson, and Army Veteran George Hampton. Besides voting on what the boundaries for this school would be (based on the recommendations of the Boundary Committee), this was one of the biggest decisions the new School Board had to make in the beginning of its tenure. On March 2, 2016, the decision was to name the Ferlazzo site after Kyle Wilson and the name Mills Godwin Middle School would be stripped in honor or George Hampton. Watching the late-night activities on TV, I nudged my wife and told her this was a good way to satisfy both groups. My wife looked at me and stated, “what about the Godwin families?” I was ashamed that I did not even consider that. Families in this area believe they do not have proper representation and it happened again on that night.
Two sides went at each other, with one side stated that their voices were not heard, they were going to lose their identity, and that the financial cost would be too great in these economic times, while the other side indicated that they were providing a motivational figure for the students to look up to, removing a figure that did previous damage to the types of students that currently attend the school, or this type of decision has happened in PWC in the past. On its merits alone, each of these are legitimate points, but based on the levels of distrust that each side had against the other, arguments turned ugly……over the same “house”. In my opinion, if the Godwin community would have been given the reason behind the name change (since many I have spoken to were not aware of the negative dealings of Governor Godwin), allow those residents’ vices be heard, I believe the same decision would have been reached, but there would have been less turmoil.
Brentsville’s School Board Representative, Gil Trenum, has been directed to a one-year deployment to Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa. He sought out guidance as to whether he was able to provide the School Board a pool of candidates that he felt comfortable with interacting with, so that they could sit in his place until his re-deployment. This situation has never happened in PWCS and seeking out this guidance was prudent. As a Veteran myself, I was hoping that one of his choices were selected and that would be the end of the story, but, unfortunately, it’s not. The School Board Chairman, Ryan Sawyers, has decided to reach out to the Virginia Attorney General for an opinion, through the 36th District’s Senator, Scott Survell, to see if they must accept only those submitted by Mr. Trenum or if a wider pool could be pulled from. Again, on its face, each side have very valid points, but the distrust that one side has over the other, the barbs were thrown at each side once more, but at a smaller level than Godwin. So much so, the sole person who threw their name into the ring, decided to withdraw based on the impact it had on their family. If there were trust a dialogue within the community, a judgment could have been sought out, received, and accepted. Then our next step to this story would be who would plan out the “Welcome Home” party for Gil in 2017.
Finally, the Classroom Reduction “Grant” ordeal which is an interesting dilemma, similar to “What Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?” discussions. The School Board has been accused for several years of not properly monitoring the School Division’s spending habits, which the newer members of the Board indicated that they would do. Can the new Board be blamed for not wanting to abide by the same practices of the previous Board, if they ran on the platform of doing things differently? One side states that the schools are underfunded, which most would agree, where as the other side of the discussion is directed towards the Board’s perceived questionable spending (both past and present).
One side expresses that too many homes, townhouses, and apartments have been constructed, without the educational infrastructure to support it, where as the other side believes that previous Boards have not requested a slow down or stoppage of building living spaces, so the Board of County Supervisors were unaware of the overcrowding taking place. This is probably the biggest indicator that the School Board and the BOCS have not done an effective job communicating with one another, in each District and as a whole elective body. Until the distrust on both sides lessens, our communities and our County will be unable to progress as far as I know we could.
I have been a Woodbridge resident for nearly 13 years, an active Neabsco District resident for over 8 years, and as a former military family, I have told my wife that we are not moving anymore. PWC is stuck with me and I’m here to make a positive difference. Anyone can feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s make a difference here together.
The guest post is the opinion of the contributor and does not necessarily represent the views of the Moonhowlings.net administration.