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School board considers scrapping 11th grade writing project

June 6th, 2014 12 comments

Let’s see what Calvin has to say about writing:

calvin-writing2

Bristowbeat.com:

If the School Board approves, 11th grade students in Prince William County schools will no longer be required to submit and pass a formal research paper as a requirement for graduation.

School Board members heard arguments from teachers and administrators Wednesday night as to whether they should delete Regulation 600-1, which dictates the research paper requirement.

Supervisor of Language Arts Roberta Apostolakis said she believes deleting the graduation requirement and allowing for more writing within the curriculum would “absolutely strengthen” writing within language arts classes.

In her presentation, Roberta Apostolakis emphasized that the rigorous research-based writing, which is embedded throughout the K-12 curricula and the evidence collected throughout a student’s career, exceeds one “narrowly defined assignment.” She asked that the School Board approve making the English 11 research paper “an embedded part of the English curriculum rather than a separate graduation requirement.”

According to Apostolakis, the research paper took too much time out of the 11th grade curriculum, was weighted too heavily and did not vary the assignment to the level of the student.

No kidding.  From a parent point of view, this requirement is worse than a science fair project on steroids.  In fact, I would venture to say the graduation requirement is tantamount to child abuse.  Can we start with the notion that not everyone is going to college?

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Categories: Education/Schools, PWC Schools Tags:

Victory Lakes, PWCS: Tell the truth

May 21st, 2014 8 comments

Bristow Beat:

The Prince William County Office of Planning and Boundaries has published two new attendance area recommendations that would move the Victory Lakes community into Brentsville District High School (BDHS).

The Victory Lakes Community in Bristow is currently zoned to attend Stonewall Jackson High School (SJHS) in Manassas, but the opening of the 12th high school makes room for students from that neighborhood to attend BDHS. As the proposed boundaries for the new high school moves students from the eastern portion of the BDHS attendance area out of BDHS, it makes room for Bristow students.

To alleviate some crowding at Patriot High School, the school division has already recommended that New Bristow Village along Route 28/Nokesville Road be rezoned to BDHS. The community of Victory Lakes along Sudley Manor Drive in Bristow has also expressed interest in having their students attend BDHS.

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Some supervisors have a hell of a nerve….

April 4th, 2014 2 comments

lucy math

It appears that several of the BOCS took out after the Prince William County School Board with a vengeance. Jim Livingston, PWEA president, said it best when he  “suggested that supervisors are more concerned with political posturing than about the needs of the school system.”

From insidenova.com:

Yet those stark numbers didn’t keep some supervisors from grilling Johns and David Cline, associate superintendent for finance and support services, about why the school system isn’t doing more to lower class sizes – a topic both boards discussed during three joint board meetings held over the summer and fall.

During those meetings, supervisors asked Superintendent Steve Walts to come up with a plan to begin lowering class sizes. Walts presented a $3.5 million plan to lower class numbers in kindergarten, sixth and ninth grades, but said the school system would need extra money from the county to fund the changes.

But when supervisors failed to offer any extra funds, the school board scaled back their plans to only sixth-grade. Supervisors offered no sign Tuesday that any extra money would be coming from the county to lower class sizes next year – but that didn’t keep them from hammering school board members for not doing more.

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Jim Livingston addresses the BOCS: No more operating on the cheap

April 3rd, 2014 7 comments

Get Microsoft Silverlight

Listen to Jim Livingston, president of the Prince William Education Association.  Jim knows that Prince William County has been operating on the cheap for years. He knows that he and his colleagues have not received competitive compensation for years.   Jim also knows that class size counts.   These issues must be addressed this year.   Will the advertised tax rate suffice in fixing PWCS’s operating on the cheap problem?  No.  Not even close but it is a start.

Prince William Education Association has been sounding the alarm about salaries and class size for quite some time.  This is not a new phenomena and the local association has been vigilant about asking for these measures to be corrected.    Yet, if one glances about the blogosphere, one would think that a certain blog from Gainesville discovered the problem, all by their lonesome.  Teachers have been insulted and accused of being led around by the school board.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

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Categories: General, PWC Schools Tags:

Parents flare up over stolen recess

March 9th, 2014 2 comments

There is a hue and cry over Superintendent Walts plan to shave 5 minutes off of elementary recess from now until the end of the year, to make up for lost instructional time due to snow days. To date, PWC has missed 12 days and has had 5 2 hour delays because of inclement weather.

Some parents are showing their displeasure by signing a petition to add 5 minutes on to the end of the day rather than shave the time off of recess.

From Haymarketbeat.com:

Bristow Beat’s Facebook page also saw an outcry against the decision to shorten recess. Parents argued that young children have to sit through too much structured activity as it is in the school day, and that recess is a good opportunity to allow them to be children.

“Kids today spend almost all of their time in structured activities or in front of a screen (tv, video games, computer, cell phone, ipod) with no opportunity to learn to entertain themselves and be active for fun, EXCEPT SCHOOL RECESS,” one woman commented. “Cut that back and then they wonder why kids have such issues with attention span, creative thinking, etc. The business of childhood is play.”

Many parents commenting agreed that recess is a necessity so that students could come back to class refreshed and ready to learn. They expressed their fear that with a shortened recess children’s behavior and academic ability would suffer.

I think adding 5 minutes to the end of the day sounds good but on the other hand, who knows what all in involved with adding 5 minutes to everything involving transportion. There are probably things the average Joe just hasn’t thought about. Which brings up another point. Why is it up to the schools to fix what ails kids?

“Kids today spend almost all of their time in structured activities or in front of a screen (tv, video games, computer, cell phone, ipod) with no opportunity to learn to entertain themselves and be active for fun, EXCEPT SCHOOL RECESS,” one woman commented.

What am I missing here?  Isn’t it the responsibility of the parents to take these toys  and screens away from their children and to chase their kids outside?  It now sounds like this is something the schools have to provide for kids–live without technology.  Back in the day, when my kids were kids, turned off the TV, took away the video games and  I chased them outside.  They were gone from sun up to sun down, off being kids.  Yes, we had perverts back in the dark ages so I don’t want to hear that as an excuse.  Kids are actually safer nowadays, they have cell phones which serve as a leash.

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Categories: Education/Schools, General, PWC Schools Tags:

Taking care of the schools: NOW

February 18th, 2014 6 comments

supply room

As Prince William County begins its budget deliberations, I want to encourage the supervisors to remember the poor, beleaguered schools, their students and their teachers.   As it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a county to do the right thing by its schools.  The BOCS must set the current tax rate.

Regardless of political correctness or other artificial constraints some folks will attempt to put on the situation, the BOCS needs to do 2 things.  They need to set the tax rate high enough to start bringing the schools up to snuff after the long , lean period following the housing crash that began in 2007.   They they need to give the School Board a little larger slice of the pie.

The school system needs to do three things:

1.  Start reducing class size.

2.  Give teachers and other employees a raise.

3.  Make basic supplies more readily available.

Frankly, no one wants to hear the old tea party rallying call to ‘Stop Spending.’   Those words are simplistic answers for simplistic people.  The average person has no idea what programs are mandated and what programs are not.  I have spent more years in the system than most folks and I don’t know all the ins and outs in that regard.  No one does when dealing with a hugely complex system like Prince William, Loudoun, Fairfax or Stafford.

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Electronic town hall: The District of Nottingham

February 18th, 2014 17 comments

Now we use the telephone

I used to live in the Gainesville District.  In recent times, I am not so sure what district I live in.  I have not moved.

Last night, my supervisor held an electronic town hall meeting.   I like the concept of the electronic town hall meeting.  I enjoyed the last one.  Last night, not so much.  All I heard were talking points from a local blog.  I was disappointed.  I pretty much heard affirmation of an uncooperative board of supervisors and an irresponsible school board.  I don’t believe either of these bodies are irresponsible.  Furthermore, the school board is not made up of members of society from a lesser god.  They are duly elected officers  of the county, the same as the board of supervisor members.

I wanted to ask a question but I figured I wouldn’t get through to my supervisor.  It wouldn’t have been well-received, I don’t think.

The question I would have asked is the following:

If I contacted the supervisor’s office or the county over something that irritated the supervisor, would he post my inquiry on his website, thus opening me up for ridicule and vicious attacks from local bloggers and contributors?

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Categories: General, PWC Politics, PWC Schools, PWCBOS Tags:

Candland and Stewart: two peas in a pod

November 26th, 2013 34 comments

Potomaclocal.com:

Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland held a town hall Thursday night at Alvey Elementary School in Haymarket to speak to area residents about what he said is the need to “act right away” to provide more funds to the county school board to cut class sizes, which are now at their maximum capacity, he said. The number of students in classrooms is larger than those of schools in neighboring Loudoun and Fairfax counties, according to a Washington Area Board of Education report.

Candland advocates raising the amount of money the School Board automatically gets from the county in an annual budget transfer, which is currently 57.23% of the county budget, to allow the Board to hire additional teachers and to pay them salaries comparable to what educators earn in surrounding counties.

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Standing ovation for Mount Vernon High’s dress code

August 28th, 2013 38 comments

jeggings

Washingtonpost.com:

When students at Fairfax County’s Mount Vernon High School return to classes next week, they no longer will be allowed to wear “jeggings” as pants.

What exactly are jeggings? They are the fashion cousin of leggings, the skin-tight staples found in many high school hallways. Jeggings are leggings with a faux-denim appearance, providing the tailored jean look that is in vogue among teenagers. To dress in leggings or jeggings, Mount Vernon students must wear them underneath shorts, dresses or skirts that are at most three inches above the knee, according to school regulations.

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Mrs. Caddigan gets it! BOCS–Listen to the lady!

April 3rd, 2013 11 comments

Get Microsoft Silverlight

Mrs. Caddigan restates the obvious–too much building and not enough of a commerical base. If she could only arm-twist the rest of the guys to stop rubber-stamping the development. “Slow down the construction of the new homes and concentrate on the commericial” is more than fair….

Growth exceeds the rate of revenues. That’s the way it has always been.

The BOCS needs to slow the growth. Good for Pete Candland for echoing  her remarks….before he went off the deep end on zero base budget approach.

For the record, Prince William County, at least in modern times, has never required teachers to buy their own supplies.  Most of them do buy things they want for their own instructional purposes, but they don’t have to.  Many years ago, a secretary at a mid county elementary school used to hand out one strip of staples at a time, or so I have been told.    Perhaps in that case…..

 

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PWBOCS: Cheap! Cheap! Cheap!

April 1st, 2013 37 comments

Even though Easter has past, I still hear the echoes of Cheap! Cheap! Cheap! resonating across Prince William County.  No, that isn’t the sound of baby chicks.  It’s the sound made by the Board of County Supervisors.

Note a few facts:

Per Classroom indicators show that Prince William County has the highest teacher:student ratio in the DC metro area:

per teacher

Upon further inspection, we see that Prince William county also spends very little per student compared to many of its neighboring jurisdictions.

per pupil2

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Why ARE PWC Schools over-crowded?

March 19th, 2013 2 comments

captain_obvious2

One of my husband’s favorite sayings is “Captain Obvious” when someone says something so incredibly, well, obvious.   There are parents in the PWC community that have suddenly come to the realization that our class sizes are woefully too full, so full, that quality instruction is being jepoardized.   PWC school has reached the state’s legal limit for class size.

PWCS raised class sizes to the state limits this school year in response to current budget constraints. In the executive summary of the 2014 budget, Walts notes that reductions of teacher staffing ratios (or increases in class sizes) have led to savings of $4.3 million at the middle-school level and $5.3 million at the high school level. Walts also notes that next year’s budget does not restore those cuts.

In response to concerns about class sizes, Walts’s office has said it would cost $15 million annually to reduce average class sizes by one student at all levels. The Code of Virginia sets the following maximum class-size limits: 29 for kindergarten classes; 30 for grades one through three; and 35 for grades four through six. English classes are limited to 24 in grades one through 12, otherwise there are no state maximum class-size limits for grades seven and above, according to Dena Rosenkrantz, an attorney with the Virginia Education Association.

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Teachers to attend BOCS Tues to ask for tax rate that supports schools

February 18th, 2013 16 comments

public education

Prince William County teachers plan to attend the BOCS meeting tomorrow en mass.  Prince William County teachers have not had a step increase in 3 years.    They are not expected to get one until 2016.  They have had a couple of very small raises.  They will once again ask for the supervisors to set an advertised tax rate that sustains a teacher raise and reduced class sizes.

Teachers want  the Supervisors to set a tax rate high enough to accommodate a step increase, raise, and reduction in class size.  The uninformed often wonder why teachers don’t approach the PWC School Board for this raise and reduction, rather than the BOCS.  They do.  However, school boards, in Virginia, do not have the power to tax so they must get the funds from the governing body, in this case, the Board of County Supervisors.   The BOCS sets the tax rate and so they are who the teachers must appeal to.

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Corey Stewart removes School Resource officers from the chopping block

January 21st, 2013 2 comments

Wtop.com

A local leader is changing his mind about the presence of officers in schools in the wake of the school shooting that killed 26 people last month in Newtown, Conn.

Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Cory Stewart originally pushed to cut the number of police officers in county schools due to budget problems. He estimated the cuts could save around $500,000 in the new fiscal budget.

However, Stewart is now pushing to increase the number of school resource officers throughout the county.
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Patriot High School: Studley’s dad helps him get a date

September 18th, 2012 23 comments

Ruff Ruff Where is Fido?

 

Washingtonpost.com:

A black helicopter hovering overhead can lead those below to become worried, scared or suspicious. But when a large aircraft positioned itself over a Prince William County high school’s football field last Wednesday afternoon, students who had just been released for the day excitedly watched as a stuffed bulldog with a red-bandanna parachute emerged.

The big-eyed pup drifted to the turf, delivering a message from a junior boy to a senior girl: “Fall Fest?”

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