Opportunistic school board chairman pushes to change name of Stonewall Jackson H.S.


Ryan Sawyers, the county’s At-large School Board Chairman, a Democrat who is now seeking a seat in Congress, issued a rallying cry to supporters calling for the name changes after this past weekend’s violent white nationalist protests in Charlottesville where three people died.

“When we name a school after someone we honor and celebrate that person. These schools were named in a time when Brown v. Board of Education, integration, and the Civil Rights Act were being implemented across our country. Under the false rhetoric of ‘heritage,’ these schools were, in fact, named after a Confederate icon as a “thumb in the eye” to Federal actions ending their continued racial segregation of public schools,” Sawyers stated.

Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was a Confederate general and is regarded by historians as one of the most gifted military commanders in U.S. history. Jackson fought at the 1st and 2nd battles of Manassas during the Civil War and later died at age 39 after a battle in Chancellorsville outside Fredericksburg.

Stonewall Middle School, located at 10100 Lomond Drive near Manassas opened in 1964 and is home to 1,140 students. Stonewall Jackson Senior High School, located at 8820 Rixlew Lane near Manassas, opened in 1973, is home to 2,400 students, and the county’s International Baccalaureate Program.

Sawyers has no clue why the school was named Stonewall Jackson High School.  He isn’t from around here.  My guess is that the school was named for Stonewall Jackson because Thomas Jonathan Jackson got his nickname, “Stonewall,”  2 miles away at Manassas Battlefield.  To suggest that the school was named to stick a “thumb in the eye”  of federal actions is incorrect and frankly, stupid.

I am going to suggest that Sawyers is opportunistic and using tragedy to satisfy his own greedy political ambitions.  Leave the name alone.  Literally thousands of graduates demand that the name not be changed.

PWCSB passes anti-discrimination measures for LGBTQ students and staff


The Prince William County school board has passed new anti-discrimination measures for LGBTQ students and staff, a move that marks the end of a contentious fight that raged over the course of the last year.

The board voted 5-3 on June 21 to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, following a second lengthy meeting on the subject after the board previously voted to delay consideration of the policy change last September. Acting member Shawn Brann of the Brentsville District, Willie Deutsch of the Coles District and Alyson Satterwhite of the Gainesville District cast the dissenting votes.

More than 500 people attended the board’s meeting in Bristow, though purple-clad supporters of the nondiscrimination measures dominated the board’s chambers. When lawmakers considered the same change last fall, it was hundreds of opponents donned in red who packed the room.

But several advocacy groups, including Equality Virginia and Virginia’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, focused on whipping support for the policy change over the last few weeks. A variety of local lawmakers — including Congressman Gerry Connolly, D-11th District, and many of the county’s Democratic state representatives — also wrote letters to the board urging them to support the policy alteration.
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School board chairman takes Superintendent Walts to court


Prince William County School Board Chairman Ryan Sawyers is taking Superintendent Steven Walts to court in an effort to gain access to his predecessors’ emails.

Sawyers (At Large) filed a “petition for writ of mandamus” in Prince William County Circuit Court against Walts Tuesday. The petition asks a judge to order Walts to provide the petitioner – Sawyers — “immediate access to school board communications whether from previous boards or the current board.”

Sawyers shared the petition with the Times Tuesday and said he decided to file it because he’s convinced emails sent and received by school board members belong to duly elected members of those offices, and that Walts has no right to withhold them.

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(credit to Alex Koma)

After more than five hours of public comments, the Prince William County School Board decided to delay a decision on whether to outlaw discrimination on sexual orientation or gender identity, as the Wednesday evening meeting dragged into Thursday morning.


The board was set to vote on a policy to outlaw sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination “in the provision of educational programs, services, and activities.” The policy currently bans discrimination based on race, sex and religion.


The board ultimately voted for more time to consider the policy, delaying the vote until June 2017 by a vote of 5-1. Only Chairman Ryan Sawyers opposed a motion to delay the vote, while Loree Williams of the Woodbridge District abstained.


Sawyers edited the policy to direct schools’ Superintendent Steven L. Walts to preserve existing standards for bathrooms and locker rooms, leaving room to comply with court decisions on the issue. The majority of the board still felt suitably concerned about the prospect of future legal action to delay a vote on the policy.

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Maureen Caddigan: The adult in the room

2012 Official Portrait Supervisor Caddigan


When the Prince William Board of County Supervisors meet again on Aug. 3, they will vote on whether or not to grant the school board $1 million for class size reduction.

The agreement is contingent upon the school division matching that $1 million with its own $1 million for class size reduction, but not signing upon the school board signing a memorandum of agreement.

Potomac Supervisor, Maureen Caddigan, who proposed the legislation, is willing to approve it even without the MOA. She hopes it will gain support of enough supervisors to pass next week.

At the July 12 Board of County Supervisors meeting, Caddigan withdrew the motion to vote on the $1 million for class size reduction after supervisors disagreed on whether the grant should be accompanied by a the signing of the MOA.

Supervisors Jeanine Lawson (Brentsville-R), Peter Candland (Gainesville-R) and Ruth Anderson (Coles-R) said the supervisors should require the school board put the agreement in writing. With Chairman Corey Stewart (R) and Woodbridge Supervisor Frank Principi (R) absent, it would have likely been a tie vote.

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Candland, Lawson and Anderson attempt to “blackmail” school board



The Prince William County Board of Supervisors is threatening to cancel a promised $1 million grant to help reduce class sizes in county schools if the school board won’t comply with their request to sign a formal agreement about how the money will be spent.

The school board signed such an agreement last year, but has so far declined to renew it, based in part on advice from their attorney that Virginia law does not permit county officials to dictate how school boards spend local tax dollars.

Still, the school board pledged in their recently approved budget to spend an extra $2 million to continue class-size reduction efforts they began last year. The money includes the promised $1 million grant from the county board as well as the required $1 million in school-division matching funds.

School Board Chairman Ryan Sawyers said Tuesday the school division is already spending the money to hire teachers for the coming school year.

Also, at the supervisors’ request, Prince William Superintendent Steven Walts sent a letter to the supervisors Tuesday reiterating the school board’s commitment to fulfill the terms of the grant.

“The school division, in the spirit of trust and cooperation, funded its $1 million on a recurring basis,” Walts wrote in a letter dated June 16. “Not only are the funds budgeted, but the school division has affirmed its commitment to the program by assuming the risk of authorizing the contracts necessary for applicable staffing to sustain the program in 2017.”

But apparently the “spirit of trust and cooperation” is not flowing both ways.
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PWC School Board reduces teacher day by 30 minutes



The Prince William County School Board voted five to three Wednesday to reduce the length of the teacher workday from 7.5 hours to 7 hours.

The change will revert school work hours to the length they were prior to 2012; the measure goes into effect for the 2016-17 school year.

Potomac School board member Justin Wilk supported the action, along with Chairman Ryan Sawyers, Lillie Jessie (Occoquan), Willie Deutsch (Coles) and Diane Raulston (Neabsco.)

Gil Trenum (Brentsville), Alyson Satterwhite (Gainesville) and Loree Williams (Woodbridge) voted against the measure, saying they would rather support other changes to allow teachers more flexibility and autonomy in their use of planning time.

Wilk posed the the issue months ago, claiming teachers felt the initial 2012 vote was a punitive move against them.

Members were united on the need to boost teacher morale.

“I think, amazingly, we’re all on the same page,” Sawyers said.

Before the vote, Dr. Jennifer Cassata, Director of Accountability, presented the finding of a survey PWCS gave to teachers to help the administration better understand their feelings about the additional 30 minutes.

Good for the School Board.  Finally.   Yes, the addition of the half hour 4 years ago was a slap in the face.  It simply said no real raise but give us more time and like it.

No teacher walks in when the bell rings and walks out at dismissal.  There are always mandatory meetings, conferences or some other non-teaching duties that must be attended to.  This move by the School Board was symbolic but important to morale.

Here’s a novel idea–why not shorten the day AND allow more flexibility?  How about adding a couple personal days to those 3 days teachers already get?  How about making them unrestricted personal days for a full week?  There’s a start at saying the School Board  knows they are screwing their employees.  It’s sort of an “I’m sorry.”

Until the Board of County Supervisors stops playing on the cheap and supports education, this is just how things will be.  Classrooms will be over-crowded and teachers will be stressed.  The BOCS is too busy playing politics to notice.

The last laugh will be when no one goes into the field because of the crappy conditions.   Meanwhile, good for the SB for getting rid of the dreaded extended school day.

School Board Meeting Briefs: The forked tongue?

What’s going on at school board meetings in PWC?  I am hearing just horrible stories coming out of those meetings–stories of teachers being threatened, students in certain districts being threatened as far as funding goes,

Tell me it isn’t so!!  I decided I would go look for myself.  I tried to find the video of last night’s meeting.  Talk about a wild goose chase.  Finding the video of a meeting is difficult and definitely not intuitive.

I finally was directed to the little TV icon on the main website, www.pwcs.edu.  Finally.  When I got to the site, guess what!  The board meeting had not been posted.

Come on school board site.  You have more resources than the non-school part of the county and their board meetings are up and running several hours after the meeting is over.  You can do better.

If what I hear is true, that board meeting archive will probably disappear anyway.  However, before that, I would like to watch the May 4, 2016 meeting  for myself.

Every day I offer up thanks…that I no longer work for Prince William County.

School board to re-write school naming and renaming policy


Prince William School Board members are considering a policy change to change how schools are named or renamed.

The agenda item is a response to the renaming of Godwin Middle School. There was no regulation to guide the board through that process as  regulation 854-1 does not mention anything about renaming schools.

It does dictates how to name a new school or facility, saying community committees must be formed. Those committees present their recommendations to the school board, and the school board then names the schools by majority vote.

Wednesday, Gainesville school board member Alyson Satterwhite asked the board to extend the regulation to include the renaming existing schools and facilities.

“I felt like we needed to put something into policy, so if a renaming came up again, we would have a policy to follow.”

School Board members all agreed with Satterwhite that the community should be involved in any future school renamings, but some went a step further, suggesting other changes to the regulation as well.

Good on the school board for having this discussion, even though it is too little too late.  Their ineptitude last March caused irreparable fractures and damage  in our community.  However, the time to move on upon us.  How do we go forward?

Several members suggested that schools should not be named after living people.  Good idea.  It becomes a popularity contest.  Ms. Jessie disagreed, saying that the school would have never been named for Fannie Fitzgerald had the rule been written policy  that only the deceased could be considered.  How nice that Ms. Fitzgerald knew she had been honored.  She and the other 3 black teachers who were the trailblazers when PWC schools integrated  absolutely should be remembered for their bravery.

Another board member suggested that schools not be named for people at all.  Still another strongly urged the board to consider people closely tied to the education community.

The discussion has begun.  The community needs to give the school board their thoughts and direction.  There was merit in most of the comments I read.

The topic that was omitted was how to decide to rename schools.  That should be an important consideration and I suspect it will become the 2000 pound  elephant in the room.  I say we do not rename schools.  Should a compelling need arise, we need to do it with dignity and honor.  There was no point in the dishonor that was heaped on Mills Godwin.  It was inexcusable.

Where do we go from here and how do we a avoid the Godwin debacle in the future?


PWC Schools turf wars

From Prince William Times:

Issue leads to turf war among board members

Prince William County School board members fight over who calls the shots when it comes to visiting another member’s district.

Overstepping and a lack of interest by Prince William County School Board members regarding the Godwin Middle School name change were addressed at the board’s April 6 meeting.

Following the March 2 vote to rename Godwin after George M. Hampton, PWCS Chairman Ryan Sawyers, PWCS Occoquan Representative Lillie Jessie, and PWCS Neabsco Representative Diane Raulston met with Godwin faculty. The March 10 meeting focused on the name change and implementation. No information from that meeting has been released.

Godwin is in the Neabsco district and is represented by Raulston.

Community member Diana Allen spoke during the school board meeting’s Citizen’s Time on April 6. She said Raulston did not serve the Godwin community.

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School board member threatens Godwin teachers: I’ll be looking at you


I would be remiss as a former Prince William County educator if I did not address the behavior of Neabsco School Board member Ms Diane Ralston who told the Godwin Middle School teachers that she would be watching them. She also suggested that those teachers who had spoken against the name change did not belong at that school.

You have to hear it for yourselves.

I have to say Ms. Raulston’s remarks were threatening and totally unacceptable. I heard some teachers had considered resigning.

Teachers: Don’t be fools. Do not resign. Hold your heads up high and continue to teach and inspire the boys and girls of Godwin Middle School. There are legal resources to handle these kinds of threats from your employer. I was approached tonight by someone who will represent you. Please contact me and I will pass along the information to you. moon.howler7@gmail.com

Ms. Raulston should consider resigning immediately. Her behavior makes her unsuited for any role of leadership in Prince William County Schools. We absolutely cannot have our teachers threatened in this way.

It’s one thing to threaten a colleague as she did Willie Deutsch, ordering him to stay out of her district. It’s quite another thing to threaten employees.

It is my greatest hope that Ms. Raulston will think about the liabilities associated with her actions and at least attempt to walk back her remarks. We cannot have teachers threatened and admonished for their thoughts and opinions.  The first amendment is still functioning in Prince William County.  Those Godwin teachers are the closest ones to the community and the children. We want happy teachers, not beaten down, scared, watched teachers.

We cannot have members of our school board bullying their colleagues or their employees.

Let’s set the record straight about Massive Resistance

I listened to the school board meeting tonight.  I hope I never have to endure doing that again.  I hate watching school board meetings.

Last night, supporters of George Hampton were out in force.   I don’t know Mr. Hampton.  I have nothing against him. I had never heard of him before.  He certainly has a lot of friends, even some who didn’t even know his name, but that’s ok.

I understand their dedication to someone they feel has made positive contributions to the community.  However, some of the speakers continued to throw out ‘facts’ that simply were not true.

Several speakers talked about the state of Virginia closing the schools for 5 years.  That did not happen.  The schools in Prince Edward County (near  Farmville) were closed for 5 years, but not by the state.  Prince Edward County closed their own schools.

The locations that were closed by the state were Front Royal,  Charlottesville, and Norfolk.  Those schools reopened the same school year.  Prince Edward County had a different situation.  According to the Virginia Historical Society:

“After Virginia’s school-closing law was ruled unconstitutional in January 1959, the General Assembly repealed the compulsory school attendance law and made the operation of public schools a local option for the state’s counties and cities. Schools that had been closed in Front Royal, Norfolk, and Charlottesville reopened because citizens there preferred integrated schools to none at all. It was not so Prince Edward County. Ordered on May 1, 1959, to integrate its schools, the county instead closed its entire public school system.

The Prince Edward Foundation created a series of private schools to educate the county’s white children. These schools were supported by tuition grants from the state and tax credits from the county. Prince Edward Academy became the prototype for all-white private schools formed to protest school integration.

No provision was made for educating the county’s black children. Some got schooling with relatives in nearby communities or at makeshift schools in church basements. Others were educated out of state by groups such as the Society of Friends. In 1963–64, the Prince Edward Free School picked up some of the slack. But some pupils missed part or all of their education for five years.”

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School board pulls a stealth end run, by-passing community input Pt. 2


Prince William County School Board Chairman Ryan Sawyers said the decision to rename the school was an idea that was born in an 11th-hour compromise during School Board meeting recess after two failed tied votes to name the elementary school after Wilson and Hampton, respectively.

Potomac District School Board member Justin Wilk proposed the idea. He called Godwin a “segregationist governor,” and noted the school’s student population to majority minority.

Godwin, from Suffolk, Va. was the first person to be elected to two terms as a Virginia Governor. During his term as Lt. Governor, Godwin was a Democrat who upheld “massive resistance” by denying black students entrance to public schools, which had been federally mandated.

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Mills Godwin Middle to have a name change


Inside nova.com:

The school-naming compromise struck by the Prince William School Board Wednesday was well received by family and friends of fallen firefighter Kyle Wilson and George M. Hampton, a trailblazer known for his decades of service to the community.

In a surprise move – aimed at diffusing what had become an emotional and racially-charged debate, the board voted unanimously to name a new elementary school for Wilson and rename Mills E. Godwin Middle School for Hampton.

The idea was proposed by school board member Justin Wilk, Potomac, and seconded by Diane Raulston, who represents the Neabsco magisterial district, which includes Godwin Middle.

The compromise was met with palpable relief by a board room packed with people, including more than 40 who spoke during a nearly three-hour citizen’s comment time to lobby the board to name the new elementary school, formerly known as the “Ferlazzo” school, for either Wilson or Hampton.

Maybe this was a good idea, maybe not.  What it seems to lack is community involvement before the current Mills Godwin Middle School will be stripped of its name.

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Oh Corey! Leave it alone!


Prince William schools closed for the rest of the week  
This announcement apparently didn’t suit the political ambitions of the chairman.


Stewart told NewsChannel 8 Thursday that it was “ridiculous” that children still had not returned to class after a week-long closure.

VDOT did a good job of clearing roads, Stewart said, and that every road in the district had been hit by a plow at least once by Monday.

He blames “helicopter parents” and risk-adverse school systems for the lengthy closures, adding that schools systems tend to copy one another with school closures because they don’t want to be culpable if something bad happens.

“It’s gotten to the point where we’re pushing our kids through an entire week of school, and that’s going to, at some point, cut into their summer time recess,” said Stewart.

“So I’m a bit concerned about the school system.”

Stewart also noted the inconvenience that the extended closing had on parents in the area.

“Most parents got Monday off, and a lot of us got Tuesday off as well,” said Stewart. “Most people were back to work Wednesday, Thursday, and then tomorrow, and their kids are going to be off of school. So this presents a major inconvenience for many people.”

Steven L. Watts, the Superintendent of Prince Williams County Schools, could not be reached for comment, as the offices were closed for the day.

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