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Cheapo actions by BOCS cause serious cuts to school system

January 27th, 2015 27 comments

insidenova.com:

Prince William County could have “a fundamentally different school system” if a proposal to hold real-estate tax bills at the rate of inflation is approved, a move that could trigger up to $20 million in cuts next school year, School Board Chairman Milt Johns says.

The school board won’t discuss particulars until Feb. 4, but to brace for what Johns calls an “unplanned and dramatic revenue cut,” he’s asking board members to consider discretionary spending cuts to absorb a loss of about $11 million in expected revenue. At the same time, he wants to maintain a planned pay scale “step increase” for teachers, costing about $8 million, and a $1 million plan to reduce class sizes in one grade level.

Johns is asking the board to find savings in three areas: full-day kindergarten programs at non-Title I schools; bus service to middle and high school specialty programs and construction and renovation projects planned to begin in fiscal year 2016.

None are cuts Johns would advise, but they are the few large-ticket items that can be reduced to find significant savings in the division’s budget.

I have a plan. PWC needs to stop going on the cheap. They attempt it again and again. That’s how we get in these pickles to start with.   There cannot be a supervisors meeting without Pete Candland piping up and trying to “reform” us.  In December, he proposed to disregard the 5 year plan and hold revenue increases to 1.3%.  As it stands, the budget guidance is once again going on the cheap.

Pete and his sidekick are only 2 people.  Why did three other irresponsible people chose to support cheap again?   I don’t like paying taxes either.  In a perfect world. I would get really good services for nothing.  As it turns out, that isn’t how things work.  If I want decent services commensurate with Northern Virginia standards, I am going to have to cough up some money.

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PWCS: Better school closing decision-making in the future, please!

January 7th, 2015 22 comments

eli bus

Tuesday morning was a disaster in terms of the weather related traffic mishaps.  Despite snow and freeze warnings issued on all major news programs, the  major Northern Virginia jurisdictions chose to open school on time.  This decision did not bode well for Prince William County Schools and its students and faculty.  At least 12 accidents reported  across the county involved school buses.  Students waited in sub-freezing weather at bus stops for buses that never arrived.  Where were the thought processes of those making these decisions?

Apparently the NoVA schools  followed a  monkey-see, monkey-do  approach to decision -making in a sea of rather unwise monkeys rather than smartly assess the current weather situation of  rapidly falling snow and sub-freezing temperatures.

Students who even got to school  spent the day in cafeterias across the county watching movies.  Many of their teachers couldn’t get to school on time.   Classrooms doubled up.  In general, things were a mess and Prince William County wasn’t alone in what has to be one of the biggest blunders in a long time.  According to the Washington Post:

The first snowfall of the new year was heavier than expected, prompting apologies from several of the region’s school systems and wreaking havoc with the morning commute Tuesday as icy roads and hundreds of collisions snarled traffic.

With forecasts calling for one to two inches of snow, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties opened schools on time and later came to regret it. Students were left waiting for buses that never came. Schools reported that buses were stuck in traffic or unable to navigate icy hills. The decision to open infuriated parents, who accused school officials of being reckless and putting students in unnecessary danger.

 

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When good people won’t run….

December 16th, 2014 16 comments

This morning when I check  in to Facebook.com, I saw some very sad news from Prince William County School Board Chairman Milt Johns.  Let me first off say that Mr. Johns is a Republican.  He and I have very different political views.  In fact, on some of them, we would probably stand toe to toe and scream at each other.  Mr. Johns, however, was the school board chair.  Those issues that we vehemently disagree on would have rarely come up.  I also don’t know Mr. Johns personally.  We have met professionally, before I retired.   Milt Johns’ press release:

 

For Immediate Release

After months of prayer, reflection, and discussions with my family, I have decided that I will not seek re-election as Chairman at Large of the Prince William County School Board in 2015. When my term ends at midnight on December 31, 2015, I will have spent nearly a quarter of my life serving on the Prince William County School Board. It is time for me to focus on other matters, including my family and my law practice. I do expect to continue to have a role supporting Prince William County Schools and in local political activities.

 

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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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: