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,  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.

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



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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Where are the math texts in Prince William County?

From Prince William County School policy:

Purchasing Textbooks: It is the policy of the Prince William County School Board that in each core curriculum area there is at least one currently adopted textbook on the appropriate level available to every student.

Textbooks and related materials shall be approved by the School Board or the Associate Superintendent for Student Learning and Accountability before being purchased. The following purchasing procedures have been established to assist in procuring textbooks and instructional materials.
A. The following is a suggested purchase allocation for purchasing textbooks after the adoption approval:
1. First year – As many copies as budgeted funds will allow, but at least   50% of student enrollment.
2. Second year – complete total purchasing requirement according to the policy of one copy per student.
3. Third through sixth years – maintain ample copies of adopted textbooks to meet policy requirements, one copy per student.

That sounds to me like there shall be 1 copy of a textbook in core academic areas for every student.  This isn’t the state, this is Prince William County’s own policy.

PWC Schools are not following their own policy in math and haven’t been for several years.  I believe this is a cheating way for the individual schools to save money.  One classroom set of books is bought and that is the name of that tune.  No homework is given in the math book and to the best of my knowledge, most of the math texts do nothing but sit there and gather dust.

Students need to learn to read across the curriculum, including math instruction.  Students also need to have a math book if they need outside help.  Try tutoring a kid without a math book.  It’s fairly difficult to do unless you have a really good grasp of SOL curriculum.   Then you can pull problems out of thin air or rely on old textbooks if you have your own private stash.

Regardless, if you ask  around you will be hard pressed to find a kid who has been assigned his or her own math textbook to take back and forth to school.  Prince William County’s half-assed approach to providing every student with a math book violates their own policy and certainly does not conform to best practice in the field of education.

It’s time for the school system to stop cheating the kids and the tax payers and to assign each student a math textbook.   Yes, it’s getting personal now.  Come on Stonewall High School–get with the program.  Come on Reagan Middle and Stonewall Middle, get with the program.

You are not acting in the best interests of children.  You are handicapping students and creating innumeracy.

Those running for positions on the school board need to address this issue.


What’s happened to the middle school text books in PWC?


During the  last joint session of the Prince William County School Board and the Board of Supervisors, Supervisors Lawson and Candland chose to pick a fight with the School Board over a budget flyer sent home.  I wish they had discussed the needs of the school board, especially as it relates to textbooks.

Disclosure:  up until 3 years ago I was a certified secondary math teacher so this is important to me and I think I know what I am talking about.  I also have grandchildren in PWC Schools.

Kids aren’t being issued textbooks.  I checked with my middle school grandson.  No math book.  I couldn’t get an answer about the other books.  I checked with friends who have kids in the school system.  Their kids don’t have text books in any of the subjects.  WTF?  There are classroom sets.

So I asked about homework.  It seems that kids have binders and worksheets.  Sorry.  That doesn’t cut it.  How on earth are our kids learning to read in the content areas?  Apparently they are not.  Reading in the content areas is a critical skill that people who move beyond high school must have to be successful.  If our SAT scores are coming up short, that is one place to immediately look.

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Where were the thundering hordes?

As I watched speaker after speaker go to the podium in the Supervisors chambers last night, requesting that the BOCS advertise a tax rate high enough to support the 5 year plan, I questioned my own sanity.  Where were the thundering hordes of people I had heard about?  You know, those people who wanted the tax rate frozen at some ridiculously low figure that would pretty much halt most progress in Prince William County.

Our house-mate suggested that I must have been listening to talking hand  sock puppets–that old propaganda trick of making people think that there were a lot more people out there than really exist.  Sometime after 9 pm, a lone man got up and asked for a 1.3% rise in taxes.  Actually, I think he thought that was even too much.  He was also plenty irate about the budget sheet that got sent home with each school kid.  I wonder if he got irate last year and the year before that?

Sending materials home with students is the main way the school system communicates between school and home.  It always has been.  Just because we live in an age of technology doesn’t mean that all parents have computers.  Even in households with computers, often the computers were bought for the kids to help them with their studies (forget enhancing their social life).  I don’t think some of our middle and upper middle class residents understand that everyone isn’t just like them.

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Lawson and Candland: F in diplomacy

A weekend meeting between the Prince William Board of Supervisors and school board to discuss budget challenges devolved into bickering over a flier about the school division’s “current budget challenge,” sent home with students last week.

The meeting, held Saturday at the Buckhall Volunteer Fire Station in Manassas, was called ahead of Tuesday’s supervisors’ meeting, when the board will vote to advertise a tax rate for fiscal year 2016, which begins July 1.

By law, once supervisors approve an advertised tax rate, they can vote to reduce the rate but cannot raise it.

The vote is important for Prince William County’s 95 public schools, which receive about 45 percent of their funding from local real-estate taxes.

Under controversial “budget guidance,” approved by supervisors in December, local tax bills would rise 1.3 percent next year – or the inflation rate as defined by the Consumer Price Index. The move would mean an $11 million reduction in expected revenue to the school division for the 2015-16 school year.

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More sleep…more sleep…more sleep for those in high school

From Channel 4 News:

Students clad in pajamas and draped in sleeping bags demonstrated outside school board headquarters in Montgomery County on Monday, urging support for later high school start times that would allow them to get more rest.

The “sleep-in” — replete with bathrobes, teddy bears and fuzzy slippers — came on the eve of a school board vote, expected Tuesday, on whether to shift school schedules at Montgomery’s 25 high schools, where classes now begin at 7:25 a.m.
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School Board needs to hold BOCS’ feet to the fire


The Prince William County School Board gave the Superintendent guidance on preparing a budget that would explore cuts to discretionary programs, Wednesday, but would fund teacher salary increases and class size reductions across one grade level in the district.

In discussion, the proposal to eliminate full-day kindergarten proved to be unpopular amongst board members. School Board members were also unhappy about eliminating specialty programs, but nonetheless agreed to review them along with other discretionary programs. 

Back in December, the Board of County Supervisor’s provided its own budget guidance to the County Executive. They asked her to create the county’s Fiscal Year 16 [FY16] budget based on a tax increase of 1.3 percent, rather than the 4 percent tax increase prescribed by the board’s five-year plan.

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