Summer Holiday

As I have in the past, I will be taking time off from blogging during the summer, which starts tomorrow!!!!!  There is a school board meeting tonight and I may talk about that as the budget adjustments will be proposed.  I may also post if something pops up and I’m aware of it.  Otherwise, I will be on vacation.  My plans are to climb Bull Run Mountain, tube on the Shenandoah River, hike to a waterfall on Skyline drive, climb Little Round Top, ride a roller coaster, ride a horse (that isn’t attached to a Merry-g0-round), swim in a lake, swim in the ocean, swim in the Chesapeake Bay, bake a cake from scratch, sleep in a tent, dig for dinosaur bones at Westmoreland State Park, look at the moon and starts through a telescope, go ice skating, and sleep in.  Between bug bites, poison ivy, sunburn, motion sickness, and making sure 911 is on speed dial for when I get lost, there won’t be time to blog.

Have a great summer!

Victims of Our Demographics?

Followers of the school division and this blog will recall that PWCS representatives frequently cite our demographics as justification for lower SOL pass rates, SAT / ACT scores, and graduation rates than other jurisdictions in our area.  That assertion is rarely challenged. Read the rest of this entry »

PWC’s Proffers Still Lowest in Area

The PWC BOCS just posted the agenda and supporting documents for the June 3, 2014 meeting.  One item is reviewing the amounts county staff recommend as proffers.

Below is a chart listing the proffers required from Prince William, Loudoun, Fauquier, and Stafford counties.  As you can see, the proffers PWC is recommending for schools for single family homes are still the lowest in the area.  This is despite PWCS building a $100 million high school, the most expensive high school built in the state of Virginia.  Here is the file in PROFFERS – updated- May-2014
Proffers-May-2014

School Board Report – May 7, 2014

The meeting began at 7 PM with all members present.

Read the rest of this entry »

Budget Busters…

This year I have the pleasure of serving, again, on the Gainesville / Brentsville District budget committee.  The people serving on this committee, who all volunteered to spend several hours almost every Sunday night examining the school division’s budget and even more time reviewing the budget in advance of the Sunday meetings,  amaze me.  We are teachers, nurses, CPAs, CFA,s engineers, lawyers, and Moms and Dads.  We come from all walks of political life – conservatives, liberals, libertarians, Democrats, Republicans, and gosh darned independents.  The one tie that binds us is our commitment to our public schools.  We may not agree on any other political issues, but we all agree that our teachers and our children’s classrooms have been stretched beyond the breaking point.  We willingly volunteer hours of our personal time to try to find the pennies that may have been missed that might help our teachers and our classrooms.

Those of you who follow this blog know that we struggled a bit last year with some of the answers we got from school division staff.  Some of the budget lines seemed odd to us, with projections that had little relationship to the past actuals.  I was worried that we’d encounter more of the same this year.

We haven’t.  In fact, we’ve found the opposite.

Read the rest of this entry »

School Board Report for February 5, 2014

School Board Report for February 4, 2014
Read the rest of this entry »

Rich Kids of Northern Virginia

Its’ that time of year, when the feds, state, and local government’s prepare their budgets for the coming fiscal year.  Each year we hear different claims about the relative wealth and tax burden borne by residents in our jurisdictions, with the statistic cited generally the one that supports the argument of whomever is asking for more money.

Read the rest of this entry »

To Common Core or Not To Common Core

Several nights ago I participated in a panel hosted by the Prince William County Committee of 100 about the future of standards in Virginia’s public schools.  Of interest to the Committee was whether the panelists believed Virginia should stick with the SOLs, adopt the Common Core State Standards, or do something else.  I chose doing something different, specifically adopting a Common Core Plus strategy that could be followed either by the state or the county if the state chooses differently.

That may seem like a strange recommendation to followers of this blog as I haven’t hidden my displeasure with the Common Core, so I thought I’d explain.

Read the rest of this entry »

Anti-Bullying Programs Leading to More Bullying…

That’s the conclusion of my colleague Katherine Beals, editor of Out in Left Field, in her article A comprehensive bullying prevention program for selective schools.Katherine states:

“The proliferation of Social and Emotional Learning programs is part and parcel of the American school system’s campaign against bullying. Ironically, as I’ve noted earlier, these programs often end up further enabling the bullies:

Socially savvy kids can take advantage of zero tolerance policies and subtly goad a more socially clueless peer into lashing out. The victim rather than the perpetrator is then the one who gets punished. In whole class discussions in which children are supposed to share their experiences with bullying, the victims may be too uncomfortable to do so, especially if those experiences involved subtle, difficult-to-articulate forms of bullying like shunning, and especially if the victims expect subtle reprisals from peers once the adults are out of earshot.

Also worsening the social climate for quirky kids is the rise of group-centered learning, which proponents claim teaches valuable cooperative skills:

The anecdotes I collected for my book strongly suggest that group learning environments, rather than preventing bullying, are often arenas for it. Bullying can be quite subtle and difficult to detect; teachers cannot supervise multiple groups simultaneously; unsocial and socially awkward children regularly report being teased and ignored as the social hierarchy of the playground creeps into the classroom’s “cooperative groups”–whenever the teacher is out of earshot.”

I’ve often felt that the anti-bullying programs in our schools are little more than a joke; that they’re opportunities for anti-bullying industrialists to push their  programs into schools under the guise of bullying prevention.   That there is little to no evidence of the effectiveness of these rather costly programs appears to be of little concern to anyone.  Far too often it seems like our schools are more intent on checking the box that says they’ve provided bullying prevention programs to students than on actually preventing bullying.

The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Oil

What is the biggest issue facing Prince William County Public schools right now?  Is it student achievement, testing, class sizes, overcrowded schools, technology, teacher compensation and benefits, or teacher training?  If the school division were to find its annual recurring budget increased by $20 million, what should they spend it on – reducing class sizes, increasing teacher compensation, increasing access to technology in our schools?

Based on the people who have addressed the school board in public session, the answer is none of the above.  Based on public feedback, the biggest issue facing PWCS right now is inadequate indoor pools.

To date more than 40 parents and students have addressed the school board in support of the school division spending its scarce resources to build and operate an indoor pool.  Fewer than 10 have addressed them about class sizes.

Based on public sentiment expressed at school board meetings, it seems we Prince William County residents believe indoor pools are a higher priority than reducing class sizes.

The squeaky wheel gets the oil, folks.  If you think reducing class sizes is a higher priority than indoor pools, you might want to start squeaking.

The next school board meeting is Wednesday, November 6.  The meeting will start at 7PM.  If you want to speak you’ll need to sign up in advance with the clerk (email pwcscleark@pwcs.edu  phone (703) 791-8709) or at the door before 6:15.

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