None of the Above

Among the plans for the proposed boundary changes for the 12th high school, two have emerged as the “top contenders”; Administration Recommendation v 1.1 and Plan 2.1.(a).

I’d like to suggest a third plan – None of the Above. Read the rest of this entry »

Planned Failure

PWCS projects that it will open the 13th high school in the fall of 2019 to relieve overcrowding in western end high schools.  Battlefield high school opened in the fall of 2004 and Patriot high school opened in the fall of 2010.  PWCS knew that both Battlefield and Patriot would be overcapacity before they opened, yet their “plan” for relieving that overcrowding was to wait 9 – 14 years until the 13th high school opened in the fall of 2019.

Based on the enrollment projections provided by PWCS, the 13th high school is overcapacity, 5 years before it opens.

Read the rest of this entry »

School Board Report – May 7, 2014

The meeting began at 7 PM with all members present.

Read the rest of this entry »

Agenda for the May 7, 2014 School Board Meeting

Several items are on the agenda for the May 7, 2014 school board meeting that may be of interest.

(1) Increase current year budget for addition revenues received.
St Pkg Fees On the Consent Agenda is an item asking the school board to increase the FY 2013 – 2014 school year budget.  The increase is necessary because of revenues received in excess of the amounts budgeted.

Citizens who follow this blog and members of the Gainesville / Brentsville District budget committee will find these items interesting as they happen every single year, yet PWCS continues to feign surprise that their projections are so low and refuses to update the revenue projections to come close to approximating reality.

PWCS has under-budgeted Other Tuition, Fees, and Revenues by an average of $4 million each year, for the past 3 years (see here===>other revenue

The projection for this school year and next are no different.

Take Student Parking Fees, as an example.  The chart to the right shows how much has been budgeted for Student Parking Fees since 2010, how much was actually received, and the difference between the two.  It also shows how much was budgeted for this year and the adjustments to date.

Despite budgeting more than $150,000 less than what has actually been received for the past 4 years, PWCS budgeted Student Parking Fee revenue at the same $125,000 for next school year.

Student Parking Fees is particularly interested as it is subject to a 50/50 split between central administration and the schools.  For every dollar received for student parking fees, 50 cents goes to central administration to pay for lot maintenance.  The rest goes to the high school use as they please.

The transfer to the schools for Student Parking Fees has been budgeted at $125,000 for the past bunch of years, the exact same amount  they budget for revenue.  That means PWCS has been projecting that it will provide 100% of Student Parking Fee revenue to the schools, or it has been underreporting Student Parking Fee revenue.

The difference between what was budgeted and actually received means each high school should have received $3,320 more from the county this year from student parking fees to do as they please.  Concerned citizens and parents may want to contact the advisory councils at their local schools to ensure that these funds were received.

(2) Proposed Boundary Change for 12th high school.

No changes have been made to the proposal that was posted on the PWCS webs site a couple of weeks ago.  Apparently citizen comments weren’t sufficient to merit a change (see link).

(3) Mrs Williams (Woodbridge) has requested that the County School Board rescind the resolution they previously passed asking the Governor and General Assembly to decouple Medicaid expansion from  budget negotiations.

PWCS’ Time Warp

Posted today, April 23, 2014, on the PWCs web site is the recommended boundary plan for the 12th high school.  It’s dated May 7, 2014 and the 2nd paragraph in the report reads as follows:

Public input was gained by way of two community meetings. Not only did these meetings foster an environment where the public was able to highlight the perceived merits and shortcomings of the administration’s recommended boundary plan, but they also helped to bring awareness to potential implications of the plan that were beyond the ability of PWCS staff to foresee. The Office of Facilities Services held community meetings on Wednesday April 30, 2014 at Brentsville High School and on Thursday May 1, 2014 at Hylton High School”

Seems PWCS is in a time warp!

Seriously, however……  The changes proposed here are major.  They affect practically all of the high schools in our county.  If you want a better example of why the 12th high school should have been flipped with the 13th, look no further than the projected enrollment totals at the 12th high school – it never goes about 92%.  Patriot remains at over 130% and Battlefield is between 120% and 130%.

Shouldn’t staff have waited until AFTER the community meetings to finalize their recommendations?  Do our opinions and concerns matter at all?

UPDATE:  Here’s the link to the report which PWCS has now stamped with DRAFT.


Unacceptable Conduct

As I watched the school board meeting blast night I was reminded of the often used idiom about the trees getting in the way of the forest.  Readers of this blog will recall that I, and many others, opposed the 12th high school.  We opposed the school for multiple reasons, which we painfully and carefully explained in detail here, in letters to the editor of local newspapers,  and in public comments to the school board.

Our reasons included:

  • that the school’s only street access will be from a highway;
  • that the school bumps against an active dump that spews highly flammable methane gas;
  • that lacrosse fields located adjacent to what will be the school’s PE fields have had to close due to heath concerns resulting for decomposing partially digested mice and rats pulled from the dump by birds and contamination from airborne bird feces;
  • that the school is no where near the population centers in the county or the schools that are overcrowded by in area enrollment;
  • that the school will be  yet another 100% bus school;
  • that the school  included a pool two pools that weren’t disclosed anywhere in the CIP or PWCS web site until a few months before the project was set to go out to bid, and then, only when private citizens disclosed their existence in comments to the school board, and;
  • that the school included a black box theater and orchestra lift which weren’t disclosed by PWCS to the public or school board until just before the bids were awarded.

This project was shrouded in secrecy by PWCS from the beginning, perhaps deliberately.

Last night it became evident that several school board members weren’t paying attention during the debate over the 12th high school and clearly have no idea why people were opposed the 12th high school.

Just a reminder for those school board members – you’re reviewing the designs for the 13th high school, now, because the school division misled the public and the school board about what was included in the 12th high school.  That debacle resulted in the quagmire of mistrust in which you presently find yourselves.

The opposition to the 12th high school wasn’t about whether it should have used the less expensive Battlefield / Freedom design or the more expensive Patriot design.  It was about all the stuff that was included in the 12th high school that no one in the school division wanted to admit was there until they were forced to do so.

While $18 million may seem like a drop in the bucket, it’s roughly the cost of a 10 room addition.  PWCS could have built Patriot with the Battlefield / Freedom design AND put an addition on Brentsville that would have provided enough seats that Patriot and Battlefield wouldn’t be looking at being more than 30% overcapacity in the next school year.  With that in place, PWCS might have been able to delay the 12th high school a few years and put that money into renovating the older high schools in the county so that they’re more in line with 21st Century learning strategies.

One more thing.

I recognize that some school board members are playing political games with their comments that are dripping with derision and contempt.  I find that attitude unacceptable from an individual elected to stand for and advocate on behalf of our children.  Our citizens and children deserve better than that.  School board members who find themselves incapable of avoiding such games ought to resign so that candidates who are worthy of our children can be elected to fill their places.

What’s $30 Million Among Friends?

At last night’s BOCS meeting, Supervisor Pete Candland mentioned some savings PWCS had carried forward.  The savings he noted ranged from $8 million in the 2010 school year to nearly $31 million in the 2014 school year.  Supervisor Candland said he wouldn’t stake his life on the numbers, but that’s what it looked like to him.

He’s right.

In January of 2010 PWCS reported “savings” of $8,249,361 in their 2nd quarter budget update.  $8 million of that was carried forward to the 2011 school year.

This January PWCS reported “savings” of $30,826,526 in their 2nd quarter budget update.  $27.8 million of that was carried forward to the Construction Fund for capital improvements and $1.1 million was carried forward to pay for technology improvements.

These savings aren’t the entirety of what is carried forward by PWCS each year.  These savings are just the school division’s projections in January of what things will look like at the end of the school year in June.  The actual savings that are carried forward at the end of the year are usually greater.

What is carry forward?  By statute, because they’re funded by taxes received from citizens, school divisions are not allowed to have any money left over at the end of the year.  That means that any money that is left over at the end of the year has to be allocated, or carried forward, to the next year or subsequent years. It means that throughout the year the school division assesses spending, calculates what will likely be left over at the end of the year, and carries any excess forward to other funds or the next school year.

Some of the expense categories that resulted in “savings” have been adjusted, so, presumably the savings that are carried forward in the next few years won’t be as much as they were this year.

However, when you have from $8 million to $30 million in savings that you can carry forward to subsequent years, and that money primarily comes from 4 places – under budgeted revenues, over budgeted reserve expenses, over budgeted utilities expenses, and over budgeted compensation expenses – it is difficult to accept that there isn’t enough money to reduce class sizes beyond the 1 student in math in 6th grade that is contained in the FY 2015 budget.

Don’t take my word for it, look and see for yourself.

This file contains the 2nd quarter budget updates from 2010 ===>Q2Updates-2.  These are the actual updates from the PWCS web site.

The chart below is all of those updates conveniently typed into one chart.  The cells highlighted in yellow are the amounts being carried forward.  The columns are in reverse chronological order, so they start with 2014 and go back to 2010.

2nd Qtr Updates



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