Questionnaire for Occoquan District School Board Candidates

Below is our questionnaire for candidates running to represent Occoquan District citizens on the Prince William County School Board.  We have attempted to send the questionnaire to all candidates.  If you are a candidate and have not received a questionnaire, please contact us at PWC_ED_REFORM @ and we’ll send you a questionnaire.

We will publish any responses we receive from candidates, as well as any updates or clarifications we receive from them, as soon as we receive them.  Current school board members are welcome to answer the questionnaire if they so choose.  We will publish any of those responses as well.

Click below to read the questionnaire.

Occoquan District School Board Candidate Questionnaire

Dear Candidates,

You are running to represent the citizens of Occoquan District on the Prince William County School Board. PWCS promotes itself as providing a “World Class Education”.

  • Please list the top 3 things you believe PWCS does well.
  • Please list the top 3 problems that you believe need to be addressed in PWCS.

During the budget debates last winter, PWCS made the decision to raise class sizes across the county to the state maximum. Many teachers have found these larger classes unmanageable and many parents have expressed concerns that the larger classes will undermine student learning.

  • Do you believe classes in PWCS are too large?
  • What do you believe are appropriate class sizes at the elementary, middle, and high school level?
  • What would you propose be done to reduce class sizes?
  • Where would you find the money to pay for class size reductions?

PWCS student test scores on the SOL currently lag behind area norms, particularly at the high school level where they are frequently below both area norms and state averages. PWCS student test scores on the SAT and ACT lag behind area norms, state averages, and frequently behind national averages. PWCS has declared our students’ test scores a success, but some parents and outside observers are concerned that what PWCS defines as success is unacceptably low.

  • Do you believe that “about average” for the state of VA is an acceptable target for SOL, SAT, and ACT scores for PWCS students?
  • If so, why? If not, what do you believe are acceptable targets for the SAT, ACT, and SOL?
  • Do you believe that PWCS students’ current test scores indicate that things are acceptable and we need to continue doing more of the same, or do you believe they indicate that more work needs to be done?

The budget debates last year erupted in controversy when teachers were told they wouldn’t be receiving raises for the next 3 – 5 years. More controversy erupted when the budget was passed with a step increase, which came with a ½ hour increase in the contract day and left some teachers with no salary increase. Rumor has it that PWCS’ budget in the coming years will be tight, with increased pension and health insurance costs and increased enrollment.

  • What are your top 3 priorities when it comes to the school system’s budget {e.g. salary and step increases for teachers, keeping health insurance premiums at their current level, maintaining programs, etc}?
  • What options should PWCS consider to achieve your budget objectives, in lieu of our increasingly scarce funds?

Many of you have expressed desires to create independent citizen budget committees, which would be tasked with examining the budget in more detail.

  • Do you want to create an independent citizen budget committee?
  • If not, why? If so, what do you believe your committee will achieve and what are the first 3 issues you’d ask your committee to look into?

The PWCS CIP currently projects building 2 new high schools, a middle school, and an elementary school in the next 7 years, as well as expanding many existing schools. PWC and PWCS are rapidly approaching our debt ceiling. The 12th high school is scheduled to open in an area that doesn’t currently have and is not projected to have the enrollment to support it. In the fall of 2014 Patriot High School is projected to be 800 students overcapacity and Battlefield High School is projected to be 500 students overcapacity, both with rising enrollment. Neither school is close enough to the location of the 12th high school for it to significantly affect their enrollment. A new high school isn’t projected to open in the Patriot or Battlefield area until 2019, by which time both schools combined are projected to be over 1,800 students overcapacity {The above numbers are based on the 2012 CIP.  The 2013 CIP has not been posted to the PWCS web site but is due to be released in the next few weeks}.

  • Do you believe the school division should consider flipping the 12th and 13th high school delivery dates?
  • If you believe the 12th high school should proceed as planned, what, if anything, do you believe should be done to address overcrowding at Battlefield and Patriot and how would you pay for it?

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