I support Jeanine Lawson for Brentsville District Supervisor

Eleven years ago I attended the first meeting of the Prince William County School Board that I’d ever attended.  My youngest child, who attended with me, was 5 months old.  My oldest child, who stayed home, was 3.  It seems strange, now, that I attended and sat through a several hours long school board meeting, with a 5 month old in tow, when my own children wouldn’t even be attending public school for another 2 years.

Overcrowding at Cedar Point Elementary is what compelled me to attend that meeting.

Despite opening 3 new elementary schools, Ellis in 2004 and Victory and Glenkirk in 2005, Cedar Point would remain overcapacity, generally with enrollment over 1100 students in a school built for 850, until the fall of 2011 when T Clay Wood opened less than 1 mile away.

It took PWCS from 2001 until the fall of 2011 to finally relieve overcrowding at Cedar Point.  Victory, Glenkirk, and T Clay are currently overcapacity.  It won’t be until next fall, in 2015, when the Devlin Rd Elementary school opens, that overcrowding at those schools will hopefully, finally, be relieved.

That’s 14 years.

Marsteller Middle School is where many of the kids who attend these schools go after they complete elementary school.  The new Marsteller opened its doors in 2002, and was overcapacity the day it opened its doors.  So many students registered in the summer that they didn’t have enough desks or chairs on the first day.

In the year before Gainesville Middle School opened its doors in the fall of 2007, Marsteller had over 1700 students enrolled, in a school built for 1200.  Marsteller was still overcapacity after GVMS opened, and remains that way today despite Regan opening in the fall of 2012 and the K-8 opening this fall.  Another middle school, the ‘West End” middle school, will open in the fall of 2018 2019, to relieve overcrowding at Marsteller and Gainesville.

Assuming the “west end” middle school won’t be overcrowded the day it opens its doors, it will have taken PWCS from 2002 to 2018 to relieve overcrowding at the middle school level in the Brentsville / Gainesville area.

That’s 16 years.

The children who attend Marsteller and Gainesville Middle Schools and the K-8 mostly go to Battlefield, Patriot, Brentsville, and Stonewall.   Battlefield opened in the fall of 2004 and was overcapacity shortly thereafter.  Prior to the opening of Patriot High School in the fall of 2011, Brentsville High School had so many “extra” students that they had one way hallways, used the auditorium to provide seating for lunch, and some kids had so many classes in trailers that they never set foot inside the building, except for lunch.  It was overcrowding at Brentsville that opened our eyes to such things as bathroom trailers, which are trailers that have bathrooms in them, because there weren’t enough bathrooms in the building for all the students attending.  Overcrowding at Glenkirk elementary was so bad that they had a bathroom trailer at an elementary school.

Battlefield was about 20% overcapacity last year and will be overcapacity this school year with rising enrollment in subsequent years.  Stonewall will be overcapacity this year with rising enrollment in subsequent years.  Brentsville is projected to go overcapacity next school year with rising enrollment in subsequent years.  And Patriot, Patriot is nearly 800 students overcapacity this year, but it’s enrollment is expected to stabilize next year at between 700 and 800 students overcapacity.

Battlefield opened in the fall of 2004.  The 13th high school is expected to provide relief to the western end high schools when it opens in the fall of 2019, though by many calculations it is already overcapacity.

That’s 15 years.

Children, god willing, get older every year.  The day they’re born, you can predict, almost to the day, when they’ll graduate from high school.  Most children spend 12 years in public K -12 school.  My oldest was born in late 2000.  He’s in 8th grade this year and will graduate before overcrowding is relieved in Brentsville area high schools.  His entire school career will have been spent in schools that are overcrowded to the bursting point.

None of this overcrowding was a surprise. It was known and expected, and available in documents published by PWCS to anyone who cared to look.

For as long as I’ve been watching the BOCS and school board, we parents have been promised that relief would come when the next school opened.  We’ve been told that the county HAD to accept new housing developments because the site for the new school was desperately needed.  What we weren’t told, but figured out by looking at the numbers, was that all the houses that came with the new developments meant the desperately needed new schools would be overcapacity before they even opened their doors (see Ellis, Victory, Glenkirk,  TClay, Gainesville Middle, Reagan Middle, the K-8, and Patriot).  It meant that PWCS kept building schools, but couldn’t keep up with rising student enrollment.

Problems like this don’t happen by accident.  They happen when our elected officials prefer to be blissfully ignorant of the impacts of proposed development and when voters don’t take a stand.

Fifteen years is more than a few elections; elections which presented voters with opportunities to change the way things are done in Prince William County.

The unanswered question is whether we’ll choose to do so.

On October 1 Brentsville District residents will be faced with a choice between two candidates to represent them on the BOCS as Wally Covington has been appointed to the judicial bench.

I support and endorse Jeanine Lawson for Brentsville District Supervisor.

In my opinion, Jeanine gets it.  She has children in school now and has seen the effects of school overcrowding and large class sizes firsthand.  She understands the effects unfettered development have on our already stressed school system.  She’s not anti-development; she recognizes that development will and should happen, but she supports smarter development and appears willing to question and vet staff’s claims.  She understands the financial burden our high property tax rates have on working families.  She attended meetings of the Gainesville / Brentsville District budget committee and assisted in digging into the county and school division’s budgets.

Don’t take my word for it – check out Jeanine’s web site and that of her opponent, Scott Jacobs.  Check out their campaign finance reports on vpap.com and see who is funding their campaigns (Jeanie’s and Scott’s).

Do your research, and then come to the GOP nominating meeting on October 1.  I’ll be there, and I’ll be voting for Jeanine.

Kim Simons


4 Responses to “I support Jeanine Lawson for Brentsville District Supervisor”

  1. POSTS WORTH READING — September 27, 2014 | Citizen Tom Says:

    […] I support Jeanine Lawson for Brentsville District Supervisor (pwceducationreform.wordpress.com) – Republicans will be choosing their nominee for the special election to replace Brentsville District Supervisor Wally Covington on October 1, 2014 (see Brentsville Special Election). This post is a well-considered endorsement of Jeanine Lawson. […]

  2. Concerned Mom of Two Says:

    With all due respect, I think that on the revenue issue you choose to be blissfully ignorant. Contrary to your claim that residents suffer from high property tax rates, Prince William County residents pay some of the lowest property taxes in Northern Virginia & the greater DC metropolitan area. BOCS brags about it in its literature and reports. The Washington Post wrote a story about how retirees flock to PWC to pay the low tax rates (this is one of the reasons PWC started to climb on the “wealthiest counties in the U.S.” chart because of their wealth). It described how most of these retirees, who are busy with their wine clubs and golf games, do not want to pay more taxes to benefit the schools since their children are now grown up. (If any retirees are reading this, I dare you to prove me wrong and start speaking out on this subject to increase revenue for our schools.)

    The truth is that PWC has one of the lowest rates of per pupil spending in the greater Washington DC metropolitan area. (The last time I checked – which admittedly was a few years ago – we were ranked #9 out of 10 counties in the DC metro area. Only Prince Georges County ranked lower. I will check to see what the most recent figures are.) Therein lies the problem. PWC does not want to raise revenue to hire more teachers in order to address the large class size issue. We are one of the wealthiest counties in the country – just behind Loudon, Fairfax, Arlington, Montgomery, Howard; but we don’t want to pay for our kids’ so-called “world class” education like the residents of those counties do. Our lagging SAT and ACT scores are proof of how our approach does not work well. (It is not entirely due to SES as you sometimes argue because if it were, then Patriot, Battlefield & Brentsville would be performing as well as the best schools in Fairfax, Arlington, and Loudon by every measure and they do not.)

    I appreciate your blog and gather much valuable information. Most of the time I agree with you. However, I am a little tired of your railing against the school system & what you consider to be its “wasteful spending” as if that’s the main driver for large class sizes and overcapacity schools. You constantly try to coax and shame them into cutting expenses. Undoubtedly in some instances this is warranted. But, it appears to me that you are trying to exact blood from a stone.

    The true problem lies with the overall revenue that is raised and allocated to schools in PWC.

    Our family is willing to pay more in local taxes in order to have lower class sizes and at-capacity schools. We are willing to do this even when our kids graduate from the schools in 5 & 6 years. A well-educated populace benefits all of society and not just those of us with kids currently in the system. It appears, however, that your family and most families in this county are unwilling to pay more taxes. Who really knows, however, because no politician in PWC dares to raise this issue. We never get to vote on it or have any real choices. We’re presented with the same type of candidates all of the time. I am very disappointed that the new entrant into the BOCS race who is a Democrat, Eric Young, appears to be a Republican on tax and education issues. (If you go to his website and read his position on education issues, it will make you cry. His solution to mitigate the class size issue is to provide more professional development to teachers on class and behavior management. Pathetic.) Another clueless politician with no real solutions. He dares not to raise the “T” word in this county other than saying NO! Neither does your candidate or Scott Jacobs. Everything can be done on limited revenue. It’s the cowards approach. Tell the people what they want to hear. So 16 years pass by and your kids will be forever stuck with large class sizes and over-capacity schools. That’s reality. It’s the reality the voters in PWC have chosen.

    You can’t have it both ways. You can’t cry about large class sizes & overcapacity schools yet be unwilling to pay more in taxes. (Frankly I’m sick of trying to make up the slack in doling out fundraiser money for the schools, clubs, music programs, and sports. To pass the financial burden onto our teachers, students, and those families whose doors they knock on to raise money on behalf of their schools is pitiful. Wouldn’t it be easier if we raised taxes so we don’t all have to guilted into buying another box of unwanted cookie dough or pledge money for a fun run?)

    Continuing to criticize school administrators on small potatoes issues (e.g., what temperature the schools maintain, the pool issue, which design to use – Battlefield or Patriot, etc.) isn’t going to solve the larger problem. We need more teachers and more schools. Especially high schools. Now. Not in 5 years. Not in 10 years. Not in 15. If it means adding more trailers in the meantime…then OK, let’s do it. So long as there are more teachers in those trailers. Maybe the next school that is built should be larger in capacity as you mention, but we need big money. Bottom line.

    Your approach is like swatting at individual flies when the real problem is the fly-infested water nearby where they breed.

    Someone needed to tell you this.

    • Concerned Mom of Two Says:

      One more thing, I know that your post focuses on development and how BOCS screwed it up over the past decade or so. Your candidate says that she supports growth but limited growth. Wow. What an earth-shaking stance to take. Guess what people, the growth has already arrived. It’s here. We are living it. Our kids attend over-crowded schools with the largest class sizes in the entire State of Virginia. So Lawson supports slow growth. She isn’t in the pocket of the large developers. She is offended by large class sizes & overcapacity schools. So what is she going to do about it? Not raise revenue, that’s for sure! She has made that clear. That position wouldn’t get her elected. Instead, she’ll criticize and complain about the large class sizes and overcapacity schools – along with the rest of those families affected – and she may even slow down the rate of overcapacity in the years to come because she may vote against a development or two – but she won’t solve the existing problem of too large class sizes/overcapacity.

  3. pwceducationreform Says:

    Here are a few numbers for you to ponder.

    $70,000,000. That’s how much PWCS has carried forwarded each year for the past several years. Carried forward is what government entities call the extra cash left over at the end of the year. For the past several years, PWCS has had about $70 million extra left over that they’ve just carried forward to the next year.

    $27 million. That’s how much PWCS reclassified from the operating fund to the construction fund last school year (and they still had an approximately $50 million carry forward). The operating fund is where the money for schools is reported. That $27 million was taken from schools and used for construction.

    $4 million. That’s how much PWCS has under budgeted “other” revenue each year for the past 3 – 5 years.

    $7 – $10 million. That’s how much PWCS has over budgeted utilities expenses for the past several years, including last year and the very cold winter we had.

    PWCS needs to make sure they’re spending the money they’ve been given effectively BEFORE they ask the BOCS to raise taxes or change the revenue sharing agreement.

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