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.

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Sorry Sheriff, But I Disagree

Followers of local blogs in PWC are familiar with the Sheriff of Nottingham.  Like many, I’m a huge fan of the Sheriff.  I’m jealous of his vocabulary, contacts, and his witty writing style.  I’m so boring I put myself to sleep!

The Sheriff recently posted an article that appears to imply that the class size issue in this county could be resolved simply by readjusting school boundaries.  He questioned the school division’s much maligned $15 million per pupil per school figure for reducing class sizes (see here ===>Does Class Size Reduction Really Cost $15 Million Per Student? The Short Answer: NO — That is a Lie!).

It pains me to say this, Sheriff, but I disagree.


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PWCS Can Find Money for Cars, But Not To Reduce Class Sizes

At the March 19, 2013 School Board meeting, the board approved the budget for the 2014 – 2015 school year.  The budget provides for limited class size reductions in 6th grade, a 3% salary increase for faculty and staff (of which 2% is from PWCS and 1% is from the state and will go directly back out to pay for a 1% increase in VRS contribution rates), and a step increase for faculty and staff at Step 1.  Health insurance costs will increase 4% for faculty and staff.

Many of you will recall that this fall the Superintendent provided a plan for reducing class sizes in three grade levels – kindergarten, 6th grade, and 9th grade.  This plan was developed at the request of the School Board based on their expressed opinions that reducing class sizes at the “transition” points would produce the greatest results.  The total projected cost of this plan was $3,563,323, which would have added 40.2 new teachers (cost $3,143,883), 3 new professional development coaches (cost $244,440), and additional funding for conferences (cost $175,000) {see full plan here ===>Class Size Reduction}.

The Superintendent’s budget for the 2014 – 2015 school year only funded class size reductions in 6th grade.  Gil Trenum and Alyson Satterwhite presented a plan last night that would have adjusted the Superintendent’s proposed budget and funded the two additional pieces of the class size reduction plan, increased allocations to schools by $3 per pupil, and provided funding for replacing the tracks at Gar-field and OP.  That plan could only garner the support of three school board members – Gil Trenum, Alyson Satterwhite, and Lisa Bell.

What was in this plan, that only three school board members could support?

I was on the Gainesville / Brentsville District Budget committee and will share what we developed for Gil and Alyson that formed the basis for the plan. (please see UPDATE at the end of the article for clarifications and corrections).

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Everything is Awesome…

Everything is cool when you’re part of a team.

Everything is awesome,

When you’re living the dream! 

I just saw the Lego movie with my children, and that song was an integral part of the movie.  As a Mom with two children, I spend a lot of time at movies like this and, as so often happens in these types of movies, my mind wanders a bit.

See, if you listen to the reports about Prince William County, everything here is Awesome.  We have the lowest taxes in the area and are one of the wealthiest counties in the nation!

Everything is Awesome and PWC, we are Living the Dream!

Except where we aren’t.  Our taxes may be among the lowest in the region, but our tax rate is among the highest.  Our household income may be among the highest in the nation, but it’s one of the lowest in the region.

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Misleading the Public

On Wednesday night the PWC School board will vote to approve the bids for building the 12th high school.  I suspect the votes will go in favor of the school plus the pool. Chairman Johns, Dr Otaigbe, Mrs Jessie, and Mrs Williams have all said they strongly support the pool.  Mrs Covington says she’s undecided, but has indicated her support for the pool in the past.  Mr Trenum, Mrs Bell, and Mrs Satterwhite are opposed to the pool.

By now most of you know the issues about the pool.  Many folks have been shocked at the secrecy within the school system and the disdain certain employees appear to have for the public and elected officials.  From the pool to the Lynn family cemetery and moving their graves, this school and the pool has been an example of how not to do things.

Other folks are covering the Lynn family cemetery, so I won’t repeat those issues.  The school division’s behavior in this regard has been, in my opinion, reprehensible.

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PWCS – Where Doing Nothing is World Class!

So… PWCS has $2.7 million of “extra” revenue to play with.  What should they do?

A few years ago the school division deliberately decided to run class sizes up the state’s legal maximum so that they’d have money available for other priorities.  We now have classes in some high schools and middle schools with 35, or more, students. Teachers are overworked and are struggling keep up.  Maybe doing something about that would  be wise.

Chairman Johns raised the issue tonight.  He got shot down.

That whole “any extra money we get will be allocated to reducing class sizes” promise that every school board member made and Superintendent agreed with when they deliberately chose to make class sizes this large, was a load of cow paddies.

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Class Sizes, Slogans, and Leadership

As this budget season comes to a close, one unfinished issue stands high above the rest – too large classes in Prince William County Schools. Over the past several years, as the economy crashed and has struggled to come back to life, PWCS has slowly been increasing class sizes to save money.  Last year class sizes were pushed to the state’s legal maximum. The net effect is that classes in PWCS are the largest in the state by a significant margin.

Many parents have complained to me about high school math classes with 40 – 42 students in them.  Many teachers have told me that they believe learning has been undermined by too large classes.  Unfortunately for our school age children, there appears to be no plan whatsoever to bring class sizes down.

I think this is partly because our leaders are too busy batting around unachievable slogans to show real leadership.

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