Relationship with our BOCS

  1. How would you characterize the relationship between the Prince William Board of County Supervisors and the School Board?
  • In an ideal world the two would work in a symbiotic relationship with the Revenue Agreement.  They work together to create the strategic plan and set challenging but equitable goals for PWCS through collaborative efforts on the Joint CIP Committee and other task forces.  “The general responsibilities of the Committee are to review and direct work of staff, approve communications to each Board, solicit feedback from each Board, and provide recommendations for joint capital actions to achieve shared goals of Schools and County.”
  • The Superintendent, PWCS Board and the BOCS unanimously passed the most aggressive budget present in years.  Clearly at times they are all on the same page and want a competitive school system in PWCS.  They need to trust each other in that they all have the best interest in mind for the county.
    • “The budget, which takes effect on July 1, includes about $578.8 million for Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS). As part of the revenue sharing agreement, the county funds 57 percent of the school system’s budget.”

My concern is that BOCS is a political entity, school board is supposed to be non-partisan.  I do have to wonder how much politics does play in school board decision making due to contributions and political influence from the BOCS and other political positions in the State.  We clearly know who are the board are endorsed by which political party.  Does this truly contribute to a non-partisan school board?

Management of Schools

  1. What do you see as the pros and cons of site-based management?

PROS of site based management

  • The administrative staff can tailor fit their budget to meet the dynamic needs of their specific community.  They can implement changes that transform teaching and learning to fit their population. The power over their budget, staffing, and curriculum are in the hands of site-based decision-makers.
  • The principal is able to simultaneously lead and share power and responsibility with site based staff who are better able to make decisions with local needs in mind.
  • Decision making moves quickly instead of waiting for it to pass through the bureaucratic decision making process in a centralized school system. 
  • In a centralized school system employees and students may feel  “part of the machine” rather than a valued individual in the organization with a one size fits all approach to teaching and learning. 
  • The administrative staff can select employment candidates that ‘fit’ their building culture.
  • Stake holders feel more empowered in the decision making process as far as the unique needs of their academic environment.

CONS of site based management

  • De-centralizing school management leaves much open to interpretation of policy and procedure which leaves the school system vulnerable in management.  Interpretation for following policy and procedure can differ from site to site causing discrepancy in services for students across the county.
  • A more centralized structure can help organizations control costs, quality, efficiency, messaging, and overall operations.  In particular, budget effectiveness can vary from site to site causing equity issues across a county. 
  • Administrators can be held accountable to their staff and the community for the way they allocate funds which can create conflicts between the teachers and the administrator if they have differences in views of how money should be spent. Centralizing the budget system will remove the conflict between these parties.
  • There are school based sites that have a lot of community involvement as part of the site based management; there are others that lack parental and/or staff involvement so are all the stake holders REALLY involved? How does site-based management create a sense of community in schools that draw from a large geographic area, as do most secondary schools; and in schools in districts with choice? Parents and staff at such schools may not have access to transportation or time to participate in school decision making.

Revenue Sharing Agreement

  1. What do you see as the pros and cons of the Revenue Sharing Agreement between the Prince William County Schools and the Board of Supervisors?

PROS

  • “The division has a revenue sharing agreement where the county agreed to allocate 57.23 percent of the county’s general revenues.”  The majority of the county’s budget is directed to PWCS. 
  • A robust year in the county means a robust budget for the school system. 
  • Our School Board can count on a certain amount of funding each year based on this agreement.
  • The 5 Year Strategic Plan creates standards for the school system to maintain in order to receive the funding for example:
    • By 2016 the high school graduation rate will increase from 88% to

90%.

  • By 2016 the percentage of students scoring at an advanced

Standards of Learning (SOL) level in each subject area will increase from 25% to 50%.

  • By 2016 the percentage of graduates passing one or more advanced

exam (Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or

Cambridge) will increase from 31% to 40%.

  • By 2016 the percentage of graduates with a Governors, Career and

Technical Education, Advanced Mathematics and Technology, or Civic Seal will increase from 46% to 65%.

  • By 2016 the number of dual enrollment (PWCS/NVCC) students will

increase to more than the baseline of 301.

  • By 2016 the ratio of National Board Certified Teachers to students will

increase from 1:701 to 1:500.

  • By 2016 the percentage of accredited schools will be 100%, even

with changes in the accreditation standards.

  • By 2016 the average elementary school classroom size will decrease

to less than the baseline of 23.2 students per classroom.

  • By 2016 the average middle school classroom size will decrease to

less than the baseline of 30.7 students per classroom.

  • By 2016 the average high school classroom size will decrease to less

than the baseline of 29.7 students per classroom.

CONS

  • If PWCS requires more money allotted for education to help them remain competitive with surrounding districts PWCS has to provide justification and are the mercy of the BOCS decision to make adjustments to the funding. 
  • The funding can vary from time period to time period.
  • If there are county shortfalls or the county encounters fiscal hard times, that 57% of general funds is impacted greatly.
  • Lean years mean inadequate funding as we have seen in the past.
  • What if the educational outcomes are not met? Does the PWCS still receive the allocated funds?

Role of School Board

  1. What do you see as a School Board member’s role and responsibilities in the effective administration of schools? A school board member is a leader and champion for education in their community. Together the school board should establish a community of lifelong learners, responsible citizens and create champions of global success. They should promote a sense of community with high expectations and high academic achievements for all students. The goal of the school board is to implement and maintain the policies that run a school division and make sure the district is in compliance with federal and state mandates for instruction.  They listen to and utilize the shared information from school system leadership and staff, the community and all the stakeholders to make fiscal decisions and advocate for those funds to the BOCS as well as ensure that the school division policy decisions are made in the best interest of the school division.  In addition, the school board establishes the educational philosophy and tone for the school system by analyzing data and making adjustments as needed and recommended by all the stakeholders.  This involves overseeing personnel matters, including labor relations and community relations and listening to all the stakeholders involved including PWEA.  It is also important that the Board prioritizes construction and renovation needs in the district and consider long range planning for the needs of the entire district. 
  2. What is the School Board’s role in assisting Prince William County Public Schools in regaining its competitive edge among other school divisions in the Northern Virginia region?
  • The School Board needs to work collaboratively to keep up with our changing times and growing needs. PWCS lost ground during the “Great Recession” due to funding cuts in education.  Just this year with the generous 2020 Budget approved

PWCS can make strides in becoming more competitive with surrounding districts.  We are still ranked the 2nd lowest in per pupil allocation in the DC Metro area.  Dr. Walts also shares that PWCS spends  “Four thousand dollars less per student than Fairfax County, and $2,600 less than Loudoun County, and nearly $8,000 less per pupil than Arlington County,” while Prince William and Loudoun counties lead Virginia in population growth. We need to hit the ground running and make up for those lost years. We need the PWC School Board to listen, plan and advocate for continued funding to improve our Division Profile in the State of Virginia.  We need them to work closely with the BOCS to make strides in education spending. 

  • Dr. Walts shared many of the PWCS advancements in his Business Partner Breakfast in the Fall of 2018 but we need to keep the momentum going.
    • Our on time graduation rate of over 92%.
  • More than one-third of PWCS graduates in 2016-17 received at least one qualifying score on an Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or Cambridge examination, exceeding the national and state averages;
  • 2018 graduates were awarded $74 million in scholarships;
  • PWCS students scored the highest in five years on the ACT exam, trending upward in all the tested areas (English, mathematics, reading, and science). The PWCS ACT composite score exceeds the national average for the 22nd consecutive year;
  • As a Division, PWCS outperformed the national SAT averages in English, reading, writing (ERW), and mathematics; black students outperformed peers in Virginia and nationwide in all three areas (ERW, Math, Total); Hispanic students in PWCS outperformed peers nationwide in all three areas and matched peers in Virginia in all three areas
  • The PWCS Board needs to put aside their political agendas to work for the good of the community as a non-partisan entity.  I welcome differing perspectives and values because issues deserve a well-rounded perspective on what is best for the school system. I do not believe, however, that political agendas for various political parties have a place in school board decision making.  A school board needs to put KID’S FIRST not the positions or demands of a particular political party or religious affiliation, differing perspectives should be welcomed and valued but should not be at the forefront of policy making in education. 
    • A few years ago PWCS did not progress due to the controversial and combative environment on the school board.  This cannot happen again because we lost a few years of progression due to political and personal agendas not PWCS educational initiatives.  In the last year, we have refocused the direction and mission of the school board but we have to make up for that lost time in order to remain a competitive school system.  I am still concerned that party affiliation impacts decision making which is wrong.  The behavior of the Board sets the tone for the school system.  The relationships established amongst themselves in conjunction with the school system staff sets the climate for the entire system and all the stakeholders.  Our school board is the very public side of public education so ethical professionalism is of the utmost importance.  Despite improvements, I still have grave concerns about the motivations of some of the school board members.

VISION for PWCS

  1. What is your vision for Prince William County Schools?My vision is continuing to provide a world class education for all students.  PWCS will provide a top notch, competitive academic foundation and well as college and career readiness skills for all students that will meet the needs of today’s world. My goals involve:
  • improving teacher retention in particular in under performing schools
  • enhancing educational resources to close the achievement gaps,
  • promoting equity for the entire school system so all students can achieve and have the same opportunities. 
  • What do you identify as the school division’s greatest strengths?  What are its greatest challenges?

Strengths:

  • PWCS has committed to cap sizes which have a positive effect on students learning.  Students have more access to classroom teachers for in more depth instruction (even one to one at times) which leads to better academic performance.  Teachers have a better handle on student performance and students are better able to participate in active learning opportunities.  The teacher can focus on lessons as opposed to more difficult behaviors that occur in over crowded classrooms.  There are more opportunities for collaborative learning, peer to peer learning and project based learning as teachers spend less time maintaining order in the classroom setting and using the lecture style of teaching concepts.  All of these beneficial teaching strategies lead to better student performance.  PWCS On-time graduation rate of 92.1 percent in 2018 surpassing the performance of surrounding districts. 
  • An obvious strength in PWCS is the choice option along with CTE and Specialty programs.  Choice schooling can tailor education to fit the needs of students for career and college readiness and improve parent and student satisfaction leading to high graduation rates.  CTE and specialty programs are generally more hands on than traditional academic courses, and can help develop skills such as teamwork, problem solving, and communication in students. These courses also engage our career students who desire a future in the trades as opposed to going to a 4 year university.  PWCS exit school prepared for career or college and does not gear all students toward the same secondary path. 
  • PWCS is a school system that promotes Career and College Readiness for all students more than surrounding larger school districts.  While some districts were closing Career related courses, PWCS continued supporting vocational type classes and adding competitive career training opportunities and apprenticeships.  This year I attended the Apprenticeship Fair at the Edward Kelly Center because FCPS does not offer such fairs any longer, only college fairs. When many other school systems cut trade programs in schools, PWCS added them. PWCS continues to focus on the needs and interests of all our students honoring all post-secondary options for students.

Challenges:

  • PWCS is significantly lower as far as per pupil spending compared to surrounding schools divisions.  Inside NOVA states “The 2020 budget averages about $12,427 per student. That’s nearly $800 more per student than in the current fiscal year, but that will do little to close the gap with per-pupil spending in other Northern Virginia school divisions. Lateef noted that Arlington County spends $19,348 per student; Alexandria, $17,606; Fairfax County, $15,293; and Loudoun County, $14,260.” Clearly this is just unacceptable and makes it hard to remain competitive with surrounding districts.  We have to continue to increase this until we are in the same ball park.  Our students deserve a world class education which comes at a price. 
  • PWCS have some of the lowest teacher salaries in the area as well.  How can we attract the quality staffing we need if we are not offering competitive salaries? There is a significant increase in the budget this year but we have a long way to go before we are on par with other school systems.  We must continue with this pattern of improving PWCS staff salaries to attract the best talent and keep them in the county. 
  • Equity is an issue of concern in PWCS.  The growth out west has drawn the attention of the BOCS and PWCS Board while the needs of the older schools and communities have been put on the back burner.   Resources and upgrades are desperately needed to better balance out our educational community.  PWCS needs to find a balance between maintaining the facilities we have up and running while we grow as a county.  We need to look at the needs of all our schools and make sure we are prioritizing the resources they need to provide a world class education.  They need to look at the barriers at all the schools such as low-income, deprived neighborhoods who are dealing with negligent curriculum, out dated technology, overworked teachers and access to needed resources and services, and create more of a balance across the county.