- 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?
- 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.
- 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.