Posts By jg4pwcsboard

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.

Get to Know your Candidate.

  1. I have worked in education for twenty six years with a boots on the ground approach. I want to bring my extensive school system experience and education to PWCS. I have been a member of an education association for the entire length of my 26 year career, as a member of NEA for 20 years and now as a member of the Federation of Professional Educators.  I am an award winning leader in FCPS, Mentor to FCPS Staff members and advocate for education.  I want to share this experience with PWCS.   I am the change we need in the Coles District and the voice we deserve. I am passionate and committed to working hard for PWCS.  I am not a career politician, I do believe wholeheartedly in the sanctity of public education and providing a world class education for all students. 100% of my focus, passion and dedication is on education.  I am dedicated to learning all aspects of PWCS to better serve our community. We all want quality education for our students…..kids first, not politics. We are in this together.
  2. What steps will you take to establish and maintain effective collaboration with all constituent groups (taxpayers, service groups, special interest groups, etc.) you serve?
  • My goal is transparency with my constituents through communicating with the Coles Community about their specific needs. I want them to be comfortable coming to me with questions and concerns, and not worry that I am pushing some hidden political agenda. I want to be their voice on the school board who represents our community’s diverse needs in PWCS decisions.
  • I have been actively involved in my area of the Coles District.  In recent years my current school board candidate was not as active in the schools as other school board members in PWCS.  For example , at one local school he attended only one SAC Committee meeting 5 years ago during an election year and never returned.   He attended the OPHS PAC meeting last spring, also in an election year, to inform us that we were now in the 13th Boundary situation.  When at Yorkshire, we never had a school board member meet with the community.  I WILL be more active in all the school in the Coles District meeting with special interest groups, tax payers and services groups.  By attending the school board meetings this year I made many contacts and listened to many constituents about their concerns.  I have met with many of the communities in a “listening tour” to hear what is on the minds of our community members as far as educational concerns and accolades. 

Involvement in PWCS

ELEMENTARY SCHOOL YEARS:

  • At Yorkshire Elementary, a very diverse Title 1 school, I served on the Parent Teacher Organization for 7 years, 3 of those years as their PTO President, as well as on the School Advisory Council, School Counselling Committee and as a parent volunteer.  We worked hard to develop strong relationships with students, families and staff in order to create a safe and enjoyable academic environment where all students are supported academically, emotionally, and culturally.
  • I served on the PWCS Principal’s Interview Panel for the Yorkshire Elementary School Principal selection.
  • I worked closely with Marty Nohe, Coles District Supervisor, to create the Yorkshire Civic Association with the goal of bringing together residents, community businesses, schools and local government officials interested in neighborhood improvement.
  • I collected gently used children’s books and donated then to Yorkshire elementary teachers to help them expand their classroom libraries to promote literacy skills. 
  • As PTO president I also worked with the YES Principal to raise money and have the PTO pay for a computer based math skills program for the entire school to help improve math performance schoolwide. 
  • During these elementary school and middle school years, I taught Religious Education for All Saints Catholic Church and coached soccer for Northern Virginia Soccer Association.

MIDDLE SCHOOL YEARS:

  • While at Parkside Middle School, I served as the School Advisory Committee (SAC) Secretary for 4 years and as their President for the 2018-2019 academic year for a total of 5 years.  The goal of the SAC is to promote communication between PKMS staff and the community in order to work together for instructional program planning purposes and strategic planning. 
  • Currently I am working with PKMS to become a Purple Star School of distinction for our military families. 
  • I participated in the Comprehensive Review of PWCS Special Education Pre-K – Grade 12 programs in 2018,
  • I attended the Superintendents Advisory Council on Instruction Best Practices Conference at Ashland Elementary School for the 2016-2017 school year and again on February 14, 2019 at Forest Park High School.
  • At PKMS my children participated in the Cambridge Program, World Language Program, Global Perspectives, the Music Program, Athletics, Special Education Program and their award winning VEX Robotics and Botball Program.
  • I volunteered extensively in Parkside including at the 1st Annual Unified Games hosted by PKMS in Spring 2019.

HIGH SCHOOL YEARS:

  • Since Fall 2017, I have served on the Principal’s Advisory Council at Osbourn Park High School. The Principal’s Advisory Council (PAC) involves open chair time where topics and questions can be discussed directly with the Principal. Agenda items are also discussed as part of the school’s strategic plan.
  • I serve on OPHS Athletic Boosters and actively involved with the OPHS BioTechnology Program, OPHS Music Boosters, OPHS PTSO and as of next year the NJROTC Program.  All three boys will be at OPHS as of Fall 2019.
  • In the Fall 2018, I attended the Superintendent’s Business Breakfast hosted by Dr. Walts as a volunteer parent with VEX Robotics.
  • In the Winter 2019, I attended the CTE Career Connections Event at the Edward Kelly Center promoting Apprenticeships.
  • I was also cordially invited to the PWCS 2019 Outstanding Educators Reception at Colgan HS. 
  • I attended all of the PWCS School Board Meetings in the 2018-2019 School year except one due to an outpatient medical procedure as well as all of the meetings so far in the 2019-2020 school year.

Education Achievements

2019 FCPS Special Education Conference Presenter on The College Search Process for Student with Disabilities https://www.fcps.edu/spedconference2019

2018-2019 FCPS Outstanding Leader for Region 4

2018 FCPS Podcast Workshop on Transition for Students with Disabilities: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-answer-key-learning-and-leadership-in-the-k-12-world/id1212404825?mt=2

2018 FCPS Parent Resource Center Workshop Presenter on Post Secondary Options for Students with Disabilities

Watch Post-Secondary Options – Coffee and Conversation on YouTube.

2015-Present FCPS College Fair Workshop Presenter: Considerations in the College Search Process and Beyond for Students with Disabilities

2017-2018 Optimist Club of Fairfax Educator of the Year

Donate To My Campaign

You can help now by donating to my PWCS school board campaign for November 2019! When you make a donation, you are helping to establish a community of lifelong learners, responsible citizens, and champions of global success. Together we can promote a sense of community with high expectations and high academic achievements for all PWCS students. Education is the most powerful tool to change the world.

My goal is to raise at least $6,000 for my November 2019 campaign for the PWCS Board as the Coles District Representative.  Let’s keep the momentum going!

Donations can me made directly at jg4pwcsboard.org or checks can be mailed to

Jackie Gaston for PWC School Board P.O. Box  11086 Manassas, VA 20131

Thank you for your support!