I AM A WINNER? — PART 5

vablogs2.pngWith this post, we have our third winner, the winner in the News Summary Blog Category. However, before I get into that, I would like to mention several posts at other blogs. 

  • On his blog, Discriminations, John Rosenberg posted the following: Will Insults Poodles! This post contains a link to a column by George Will.

    Will points out the real target in the Democrats’ drive to end the Federal Government educational voucher program in the District of Columbia. Democrats, in their canine devotion to teachers unions, oppose empowering poor children to escape dependency on even terrible government schools. Unions and their poodles say school choice siphons money from public schools. But federal money funds the D.C. program, so killing it denies education money to the District while increasing the number of pupils the District must support. 

  • At Tertium Quids, Adam Schaeffer tells us how to reduce the high cost of public education in Arlington County in: How to Fix County Budget Problems.

    Arlington is planning to spend over $23,000 per student this year according to the Washington Area Boards of Education (WABE). That’s a 33 percent increase in constant dollars since 2000. 

    And yet the county is still talking about tax increases to cover the expected $80-$100 million shortfall the county expects next year. 

    Here’s a great alternative; fund the schools at 2000 levels and we’re left with an extra $108 million. Voila, no tax increases! 

  • At SWAC Girl, Lynn Mitchell asks a question: Does anyone expect public school establishment to get behind charter schools? 

    Charter schools … another form of school choice. But will charter schools ever get anywhere in Virginia? 

    The Virginia Education Association, the Virginia School Board Association, and the Virginia Association of School Superintendents are all against them in one way or another. 

Education is fundamental to civilization. Through the process of our education, we learn how to get along with each other and run our society. Nonetheless, we have turned our public education system wholly over to politicians. We just give politicians our money and hope for the best. That is the height of irresponsibility, and the results speak for themselves.  In his column, George Will speaks to how twisted our society is becoming as a result. 

For congressional Democrats, however, expanding dependency on government is an end in itself. They began the Obama administration by expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. It was created for children of the working poor, but the expansion made millions of middle-class children eligible — some in households earning $125,000. The aim was to swell the number of people who grow up assuming that dependency on government health care is normal. (from here

“Expanding dependency on government is an end in itself.”  Instead working towards a society populated by healthy and resourceful citizens, our leaders now strive diligently to make us ever more dependent dependents. In colonial America, government provided little. People joined together to solve their problems on their own.  Unfortunately, Americans have slowly lost much of the initiative and the organizational skills that permitted such independence. This generation of leaders apparently has no interest in fostering citizenship that does not involve dependence upon large, monopolistic and bureaucratic institutions. 

Providing our children a proper education is an old problem. So it is that Psalm 78 begins thus: 

Psalm 78 (Today’s New International Version)

A maskil of Asaph.

 1 My people, hear my teaching;
       listen to the words of my mouth.   

2 I will open my mouth with a parable;
       I will teach you lessons from the past—   

3 things we have heard and known,
       things our ancestors have told us.   

4 We will not hide them from their descendants;
       we will tell the next generation
       the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD,
       his power, and the wonders he has done.   

5 He decreed statutes for Jacob
       and established the law in Israel,
       which he commanded our ancestors
       to teach their children,   

6 so the next generation would know them,
       even the children yet to be born,
       and they in turn would tell their children.   

7 Then they would put their trust in God
       and would not forget his deeds
       but would keep his commands.   

8 They would not be like their ancestors—
       a stubborn and rebellious generation,
       whose hearts were not loyal to God,
       whose spirits were not faithful to him.  

The Winner in the News Summary Blog Category

The blog PWC Education Reform Blog wins in the News Summary Blog Category. This post, I AM A WINNER? — PART 2, describes the criteria.

Why the PWC Education Reform Blog?

The PWC Education Reform Blog is a parent-run blog devoted to education. It features news designed to generate interest in issues which affect the education of Prince William County children. Here is what the blog says about itself.

This blog was developed by parents concerned with what we consider an  overall decline in instruction in Prince William County Schools. Our focus is on several issues:

  • Fuzzy Math in PWC Schools
  • Language Arts
  • Special Ed
  • Parental Choice In Education

Our hope is that this blog comes to serve as a point for information for parents that circumvents the PWCS filters.

The articles on the blog are carefully researched. Moreover, the parents running the blog have taken their issues directly to the public and the School Board.  To protest the adoption of Math Investigation in our elementary schools, each of the PWC Education Reform Blog bloggers has spoken repeatedly at School Board meetings.  In fact, the issue of Math Investigations is what got PWC Education Reform Blog started. Since then the blog has broaden its horizons.  For example,  Celebrating mediocrity is a letter to a local paper that addresses Prince William County’s Standards of Learning scores.

Prince William County Schools (PWCS) has issued the Year 3 Evaluation Report (Y3R) for its elementary math program. Last year’s report was presented to the public in September of 2008, but Y3R was not available until 2010.

It appears that PWCS is striving to be average.  (continued here)

A Review of a PWC Education Reform Blog Post

Since the bloggers at the PWC Education Reform Blog wrote the local paper to draw attention to the issue, I was tempted to do a post on Three Years of TERC – Where Are the Problems?  However, ridding the schools of Math Investigation would not solve our school system’s basic problem, NO SCHOOL CHOICE!  So I chose this post, A Child’s Future Should Not Depend on The Lottery.  Here is the content of that post.

We don’t generally advocate movies here at the Education Reform Blog. We are making an exception for The Lottery.

This movie documents parents fight for their children’s future – a future which, in NY City and Washington DC, depends on whether they win the Charter School Lottery.

The trailer alone will enrage you and break your heart. Our children deserve better.

When governments give out funds for alternative educational choices, it is not uncommon to use a lottery to select recipients from amongst the many applicants. People want a choice, but our glorious leaders insist upon depriving them of one.

Virginia is now in the throes of the battle over school choice, a battle over charter schools.

Gov. Bob McDonnell wants to open more charter schools by shifting power from local school boards to the Virginia Board of Education, which would screen applications and have the authority to overrule local decisions.

Final approval on charter schools — public schools that have some autonomy from state and local regulations — currently rests with local school boards, which proponents say contributes to Virginia’s low number.

The state has three charter schools, with a fourth slated to open in Richmond this year.

McDonnell’s proposals to loosen laws on charter schools, as well as to establish virtual school programs and college partnership schools, are set to be introduced today and carried by a bipartisan group of lawmakers.

Standing alongside former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, who backed the charter push, McDonnell said “the system’s broken.”  (continued here)

Somehow some way we have to fix the system. By becoming involved in their schools and informing the public, parents such as those at the PWC Education Reform Blog can, have, and should continue to play a significant role.

Other Contest Winners

See I AM A WINNER? — PART 1 for a list of winners and contest rules.

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About Citizen Tom

I am just an average citizen interested in promoting informed participation in the political process.
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19 Responses to I AM A WINNER? — PART 5

  1. Well, for one moment there, I was afraid Wills was trying to insult my blog : )

    Alas, my blog is still a little known treasure. Wills is in the clear, then.

    Aside from that, I like your bringing up charter schools. I think they are a nice compromise that can offer the best of a variety of worlds without becoming too large, as is the case with too many PWC schools.

    I can see why DC schools would want a voucher option. Though I am generally no fan of vouchers, when the public schools are not serving the public, then people get justifiably angry and demand alternatives.

  2. Citizen Tom says:

    Katherine Gotthardt – I would prefer educational vouchers or tax credits, but good government requires some compromises. At least, I do not know how to avoid it. If charter schools are the best we can do, at least it is a start. The problem will be keeping some special interest group from corrupting it.

    That is the essential problem. No matter what kind of system we put in place, the people most involved sooner or latter to connive to make that system serve them — at the expense of their customers. So teacher’s unions connive to make the public schools pay fat salaries to administrators, the military is beset by a defense companies, ambulance chasers plague our health care system, and so forth. To some extent we are almost all guilty. We all belong to a special interest group of some sort.

  3. Thanks for the hat tip Tom!

    I’m not sure what mechanism I prefer for providing educational choice to parents, but I firmly believe that parents deserve a choice in how their children are taught because it’s the parents who are ultimately responsible for their children’s future.

    PWCS was given the opportunity to provide a measure of choice to parents when the opt in was proposed last year. All we wanted was the right to demand that our children be taught math in a manner which we believe would provide them with the foundations they need to succeed. School administration fought the idea – not because the content of the programs we suggested were unsound, but because, in the eyes of school administrators, parents are spectators in their children’s education and don’t have the requisite knowledge or right to demand anything.

    Parents are’t spectators. We deserve to have a say in how our children are taught and if the school system is unwilling to give us that say then we ought to be able to take our children and our public education money and find a better choice for our children. My children’s teachers will only have them for a year – I’ll be their parent for the rest of my life. But the school system isn’t accountable to me because I don’t have the right to take away their funding even if they fail to provide my children with the education they deserve. School choice returns the power to the parents.

  4. SWAC Girl says:

    As a parent who educated her children at home for 16 years, I believe in school choice. It offers parents the opportunity to provide the best education for their children whether it is home school, public school, charter, private, or Christian schools.

    The cookie-cutter educational system does not work for all students, and the “socialization” factors touted by many as the benefit of public schools are not always positive (smoking, teenage pregnancies, drugs).

    Interestingly, irregardless of which educational route parents choose, their tax dollars continue to flow into government coffers. Parents who independently educate their children become creative in providing the best education possible on a shoestring budget. Unfortunately, bureaucratic top-heavy government education has become an abyss of endless spending creating a cycle of more and more taxes that appears to be cheered on by taxpayers.

  5. Michael Ragland says:

    I’m writing to express my concerns regarding Prince William
    County Schools Superintendent Stephen L. Walts. In briefly researching
    the subject and Prince William County School system as a whole I
    realize I’ve probably bit off more than I can chew. I have no
    experience or education in these matters and nor am I a parent who has
    a child attending Prince William County Schools. Nevertheless, some of
    the things I’ve read in the media pertaining to Superintendent Walts
    raises red flags. Admittedly, when the Prince William County School
    Board hired Walts the Greece New York Central School District was
    unaware of the pending EEOC teacher lawsuits against him claiming age
    discrimination and the audit which found financial waste and abuses
    had not yet been performed. Still, if Prince William County School
    Board members had visited Greece and the search had been more public,
    it is possible this may have influenced the decision to hire Walts.

    A 2009 audit by McGladfry and Pullen found no wrongdoing but I’m just
    as concerned with how well the money has been spent. Was a $37.5
    million administrative building really necessary when so much money
    was needed for education? Should Superintendent Walts be getting the
    pay raise he is when teachers salaries are not increased? When many
    students are having problems with Math Investigations which has been
    dropped by many districts and as of 2008 had cost $2.4 million dollars
    in Prince William County Schools could this money have been better
    spent elsewhere? Although the present costs of Math Investigations is
    publicly unknown it must be near $4 million dollars if not more by
    now.

    I am concerned Prince William County Schools doesn’t have an internal
    auditor. Although I realize this position will cost money it is needed
    even though I have my doubts at how well an organization is on
    investigating itself. I’m concerned that once Walts was hired the
    amount went from $200,000 to $500,000 dollars the superintendent could
    spend without school board approval. I understand the shift to site
    based management and rising construction costs and the need to not
    have construction delays but the school board needs to be a part of
    the process when such a large amount of money is involved. The school
    board needs to know where the money is going and to approve it. This
    is just responsibility and accountability.

    Don’t you find it odd that when Walts was hired as superintendent he
    brought along with him three former Greece staffers; George Kisha,
    Keith Johnson and Keith Imon? All are Associate Superintendents except
    for Mr. Kisha who resigned. This is downright favoritism if not
    cronyism. Why did the school board allow that? The school board should
    have conducted an independent search for Associate Superintendent
    positions.

    I read about how Prince William County Schools are bursting in class
    size and how many more schools would need to be built and how the
    building of schools can’t keep up with development. Do you think those
    politicians are really concerned in their dealings with developers how
    this will impact the Prince William County School system? There are
    stop gap measures such as in Bristow, Nokesville, etc.where the BOCS
    will approve rezonings but prohibit building permits until the schools
    can accommodate the children. The BOCS says it is concerned developers
    may get the General Assembly to override their decision. Why then
    approve the rezonings in the first place? Logic dictates development
    should be slowed so the situation doesn’t arise where class rooms are
    bursting in size and where many more additional schools are needed to
    ameliorate school overcrowding. But greed trumps logic. Ultimately,
    more schools will be built but that won’t matter in the long run.
    Eventually, there will be more and more development and Prince William
    County Schools will be a big sardine can.

    Governor McDonnell has unfroze the Local Composite Index so Prince
    William County schools will receive something like $23 million that
    wasn’t there before. Still, that isn’t a horribly lot of money when
    Prince William County Schools are facing $80 million budget shortfall.
    In fairness, Prince William County public schools aren’t the only
    school system facing such hard times. Fairfax County public schools
    are facing a comparative budget shortfall and due to the weak national
    economy there are thousands of school districts which have been
    negatively impacted. So I’m not blaming Superintendent Walts for the
    budget shortfall but I do think especially now he needs to be careful
    how he spends the money and what he cuts or eliminates.

    In conclusion, I’m concerned about Superintendent Walts handling of
    Prince William County Schools. Although Walts has defended himself and
    states the Greece CIP was well within budget when he left and there
    are school board documents which prove it an audit nevertheless found
    financial waste and abuses. Based on what I’ve read in the media I
    don’t believe the findings of that audit are without a basis.
    Therefore, it is understandable why Walts would deny any wrongdoing
    but I still find his statements denying any wrongdoing to be
    dishonest. Assuming that is true how can Prince William County
    citizens have trust in his leadership?

    I haven’t touched upon Superintendent Walts management style here.
    Although the Washington Post articles are dated they paint a picture
    of a superintendent who doesn’t listen to grievances and hands them to
    others; who canceled monthly meetings with principals; that is elusive
    and who isn’t concerned with emotional issues and troubles which come
    up with students. I think it will take something new to come up for
    the school board to reconsider their faith in Superintendent Walts.
    Below is a letter to the editor I submitted. Hopefully, it will get
    published but more importantly there will be more scrutiny of
    Superintendent Walts.

    February 16, 2010

    To the Editors:

    Regarding Prince William County Schools Superintendent Stephen L.
    Walts, scandal is not new to Prince William County
    government. It is still reeling from the debacle of the Prince William
    County Information Technology Department where three former employees
    along with another Virginia man pulled off one of the largest
    bid-rigging and embezzlement scandals in county history.

    The Prince William County Community Services Board hired Dr. Phillip
    E. Dukes as its Executive Director when there was public information
    from the news in Cuyahoga County, Ohio documenting Dr. Dukes fiscal
    impropriety. Dr. Dukes performance as Executive Director came under
    fire and his contract was not renewed.

    Although chump change by comparison, even our own previous County
    Executive Henry “Bern” Ewert and Deputy County Executive Craig
    Gerhart had Prince William County citizens pick up the tab for a
    flight and visit to Norway to meet with officials from Aker RGI, an
    international conglomerate that [is] building a housing, office and
    entertainment complex on the Cherry Hill peninsula near Dumfries. That
    was ten years ago and we saw how much Aker RGI cared about that
    development. It just wanted the land rezoned so it could be sold and
    they could get the money. Its been ten years and those people on the
    Prince William County Board of Supervisors sold the Cherry Hill
    peninsula down the creek. Nothing has been built; not the marvelous
    conference hotel, or the houses, or the entertainment. There is,
    however, an unused Jack Nicklaus golf course.

    Superintendent Walts was not vetted properly; Prince William County
    School Board members did not visit Greece and the search was not as
    public as it could have been. Several teachers alleged discrimination
    on the basis of age. The EEOC rulings were issued after the Prince
    William School Board chose Walts for its new superintendent, but the
    agency’s investigations began many months before he was hired. The
    group Citizens for Accountability and Reform in Education had concerns
    about Greece Superintendent Walts during his time as Superintendent
    there. In addition, Walts has shown favoritism (and Prince William
    County government didn’t object) in that three former Greece
    staffers George Kisha, Keith A. Imon and Keith J. Johnson were hired
    as Associate Superintendents. Keisha has since retired. This suggests
    importing to some extent Greece style of leadership to Prince William
    County Schools.

    Walts can spend up to $500,000 dollars without approval of the school
    board. Why is this? There have been questions regarding Walts travel
    expenses and concerns that $37.5 million was spent building the
    Edward L. Kelly Leadership Center when that money
    was sorely needed for education. there has been much opposition to
    Math Investigations (MI) in the curriculum which replaces traditional
    math teaching and how much it has cost. As of 2008 Math Investigations
    had cost 2.4 million dollars in a three year period.

    Will it be like Greece, NY after Walts has already left we discover
    the extent of damage his administration has done?

    Sincerely,
    Michael Ragland

  6. KimS says:

    Micheal – I share your concerns with the administration of Prince William County Schools, though my concern isn’t specific to Superintendent Walts it’s to the entire administration and school board. I, and my fellow contributors at the Education Reform Blog, haven’t covered the “issues” in Greece because we felt our efforts were better directed at trying to improve the education offered to students in PWC. Perhaps that was a mistake, but we felt that the folks in Greece could deal with their issues and we needed to focus on ours.

    I do feel compelled to respond to a few items you mentioned. The Administrative building was approved and funded under Superintendent Kelley. Contracts had already been negotiated and construction had already begun on the facility when Superintendent Walts was hired. I do agree that $37.5 million for an administrative building is excessive when we’re deferring salary increases for teachers and renting bathroom trailers for overcrowded high schools. Unfortunately, the decision to proceed with the project was made by the previous board and I’m not sure whether construction could have been deferred once it began. The school board is relatively unchanged since the administrative building was approved – Gil Trenum and Lisa Bell are the only current board members who were not on the school board when it approved the administrative complex. As every member of the school board except Gil and Lisa approved the project and Superintendent Walts hadn’t been hired yet, I think your concern about that administrative building is better directed at the sitting school board members who approved it.

    As for school overcrowding – I have to admit that I’m more than slightly dismayed with the relations between the BOCS and the school district. Six of the 10 most overcrowded schools in the state of Virginia are within 7 miles of one another (Glenkirk Elementary, Bristow Run Elementary, Cedar Point Elementary, Battlefiled High School, and Brentsville High School). With the exception of Glenkirk Elementary, these schools have been severely overcrowded for years – more than 7 years for Bristow Run and Cedar Point.

    Overcrowding this pervasive in one small geographic area over an extended period of time doesn’t happen by accident. It happens because someone didn’t do their job properly. The BOCS will blame the school district for failing to communicate the extent of school overcrowding to them. The school district will blame the BOCS for approving housing projects without taking school overcrowding into consideration. I sat through a BOCS regarding an upcoming residential development in the extremely overcrowded area I mentioned above, and was shocked to hear the school district’s construction lead discuss pending school construction and overcrowding in the affected area. Based on the school district’s presentation I would not have been aware that the schools in that area were overcrowded at all, that funds were so scarce that almost every “proposed” new school was in jeopardy, or that the district couldn’t just wave a magic wand and have a school appear on a site.

    Even more disconcerting to me has been the school board’s apparent unwillingness to challenge district officials. The Year 3 Math Investigations report wasn’t completed until January, hasn’t been presented at a board meeting, and board members don’t seem inclined to ask that it be presented. No instructional program is perfect, we all know that. The district receives a number of reports detailing student performance on state and non-state exams so that they can identify areas of concern and adapt the instructional program accordingly. I and my colleagues have asked for those reports and we’ve been slapped with hundreds of dollars in fees just for the district to determine if the reports exist. The few reports we’ve reviewed indicate that there are areas where our students underperform relative to their peers in the state and nation. Yet lesson pacing and instruction in those areas hasn’t changed. This indicates, clearly to me at least, that district officials haven’t even bothered to independently evaluate the instructional programs our children are forced to follow. The school board is well aware of this, yet they’ve done nothing.

    I find our school boards apparent lack of interest to be my biggest concern – especially when it comes to ensuring that the instruction provided to my kids is “world class”.

  7. Michael Ragland says:

    Thanks Kim S. You are apparently a school teacher in Prince William County. I didn’t know the school board had approved the $37.5 million administrative building and construction had already begun before Walts was hired as superintendent. I also don’t know if the project could have been deferred. Your concerns are focused on the bureaucracy of Prince William County school district rather than any specific individual. I understand that. Even if Superintendent Walts was replaced there is the possibility and even the likelihood the school board and school district would continue the same policies; not evaluating instructional programs students are forced to follow; spending too much on administration, etc. I’m curious have that many teachers and parents voiced their grievances at school board meetings? From what I’ve been able to find on the internet the only thing I’ve found that parents have voiced their grievances/concerns on is Math Investigations. Have there been any teachers who have complained to the school board about paying fees of hundreds of dollars just so the district can see if those reports exist? I imagine teachers would be fearful of retaliation. But the more teachers attend school board meeting and voice their grievances/concerns the more likely it is a reporter will be there to cover it. The media can always be tipped off that several parents/teachers are going to be at a school board meeting to voice grievances and if sufficiently interested they will attend.

    The school district is highly politicized. You mentioned you were at a BOCS meeting where the school district’s presentation didn’t suggest overcrowding. Maybe the school district tells the BOCS what they want to hear. One hand doesn’t know what the other hand is doing and that is how both sides like it.

    Terms like “world class education” and “no child left behind” are politically expedient and largely meaningless and without substance. Is a “world class education” not evaluating instructional programs; building a $37.5 million administrative building when teacher’s salaries are deferred or when bathroom trailers dot the grounds; when there is a $80 million budget shortfall and programs and services will be cut or eliminated?

    The board’s lack of interest will continue unless a fire is put under them. In order for that to happen more teachers and parents and other concerned citizens will have to organize and attend more school board meeting; write letters to the editor and network with others. Blogs are one way to do this and they are very helpful. All of us should be grateful to Citizen Tom, PWC Education Reform, etc. Since other teachers also have some of the same concerns you have why not a few of you compose a letter to the editor and submit it. The subject could be how requests have been made on report Year 3 Math Investigations and how teachers have been slapped with hundreds of dollars in fees just to determine if the report exists. Many people read this blog but more people would read it if it got published as a letter to the editor. Or, you can gather your thoughts on this subject and send me an email at MichaelRugeneRagland@gmail.com and I will submit it as a letter to the editor. Of course, the editor may want to know how I obtained this information and may not publish it unless it can be verified. Is there any public information on how teachers have requested 3 Year Math Investigations report only to be slapped with hundreds of dollars in fees in determining whether this report exists?

    Although the focus hasn’t been on Superintendent Walts the fact is he does oversee the entire Prince William County School system. He does decide where the money is spent and what programs and services will be cut and eliminated. He plays a role in determining instructional programs will be evaluated. He has supported Math Investigations and opposed an opt-in for traditional math. The reasoning is that it would be too expensive to teach both. This is what I’ve read so I may be wrong. Is a “blended approach” taken in some schools.

    Finally, you may not have any information but do you know if school board officials visited Greece when searching for a superintendent? One person stated the New York audit mentioned Chairman Beachamp and Richardson visited Greece and Walt’s home. This is probably unfounded gossip as I read in the Washington Post that school board officials didn’t visit Greece. Also, somebody claimed the amount spent on Math Investigation is up to $10 million dollars. That doesn’t seem possible since the Washington Post reported $2.4 million dollars as of 2008 and covering a three year period had been spent. It’s now 2010 and it doesn’t seem possible the cost of Math Investigations would have gone up to $10 million. Any idea on how much it has cost of of now?

    • KimS says:

      Micheal – I’m not a PWCS teacher, though I do count many as friends. I’m one of the mad math Moms whom PWCS doesn’t particularly care for. You asked a number of questions, which I’ll try to answer as best I can, but please accept my apologies if I miss one.

      I think Jackie has answered most of your questions about the administrative complex and the recruitment process, so I’ll try to address other questions / issues you posed.

      One of my colleagues asked the district for the Student Performance By Question report which is provided by Pearson publishing – the company that grades our SOLs – for each school and the district for each year. The report provides the percentage of students who correctly answered questions on the SOL by subject area (Content Strand in SOL speak) and by question. She was told that she needed to pay the district hundreds of dollars in FOIA fees just for the district to determine if the reports exist (and we knew they did because we’d seen them).

      We examined the one report we were able to obtain and noted some areas where PWCS students appeared to struggle more than others. We then examined the county mandated lesson pacing guides to see what, if any, changes had occurred in the pacing and instruction in each of these areas. We discovered that there were few, if any changes to the pacing or content of lessons, despite indications that those lessons were leaving our children behind. (FYI: Our analysis can be found in this report===> http://pwceducationreform.wordpress.com/2010/01/19/three-years-of-terc-where-are-the-problems/)

      School Board members and district officials have been provided with our analysis and asked to respond, but have ignored us. The letter to the editor we sent a few weeks ago was an attempt to compel the school board and district officials to respond. Thus far they have not.

      Our elementary math program follows the TERC Investigations approach to the letter. Balanced math instruction is only occurring if you believe that TERC Investigations is a balanced program. We have heard that a couple of schools have departed from the Investigations approach in the upper grades, but have not been able to confirm the extent to which they’ve departed from the county mandated program because teachers fear reprisals if they speak out.

      Teachers in this county are loath to raise concerns outside of their individual school (and even within their individual school) because they fear reprisals if they are more pro-active and outspoken. For example, the teachers have to complete a “satisfaction survey” each year from their class computers. One PWCS teacher told me that the teachers were “informed” that the IT department would be taking snapshots of their computers during the day to make sure they were doing work and not playing games and that anything they submit could be tracked back to their room computer via the IP address the day they were told they needed to complete the “satisfaction survey”. I’d like to think that teachers wouldn’t suffer any ill consequences if they answered the survey honestly, and I’d certainly answer honestly and scathingly if necessary were I given the opportunity to do so, but I don’t blame any teacher for feeling pressured to provide glowing responses.

      As for the relations between the BOCS and the school board, I have no idea why the answers provided by the school district representative regarding school overcrowding in the west end were so vague. I found that lack of forthright answers, even answers that the BOCS didn’t want to hear, very disconcerting.

    • KimS says:

      Michael – another answer.

      I’m not sure how much has been spent purchasing materials and training teachers to teach TERC (note that I said teach TERC, not teach math). A couple of years ago the total was up to about $1 million for materials and training (Chairman Walts asked for a break down of monies spent). $10 million sounds a bit high to me, but I have no basis to justify that other than a gut feeling.

      We have been hearing talk that Connected Math (CMP), TERC’s middle school equivalent, is being actively pushed in the Middle Schools despite not being recommended for use in VA schools by the state DOE and not being adopted for use in PWC schools by the school board. We have been unable to confirm this, thought the talk continues and the Middle School curriculum guides clearly reflect CMP as the suggested instructional resource for a number of standards.

  8. Citizen Tom says:

    Michael Ragland – Blogs are more effective than you might think. For example, I have no doubt reporters read this blog. Working together, blogs like my own wield influence over what folks with bigger audiences say and write.

    If a blogger wants to build an audience and exercise political influence, it takes a lot of time and a lot of work. We are creatures of habit. We make a practice of routinely visiting a blog when we expect to be frequently rewarded for the effort. If a group of citizens band together, and share the work, they can make a blog a rewarding place to visit. The PWC Education Reform Blog looks like it is becoming such a blog.

  9. Jackie H says:

    Michael: I was one of the parents who requested the student performance reports via FOIA. My school board rep sent a note to FOIA council supporting my request but council advised in order for even a board member to see the data, it would require full board consensus. Yes, they too apparently get the run around. Although my child’s elem principal provided one year of the data (for district and our school), she hit a road block w/central staff when I asked for previous years (as I had asked of the district) – figured it’d come back around full circle – I was right.

    Here are some documents which may answer some of your questions about the NY audit. See also page 4 & 6 for references to PWCS board members & personnel visiting Greece. http://www.democratandchronicle.com/assets/pdf/A215156629.PDF

    Finally, a few of us recently wrote a letter to the editor @ InsideNova, published 1/19/10 addressing the MI Year 3 report as well as student performance tanking … http://www2.insidenova.com/isn/news/opinion/letters_to_the_editor/article/letter_celebrating_mediocrity/50611/

    • Michael Ragland says:

      Jackie: Thank you for the information and the relevant URLs. Where is the “freedom” when the FOIA Concil advises for even a board member too see the data full board consensus is required? Why does central staff not provide student performance reports for previous years?

  10. Jackie H says:

    Michael: Page 3 of the audit also reflects a visit from a benefits employee as well as the attorney (McGowan) prior to Richardson’s/Beauchamp’s visit. It would make sense these visits took place after Walts was hired. But, there was plenty of digging they could have done from down here prior to hiring him. So, did proper vetting take place … unlikely.

    • Michael Ragland says:

      Jackie: I’m new to these issues so as I make my comments and ask questions please keep that in mind. I’m willing to learn and be corrected. First, I thought school board officials had not visited Greece. I now know that was not the case as a benefits employee, attorney McGowan, Richardson and Beauchamp went there. Am I incorrect in assuming the benefits employee and the attorney visited Greece before Walts was hired as Superintendent of Prince William County Schools and that Richardson and Beauchamp visited AFTER Walts was hired as Superintendent of Prince William County schools? Why would school board officials visit Greece after Walts had already been hired? What was the purpose? I thought school board officials would visit Greece before hiring Walts to speak with Greece Central School District board members, teachers and others to determine if they wanted to hire him or not. I can see no valid reason for school board members to visit Greece after Walts had already been hired unless they were a transplanted welcoming committee. How much did it cost for Richardson and Beauchamp to fly up there and visit? I see they visited his home. How nice. What was the purpose of that? From my way of thinking Prince William County School district and the school board did things ASS BACKWARDS. It should have been Beauchamp and Richardson who first visited Greece and talked with Greece school board members, teachers and others such as Citizens for Accountability and Reform in Education and brought back information for the entire school board to make a determination on whether to hire Walts as superintendent. If a determination was made Walts would be hired THEN the benefits employee and the attorney should have flown up to Greece to iron out his contract.

      Geez, does the school board really have that much power? Who and what was really involved in hiring Walts as superintendent? It doesn’t appear it was the school board. I know I have probably totally misread everything wrong and I hope that is the case.

  11. Michael Ragland says:

    After thoughtful consideration I’ve decided my letter to editor regarding Superintendent Walts doesn’t deserve to be published. I’m sure this immediately dawned on the editorial page editor Alex Granados. I’m learning to many things which cancel out some of the statements I make. For example, I learned school board officials did visit Greece and that the $37.5 million Edward L. Kelly Leadership Center was approved and construction had already begun BEFORE Walts had been hired as superintendent. Furthermore, as much as I would like to nail Superintendent Walts he has of date done nothing fiscally wrong. At least that is according to a 2009 audit done by McGladfry and Pullen. So there is no smoking gun. On the bright side I have learned much from some of the bloggers here who have responded. I welcome the information and comments. I just need to be much more focused and precise in criticizing Walts. I need to have my facts straight. Another thing is it is such a complex subject to tackle and how can you get the message out in 350 words or less? I will be a part of this blog from now on and if I come across any information about this subject (and others) I will post it. Finally, I am interested in the hiring process for superintendent and I’m hoping Jacki can illuminate this for me.

  12. Jackie H says:

    Michael ~

    Here’s the link for all PWCS regs: http://pwcs.edu/admin/pwcs/Polindex.htm

    Nothing much there under “Selection of Superintendent” (Reg. 151) “The Superintendent shall be selected from the entire list of eligible candidates certified by the State Board and shall hold office for the term as stated by law.” Couldn’t find anything specific on the hiring process under any other regs.

    You may have to look at the VA BOE’s regs now :)

  13. Michael Ragland says:

    JACKIE:

    Thanks for the info. Here are the headlines I found doing a google of Walts:

    *Greece Central School District audit details waste
    *Albany faults Walts
    *Schools Accused of Pushing Mainstreaming to Cut Costs
    *NY audit: Schools Superintendent Walts didn’t control spending
    *Greece Central School District will keep paying Walts’ benefits
    *How did Walts get his benefits?
    *Pr. William Educator Accused Of Age Bias; Schools Chief Sued Four
    Teachers In Former System
    *Secrecy and superintendent hiring
    *Group Exposes Former School Superintendent
    *Consultant says Greece students hurt by culture
    *New Schools Chief Leaves Legacy of Change
    Walts Increased Spending, Programs
    *Pr. William Schools Chief Faces Doubts on Leadership
    *Controversies Threaten to Erode Trust in Schools Chief
    *Angry parents: Problems with math program linger unsolved
    *Greece School board run amok
    *Money-Hungry Schools Getting Down to Business
    *Ads on Pr. William Web Sites Fuel Debate Over New Commercial Endeavors
    *Prince William schools superintendent presents bleak budget picture
    *Superintendent due for $14,000 raise
    *Pr. William Schools Chief had Tense Tenure in New York

  14. Michael Ragland says:

    I thought it would be more useful to provide the URls to these stories in case anybody wants to find out more information pertaining to Walts.

    Some readers may be interested in what occurred in Greece, New York when Stephen L. Walts was superintendent there I googled the subject and found the following information. In addition, there are articles pertaining to his time as superintendent of Prince William County Schools. Also, Please access http://www.voteforboard.com/comments_archive.html

    Whether it be creating a culture of negativity and lack of trust, mainstreaming special ed students to cut costs, financial waste and abuses, angering parents over Math Investigations, etc. the picture that emerges of Superintendent Walts is not a positive one.

    Schools Accused of Pushing Mainstreaming to Cut Costs

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119758950772128219.html

    Consultant said Greece Students Hurt by Culture
    http://ptagreeceny.org/gc/GCNews_files/NewsStories/051018 Consultant says Greece students hurt by culture.pdf

    Greece school board run amok

    http://rochesterturning.com/2008/02/05/greece-school-board-run-amok/

    Albany faults Walts

    http://www.mpnnow.com/towns/greece/x603856718

    Group Exposes Former School Superintendent

    Older Comments-VoteForBoard.com

    http://www.voteforboard.com/comments_archive.html

    How did Walts get his benefits?

    http://www.mpnnow.com/towns/greece/x1308515884/How-did-Walts-get-his-benefits

    Four N.Y. Teachers Sue Walts, Allege Discrimination

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/14/AR2006011400149.html

    Prince William Schools Chief had Tense Tenure in New York

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/11/AR2005121101143.html

    Secrecy and superintendent hiring

    http://www.schwoebel.net/wp005/index.php/2006/01/23/secrecy-and-superintendent-hiring/

    N.Y. Audit: School Superintendent Walts Didn’t Control Spending

    http://www2.insidenova.com/isn/news/local/article/ny_audit_schools_superintendent_walts_didnt_control_spending/52103/

    P.W. Schools Chief Faces Doubts on Leadership

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/15/AR2006071500949.html

    Controversies Threaten to Erode Trust in Schools Chief

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/11/AR2008021103033.html

    Angry Parents: Problems with math problem linger unsolved

    http://www.examiner.com/a-1425543~Angry_parents__Problems_with_math_program_linger_unsolved.html

    Superintendent due for $14,000 raise

    http://www2.insidenova.com/isn/news/local/articlesuperintendent_due_for_14000_raise5082/

    Prince William Schools superintendent presents bleak budget picture

    http://www2.insidenova.com/isn/news/local/articlecounty_schools_superintendent_proposes_eliminating_700_jobs/51660/

    I will let the reader come to his or her own conclusions.

  15. Michael Ragland says:

    This is in response to school board Chairman Milton Johns letter to the editor which was published February 22:

    February 23, 2010

    P.W.C. school board Chairman Milton Johns states, ” I was surprised to
    see today’s follow-up story on the Greece, N.Y., schools audit, since
    the audit report is around a year old. There were two financial
    audits done. There was the audit by the New York Comptroller which
    found the $119 million voter-approved capital improvements plan was
    replete with poor fiscal management, waste and abuse. Then there was
    the forensic audit performed by Eldredge, Fox and Poretti which
    essentially found the same thing. Chairman Johns states, ” I also
    believe that the audit must also be viewed in the context of the
    political situation in Greece, N.Y., and the underlying motivations
    that may not be apparent to us here in Prince William County.” He is
    implying the results of the audit by the New York Comptroller and the
    forensic audit by Eldredge, Fox and Poretti are not valid, that they
    are politically motivated and without merit. He presents no evidence
    to substantiate this.

    Chairman Johns doesn’t mention the other audits which were done
    pertaining to Walts time as superintendent of GCSD.. There was a 2005
    education audit which found a culture of negativity and overall lack
    of trust. There was also a 2005 Greece BOE audit investigating
    allegations of discrimination against teachers.

    Another thing Prince William County citizens may not know is that in
    2005 eight families accused Greece school district of denying disabled
    children a “free appropriate public education based on Walt’s
    policies. As a result there was a lawsuit.

    Chairman Johns writes, “Knowing what is in the New York audit report
    and knowing Dr. Walts’ actions, I am confident that he did, in fact,
    follow all processes and procedures that were in place at the time in
    his previous school system.” The Greece group Citizens for
    Accountability and Reform in Education didn’t think so.

    It is obvious in writing his letter to the editor Chairman Johns is
    engaging in damage control. He is correct in pointing out since Walts
    has been superintendent of PWCS no impropriety has been discovered.
    However, based on Superintendent Walts performance in his last job in
    Greece, N.Y. the P.W. County citizen/taxpayer should be wary of his
    spending and policies.

    Finally, Chairman Johns mentions the strides PWCS have made. This is
    great news. Education of our children is the most important thing.
    However, there are other items which are important such as whether
    teachers are being discriminated against and special ed students are
    receiving a free and appropriate education. It is important money
    isn’t spent on a $10,000 dollar water fountain and a $100,000 Steinway
    piano.

    To date Superintendent Walts hasn’t had any of the difficulties which
    plagued him in Greece. Let’s hope it stays that way.

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