The Education Forward Committee is looking at six concepts for further review as part of a comprehensive, system-wide proposal for bettering Manassas City Schools.
The committee held a meeting Saturday, Dec. 10, in a packed City Hall conference room, where they and others in attendance were presented with preliminary information regarding approximate costs and impact of concepts discussed at a November meeting. The committee then selected some of the options they would like to see considered for further review and debate based on overall interest among members.
Committee members requested Superintendent Gail Pope further consider the cost and benefit of 1. lower student teacher ratios (18:1) for Math and English; 2. International Baccalaureate Programs for grades K-12; 3. mandatory uniforms for grades K-12; 4. E-books for all grade levels; 5. the buildout of Johnson Learning Center for STEM Academy, other programs; 6. an expansion of the dual enrollment program that would allow students to graduate with both a high school degree and associates degree/certification.
The above concepts are thought to be successful at achieving a system-wide, comprehensive approach to improving the schools while keeping fiscal limitations in mind.
For example, a built out Johnson Center could house the dual enrollment for certification courses and be utilized by Northern Virginia Community College for the potential of a shared cost.
The concept of mandatory uniforms was still popular among committee members even though Virgina law requires the school system to pay for this.
While committee members did not rule out creating a 'school of choice' similar to that of Prince William County's Pennington School as an option, they did say that such a move would have its limitations in the committee's overall purpose: fixing all the schools, and as a result, improving the overall perception of the entire system.
Our problems are throughout the system, said Council member and Education Forward Committee Member Andy Harrover, we need to be able to apply the idea of a 'school of choice' model system-wide.
Council Member Wolfe said that while students are first priority, quality schools also make for a more attractive city for residents and businesses and benefit future economic development.
Concepts that did not gain much attention moving forward were a mandatory 200-day school year, a Pre-k program for all four years and replacing antiquated existing infrastructure.
School Board Member at Large, Kermit Dance spoke at the meeting of the need for an infrastructure update of Baldwin Elementary School. He said the students there are interrupted and distracted by the aging facility when it rains and the heat/AC kicks on/off.
The issue of antiquated infrastructure, according to School Board Vice-chair Arthur Bushnell, is one that should be discussed by the school board and not the committee. Bettering facilities, however, was a concept that was evaluated in the Superintendent's preliminary findings. It was determined an engineering study to find out what would need to be done (system-wide) would could cost up to $50,000 and the actual costs associated with repairing/replacing existing buildings would be in the millions.
Education Forward held it first meeting in spring 2011 and is a special group made up of three Manassas City council members ( Vice Mayor Andy Harrover, Sheryl Bass and Mark Wolfe) and three school board members ( Vice-chair Arthur Bushnell, Pam Sebesky and Tim Demeria) that was formed to address the issue of low Standards of Learing (SOL) scores and the negative reports about Manassas City Schools.
Council Member Harrover said he would like to see the student to teacher rations lower in Math and English because "that's where our problems lie."
Council Member Wolfe said the committee is unique to Manassas and has a primary goal of attracting families to the area and improving our community. The next Education Forward meeting has yet to be scheduled but it will likely take place early next year.
Do you agree with the six concepts chosen for further review? Is there something else you would like to see evaluated for possible implementation in our schools?
Also, do you have a child at Baldwin Elementary School? Would you like to see improving the condition of the school made a top priority?
Tell us in the comments!