Tuesday, May 1, 2012 is election day in Manassas City. There will be elections for the city council and the school board. Please come out and vote. I won’t indulge in the hyperbole we often see that each upcoming election is the most important election in the history of the world. Every election is important and we should feel blessed that we are able to vote and that our votes count. People have died defending our right to vote and we owe it to them, to countless others, and to ourselves to exercise our right to vote. If history is any indication, voter turnout won’t be great. Many people I speak with still don’t know there is an election on Tuesday, and having elections in May does not help with turnout. I hear lots of opinions about the state of our schools and our city. If you really want to make your voice heard, speak with your vote.
On to other stuff. On Sunday, April 29, 2012, it was my honor to attend the Prince William Older Girl Organization of the Girl Scout Council of the Nations Capital 12th Annual Recognition Ceremony. My wife Anastasia accompanied me. Manassas City Councilwoman Sheryl Bass, School Board Vice Chair Art Bushnell, and Sandy Thompson, supervisor of administrative services for Manassas City Schools, were also in attendance. Congratulations to all the award winners and the graduates. The girl scouts do a great job of helping prepare girls to be successful young women. I was impressed by the accomplishments of the girl scouts who were honored and by the dedication of their families and the many volunteers who help with the activities.
Round Elementary held an Academic Carnival on Thursday, April 26, 2012. The event was a rousing success. There were hundreds of students, parents and family members in attendance. I was struck by the large number of attendees. We often hear complaints about parental involvement in the schools, but Round does not have that problem. I was pleased to note the many teachers and staff members who were in attendance, and either supervised academic stations, handed out food, worked at the book fair, or danced along with the Zumba teacher who worked out parents, students and staff alike. I know many teachers and staff were in attendance and I don’t want to slight anyone by not mentioning them, but off the top of my head, I remember seeing Ms. Boaz, Ms. Smith, Ms. Schultze, Ms. Mattick, Ms. Anderson, Ms. Bamford, Ms. Drummond, Ms. Stookey, Ms. Alexander, Ms. Cove, Ms. Krotzer, Ms. Stephens, Ms. DeAngelis, Ms. Crouse, Ms. Randall, Ms. Richitt and Ms. Whatley. I have to give special mention to the School Nurse, Ms. McLaren, Ms. Pat Evans (who danced the night away), Ms. Jorquera (who also danced along with the kids and was able to get me to join in) for engaging the children and their families, and educating them on the need for healthy habits. Mr. Durko, Ms. Burner and Round staff—a job well done.
Dean Elementary had volunteers read to some of their students last week. I was fortunate to be able to read to Ms. West’s kindergarten class. The class was very attentive and well-behaved and I thank them for allowing me to read a story to them.
Baldwin Elementary held a Career Day last Thursday, which was also a great success. Dozens of community members, ranging from police officers to a life coach, participated. School Board member Pam Sebesky also spoke to students. I spoke with Ms. Mills’ class, Mr. Smith’s class and Ms. Mernin’s class. The students asked great questions and hopefully they learned a lot about careers and about life. Each teacher was welcoming and gracious. Ms. Cowin-Gantz did a great job organizing the day and I know plenty of Baldwin’s staff and faculty helped out. Again, job well done, Ms. Cowin-Gantz, Dr. Cramp and Ms. Garry.
Students from Mayfield, Metz and Osbourn went to the Newseum on Wednesday, April 25, 2012. I guess I should note that all of the students that I saw from each of the schools were well behaved. If they had behaved badly you would surely hear about it, so it is only right you should hear the positive reports, too. If you haven’t been to the Newseum, check it out; and if you have time, try to spend a day there. School groups can attend for free, and I think all of our students would benefit from a trip to the Newseum. There are outstanding displays, informative presentations and interactive activities. I was not able to interact with all the students that went to the Newseum, but I was able to speak with the Metz students who attended, and I have to give a special thanks to Ms. Agee and Ms. Lawlor for making that happen.
I guess the only schools I didn’t mention were Haydon, Johnson Learing Center and Weems. I know each of them also had good things going on, but I am only human and can’t be everywhere. I have to catch up with them at a later date.
I will conclude with some school board news. The board has commenced its superintendent search to replace our current Superintendent Gail Pope. Pope has represented Manassas City with grace and class. The board has received lots of input on the search from the community, including staff, parents and business leaders. I can’t speak for the board, but I can say this input has been extremely helpful to me and I will definitely keep it in mind as the selection process progresses. Please check out the MCPS website and stay tuned to our upcoming board meetings (May 8 and May 22) to keep up with the latest on the search.
The board has had to tweak the budget we presented to city council, after the Virginia state budget was passed by the Virginia Senate. Our final budget should be done soon. City Council has chosen to block the board from appropriating $3 million of money saved by the board to use for the purchase of a new central office facility for MCPS staff, and to help clear space for a new Baldwin Elementary School. The nuances and machinations associated with this issue are enough to fill another blog, so I won’t go into the details in depth here. I will note that if we as a city want “First-class schools for a first-class city” we should have first-class facilities for our central office staff. Our current central office facilities are inadequate and they need to be upgraded. The city needs to work together to address this issue.
One area where the council and the school board have worked together is “Education Forward.” Come check it out if you have the time.
There are lots of sporting events to watch at OHS and Metz, so come out and watch. I have only been able to check out the Metz girls lacrosse team’s games thus far this spring (good luck to them against Highland this week). There are also many music concerts scheduled for May, so there is plenty of activity going on at MCPS.
Finally, because we did not use any snow days this year, the school board was able to take two days off the school year. The final day of school is now Wednesday, June 13. Have a great week.
“Now you’re just somebody that I used to know” – Gotye (A song your kids may be listening to)
“The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.” -President Lyndon Johnson