Archive for February, 2012

“Hiring a new superintendent is the biggest task facing a School Board and we want to make sure that the public has a voice in this process,” said School Board Chair Scott Albrecht. “We hope that parents, staff and residents will take time to fill out the survey or attend the public hearing.”- From MCPS Press Release

The hiring of a superintendent is the most important job the Manassas School Board has according to its own bylaws. The current Board Members ran for their jobs one would think with knowledge of and a willingness to assume the duties which the job required. At least that is usually what one assumes when voting for a candidate, that the politician/citizen is running for the job not running away from it.  Yet, the School Board under the guise of seeking public input has just released a survey for the public to complete of what criteria the elected School Board  should use to select a new superintendent.

The School Board members aren’t qualified, competent and confident enough to do the main task they have as elected officials of the Manassas City School Board? They’re creating a cheat sheet for their big test!  We need leaders to select the next leader of our Public Schools, not slackers. Leaders don’t ask others to do their job for them. If they don’t know what makes a great superintendent, if they can’t judge who would be a perfect fit for the Manassas job, then they haven’t been doing their jobs up until now. This survey is nothing more than a pandering to public opinion that hopes to pass off on to the public part of the work, responsibility and the blame if the School Board chooses another underachiever as MCPS’ superintendent.

Moreover, one question is obviously missing from the survey: What did you think of our last selection of a superintendent?


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Ugly, erroneous  rumor or administrative error, incompetence and public relations disaster? The Manassas City  School Board in its bylaws has the responsibility “to represent the schools and the educational program before the public generally as opportunity occurs”, I would suggest such an opportunity exist. Whether on this open forum or in another public forum they should quickly address the following:

The comment on this blog by the poster, Concerned Educator,  has suggested that MCPS failed to meet AYP because Dr. Sonja Martin (Director of Testing) made a “HUGE error in reporting ESOL students on SOL scores who did not have to be counted if they had lived in the country less than five years.”

As another poster commented: “That’s quite an error!”

However, I would argue that was a correctable error, an error that should have been caught by Dr Martin’s superiors, specifically the Superintendent, the Deputy Superintendent and the School Board. How ironic it would be for the leadership of the MCPS who are obsessed with countering the negative publicity that has swirled around MCPS to be in part responsible for fabricating the negative publicity, to which their solution has been to propose fabricating positive publicity.

Besides really raising the bar for hiring any MCPS PR person or firm, the combined skills of Orwell, Lewis Carroll, and Twain required,  such an error, if true, rather than ugly rumor, raises another question: Is it appropriate for the superiors who should have been double checking Dr. Martin’s work to also be interviewing and recommending Dr. Martin for a new position?

If Dr. Martin made such a costly error, it was one of those simple errors anyone could have made and it was one  knowledgeable superiors or a vigilant  School Board should have caught and corrected.

But reassignment, with such a costly error unacknowledged? That smacks of ‘fixing’ one’s own report card to the public.

Moreover, the examination of such an error brings up the issue exposed by Charles Sutherland, a candidate for the Manassas School Board, concerning the failure of the current school administration to comply with state law and require original birth certificates be presented when registering a child in the schools. Did one failure lead to another?

Was the Director of Testing, Dr. Martin set up to fail?

Or is this an opportunity for the School Board to speak up, comply with its bylaws and represent the schools and educational program by showing and defending the data that indeed we failed to meet AYP.

As uncomfortable as it may be to defend a failing school system, someone has to do it.  Mr. Albrecht? Mr. Bushnell? Mr. Dance? Mr. MaGee? You’re up!

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¿Qué tiene que decir acerca de la casa en Prescott comunidad Latina Manassas?
¿Padre Roberto? ¿Padre a Ramón?
¿Senador Colgan?

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The Washington Post carried a story today about one of Prescott House’s neighbors Hugh Ickrath, who plans to hold a protest this Saturday to influence the Mayor’s vote on the possible demolition of Prescott House. Ickrath even raised the possibility that he and his neighbors might all chip in to save the House. To which I would say: Great! Show up with the certified check  or some other certifiable plan on Monday.

I think all Manassas would be happy to have private funds save the house, if its possible, just no public funds. Who knows maybe even the Post might want to chip in? Perhaps some of the thousands of dollars they charge the MCPS every year could be siphoned off to a privately funded Save Prescott House campaign? Go Washington Post! Go Washington Post! Save our Old Town!

After all just like Joan Rivers, and in the words of neighbor Ickrath, Prescott House is just ” waiting to be beautiful again.”

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It appears that Beth Dunman-Jones, the Director of Special Education is resigning on June 29th, 2012.


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The Architectural Review Board (ARB) passed a resolution on February 17th recommending that Prescott House be demolished. Citing the condition of the structure and the failure of the owners to co-operate with the City and the community over the last 15 years the Board regretfully made it recommendation to the City. The ARB which is tasked to protect the historic district has in effect determined that the building is ultimately worse for the historic district than an empty lot.

If the Mayor accepts the ARB’s finding, perhaps the former volunteer fireman might recommend a ‘Phoenix House Demo,’ a controlled fire demo or some other constructive demolition activity for training purposes by our fire and rescue teams?

Who knows, maybe the owner can even be convinced to go along with such a demo?  Why? No revisitation of regular, current demo cost? Possible offset of demo cost of which owner is responsible. Possible retainment of lot by owner, by absence of lien on property for demo cost. The purging of 15 years of owner inflicted blight on the  city and a new beginning in the property’s history.



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MCPS Chairman Scott Albrecht recently stated in his response to A Bridge Too Far? :  “Despite opinions to the contrary, we are not a failing system.”

Perhaps, perhaps not, but we do know that there have been some serious failures in leadership over the last several years that have created a crisis in our school system which needs to be addressed.

Chairman Albrecht also mentioned the overemphasis on test scores that can distract a school system from focusing on teaching the  fundamentals to prepare the students to be upright and contributing members of their community.

I believe Chairman Albrecht is correct that obsession with test scores can have a detrimental effect on a school system. The K-4 schools in our system have a ridiculous testing regime which at times results in long stretches of the school year engaged in nothing but testing and practically no instruction. Why the testing regime was made even more time-consuming by the MCPS administration by dreaming up additional test taking requirements for the little ones is a question that Chairman Albrecht might ask our recent award-winning curriculum head, Dr Meyers?

It is certainly a novel and counterintuitive approach to tackle the problem of low test scores with more test taking rather than more instruction, but then novel and counterintuitive also describes having an award-winning school administration for a school system in crisis.

Nevertheless, if increased test taking is the answer to all our school systems problems, perhaps we should also ask our School Board and School Administration what happens when the School Board and Administration fails to measure up?

On January 19th, Beth Dunman-Jones, the Director of Special Education and Related Services, was arrested for driving under the influence. She failed the sobriety check with a .24 blood alcohol content, three times over the limit. She was not suspended or terminated, she is still on the job and who knows what else?

According to the Manassas School district’s own personnel policy:

B. Alcohol and Drugs off School Property: The use of alcohol and controlled substances off school board property which affects an employee’s ability to perform his or her duties, or which generates publicity or circumstances which adversely affect the school division or its’ employees, shall result in discipline, including possible suspension or termination.

How does such a high-profile case not adversely affect our school division? Furthermore, what does it say about the priority and value the school system gives to the Special Education and Related Services Department when the Director is allowed to walk back in and supervise a department which is responsible for students who require high levels of expertise and skill in their mentoring?

Would a Special Ed teacher, or some other lower-level employee be afforded a similar pass on failing a sobriety test, so miserably by the School Administration?

And finally what does this say about our School Board? Is our School Board so obsessed with pushing out good news, happy news about our school system that it is incapable of dealing with the bad news that requires immediate attention?  Isn’t School Board member and candidate Jack Magee a special education teacher in PWC? Of all people, shouldn’t it be incumbent on him to stand up for the Special Education students and insist on at least a suspension of the Director?

For all the concern and angst expressed by our MCPS leaders about the school systems’ poor publicity, their failure of leadership in reacting to the failure of one of their own can only leave the rest of Manassas asking the most obvious of questions : What are they drinking on Tudor Lane?

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