Brentsville District High School student injured in jump from roof

Brentsville District High School student injured in jump from roof

A Brentsville District High School student was injured Thursday morning reportedly jumping from a roof at the school in Nokesville — an incident witnessed by several other students.

The student was taken to a nearby hospital in unknown condition. It was unclear what prompted the student to jump.

In a note to the school community, Brentsville Principal Katherine Meints said no further information would be released to protect the student’s privacy.

“Students are understandably upset and have questions and concerns. Be assured we have been supporting those students today, and we are available to you and your students as needed.  We have counseling teams on site at the school,” the note said.

“Additionally, for the privacy of the family, we ask you to encourage your student not to share photos, other personal information, or rumors on social media related to today’s incident.”

Prince William County Police 1st Sgt. Jonathan Perok referred questions to the Prince William County School division, which released Meints’ statement. The full text is below:

March 23, 2023

Dear Brentsville District High School Families,

As a follow up to this morning’s communication, I am writing with more information about the situation at our school this morning. Students may have witnessed an incident involving one of our students which required an emergency medical response. EMS responded and transported the student to the hospital. 

We have been in contact with the student’s family and will be providing support. For student privacy, we will not be sharing further information.     

Students are understandably upset and have questions and concerns. Be assured we have been supporting those students today, and we are available to you and your students as needed.  We have counseling teams on site at the school.

Additionally, for the privacy of the family, we ask you to encourage your student not to share photos, other personal information, or rumors on social media related to today’s incident.

If your student needs additional support, please reach out to your student’s counselor or contact the school.

I appreciate your cooperation, patience, and support.

Thank you,

Katherine Meints

Source link

Prince William Schools report better test scores, but more absences

Prince William Schools report better test scores, but more absences

New data from Prince William County Public Schools shows testing improvement in crucial areas like reading and math, even as school division officials are increasingly concerned about falling attendance. 

Results from the most recent Virginia Growth Assessment earlier this year show significant improvement from fall 2022 scores. Taken in grades third through eighth, the reading and math assessments focus on material from a student’s current grade level. 

In math and reading, third-graders saw the biggest improvement in reading scores from the fall 2022 assessments. The Virginia Department of Education has yet to release interpretation guides for the “vertical scaled scores” on which the test is graded, making the raw scores difficult to analyze on their own. But all of the county’s tested grade levels showed improvement on the test, which has been a state mandate since 2021. 

Multiple reading assessments for younger students showed progress. The percentage of students from grades second through fifth reading on or above grading level, according to the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt reading assessments, jumped from 42.6% in the first quarter to 56.1% in the second quarter.

According to the Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening, or PALS, 66% of first-graders and 68% of second-graders were considered on target in terms of word recognition. In spelling, 65% and 74% of grades first and second, respectively, were found to be on target. 

“Yes, there is still work to do. We knew that this would be a long-term process,” Superintendent LaTanya McDade told the School Board on March 15. “However … we’re moving in the right direction. We’re seeing some promising practice as well as outcomes to show that the work that we’re doing is taking root.”

For middle and high school students, in-class grades dipped slightly in the second quarter, with more students failing one or more courses at both levels. 

Attendance issues

But more concerning to School Board members at the March 15 meeting were dips in attendance across every grade level in the school system. 

For all students, attendance dropped from 94% in the first quarter to 92% in the second. Attendance in the 12th grade fell from 92% to 89% between the two quarters, and over 23% of all students have missed nine or more days (out of 90 total) across the first two quarters. Students who miss 10% of school days or more are considered chronically absent.  

High schoolers have missed the most school, with 28.7% of high schoolers missing nine or more days. Over 28% of special education students missed nine or more days, and over 26% of English-language learners did the same. 

“We know that there is a correlation between absenteeism and classroom performance. Stated simply, better attendance is associated with higher grades,” Michael Neall, the division’s supervisor of program evaluation, told the board. “It isn’t just our academic performance that’s critical here, but it’s hard to make a connection and foster a sense of belonging when students aren’t present in school. And we know that that is critical in addressing social-emotional needs.”

Neall and other officials from the school system said absenteeism is more common in the days surrounding holidays, of which there were more in the second quarter. They also said that there’s been a growing culture since the pandemic of families keeping students home if they say they don’t feel well.

McDade said that if students are sick, they should stay home. But both excused and unexcused absences count toward a student’s “chronically absent” status, which in turn can impact a school’s state accreditation. 

Every school in the division, Neall said, is implementing a “specific and targeted” attendance plan to address chronic absenteeism, and the division has a new initiative aimed at improving notification of families when a student is chronically absent.

“This is a full-court press, as you would say, across many departments,” said Julie Crawford, director of student health and wellness.

School-based teams are trying to reach absent students and their families regularly. At the division level, communications and students services staff are trying to increase communication with families about the importance of attendance.

Starting in January, the school system has also started holding “reengagement nights,” in which schools try to host families whose students have become disengaged or are considered at risk of dropping out. 

“It has an impact on a child’s education,” Denise Huebner, associate superintendent for student services, said of attendance. “The message that we’re trying to send to parents is that we care about your child, we want to be sure that your child’s well, and we want your child in school to learn.” 


Source link

Youngkin appoints new superintendent; Balow will continue to be paid

Youngkin appoints new superintendent; Balow will continue to be paid


Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Wednesday announced the appointment of a new state superintendent of public instruction to replace Jillian Balow, who resigned this month but will be paid for another year.

Tennessee Chief Academic Officer Lisa Coons will replace Balow, who was appointed by Youngkin (R) in January 2022. Balow did not give a reason for her departure but said she planned to continue to work with Youngkin’s administration as a consultant.

A confidential settlement between Balow and the state, first reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, offers a look into her abrupt departure. In the settlement, which was signed Feb. 28 and obtained by The Washington Post, the state agreed to pay Balow $266,213 in salary payments over the next year. In exchange, Balow agreed not to file legal action against the state.

“The Governor and the Superintendent have agreed that the Superintendent will resign from her position,” the settlement reads. “The Parties now desire to fully and completely resolve any outstanding issues between them and to ensure that they have amicably resolved and settled all possible differences, claims, or matters related or pertaining to, arising from or associated with the Superintendent’s separation from her employment.”

Along with the salary payments, Balow will be paid more than $22,000 for health-care costs and more than $10,000 in unused vacation and sick time.

Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter declined to comment on the agreement, and Balow could not immediately be reached on Wednesday.

Virginia Democrats questioned the agreement Wednesday. Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said he was stunned by Balow’s severance deal. “I have never, ever heard” of a governor providing such a golden parachute to an appointee who resigned, he said.

“I can’t see how he can ever complain about people getting welfare again,” Saslaw said.

A person familiar with the settlement who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly on the matter, said Balow is a constitutional officer, which is different from other appointees. Because of her designation, it was possible that she could make the argument that the constitution says her term is the same as the governor’s, meaning she should be paid for the full four years.

Rather than test that in court, they reached a settlement, the person said.

Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law, agreed that the designation of Balow’s position allowed her to make the argument that she should be paid for her term, but the move was unique.

“I don’t think it’s very common, and in some ways it seems kind of unorthodox,” he said.

The settlement includes a nondisclosure agreement prohibiting Balow from discussing the terms of the settlement with anyone other than her spouse, attorneys and financial advisers.

“I don’t think this is a transparent way to operate the state of Virginia,” Tobias said. “You want to be as open as you possibly can. This looks like a fair amount of secrecy, and it makes people uncomfortable.”

In a statement Wednesday, Youngkin congratulated Coons, as well as Jeremy Raley, former Goochland County superintendent, who was appointed Education Department chief of staff. Youngkin also announced the appointment of Dale Sturdifen, a former Mecklenburg County school board member, to the state Board of Education.

“I’m pleased that education leaders like Dr. Lisa Coons and Dr. Jeremy Raley have decided to join our team and further our commitment to empower parents, restore excellence in education, and address catastrophic learning loss in our K-12 system,” Youngkin said in a statement.

Coons will be coming into a department that has faced some controversies over Youngkin’s first year in office, including challenges to the ongoing revision of the state’s curriculum standards for history and social studies, backlash over “model policies” that would limit the rights of transgender students, and a school funding error that required correction by the state legislature.

“The governor has set a bold academic agenda that puts students first and empowers families to help set priorities for their children,” Coons said in a news release Wednesday announcing her appointment. “We have an opportunity in Virginia to be the country’s best state for education, and we’ll achieve that vision through partnerships with families, educators and school division leaders.”

Coons most recently served as chief academic officer for the Tennessee Department of Education. She has also worked as an executive officer of division priority schools for Metro Nashville Public Schools and executive director of instructional leadership at the Tennessee Department of Education.

“She has demonstrated success in addressing learning loss, creating and implementing evidence-based literacy policy and practices, and building strong partnerships with teachers, communities, school and division leaders, and parents,” Virginia Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera said in the news release.

Coons was also named as a finalist for Nebraska’s top education position by a search committee last week, and was supposed to be interviewed for the role at a public meeting March 30. A spokesperson for the Nebraska Department of Education said staff was aware that Coons had accepted the Virginia job, but did not know specifics on when she withdrew from consideration in Nebraska.

Coons’s appointment is effective April 17. Balow’s resignation was effective March 9, and her severance will be paid until March 2024.

Source link

9-year-old wins Prince William Spelling Bee with 'gallivat'

9-year-old wins Prince William Spelling Bee with 'gallivat'

“Gallivat” is not a word you hear everyday. Merriam-Webster defines it as “an East Indian ship propelled by sails and oars and often armed and used by pirates.” 

But it was just one of the thousands of words Siya Sampath was prepared to spell at the 45th Prince William Regional Spelling Bee on Tuesday night. And she spelled that one and 15 others correctly to top 40 other spellers from around the county to win the bee.

At just 9 years old and representing J.W. Alvey Elementary School in Haymarket, Sampath was the third youngest speller competing in this year’s bee, her second regional spelling bee. She competed last year as a third-grader, when Ronald Reagan Middle School seventh-grader Peyton DeMichele took home the top prize after spelling 11 correct words.

“I studied all the words three times each at least,” Sampath said after the event. “There were only two I didn’t know.”

While she admitted to being nervous for a few words, she was still confident in the hours of studying she had put in with her mom.

“I would quiz myself on all the words and afterwards my mom would quiz me on the words I got wrong,” she said.

Sampath’s knack for spelling was challenged by the 40 other talented spellers, all winners of bees at their elementary, intermediate or middle schools. Contestants spelled words like “lithophone” (a class of percussion instruments), “baptismal,” “aberration” (the act of wandering away), “kookaburra” (a large Australasian kingfisher), “fervorous,” “idiosyncratic” and “coriander” with ease.

Aadya Pokarel of Pennington School finished in fifth place after being eliminated in the 10th round. Two spellers tied for third place after being eliminated in the 11th round: seventh-grader Peter Layton from Woodbridge Middle School and sixth-grader Vincent Chu from George Hampton Middle School.

Dhanvika Ragi Spelling Bee

Dhanvika Ragi, 11, a sixth-grader at Gainesville Middle School, spells a word in the early rounds of the Prince William Regional Spelling Bee. Ragi was the runner-up in the event. 

That left Sampath facing off against Dhanvika Ragi, 11, a sixth-grader at Gainesville Middle School, for the championship. The two successfully spelled words like “zeitgeist” (the spirit of the time), “dactylic” (of or consisting of a metrical foot of three syllables), “a posteriori” (what cannot be known except from experiences) and “graticule” (a network of lines of latitude and longitude).

But in the 15th round, Ragi was stumped by “gypsophila,” a plant of a large genus of Old World herbs having small delicate paniculate flowers and five-clawed petals. Sampath then correctly spelled “castellated” (built or formed like a large fortified building) and the championship word of “gallivat” to secure first place.

Sampath is the youngest winner of the Prince William bee since 6-year-old Lori Anne Madison won in 2012. The bee is open to students through the eighth grade. 

The bee, held at Gar-Field High School, was presented by InsideNoVa and the Bel Air Woman’s Club. The Prince William County Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism sponsored the event. 

“Regardless of the outcome for you this evening, each one of you is a champion,” Karen Attreed, president of the woman’s club, said at the start of the bee. “You are representing your respective schools. All of us, teachers, parents, mentors and your peers are very proud of you.”

Sampath will compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee at National Harbor in Maryland from May 28-June 2, which will be aired on ION and Bounce television networks. She plans to use her same studying techniques to prepare for the competition this spring, where she will spell against 200 other regional champions from across the country.

“I may need a little more work,” she said. “There’s over 100,000 words in the dictionary.”


Source link

Montgomery County schools report increase in arrests, decrease in calls for service

Montgomery County schools report increase in arrests, decrease in calls for service


Montgomery County schools have reported fewer public safety calls for service, but an increase in arrests so far this school year compared with last, system officials told the county council on Tuesday.

Through March 10, there were 1,329 school service calls and 1,133 resulted in a report being filed. Calls for service are requests for assistance made to law enforcement, medical and fire officials. At the same time last year, the school system reported 2,814 calls for service and 1,170 reports made. The data includes requests for both emergency and non-emergency situations, school officials said.

However, there have been 13 arrests this school year, compared with three arrests in the 2021-22 school year. Fifteen cases have been referred to the Department of Juvenile Services, compared with 39 referrals last school year. There have been zero citations this school year for marijuana possession, compared with two citations last year.

“What’s clear is that more needs to be done … we need to be open to all and every solution that’s out there,” said council member Gabe Albornoz (D-At Large).

The data was shared at a joint meeting between Montgomery County’s Education and Culture Committee and Public Safety Committee. Council members also questioned school and police officials about the community engagement program and the updated relationship with police that allows officers to have a limited, but not permanent, presence in schools and still respond to incidents. Last school year, Montgomery County Public Schools removed school resource officers from school grounds, but after a shooting at a Rockville high school critically injured a student, the school system and the Montgomery County Police Department reached an agreement for the revised setup. The agreement stipulates that school officials, not police, respond to discipline and policy issues.

But some parents and educators have argued for a full return of police in schools to combat rising violence. As council members reviewed the data, some members of the audience held up signs that read, “Bring Back SROs!”

A county pulled police from schools six months ago. Now it wants to bring them back.

The arrest and referral data does not include breakdowns by race or for students with a disability, noted Will Jawando (D-At Large). “That was a key measure that we talked about tracking with the school system … where that was going to be monitored as a part of the larger process,” he said. Police said they would provide the data.

The school safety report also showed an increase in school-based incidents that show a bias toward a race, religion or other identity, such as incidents of antisemitism. The school system reported 100 incidents so far this school year, compared with 65 during the entire previous academic year. In February alone, there were 42 incidents. Forty-five of the incidents occurred at middle schools, 35 at the county’s high schools and 20 at elementary schools.

Of the bias incidents, 48 targeted race, 43 targeted religion and 15 targeted the LGBTQ community.

The school system recently announced it would toughen penalties for students who commit acts of hate by recording the incidents in their student file, and their parents will be brought in for follow-up conversations.

Montgomery County schools report another spate of antisemitic acts

School officials also presented suspension data that showed higher numbers particularly for students with disabilities and students of color. Data from the 2021-22 school year showed there were 2,392 suspensions total. Black students were suspended the most — 1,077 times total, according to data in a state report. There were a total of 889 Hispanic student suspensions and 739 suspensions for students with a disability. Meanwhile, White students were suspended 197 times and Asian students had 80 suspensions. There was no suspension data provided for this school year.

Shauna-Kay Jorandby, the district’s director of student engagement, behavioral health and academics, said the school system is reviewing its disciplinary training for conduct violations and working to build relationships with students who have higher numbers of suspensions. “We must always acknowledge that we must continue to work on the disparities within our suspensions,” she said.

School officials also discussed efforts being undertaken to discipline students without removing them from school.

Council members asked police and school officials to return before June with more information about what incidents led to those student arrests this school year, as well as race and ethnicity breakdowns of arrest and referral data.

Source link

Virginia history standards debate wraps up, with board vote near

Virginia history standards debate wraps up, with board vote near


At Mount Vernon, the historic estate where tourists flock to learn about George Washington, dozens of parents, teachers and education leaders tucked into a conference room to weigh one of Virginia’s hottest topics: how to teach history in public school.

The comments stretched late into the night as more than 90 speakers took their two-minute opportunity last week to offer an opinion on the revised standards of learning, which set the framework for what students in the commonwealth will learn in social studies classes from kindergarten through 12th grade.

There’s usually little attention on the bureaucratic revision process that happens every seven years as required by state law. But this year’s review became contentious, drawing national scrutiny as versions of the proposed standards were criticized for their framing and omissions.

With the third set of proposed standards being considered before an expected vote by the state Board of Education next month, supporters praise them as being a fairer representation of history that better matches the state’s law banning “inherently divisive” topics in the classroom. Critics are concerned about limited representation of marginalized communities, unrealistic expectations for students and the rushed process to develop the standards.

This dispute over social studies has become part of the education culture wars as lawmakers increasingly introduce legislation limiting what schools can teach about race, gender and inequality. Lawrence Paska, executive director of the National Council for the Social Studies, said the national debate has shifted from arguing about what gets included in standards to mandating topics that are excluded.

“This notion of, we’re going to tell you what you can’t teach,” Paska said. “That is a very different tone.”

In Virginia, a state with a complex past, those debates about how to present its history extend beyond the classroom. They include tearing down Confederate statues in Richmond and updating tours of Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s estate, to include additional details about the enslaved people who lived there, including the story of Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman on the estate with whom Jefferson had children.

Some of Virginia’s storied locations were sites for the public forums hosted by state education officials that ended this week, where people could weigh in on the proposed social studies standards. At the Mount Vernon forum, 17-year-old Yahney-Marie Sangare approached the microphone in the small conference hall.

“The truth is that no history exists without opinion or context, the way we teach and learn is deliberate,” she said. “To unravel the trends of history, we must fundamentally embrace varying schools of critical thought. We may not make educational standards weapons of ideology.”

The crowd had thinned by the time the Alexandria City High School junior — the 61st speaker of the night — had her turn.

“See,” one woman in the crowd whispered to another. “This is why I want to stay.”

Long road for revision process

The standards debate in Virginia began in August when appointees of Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) on the Board of Education rejected a 400-plus-page version of the standards started under Youngkin predecessor Ralph Northam (D).

The Department of Education proposed an alternative 53-page version of the standards in November that quickly drew criticism from left-leaning politicians and education advocates for generally placing less emphasis on marginalized groups. There were errors, including a characterization of Indigenous people as “immigrants,” and omitted references to the Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Juneteenth holidays.

Jillian Balow, who led the Education Department, was sent back to fix the mistakes and integrate content from the August version. Balow, who resigned as superintendent this month, came back with was a third version of the standards in January, and that is the draft that is up for consideration.

The newest standards include language that notes U.S. history is complicated and must be taught with nuance. There are also grade-level changes that place greater emphasis on Native Americans. The new guidelines, unlike the previous version, mandate discussions of racism, and students would learn, for the first time in Virginia, that slavery was the main cause of the Civil War, not just one cause.

But critics question how state education officials got to this version, particularly whether the standards are politically motivated. During review forums, they have raised concerns about a state list of top contributors to the proposal that includes organizations such as the conservative-leaning Civics Alliance, Thomas B. Fordham Institute and Hillsdale College.

Amber Northern, vice president for research at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, said some of the criticism leveled at the proposed revisions was misguided, after several speakers at a Charlottesville forum — held a few miles from Monticello — condemned things that have been part of the standards since 2015 when Northam was in office.

“I actually think that a lot of the comments tonight have not been accurate in terms of the partisanship,” she said in an interview. “It’s sort of been alluded that there’s … right-leaning partisanship because we have a Republican governor.”

In a statement, the Civics Alliance and the National Association of Scholars called the latest version of the standards a more concise and appropriate approach than the August proposal, which had become “lengthy, repetitive and extremely difficult to understand,” the groups said.

Youngkin said in a statement that the January standards reflect input from an array of subject-matter experts, residents and organizations.

“The current draft honors a robust set of diverse voices, figures and moments in history and prepares our students to be informed stewards of our future,” the governor said. “Our goal is to make Virginia’s standards the best in the nation.”

On a corner near the George Washington Presidential Library at Mount Vernon, about 30 demonstrators lined the sidewalk with signs, protesting the January standards. Organized by the Hamkae Center, which describes itself as organizing “Asian Americans to achieve social, economic, and racial justice in Virginia,” the protesters called for more representation of diverse communities — specifically more Asian American and LGBTQ history.

Zowee Aquino, policy and communications lead at the Hamkae Center, said the January standards only discussed Asian American history twice.

“With the amount of feedback from Virginians, I’m really hoping that the board will take it as a wake-up call that, no, the public does not like these standards,” Aquino said.

Inside the library, Jaya Nachnani, a 19-year-old freshman at William & Mary, criticized the standards for excluding mentions of the Stonewall riots and the Defense Against Marriage Act, and referring to the October holiday as Columbus Day rather than Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

“With this curriculum, we are erasing a lot of history,” Nachnani said. “While some of it may be bad, how are we as Americans supposed to move forward if we do not acknowledge and learn about all of our pasts?”

Labor organizers argue that the January standards remove most teachings on the impact of the industrial revolution on working families and lessons about the rise of organized labor.

Eric Pacheco, a father of three students in Stafford County and member of IBEW Local 26, a union of electrical workers, pleaded with the board that lessons on unions and labor are important to students and understanding American history.

“We don’t need less labor history,” Pacheco said. “We need a whole lot more of it.”

Education leaders also raised concerns about the expectations for young students to learn complex material that isn’t “developmentally appropriate” for the assigned grade levels. A collection of state and national education groups issued a response to the January proposal, calling it “unrealistic.”

The standards also contain “a vast quantity of rote memorization that is neither useful nor likely for content knowledge retention,” the organizations wrote. They urged the board to instead adopt proposed “Collaborative Standards” that some of the groups wrote as an alternative in December.

The groups point to a standard that requires second-graders to learn about issues such as the War of 1812.

“With 24 people listed in one standard alone … the time it would take to teach this one standard is unrealistic, it would take weeks,” said Jennifer Brown, an educational specialist for Fairfax County Public Schools who shared similar concerns from other elementary teachers.\

Neeley Minton, lead coach for social studies instruction in Albemarle County Public Schools, cited the more than 100 new topics added to the proposed standards. Covering so much new material would not allow enough time for sixth-graders to think deeply about topics such as urban renewal and Vinegar Hill, a majority-Black neighborhood in Charlottesville that was razed in the 1960s.

“Inquiry is what makes the facts stick,” Minton said during the forum in Charlottesville. “Learning facts in isolation does not lead to learning at all.”

Freelancer Chris Suarez contributed to this report.

Source link