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Before the land was slated for up to 14 Devlin Road Technology Park data centers, Stanley Martin Homes wanted to build more than 1,800 homes on nearly 900 acres in Bristow in 2014.

Called Stonehaven, the proposed mixed-use development would have houses, retail, and office space. The county school division, as it has with more than 130 other housing projects, weighed in and prepared a report for the school board warning that the new homes would bring more than 1,000 new students to the county public schools.

The county school division used information included in the developer’s site plan and proffer statement — a list of promises to the county made by the developer if the rezoning were to be approved, including proffering a site for a new high school.

According to a quick search of previous schools board meeting agendas, the school division’s opinion on Stonehaven was one of more than 100 development impact statements the schools produced on development projects from all corners of the county — from the Kline property outside Manassas, where, again, Stanley Martin aims to build 240 homes, and the field Rays Regarde at Interstate 95 and Prince William Parkway in Woodbridge in 2019.

The impact statements indicate how many students the school division would expect if the homes were built. Data centers — massive buildings full of computer servers that power the internet — produce few jobs and bring zero children to county schools.

However, Gainesville District School Board Representative Jennifer Wall told the hundreds of people at Chris Yung Elementary School who came to a town hall meeting about the Delvin Road Technology Park that the school division should have offered its opinion on the project. The data centers will be built next to the elementary school and hundreds of homes in the Linton Hall Road corridor.

“The official [Prince William County Public Schools] position on this development is, we won’t take a position, and I’m really mad about that,” said Wall, school board vice-chair.

Wall sent a letter to the Prince William Board of County Supervisors urging it to postpone a rezoning vote on the Devlin Road  Technology Park until after February 21, when a new Gainesville District Supervisor is chosen in a Special Election. Peter Candland resigned the position in December after agreeing to sell his home to data center developers.

While the technology park sits in the Brentsville District, Wall says multiple students who live in her Gainesville District attend schools near the proposed data center complex and will be negatively affected.

Brentsville District School Board representative Adele Jackson joined Wall at the microphone during the town hall while Parents yelled, “take a stand for the children.”

“We were going to wait and see how this goes and then take a position,” said Jackson. “But now that I hear what you’re saying, we might reconsider,” Jackson told the crowd.

The Prince William Board of County Supervisors is scheduled to vote on the Devlin Road Technology Park tonight at 7:30 during its public meeting at 1 County Complex Court in Woodbridge.

Based on the willingness of the majority to approve new data center projects, including the Prince William Digital Gateway, with space for more than 27 million square feet of data centers next to Manassas National Battlefield Park — the project is likely to pass.

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Photo: Stafford County Public Schools

T. Benton Gayle Middle School in Stafford County qualified for the 2023 National Convention in all areas at the Virginia Regional Leadership Summit.

Twenty-three of GMS’s Junior Beta Club members attended the leadership summit, the first in which the school has participated. The school also received an Outstanding Leadership School award.

Rachel Calhoun, Helen Gomez, Abigail Hernandez, and Ryan Wickham took part in Beta Officer Training. Additionally, Jemima Agble, Chloe Hernandez, Finn Longworth, Brianna Reifsteck, and Brycen Tamayo attended the Leadership Summit and training sessions. This year, Anna Maxfield was selected as a Regional Leadership Representative and has the opportunity to compete for selection as a National Leadership Ambassador.

Beta Training for each student requires understanding the basics of National Beta and how it works, the four pillars of Beta; attributes of an effective leader; tips and activities for successful members; planning ahead for Service and Outreach; motivating club members; and bringing awareness to national Beta events.

The following students participated in challenges for which GMS is a National Qualifier: Collaboration Connection – Steven Belk, Layan Elbedewy, Sophia Harris, Meredith Hodges, Joey O’Hara, and Lillian Starich; Lead Outside The Box – Stephen Brown, Walter Bruehs, Keira Ceniceros, and Hannah Gionet; and Project Proposal – Aubrey Grayson, Peyton Pennel, and Harmony Quarles.

The Collaboration Connection challenge engaged participants in quick, creative, and critical thinking challenges. The challenge is a combination of performance-based and task-based problem-solving that allows students to apply collaborative leadership skills.

“The T. Benton Gayle Junior Beta Club members represented their school well and excelled in every challenge,” said Club Sponsor Jeremy B. Utt. “The achievements of the students were even more impressive given that this was the first time Gayle has participated in a Leadership Summit.”

The National Convention will be held at the Kentucky International Convention Center in Louisville later this summer.

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Virginia Senators Tim Kaine (D) and Mark Warner (D) [Photo: Germanna Community College]
On January 31, 2023, Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner visited Germanna Community College’s James R. Clapper Center for Innovation in Cybersecurity – soon renamed the ‘Barbara J. Fried Center’ – to present $870,000 in federal funding for the site.

Germanna announced the lawmaker’s visit in a press release after the event had concluded.

This follows a development from October in which Germanna announced a $15 million Stafford County public-private expansion deal that will triple its training space there, meaning many more critically needed cybersecurity professionals will be graduating.

The curriculum emphasizes data analytics and business processes and their applications in cybersecurity management. Students gain proficiency in cybersecurity policy, conducting risk assessments, coordinating incident response, leveraging data analytics and artificial intelligence to understand attacks on business assets, and overall management of the cybersecurity function within a business.

Graduates enter the workforce with the skills to serve as cybersecurity analysts, auditors, planners, and more.

In October 2022, Germanna Community College announced an expansion in Stafford County with the purchase of its new Stafford Center of Educational Excellence at Center Street.

Two buildings, named the Barbara J. Fried Center at 10 Center Street and the Kevin L. Dillard Health Sciences Center at 25 Center Street, totaling over 74,000 square feet, both just off Route 610 in North Stafford, will meet Germanna’s space requirements in Stafford for the foreseeable future, said Jack Rowley, president of GCC’s Real Estate Foundation.

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New police car design for Manassas 150th anniversary in 2023

Updated 5:45 p.m. — Manassas police said city officials did a good job communicating with the public during a lockdown at several schools last week.

Just before 1 p.m. On Thursday, January 26, 2022, administrators placed Osbourn High School and two other schools, Baldwin Intermediate and Elementary schools and Metz Middle School, into “secure the building” mode, where no one could enter or exit the building while instructors continued teaching.

Police surrounded the building after they learned someone with a bomb was going to try to walk onto the school grounds. Police in neighboring Prince William County learned of a similar threat and locked up nearby Unity Reed High School (formerly Stonewall Jackson Senior High School).

Manassas City Schools Spokeswoman Almeta Radford said the school system’s decision to place the schools in ‘”secure the building” status was a precautionary measure based on the information it received from police.

Parents turned to social media to ask what was happening and relied on information from their children who were texting from their classrooms. The Manassas school administration posted to social media announcing the “secure the building” at the city schools about an hour after police surrounded the schools.

“It is true that as we were working with the police department to gather the most accurate information, students were texting their parents ahead of us. Once we were clear on what the threat was, we informed our staff and parents at all four schools,” said Radford.

Manassas police said it effectively coordinated with the school division to keep children safe.

“The decision to place Osbourn High School and surrounding schools on secure building status was based on a collaboration between the City of Manassas Police Department and Manassas City Public Schools. The decision was based on developments to our incident. The…police department’s communication strategy was timely, effective, and well-received by citizens,” said Sgt. Brett Stumpf.

The school division also uses a telephone and email communication system and social media to communicate with parents.

Later that afternoon, administrators lifted the “secure building” status, and students went home. No one was injured.

Every situation is different, but keeping our students and staff safe is always the highest priority on our list,” added Radford. Police in Prince William County assisted administrators at Unity Reed during dismissal.

On security in the school division, PLN was the first to report that the city will install new security metal-detecting scanners at the entrances of Osbourn High School. The school division is the first in the region to install the new devices.

Prince William County Public Schools are also considering installing the devices at schools within its jurisdiction.

More than 7,000 children attend Manassas City Public Schools.

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Reporter Julie Carey of WRC-TV interviews Stafford County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Thomas Taylor. [Photo: Uriah Kiser]
Stafford County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Thomas Taylor says he needs $417 million to run the public school division next year.

On Tuesday, January 24, Taylor presented a budget about 12% higher than the school board approved in 2022. Taylor says that using the money to pay teachers a higher salary will help retain more qualified educators and benefit students.

The fast-growing school division with about 30,000 students is asking the county government to find more than $340 million in funding for a wishlist of new projects, including three new elementary schools, replacing Drew Middle School, and adding a new wing on North Stafford High School. The increase would double the average homeowner’s property tax bill if approved all at once.

In a press release, the school division states that financial support has decreased over the past 10 years, despite the county’s growing population. In August, the school division had about 900 more elementary school students than anticipated — the equivalent of one elementary school.

The Stafford County School Board has no taxing authority and relies on the county government and Board of Supervisors, state, and federal governments for funding.

“Last year, the [Board of Supervisors] provided one of the largest budget increases in recent years and moved teachers on to their step plan one year early. More recently, the Board acted on the School Board’s request to move Elementary School #18 to this fiscal year after meeting with them and listening to their recommendations. The county is determined to continue this momentum and fully embrace the opportunity to work together in the best interests of our children,” said county government spokesman Andrew Spence.

Starting February 6, 2023, school board members will hold a series of town halls to discuss the budget and the school division’s needs.

Here’s the full press release from Stafford County Public Schools:

Stafford County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Thomas Taylor presented his proposed Fiscal Year 2023-2024 operating budget during a Special Called School Board meeting on Tuesday, January 24, 2023. The Superintendent’s funding request calls for approximately $416.5 million for the 2023-2024 school year. The budget request provides responsible solutions centered around the established Stafford County School Board priorities: Attracting and Retaining High Quality Staff, Improve Performance & Provide Adequate Staffing, and Safe and Welcoming Environment, Aligned to Needs, which ultimately benefits the critical stakeholders – Stafford students.

“We are committed to good fiscal stewardship of County resources. For the second year in a row, we have streamlined our base budget. Focusing steadfastly on taking care of our people and our facilities remains our top priority,” said Dr. Taylor. “This proposed budget addresses the increased cost of doing business, our need to offer more competitive compensation, and provide adequate staffing for our schools. This is about supporting our children, who represent 20% of the population, but 100% of our future.”

Despite the county’s population growing at a rapid pace, the percentage of the school system’s funding from Stafford County has consistently decreased over the last decade, falling from 45% in 2011 to 37.5% in 2023. The FY24 funding request calls for $161 million from Stafford County, an increase of $20 million, which represents a slight increase to 38.66 % of the total budget. While this appears significant, the increase aligns with the current cost of inflation.

The Superintendent’s recommended budget calls for:

Implementation of Phase 2 of a 4-phase investment in licensed staff with an average increase of 8.5%;

Implementation of Phase 1 of a 4-phase investment in the service salary scale with an average increase of 7.7%;

An increase to stipends and supplements that compensate staff for additional duties;

A net increase of 59 new full-time (converted from part time) employees to support the implementation of the staffing standards and the projection of 350 new students in the 2023-2024 school year, with particular focus on teachers to support English Language Learners and students with disabilities;

Implementation of staffing standards for allocating educators and support staff across the division; differentiated at the school level, based on student needs;Differentiated financial resources to schools based on need to properly provide for meaningful post-secondary outcomes for every student and ensure all are prepared for life after graduation.

“Almost half of our employees are categorized as ‘low income’, according to USDA’s Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program. This is a travesty that must be addressed,” said Dr. Taylor. “This proposed budget pledges $24.2 million of the revenue to support compensation and benefits for all staff. We are planning to implement Phase 2 of fixing the teacher scale in a responsible and sustainable way and introduce Phase 1 of a new service scale, reinforcing our belief that we are a school system of people and not things.”

The Stafford County School Board and Dr. Taylor will host four Budget Town Hall meetings to communicate the proposed budget and seek feedback from the community regarding its alignment with stakeholder priorities. A public hearing on the budget will be held on Tuesday, February 14, 2023 at 7 p.m. in the School Board Chambers. Community members are invited to present oral and/or written comments at this hearing.

Community Engagement Schedule

February 6 – Rock Hill District at Rodney E. Thompson MS, 7 PM

February 8 – Aquia & Griffis-Widewater Districts at Stafford ES, 7 PM

February 9 – Falmouth & George Washington Districts at Edward E. Drew MS, 7 PM

February 13 – Garrisonville & Hartwood Districts at Winding Creek ES, 7 PM

February 14 – Public Budget Hearing in the School Board Chambers, 7 PM

February 28 – Special Called Meeting (Budget Approval) in the School Board Chambers, 7 PM

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Dr. George Hummer for his selection as the new Superintendent of Frederick County Public Schools
Hummer

Stafford County Public Schools congratulated Dr. George Hummer for his selection as the new Superintendent of Frederick County Public Schools, a role he will begin on January 30, 2023. During a Frederick County School Board meeting this week, Hummer was appointed to the position.

“Dr. Hummer has demonstrated a passion for serving students and standardizing practices for students with disabilities,” said Stafford Schools Superintendent Dr. Thomas W. Taylor. “Frederick County is gaining a student-focused leader that will affect incredible change in his new role. We wish him well in this well-deserved new position.”

Hummer has served as an educator for 18 years, beginning as a special education teacher, athletic director, and coach before taking on the assistant principal role at Rodney E. Thompson Middle School.

As the Chief Student Support Services Officer, Hummer introduced initiatives to improve student academic performance, narrow student access and opportunity gaps, and increase student support services.

“I am humbled and grateful for this opportunity, and thank the Stafford Schools community for their steadfast support over the past several years,” said Hummer. “All students deserve an opportunity to achieve their goals, and I look forward to working with the Frederick County Schools team to create intentional opportunities for student success.”

Hummer holds a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Special Education from the University of Mary Washington and a doctorate in Educational Leadership from Virginia Commonwealth University. Hummer has been an adjunct professor of Educational Leadership and Special Education at the University of Mary Washington for the past three years and has been a featured speaker at several state meetings for the Virginia Department of Education.

A New Jersey native and graduate of Chancellor High School, Hummer received Virginia’s Mary Lou Wall Award of Excellence for Early Career Special Education leaders in 2021.

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Jessie

A long-serving Prince William County School Board member won't seek re-election.

Her husband -- an outspoken fixture at county school board meetings -- will run to replace her.

Our valued members ensure we can write more great stories like this one about the people in our communities. 
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Updated 5:30 p.m. — Prince William police found no bomb at Unity Reed High School after someone threatened to bring an explosive to the school at 8820 Rixlew Lane, near Manassas Mall, just before 1 p.m. today.

The school division placed Unity Reed (formerly Stonewall Jackson Senior High School) into secure the building mode, meaning no one enters or exits. After police called all-clear, officers assisted in dismissing students.

In nearby Manassas, students at four other schools were also locked inside thie buildings.

From Manassas City Public Schools:

At approximately 12:55 pm today (January 26, 2023) Osbourn High School, Metz Middle School, Baldwin Elementary and Baldwin Intermediate schools went into “Secure the Building” status due to a possible bomb threat made against Osbourn High School. Secure the Building means no one is to enter or exit the building until further notice, however, inside activities continue as normal.

No one was injured. No word yet on any charges.

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Stafford High School Assistant Principal Benjamin Diggs has been named the 2023 Outstanding Secondary School Assistant Principal of Virginia by a panel of school leaders representing the Principal Awards Committee of the Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals (VASSP).

“Mr. Diggs embodies the spirit of our learning community,” said Stafford Schools Superintendent Dr. Thomas W. Taylor. “He is an exceptional leader, strong administrator, and sincere role model for students and staff. In addition to supporting others, he continually seeks personal growth opportunities in our school system. We are proud of him, and congratulate him on this truly worthy designation.”

Diggs is regularly seen in the halls and classrooms, spreading positivity and enhancing school climate. His interactions with staff, students, and families are purpose-driven, aimed at ensuring meaningful post-secondary outcomes for every student so that they are prepared for life after graduation. His work ethic and boundless energy come from his belief that “whatever it takes…you do the hard work.”

“VASSP seeks to recognize exemplary performance among middle and high school assistant principals in the Commonwealth, said VASSP Executive Director Dr. Randy Barrack. “It is exciting when we can identify and showcase administrators like Ben Diggs in school administration.”

Diggs’ enthusiasm, professionalism, and reliability extend far beyond Stafford High School. When needed, he buckles himself into the driver’s seat of a school bus, volunteering to drive for field trips that provide experiential learning. Additionally, he volunteered to drive an elementary school bus route taking 66 elementary students home when their driver became ill.

“My students are my life. This honor is truly a reflection of the hard work they put in every single day,” said Diggs. “I am also proud to be surrounded and supported by other incredible leaders who share the same goals – to make life better for our students.”

Diggs has served as assistant principal of Stafford High School since 2020. Before becoming assistant principal, Diggs was an Instructional Technology Resource Teacher and department chair at North Stafford High School.

He will be honored for his accomplishments at the June 2023 Virginia Middle and High School Principals Conference & Exposition and recognized nationally at the 2023 National Principals Conference this July.

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