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Education Backwards

By Greg L | 21 November 2011 | Manassas City | 30 Comments

The Manassas City Schools, failing to meet “adequate yearly progress” goals for the third consecutive year, have done some thinking about how to turn things around and come up with a plan.  Despite its progressive, futuristic label, “Education Forward” is essentially the same idea that drug Manassas into the bottom tier of state education performance, only with a whole bunch of new and dubious tax-busting spending.  With municipal elections looming this May, “Education Forward” ought to spark the brushfire that should sweep out the city’s school board.

So how does Manassas actually plan to improve school performance?  Will they start enforcing some discipline at Osbourn, try to reduce the burden of illegal immigration that is packing some schools with limited english proficiency students, or refocus on the basics of a solid, traditional educational curriculum?  Not really.  Superintendent Gail Pope is asking for iPads and laptops for students instead.  Then there’s the idea of enrolling every high school student in a simultaneous associate degree program at NOVA Community College, because if they couldn’t get students to successfully complete their existing coursework adding more can’t hurt.  Best of all, despite having a per-pupil cost higher than any nearby jurisdiction, Pope wants to spend even more money.

Pope’s laundry list, on which every item has a strong negative budgetary impact, is depressingly short on any ideas to change the way Manassas City Schools do business that might not involve significantly hiking taxes.  If school performance was measured by how much money you pour into the system, this would be a great plan, but we’ve already seen that systems that spend the most often have the lowest student performance.  Spending is not the solution.

Technology gimmicks and full-day pre-K are little more than thoroughly unproven, fiscally wasteful pipe dreams that won’t fix the problems that are causing our schools to fail.  Pope and the School Board don’t even seem to have any handle on what the actual problems are, and are desperately flailing to find some “solution” (inevitably involving higher spending) to throw at the problem in hopes it makes a dent.  If you bother to take some time to talk to teachers though, the problems are pretty evident — discipline problems, staff issues, illegal immigration impacts and substandard leadership.

Clearly, the first education reform is to make big changes in the membership of the School Board, find a better superintendent, and cause the City Council to react a little better than this when someone suggests that passing out iPads to elementary students is going to improve any score other than on Angry Birds:

it is precisely what we’ve been looking for: a list of options, some of which are a reach and some more modest.

No, Mr. Harrover, this is a laughably ridiculous list of foolishness proffered by an utter incompetent.  I’m stunned your reaction wasn’t complete outrage that someone would offend you by actually thinking you’d buy this drivel.

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  1. Tea Time said on 21 Nov 2011 at 10:57 am:
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    The waste of money in this school system and city is shocking to behold.

    The ideas expressed publicly by certain City School Board and City Council members as to solutions for failing schools, police, fire equipment, Georgetown South crime and grime, the blighted Prescott House, bike trails to nowhere, and the 150th event over kill is nothing more than to keep spending more tax money and raise taxes.

    In spite of Mr. Aveni’s and Mr. Miller’s best efforts to say NO and PLEASE STOP, I fear these folks will drive the City into default and we will be taken over by the County.

  2. School Bored said on 21 Nov 2011 at 12:35 pm:
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    We all know that the masses can’t learn unless you feed them breakfast and lunch, give them free backpacks, and then transport them to the boys and girls club in your taxpayer funded School bus for a little pick-up basketball, healthy snacks and homework extra help all on my dime.

    What, now free Ipads too?

    Obama Nation has come to Manassas.

  3. Steve Thomas said on 21 Nov 2011 at 1:00 pm:
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    I read the patch article. Councilman Harrover’s comments hardly constitute an endorsement of Dr. Pope. My reading, and understanding of the history surrounding Education Forward, is for the longest time the schools have been this sort of “blackout” portion of the city government. All the public focus has been on the City Council, and how they budget and spend the 43% of the taxes that come in. The problem is for years the schoolboard hasn’t been held to account for the 57% of the tax money that comes in as a result of the revenue sharing agreement. It wasn’t until kids started committing suicide, teachers got caught in relationships with students, students started getting assaulted by MS-13 gang members, and the most telling, the schools started flunking accreditation, that a little sunshine finally hit the dark hole that is our school system. Dr. Pope, I think, is terminal, and is most likely being given enough rope to hang herself. This “list” is, to my knowledge, her first go at plan. Of course they involve spending money. The first excuse of any failed public sector manager is: “we need more resources”. Prior to this “Education Forward” initiative, the City Council had very little involvement in how the schools spent the lionshare of the City budget. Now we know. But we will see the school-boosters leaping to the defense of the schools. I see a showdown on the horizon between the Council and the School Board, one that is long overdue. In order for this to happen, the council must have Fait Accompli, ie. Pope’s school system again fails accreditation. There is no way she can turn this around in a year, and no way she will get any additional revenues to throw at the problem. She, and the school board will have to do it within the budget they already have. She’d have more chance turning around the Redskins season.

  4. G Man said on 21 Nov 2011 at 1:06 pm:
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    According to the just released report from the Washington Area Boards of Education (WABE) MCPS already has the HIGHEST teacher salaries and cost per pupil compared to PWC and Manassas Park.

    And 58.5% of every City tax dollar is already going to the city public schools, and the solution is to throw even more money down the drain on crap that looks like it is out of an NEA Christmas Wish List?

    We paid $200K for this Education Backward “program” and this is what we get Andy???????

    This is what you City Councilmen want to proudly hail in your re-election bid as the solution to schools loosing their accredation, poor SOL scores, and generally not meeting goals?

    Sounds like we need a change both in the council and the school supervisor to me.

  5. Robert L. Duecaster said on 21 Nov 2011 at 2:17 pm:
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    I disagree with you, Steve buddy, when you say,” There is no way she can turn this around in a year.” There is one fairly simple measure the school system could adopt (that should already be in place) that will result almost instantaneously in improving the SOL scores and average IQ of the pupils in attendance in Manassas City Schools.

    That step is compliance with a law that’s been on the books for years. It requires presentation of a birth certificate upon enrollment. If no birth certificate is provided, the student is still enrolled, and the matter is supposed to be referred to the Chief of Police.

    The law is:

    Virginia Code Section 22.1-3.1. Birth certificates required upon admission; required notice to the local law-enforcement agency.
    A. Except as otherwise provided in this subsection, no pupil shall be admitted for the first time to any public school in any school division in this Commonwealth unless the person enrolling the pupil shall present, upon admission, a certified copy of the pupil’s birth record. The principal or his designee shall record the official state birth number from the pupil’s birth record into the pupil’s permanent school record and may retain a copy in the pupil’s permanent school record. If a certified copy of the pupil’s birth record cannot be obtained, the person so enrolling the pupil shall submit an affidavit setting forth the pupil’s age and explaining the inability to present a certified copy of the birth record. If the school division cannot ascertain a child’s age because of the lack of a birth certificate, the child shall nonetheless be admitted into the public schools if the division superintendent determines that the person submitting the affidavit presents information sufficient to estimate with reasonable certainty the age of such child.

    B. Upon the failure of any person enrolling a pupil to present a certified copy of the pupil’s birth record, the principal of the school in which the pupil is being enrolled or his designee shall immediately notify the local law-enforcement agency. The notice to the local law-enforcement agency shall include copies of the submitted proof of the pupil’s identity and age and the affidavit explaining the inability to produce a certified copy of the birth record.

  6. Anonymous said on 21 Nov 2011 at 3:02 pm:
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    The School Board just signed a new three year contract with Pope. Has the Council asked why since our schools are failing?

    I read Councilman Harrover’s blog once in a while and I found it interesting that since Manassas Park schools are doing good and Pope came from there, that means great things for the City schools.

    I would have to say that it apparently wasn’t Pope that turned the Park around; she just took credit for it.

  7. Steve Thomas said on 21 Nov 2011 at 3:09 pm:
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    The governance of the City of Manassas Public Schools is the purview of the elected school board. These are the elected officials who should be held to account for the poor condition of the schools, and any policy which has an adverse impact on the performance of the schools. As previously stated, the citizenry has been reluctant to hold the schoolboard accountable, choosing instead to bash city council. Now, if the council proposes rasing property taxes, meals taxes, etc. for the purposes of providing more money to the schools, citizens have a right to complain. However, under the current revenue sharing agreement, the school board gets the lion share of each tax dollar, to spend as they see fit. Were they an appointed board, beholden to the City Manager or City Council, there’d be something to squawk about. But they are not. They are elected. They have the benefit of not having to raise revenue. They only spend it. There are a number of options to be looked at, each with consequences. The revenue sharing agreement could be abrogated, and the school board required to submit a line-item budget to the City Council each cycle. Another would be to do away with the agreement, and grant the school board taxation authority. I favor the former, as the latter would be a train-wreck, much like our schools. All that stuff about magnet schools proposed by Pope should be a non-starter too. If you look at the neighborhood elementary schools, some are pretty good, and some, not so much. The problems begin when the students hit middle school, as the elementary schools all feed into one school, which passes them up to the next school, and finally, to Osbourn HS. What she proposes would make all the elementary schools worse, and does nothing to correct the problems at the middle school and HS.

    Rob, I agree: a birth certificate should be required, along with an immunization record, prior to enrollment.

  8. Anonymous said on 21 Nov 2011 at 5:05 pm:
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    The county wants you Manassas so keep spending and you will be ours we almost have Manassas Park with their highest tax rate in Virginia because of all the spending

  9. Maureen said on 21 Nov 2011 at 6:46 pm:
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    I believe the school board should have to break out where they are spending our tax money regardless of how they receive it.

    I do hope the city council does take a look at the revenue sharing agreement with the schools.

  10. R said on 21 Nov 2011 at 7:04 pm:
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    I attended the public Saturday morning meeting where Pope came out with her various proposals, including a proposal for smaller classes. None of her proposals were endorsed by anyone present including Harrover or Way. No one suggested that no other proposals be submitted or considered. A clear mandate given to Pope at the meeting was to have her proposals costed out, which is exactly what responsible conservatives should demand. We may not/do not agree with Pope on many things including some of her proposals, but a few were useful as a starting place, especially smaller classes. I was surprised that more people didn’t attend. Perhaps a few of the people blogging here did attend but I’m not sure. Given the critical issues discussed I was especially surprised that not all council members attended.

  11. Stan said on 21 Nov 2011 at 8:06 pm:
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    Pope: “Let’s give all the elementary kids iPads!”

    Council: “Well, let’s see if we can afford to do that!”

    Holy crap. Why not cost out giving every crumb cruncher an iPhone as well, since if one piece of useless (in this context) technology is good, twice as much has got to be better. Sorta like the idea that we’re going to simultaneously enroll failing high schoolers in a community college. Perhaps we ought to enroll them in Law School at the same time.

    It would probably be cheaper.

    Utterly brain dead, stupid beyond compare. When someone presents an utterly idiotic idea, THE LAST THING YOU DO IS ENCOUAGE THEM. We keep encouraging Pope by costing out her ridiculous flailings for a solution, and the next thing we’re going to hear is turning the whole system into Spanish-language instruction in order to help the LEP kids perform relatively better.

    The inmates have taken over the asylum.

  12. Maureen said on 22 Nov 2011 at 5:32 am:
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    I asked a simple question on Andy’s blog about how the Education Forward committee was going to seek citizens input and got jumped on. To me it is a legitimate question. The people on this and the other blogs are usually already involved in what’s going on, but what about the average citizen that may have ideas or suggestions that don’t know about the Education Forward committee?

    I suggested that they put a survey to solicit ideas in the utility bill. No answer on that.

    @R with all due respect not everyone who is concerned about the schools is free to spend 8 hours on a Saturday in a meeting, especially if they cannot participate.

    I do have to say that at least at Osbourn they got a new principle. I don’t know how well that is working out though. Any parents with students there care to way in in?

  13. R said on 22 Nov 2011 at 7:41 am:
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    Good morning, Maureen-

    I have a junior there. So far I’m hearing good things about the new principle but only time will tell. One person can make a difference but there are limits to that.

    As to the Saturday meeting, the date and time seemed to evidence an urgency felt by the council and school board which I and others want them to feel (and I trust that you do too). You are right, not everyone is available to attend on a Saturday, but for that matter nor is everyone available to attend on a weekday evening. So it can appear you are reaching for things to disagree with and I hope that is not the case. But of all things to jump on why that?

    Re your question about putting a survey in utility bills, this would seem to involve two committees, the education committee and the utility committee. Maybe your request is therefore best directed to the chairs of those committees (I believe — could be incorrect — that’s respectively MW and MA, not AH).


  14. Anonymous said on 22 Nov 2011 at 10:34 am:
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    @ Maureen

    They only want your thoughts if you are agreeing with them or sucking up to them, otherwise do not bother they ignore you

  15. calm down said on 22 Nov 2011 at 11:32 am:
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    Dr.Pope was charged to bring items to the table without worrying about cost. She was doing what the council side of the committee wanted her to do. You all should get your facts before you bash her. Her previous proposals were shot down for
    not being ambitious enough. Wolf and Harrover demanded mote and she brought it forward. This blog is full of misinformation. And Greg you spell it Osbourn, no e in it.

  16. Greg L said on 22 Nov 2011 at 11:40 am:
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    So why is everything Pope suggesting little more than a throw more money at the problem kind of “solution” that is devoid of any attempt to improve accountability or engage in any level of structural reform?

    Why is the City Council directing Pope to provide “ideas” to them, when they have no authority to approve the implementation of those ideas?

    Why is the city wasting time trying to cost out ridiculous ideas like handing out iPads that could never seriously be undertaken?

    Why, with three consecutive years of failure to meet AYP, are the schools and City Council flailing around like this?

  17. Doug Brown said on 22 Nov 2011 at 12:07 pm:
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    Problem with Dr Pope’s Ed Forward proposals - they were more targeted at the listeners than the problems in the schools. The boards wanted solutions ASAP so Dr.Pope gave them ASAP solutions. My totally unsolicited advice to Dr. Pope is fix the learning environments in the classrooms. The failure to directly address disciplinary problems and to effectively manage ridiculous educational mandates and guidelines from outside the system are two of the most obvious problems that need attention, there are others but hold my tongue until called upon.

  18. Doug Brown said on 22 Nov 2011 at 12:12 pm:
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    Yes, more theater than governance.

  19. Robert L. Duecaster said on 22 Nov 2011 at 1:52 pm:
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    Somebody should ask her what she does if there’s no birth certificate for the kid upon enrollment, and how often that situation comes up.

  20. Jack Slimp said on 22 Nov 2011 at 3:06 pm:
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    Foundational Principles

    1. Moral Values — A foundation of moral values is needed in order to understand right and wrong and authority.

    2. Discipline — A clear policy of discipline, based upon moral values, is necessary to invoke order and stability.

    3. Character — The development of character, based on moral values and discipline, engenders the proper attitude for learning and for living a noble life. E.g., self improvement to serve fellow man and glorify God.

    4. Purpose — With the proper moral values, discipline, and attitude, worthy goals and objectives are understood and established. E.g., Engineer, mechanic, secretary, teacher, scientist, lawyer, accountant, home maker.

    5. Subject Content — The subjects taught will meet the goals and objectives, so they will be meaningful to the students. E.g., Math, shop, typing, history, science, government, business, language, home economics.

    6. Teaching Methodology — The approach must be directive, where the student is taught the right/correct/best solutions; it must not be non-directive, where the student is guided to develop his own solutions or opinions.

    7. Accountability — The School System performs a service for parents and the community, and it must be accountable for the results it achieves with the resources provided. The students are expected to learn as taught and directed, and are accountable for their efforts and diligence.

    a. Students — accountable to parents and teachers.
    b. Teachers — accountable to parents, administration, and school board.
    c. Administration — accountable to parents and school board.
    d. School Board — accountable to parents and city council (or county supervisors).
    e. City Council (or County Supervisors) — accountable to parents and citizens.
    f. Citizens — accountable to God.
    Note: This nation is a Republic, and the state is accountable to the citizens, not vice versa.

    SO TODAY’S PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM HAS A HANDICAP BY KICKING GOD OUT OF EDUCATION. The seven steps above are grounded on a moral foundation, which was fairly well defined 50 years ago. But now the question is “Whose morality?” since God and Christianity are out of the picture. And without a sound moral foundation, it becomes difficult to enforce discipline since the execution of discipline today is based on the infusion of a vacuous relativistic morality.

  21. Maureen said on 22 Nov 2011 at 7:44 pm:
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    @R You missed my whole point. It isn’t about not attending meetings it’s about having the citizens of Manassas participate in the process.
     I want to know why the average citizen isn’t being cultivated for ideas. The council can ask that the survey be put in the utility bills; or they can put it in the town hall newsletter, they do it all of the time.
    Is the Education Forward asking for input from the students, the teachers? I don’t think they are. If they aren’t why not?
    When was the last time Dr. Pope sat in a classroom? Spent the whole day at each of the schools to see what is happening?
    I was a substitute at Metz for a year and then a sub at Osbourn for three. I saw what happened (or didn’t) every day.  I will tell you that discipline is one of the biggest problems and it isn’t (or wasn’t) being addressed.
    That is my other point, there are people that work every day IN the schools and know what is going on better than anyone, and I’m not sure that the school board or the council is tapping into that.

  22. R said on 22 Nov 2011 at 9:17 pm:
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    Maureen, I would likewise like to know what teachersthink. Teachers I informally speak with quite often invariably tell me that smaller class size is a key. I would also prefer an increased emphasis on discipline. I do not oppose additional input. As far as I know, anyone who wishes to can write or email the school board and the council to provide input. Or they can blog. It’s not like our local politicos don’t read this and other blogs. We all know they do, or at least most do. I kind of feel that anybody who thinks they need a formal invitation to give their views is probably so out of touch that they don’t have views worth sharing. Nobody is keeping anyone quiet. Anyone who cannot figure out how to voice their views these days is living in a cave.

    I don’t doubt that you saw a lot as a sub, and you should be thanked for devoting your time as a sub (for just a few bucks more than minimum wage I might add). Insofar as you have this experince and know many teachers, what recommendations do you have for the schools? Based on your experience, are smaller classes and better discipline a solid starting point? I would think so. What is your view?

  23. Anonymous said on 23 Nov 2011 at 7:39 am:
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    Quit wasting money on future broom pushers! If the kids want to fail, let them!

    Wait untill the city schools hit 30% minority! Real estate crash with white flight!

    It is only a matter of time before Hastings drive turns into Liberia!

  24. Anonymous said on 23 Nov 2011 at 7:44 am:
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    Is not this how the state will become with that great republican leadership the city of manassas has shown?

    They got condomes kicked out of school so what are you guys complaining about?

  25. Q said on 23 Nov 2011 at 9:10 am:
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    I think you have MW and MA mixed up with AH? Also isn’t SB on that commitee? I think M above is really yet another MW but not the MW mentioned by me before, what do you think?

  26. JOE said on 23 Nov 2011 at 11:34 am:
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    It seems to me that Manassas schools have a disproportionate amount of child molesters in their school system. Can anyone explain the hiring practices for the school system?

  27. working together even when it's not fun said on 23 Nov 2011 at 11:39 am:
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    Q- I believe Wolf is technically the top council person on the educaltion committee, and Aveni is the top council person on the utility committee. The utilities are answerable to the council. Thus it seems to me that coordination with council re Maureen’s request (re including school info in utility bills) would best be directed to Wolf and Aveni, or to the entire council. If that’s not right just let me know. It is hard to follow sometimes.

  28. City Voter said on 23 Nov 2011 at 7:44 pm:
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    What are folks hearing about candidates for School Board and City Council? Someone said Doug Waldron was so disgusted he was thinking of throwing his hat in? Any truth to that?

  29. Imisscuba said on 26 Nov 2011 at 1:04 pm:
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    Check out the Harrover Blog as it looks like Andy is getting a bit sensitive about being called out for his heavy spending ways and has taken that bold step of banning all who dare disagree with his highness except that his suck ups whose names all seem to begin with an R can still post away and say nasty stuff about the local Tea Party and Jackson Miller and Mark Aveni and Jerry Carmen so I would be proud to be banned from that RINO echo chamber site.

  30. anonymous said on 26 Nov 2011 at 1:39 pm:
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    Public hissy fits by politicians are always so amusing . . .

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