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Are We Embarrassed Yet?

By Greg L | 23 February 2014 | Schools, Manassas City, Prince William County | 29 Comments

 This year’s VEX Robotics state championship at both the High School and Middle School division levels were dominated by a small private school in Manassas.  Not some deep-pocketed private school that educates children in state-of-the-art, LEED certified, renewable energy-powered, technology laden campuses delivering a Pearson Education curriculum, but a pretty spartan school that still uses chalkboards and Number Two Pencils for everything, and spends far less per pupil than every jurisdiction in the area.

How in the heck is that possible?

2014 Virginia State VEX Robotics Champions - High School Division - Seton School

We’ve been told for so long in Prince William County (and Manassas City as well) that there’s a nearly one-to-one correspondence between how much we spend per pupil and what sort of education outcomes we can expect.  In order to deliver a “world class education” the kids need electronic billboards in front of their fabulous LEED-certified architectural marvels, outfitted with iPads, smartboards, computers running iStation, a curriculum sold by Pearson Education, a whole building full of enormously costly administrators and the whole thing run by an outrageously overpaid administrator whose principal qualification appears to be that he somehow evaded criminal prosecution for what he subjected his previous employers to.  We must have exactly a very precise number of minutes of instruction during a highly defined quantity of instructional days per year, each educator and administrative worker must participate in a specific number of continuing educational courses, and even every school board member who oversees the whole thing must maintain their razor-sharp edge by participating in a certain number of conferences each and every year.

And it all costs an absolutely stunning amount of money, and by God, we need to spend a lot more.  Or else our kids are just going to fail, and all end up sleeping under some bridge in an environmentally-friendly cardboard box that previously contained a refrigerator.

But some little, underfunded school, that operates in some facilities that are older than what surrounding jurisdictions consider well beyond the mandated age of demolition and replacement, that is still using chalkboards for goodness sake, they own the competitions our children participate in.  How is that possible?  Might it just be that the difference in the priorities they consider valuable might possibly deliver superior results?

A robotics competition offers one opportunity to evaluate some of those differences.  Guess how many other teams at the state robotics competition were wearing suits instead of what resembled, in quite a few cases, Halloween costumes?  How many were dressed like, and actually behaved like serious engineers?

If you guessed none, you’d be right.  These kids showed up like professionals.  Their demeanor.  Their dress.  Their approach to a challenge.  Their approach to everything was a unified demonstration of what a professional attitude, careful preparation, and dedication to excellence looks and feels like.  They were sober, focused, hard-working and serious.

The second-place team in the Middle School Division at the Virginia VEX Robotics Championship 

Maybe if we weren’t so hell-bent focused on measuring the success of our school system based on how much money we spend educating kids, and instead focused on how we can do a good job actually educating them, other local jurisdictions like Prince William County and Manassas City could manage to perform up to the level of what Seton is doing.  They’re clearly doing something remarkably different to the point it is immediately apparent just by simple observation.

They even pray to God in that school.  And yet they succeed.

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  1. Anthony Hollars said on 23 Feb 2014 at 7:49 pm:
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    This is the perfect example of everything that is wrong with the public school system. Money for sophisticated technology often requires the trade off of mastering the basics and learning how to apply them to real world scenarios. Homeschooling families know this all too well, and teachers don’t like it when parents prove that it doesn’t take a college degree to educate you own children to be competitive. Part of the funding argument rests on making parents believe that only professional teachers are capable of educating. This school is proof that everything we have been told by teachers and administrators is false.

  2. Proud of our Robotics Teams said on 23 Feb 2014 at 8:07 pm:
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    Hello Sir, While I will not dispute the fact that we should spend more time educating our kids instead of worrying about societal issues, your facts regarding the outcome of Saturday do need to be addressed. First, the Excellence Award is the highest award given at a VEX tournament. It is given to the best overall team in the division. In both HS and MS, that award went to a PWCS team (Woodbridge HS and Bull Run MS). PWCS had more teams qualify for the World Tournament than any other locale/organization in the state. 4 teams from Woodbridge, 3 from Bull Run, and 1 from Triangle ES. I have no doubt that these teams will represent our county and state with class, dignity, and honor.

    I have a request: From my perspective as one who is actively involved with the robotics program in our county, instead of criticizing perceived results, be an advocate for us. Help raise awareness to our district and community of how important robotics and STEM education is for the future of our country. Help business leaders see how investing in this platform will transform our schools and the kids which participate? As a coach, yes I am interested in results and want my teams to be the best (that’s my competitive nature). However I care more about the person(s) they will become long after they leave my team. I care that they will be responsible, hard working, caring husbands, fathers, wives, and mothers. I care that they find a career and succeed and do the best they can with what they have even if it doesnt turn out to be STEM related. I care that they are actively involved in their community and in changing the world. I even joke with some that I hope I am teaching them well because if they design a bridge that I cross someday, it better hold or else I failed them somehow!

    I saw a few former students this weekend competing with their high school teams. It’s always an honor to see them and visit even for a few minutes. Do you think they came up and reminded me of a score of a tournament years ago? No. Our conversations centered around a moral story or event that took place in a meeting or tournament years ago and how a lesson learned there (robotics or non robotics related) helped them be a better person.

    You can’t assign a trophy to that.

  3. Carlos Castro said on 23 Feb 2014 at 8:37 pm:
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    I am very happy to see Seton achieve so much success in such a short time. Mr. Hoffman and his students worked hard to get to the championship round and win….AGAINST MY TEAMS. You know, the rabble in Viking horns, wearing t-shirts they designed themselves? Though we should get credit for fundraising to pay for professional printing. We are sorry that we didn’t impress you sufficiently, but guess what? My students are studying to be engineers too. They work just as hard as Seton on their designs. For their efforts, one of my rabble teams, 1575D, won the Virginia State Championship Excellence Award. This is award validates that their designs, methodology, outreach, performance, presentations outclassed any team that qualified and competed in the state tournament. In the future, could you possibly build up and uplift students without having to degenerate others. All the best to Seton for their victory. The alliance partners that picked them, 177Z and 177X The Twisted Bots, an excellently managed home school team from Gloucester, found the needed talent to complete their alliance in them. Now we will all go on and to the VEX Robotics World Championship in California. There, we’ll all be competing against the best teams from the US and the world. I’ll be more than happy to come back and let you know how things turn out.

    Carlos Castro
    Coach - VEX Robotics Teams 1575B, 1575C, 1575D, 1575E, 1575W
    Woodbridge Senior High School

    Before you get upset, my 37 student members fund raise for everything
    And for the record,
    I only have 1 Smartboard,
    No Ipads
    32 computers of which half of them are Vista ready (yes Vista)
    LEED? My classroom is 30+ years old and has the furniture to prove it.
    And only 31 students this year, I’m getting a break over my fellow teachers.
    Hey, what’s Seton’s average class size?

  4. Josh said on 23 Feb 2014 at 8:43 pm:
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    First, my congratulations to Seton on a successful day.

    Seton started competing in VEX because of what started in PWCS. PWCS welcomed the Seton coach to training sessions and helped them get started in VEX. PWCS owns the equipment to host competitions (including seeing up the high school division of the state champ ship) that Seton attends. I believe a more appropriate conclusion to draw is that PWCS should be commended for providing a world class education to their students while providing a service to the surrounding home schoolers and private schools in the local community and Commonwealth.

  5. Humbility said on 23 Feb 2014 at 8:46 pm:
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    Shameful. Truly shameful behavior on apart of the author. Let’s see what’s wrong here….

    First of all, this is just sad how much misinformation is present here. Do you really think the public schools get funding for this? With a growing national deficit and decreasing budgets, extra curricular activities have been cut as well as bus services. Anything that our school needs is acquired by fundraising, high schoolers going out into the community to fund this competition. I have metal on the robot older than most of us. Most everyone that competes is underfunded, and sorry that someone mislead you to believe that public schools have ample funding. Besides, funding is a factor, however Seton seems to have sufficient funding to build a robot of that caliber, and if you really believe that you need to spend a significantly more amount of money that could kick you out of your home, you need to be realistic. The game is about engineering, remember? ;)

    Second, are you really criticizing others for the way they dress? At a high school competition? If you want to dress up and play engineer, that’s fine but don’t look down on others for trying to have a comfortable and fun experience. You guys aren’t actually educated engineers that are expected to dress in this manor, you realize this correct? I sure hope so.

    Third, I would to take a second to acknowledge that you didn’t exactly dominate. You performed well, but 5-3 is admirable at best. You were the carry of the 177s teams, you rode along for the victory.

    Finally, I would like to congratulate you on this pompous shameful behavior which you have displayed, it really shows a lot about your establishment.

    See you in two months, we’ll be ready.

    [Ed note: No, I have no connection whatsoever with Seton. You can attack me all you want, but throwing rocks at the tournament champions probably isn’t what you want to do.]

  6. Greg L said on 23 Feb 2014 at 8:47 pm:
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    I noticed that the Excellence Award has no quantifiable criteria, and is awarded based on the opinions of a panel of judges. Not to take away the accomplishment by those teams who won those - the did perform admirably, but the tournament champion is awarded based entirely on objective criteria - whether they win matches and score points based on objective criteria. To me it’s like the difference in how I perceive the value of Olympic medals when it’s a judged “sport” as opposed to when there’s quantifiable and measured scoring.

    My daughter’s team won the “Innovation Award” for the Middle School division. Their team placed 48th out of 48 teams. She and I laughed on the way home how this could be possible, as if their design was actually “innovative” in some significant way there should have been some objective result. She’s still really happy they won a trophy, but they tend to mean less when they seem so divorced from the actual results.

    Let me end there before I really start on a rant about awards inflation, which is fairly obviously an issue in so many activities involving schools these days.

  7. A proud PWCS Graduate said on 23 Feb 2014 at 8:55 pm:
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    Have you ever judged before? I would recommend judging in a competition and understanding how an Excellence Award winner is decided before just saying it has no quantifiable criteria. Your ranking, match performance, skills scores, all things that can be measured objectively go into consideration.

  8. Josh said on 23 Feb 2014 at 9:09 pm:
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    I purchased extra awards for the event. I thought it would be nice for the teams. Quite a large amount of time, money, and effort went into this event that is staffed by volunteers. I can pick at all of the things that didn’t go as well as we wanted, but maybe being respectful of th volunteers who worked hard to support this event.

    It seems wrong to use the results of the event to praise Seton while also using it to point out what is wrong with everything else.

  9. Robotics Lady said on 23 Feb 2014 at 9:20 pm:
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    Dear sir,
    I run the robotics programs in our area..all 9 types. I know the students from Seton and coaches Hoffman and Jackson, for VEX and SeaPerch. I’m certain that the students and coaches are not aware of critisms of this article. I am very proud of their success and cheered very loudly for them yesterday and held hands with them while they waited for the results of their DQ dispute.

    I would like to start to say that students in suits does not justice “an engineer.” Coming from large tech company in Mnassas, most engineers do not wear a suit at all. At the event this weekend both Seton and Osbourn Park both wore suits. And those in “costumes” are because this is an event for kids..they are not professional engineers yet and this is how they have fun in team spirit. I have photos of your kids in dress and dancing with referees dates Feb 8′ 2014 - if you wish to see these! Smiling, laughing and being kids…all excited about STEM! Isn’t that awesome!?

    If you are not aware, we have a local robotics consortium which includes public, private and home school teams in PW, Massas Park and Manassas City. Seton was asked by me to join two years ago and they have participated yearly in our coaches trainings and meetings. In addition, Seton’s programming language and the Virtual World program that they use for the past two years has been paid for by a grant that I wrote on behalf of the entire robotics consortium.

    Awards including Excellence award is based on a series of criterion. As noted by another this is NOT the judges opinion. If you would like to learn more how this is done, please volunteer to be a judge. Seeing this world from the inside out will certainly bring a new view of what really happens behind the scenes at an event. (To the persons posting from Marsteller whose daughter won the awrd - yes, they were last but the judges saw something cool in their their design. Did it work? No! But what they did is inspire this group of GIRLS to not give up, to continue to do better vs. walking away saying they were 48/48 teams. Isn’t that what we want? To inspire and not crush? It’s not a world champinion spot but I’ll bet this team is just as proud.)

    Although there were lots of awrds given yesterday (more then I give in our regional events) the teams should all have had an awesome day. Lots of people volunteered days of their time to ensure teams, coaches and families had the best possible experience for EVERYONE.

    I am very proud of the successes of all of our teams in the robotics consortium! Seton, Manassas Christian, Holy Family, PWC, Manassas City, Manssas Park, 4h teams, homeschool, ect. They all did their best to make it to states where not everyone was able to achieve this goal.

    I look forward to seeing all the World Tournament teams in California. I will continue to dance, hold hands and cheer for these teams regardless of this authors opinion.

  10. I wore a Suit said on 23 Feb 2014 at 9:49 pm:
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    First of all, good job Seton.
    And Secondly, my team, Team 2068, wore suits to the states competition. We did so to appear professional and have a bit of fun. If you’ve ever attended high school then you should know that many people use it as a time to experiment, to find themselves if you will. This means that they try out many different things before deciding on one. Robotics students are exactly that, high school(and middle and elementary school) students all trying to find their way. The purpose of a robotics competition is to inspire these groups of students to find their passion. As a proud FRC participant, I’d like to point out that our mentors (all engineers with varying degrees) show up to help in no more than jeans and a t shirt.

  11. Jim Koehr said on 23 Feb 2014 at 10:02 pm:
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    I don’t represent Seton, but I am the father of a kid in each of those pictures above. There’s no doubt that I’m very proud of what Seton accomplished, mainly on the personal initiative of our Coach Mark Hoffman, including alot of his personal money, but much of what has been said in defense of the public schools above is not unreasonable.

    I wouldn’t label myself a big fan of public education and I would have to agree with the authors basic point that we measure how much we care about the quality of public education by how many tax dollars we allocate to it. However, I would also say that because of the work of some folks in the public school system, particularly one lady that I do not know (Denyse Carroll the Robotics Lady above maybe?), our kids had an opportunity to excel in competititions that would not have otherwise been available.

    I think this is an excellent example of how the public schools can eliminate the exclusivity they so often seek and reach out to ALL of the kids in the County, including those that believe in a faith component to education. Denyse Carroll openly cheered for everyone from Prince William - public or private. I don’t think she intended for her work to benefit Seton any less than Osbourne Park.

    As a private school parent, I am very grateful for the enthusiasm and inititiave this woman from Prince William County showed to provide the kids at Seton a great opportunity. If your name is Denyse, I would love to thank you more than I did when I crossed your path at the competition. You have done a great service to ALL of the kids of Prince William. Please keep up the great work!

  12. Anonymous said on 23 Feb 2014 at 10:07 pm:
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    No wonder there’s a news blackout about this competition. This is the only article I could find that mentioned it, and all anyone does is whine about the point being made.

    Money is not = education success. Hardly a new idea. Seems a lot of people feel threatened by that.

  13. James Gillespie said on 23 Feb 2014 at 10:10 pm:
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    Greg L.

    Hi my name is James Gillespie and I would like to talk privately with you about this. You may or may not know who I am, but here is a little bit about my background and robotics experience so you have a point of reference.

    I am a 100% product of PWCS education, went to Bennett elementary school (the old one where Pennington is now), next Marsteller middle school (the old one that is owned by that church now, I think), and then from Osbourn Park High School. I got my BS from Bridgewater College in Mathematics and Computer Science. After that I ended up working for Borders (yes the bookstore) for a year before I got a job teaching Math and Comp Sci at Osbourn Park. I also then got my Masters in Secondary Education and teaching license (at GMU) while teaching for the first two years at OP. With all of that, it really surprises most people that I haven’t taken a single engineering course in my life. I spent 10 years teaching at Osbourn Park, and now my first year at The Potomac School in McLean.

    So how about my experience with robotics.

    I started doing robotics since 2006, playing with VEX robots (back when it was FIRST VEX Challenge) doing a small in house competition for “Hangin’-A-Round”. Then continued that school year with the FIRST Robotics Competition game of Rack N Roll. I also have been hosting VEX competitions since the 2008 game Elevation. I also hosted the Mini Urban Challenge 3 years in a row, the FLL Fun day 2 years, and a FLL tournament. I started the County wide ZERO Robotics programming team and ran it for 3 years (any county high school student was welcome). I also started the Country wide FIRST Robotics Competition team SuperNOVA, which also welcomes any county high school student (would include any home school students too if stupid legalities would allow me). I also have been teaching in the summer VEX camps over the past 3? 4? years (years are blurring together). A large portion of the summer camp curriculum for VEX was written by myself and I am continuing to improve it each year. I also have spent countless hours volunteering every where I could go to help at any robotics event I can, including SeaPerch, IROC, and countless VEX tournaments. I also create a facebook group with the sole purpose of spreading information and ideas to help all teams in Northern Virginia. I am always willing to help every single team around me.

    I have always tried to lead my students by my example, never asking them to do something I wouldn’t do, never asking them to put in more hours then I wouldn’t be willing to do. If you look at any of the students I have taught over the years and you can see they are some of the most selflessly giving people there are, and they make me proud every day.

    I made one of the most painful decisions I have ever made last year when I accepted a new position at The Potomac School in McLean. Besides my boss and my wife, the first people to know about this were my robotics kids because they mean the absolute world to me. I am trying to do the exact same things I did in PWCS as I now do in The Potomac School. The kids I get to work with in my new robotics program are amazing kids and I would defend them to the last just like I would for any of my former students. Yea the school may have a lot of money, and its nice to not have to write grants to every single possible company you can begging for money, or spending countless hours fundraising every possible penny. The campus is not some sort of technological haven, and money isn’t thrown around, everything is always examined with the thought of, what really would be best for the students. My room is the only room with a SMART board, and that because I required one for teaching. Having taught with one for the past 6 years, I could not go back to teaching with a white board because I know how much a SMART board really does enhance my teaching abilities when I dedicate the time to fully utilize it. Working at The Potomac School has opened my eyes to new ways to do things, and opportunities to teach my students in ways that are just not easy to do in public schools. I am loving my experience at The Potomac School, but I will always remember my roots.

    I think PWCS is an amazing school system, and while it has its flaws, I would be happy to send my kids to school here, and yes I still live in PWCS.

    So there is my background for a frame of reference.

    I have found what is written in this article to very uninformed about what robotics really is. I would like to talk with you privately so that we discuss what robotics is and what sort of impact it should be having on the students and coaches that are involved.

    Thank you,
    James Gillespie

  14. Jim Koehr said on 23 Feb 2014 at 10:29 pm:
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    One of the comments above mentioned that part of Seton’s success was there alliance with the two 177 teams. That was definitely true.

    But it is probably worth noting that both 177 teams were exclusively homeschooled and supported by parent volunteers.

  15. Sean said on 23 Feb 2014 at 11:40 pm:
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    What a sad article. Good news about kids doing well turned into bashing other Kids and schools. I attended Catholic school from grade 1-12 graduating in 1978. I received a good education (I think). At the time we were told we were superior to our public school neighbors. We had parents who cared enough to pay tuition and send us to a school filled with other kids who had parents who cared about them too.We all believed in God, going to daily mass, were white and spoke English. Our school had 99 percent acceptance to college and our test scores were much higher than our public school neighbors. Our school educated us for far cheaper than our public school did. I received a nice scholarship to attend a large public university. At that university there were many students equal in intellect to myself and many more that far surpassed me. Most all were products of public HS. How could that be?

    Comparing public school numbers to Private school numbers are comparing apples and oranges. Public schools educate everyone. If a child is disruptive in private school they are shown the door. If a child is disruptive in public school many resources are put in place to help that child find success. If a child does not speakEnglish a private school will not have services to help them. Those services cost money. If a child has significant disabilities the private school does not have all the resources needed. They head to public school.

    Because I was educated in the Catholic school system I wanted the same for mine. They started out in Catholic school and because of economic hardship I withdrew them and they began public school in PWC in grades 4, 6, and 7. Public school was a wonderful experience for them. They quickly adjusted and had opportunities that were not available in the Catholic school. They all were awarded scholarships to public colleges and now are all gainfully employed. The biggest advantage for them was learning with kids who came from very different backgrounds. I am thrilled that they had that experience at a younger age than I. Could they have received an equally good education had they stayed in the Catholic school? Probably. Let’s not bash each other nor compare. It helps no one. Congrats kids on a job well done!

  16. Jane Mee said on 24 Feb 2014 at 1:50 am:
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    I have been and will continue to be a cheerleader for: Seton School AND the Prince William County Schools AND home school. I am a resident, past and present volunteer, and past and present parent of PWCS students. I am also an 11 year past and future faculty member and parent of Seton School students and a volunteer there too. We have even home schooled for many years and been in public, private, and Catholic schools in several other states with our five children. They have been graduates of both Seton and PWCS high schools and have awarded “favorite teacher status” to folks in all of these places.
    What I am getting at is this: I am proud to be associated with so very many amazing, dedicated, and inspirational teachers, administrators, volunteers, and parents in ALL of these schools. There is greatness everywhere around this highly educated area. I have taught in the dirt with a stick yet marvel at the qualities of the smart board. I enjoy dressing up yet have learned and taught well in flannel pajamas.
    I admire both our Seton and Osbourn Park high schools and some others around here, and have enjoyed the Forest Park IT program in the past. I am especially grateful to see so many educators work together from all these great schools. I have had resources shared for my Seton art curriculum from an Osbourn Park art teacher without the bat of an eye. We have attended art competitions together for many years with students from all over Virginia. The local counselors and law enforcement folks all share helpful information too.
    Obviously, Prince William has graciously shared their robotics activities with Seton and even kids from other counties who attend Seton. I am sure Mr. Hoffman has shared some tips too. I would hope that Seton might even be able to offer interested public school kids a listen at a Catholic college fair for new vocations, you never know.
    We all have our talents. I’m just happy that we can extend helping hands in the name of educating these aspiring students, any of them, as long as they are interested. Thanks to ALL for giving their time, for striving for excellence, and inspiring no matter what the results or the resources.
    All the best,
    Jane Mee

  17. Anonymous said on 24 Feb 2014 at 2:27 am:
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    Yeah, all of those STUPID public schoolers and their STUPID parents! Why don’t they just run out and find themselves a silver spoon? I don’t understand why parents don’t just privately educate! I mean, doesn’t everyone make six figures a year or more? Come on already, obviously the right wing maniac author supports seton, so you should too, poor people! (The roof over your head matters little stacked up against the quality brain washing your child could receive at seton for nine easy payments of 899.99!) enroll today, or YOUR child could be the next one laughed at by the seton community!!

  18. J Doe said on 24 Feb 2014 at 8:57 am:
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    Obviously you should NOT post to blogs at 2:27 am. . . Huh?

  19. Dan Arnold said on 24 Feb 2014 at 9:02 am:
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    I have had kids in Seton and Manassas city schools and I’m happy our family has had access to both. While we are forever dedicated to Seton, the public schools offer things that Seton can’t. For example, if you have a child with learning disabilities, Seton just can’t afford to provide dedicated special education. Contrary to Anonymous’ assertions, most Seton parents live on a very modest income. Sending their kids there often means they can’t afford to replace old cars or vacations, etc. Seton is not a school for just the wealthy.

    That being said, there are some truly wonderful teachers in Manassas City Schools. They deeply care about their kids and they are forced to work within a sometimes stifling bureaucracy. They also have unique challenges, like a huge population of ESL students, that Seton doesn’t have to deal with. A solid secular education can be attained in our city schools if the student is highly motivated and the parents are deeply involved.

    But I think the point of the article was missed by some. Seton operates on a bare bones budget. Its not like most private Catholic schools. It isn’t funded by the diocese. There is no cafeteria, no wifi, no smart boards, no athletic fields, no replacing the gym floor after 25 years or upgrading 30 year old desks, etc. etc. The teachers make a very modest salary. Much of the money raised every year at the school’s spring fundraiser goes to a poor school in Haiti, not to improvements in Seton’s infrastructure. And yet little Seton still manages to excel. Greg simply raises the question….how is this possible if better test scores require massive investment from the taxpayer? And doesn’t this weaken the argument of the schools when they constantly demand more funds for technology upgrades or fancier toilets? I didn’t see this as an attack on anyone working in the public schools or the kids who attend them. It simply makes the point that big dollars don’t necessarily translate to better grades.

  20. Jim Koehr said on 24 Feb 2014 at 9:33 am:
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    Good point Dan. The presentation by the author was provocative, no doubt, but no one at Seton thinks less of the dedication and talents of the teachers in the public schools, My daughter is a public school teacher. We at Seton have been the beneficiary of their efforts in this case - and we are grateful.

    The real question raised by the author is do you need expensive infrastructure and heavy administrative overhead to prepare kids to be happy and productive citizens.

    From what I could see from even some of the successful public school robotics teams - who benefited from neither - it is certainly worth discussing.

  21. Kristin Gomez said on 24 Feb 2014 at 12:48 pm:
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    I am a former teacher and a current homeschooler and Seton parent. I do not think Greg was intending to diminish the successes of the public school kids in the competition . All should be so , so proud! I am proud of our entire community! These kids, parents, volunteers and teachers work very , very hard! Bravo!!

    I do, however, think he was making a very important point - modest financial input in a school does not mean less stellar success academically ( or otherwise) for that school . ( SO we can also deduce that the success of both the private and public school kids in this competition must be due to something other than money - commitment, hard work, parent involvement, teachers who care, etc…!) Hence, the point : more money spent should not be equated with greater success. Or , put more directly, we should stop obsessing with increasing what we spend on each public school child’s education and focus, instead, on improving the actual education itself - all which can be done, as Seton has proven , with less financial burden on families than is currently called for. A big BTW, what is needed is the EXACT OPPOSITE OF THE HIDEOUS COMMON CORE which is basically more money and less education !! EXACT OPPOSITE OF WHAT IS NEEDED!!But I digress…

    After reading several of the comments of public school families, I must quickly add, however, that as a taxpayer who willingly renders unto Caesar large quantities of our MODEST income AND does not add any of my extra 6 children to the public school system - I think it would be more appropriate to THANK those like me who are giving you our money without increasing your class sizes or making demands on your resources, which we help pay for. One commenter snarked about his 31 students. Well, you would have MUCH larger class sizes if all of the homeschoolers and private school parents suddenly decided to place our children in your schools….AND ALL WITH THE SAME AMOUNT OF TAX FUNDING with which to teach them. Or, as an alternative, alllllll of us taxpayers would be pressed into paying much higher taxes in order to finance this HUGE influx of students that would come your way should we decide we no longer wished to homeschool or pay private school tuition .The fact is ,most of us have to forgo many perks of life in order to homeschool or opt for a God-centered environment ( private is the only way unfortunately) since it always means thousands of dollars each year that many of us do not come by easily. And why do we not have these thousands? Because they are , in fact, going to the public schools to educate YOUR children. When I consider the tens of thousands of dollars I have contributed to the public school system over the years, which has never been burdened with my extra 6 children, I often wish I was offered a little more gratitude over snark.

  22. Potomac Vex said on 24 Feb 2014 at 1:00 pm:
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    We almost made it to worlds but team 46B from Seton beat us. They displayed real team leadership and knew what they were doing. I would not be surprised if they DID turn out to be successful engineers one day. Congrats Seton! :)

  23. Reader said on 24 Feb 2014 at 1:37 pm:
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    Pretty sure the author said he had no connection to this Seton. So he was either a volunteer or the parent of a publically educated student. No need to be nasty!

  24. Oscar McCullough said on 24 Feb 2014 at 1:58 pm:
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    Greg L.

    Hi, I’m Oscar McCullough, a graduate of Prince William County Schools, the school system you appear to criticize so freely. Also, I am a proud robotics alumni from this county, participating in robotics since 2007, my 8th grade year. Let me give you a rundown of my background.

    I moved to Prince William County in December of 2006, the middle of my 7th grade year from Tennessee. I went to Potomac Middle School for both my 7th and 8th grade years, the first two years of that school’s existence. Mind you, that school did have a lot - laptops, smartboards, etc. Did all teachers effectively use it? No. However my teachers no less dedicated to their job and gave me the best education they could, going above and beyond many times. I ensured I learned as much as I could, because this school was my only option, and I loved it.

    My 8th grade year I started robotics at Potomac Middle School. Mind you this was long before robotics reached the point it has in this county, before Mrs. Carroll started it. We were a group of 8 kids, and our coaches just managed to get us one set of parts, then two for our next competition. We were not good rookies by any standard, I know we had nothing more than a square robot with a scoop. Regardless, I had some of the most fun in my life, and learned so much about what I could do, and fell in love with doing robotics. Which prompted me to choose Gar-Field HS as my next school.

    At Gar-Field, robotics was definitely not what you would expect. My first three years of HS our robotics team worked out of a SCIENCE HALLWAY, and our store closet was one we shared with the science department. There was no money just thrown at us, we worked and we had fun. We also won a lot, with one of the best coaches I’ve ever had. In one year, there were seven awards that came to the program, including a state championship for FTC. That’s including three trips to the VEX World Championships, and another state title my senior year. We knew the value of every motor, piece of metal, computer, screw, etc. Money was a premium to us, because nothing was ever handed to us. Ask a lot of robotics coaches here, and you’ll learn that fact. The amount of work coaches do for their teams is incredible, and as a student I gained a lot more appreciation for them after I graduated.

    As a note, I participated in 4 of the 9 programs for robotics in this county, and volunteered in many, many more. Also, I graduated Summa Cum Laude from Gar-Field HS, and was accepted by Carnegie Mellon University, one of the premier school for Computer Science, Engineering, and Robotics in the country. Its robotics program is unrivaled in the world. So that’s where public education enabled me to do.

    I strongly dislike the way you use robotics in this article to make your claims against the public education system here. I believe it’s insulting to Seton who did an amazing job this weekend and all the other schools in the consortium that was previously mentioned. You mention suits like professional engineers, but I have only seen engineers wear suits for interviews. The vast amount I know wear jeans and a polo, or jeans and a t-shirt. The thing is, this is a competition for KIDS. We participate in robotics to have a FUN way to learn STEM principles, and have fun competing and learning more from other teams. The important part of that is the FUN. We all want to win, but what is winning if I’m dreading every second of the journey there? Seton may have their fun in suits; that’s more power to them. I prefer being wild and crazy and making sure I have fun, including dyeing my hair. Professionalism is more than just appearance, I assume someone such as yourself would know that. It’s how you carry yourself and how you interact with others, and I believe robotics teams in this county are so incredibly helpful. I know I’ll do my best to help every team compete and have fun, because that’s what good people do.

    I hope you reconsider using robotics as a critique of PWCS, because robotics here so much more than just a county thing.

    Further note: In the real world, particularly in engineering, not all innovation works. I’m a logic and reason and objective person, but as I said, not all innovation works. That’s the beauty of engineering. Everything is some small innovation, and you repeatedly go back to designing things that don’t work, and trying to maintain or improve the things that do. And the Excellence Award in VEX does have objective criteria, as there are very measurable things judges must identify. So please, learn about what we do, we would love for you to volunteer at some of our events.

    I invite you for a discussion as well, from a younger alumni and current college student perspective.

    Oscar McCullough
    Carnegie Mellon University C/O 2016

  25. Freedom said on 26 Feb 2014 at 11:20 am:
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    Absolutely agree, Kristen Gomez!! Parents who send their children to private schools pay tuition, and at the same time, pay taxes to fund public schools that they do not utilize. I’m wondering what the effect upon public school enrollment would be if parents were provided some financial benefit to offset the taxes they pay to fund public education that they don’t use. I’m also wondering why the teachers’ unions are so strenuously opposed to school vouchers. Perhaps a little competition through “school of choice” would only improve the quality of our public school system.

  26. Patty said on 1 Mar 2014 at 9:37 am:
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    I’m not sure this post will make it but I had to try. God bless you Kristin Gomez! You hit the nail on the head. It’s not easy homeschooling kids. Parents give up a lot but God is faithful. He does provide. It is no accident that homeschooled children outperform their public school counterparts.

  27. Big Stuff said on 1 Mar 2014 at 7:10 pm:
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    Prince William County - Benton Middle School - wins robotics championship and goes to the world championship in Anaheim, CA! Where is our headline BVBL??? Can we celebrate, or is your head still stuck in the sand?

  28. Greg L said on 1 Mar 2014 at 10:39 pm:
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    Benton did a great job at Roboticon today competing against 43 other Prince William County schools and won the “Excellence Award” which gives them a spot at the World Championships. They really did a great job, especially in the final match. The Seton teams have already won their spots at the World Competition and weren’t at Roboticon.

    Several other teams are also advancing to a US Championship in Nebraska later on this year.

  29. Ellen said on 11 Jul 2014 at 9:31 am:
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    What do any of you think about the “emergency” situation of illegal children at the border. I find it amusing that the liberals instructed by our President want us to believe that this situation just happened in the past few months. These kids are entering with a certainty that they will not be deported (and they will be correct in thinking this if that package of 3.75 million is passed and the law on the books from 2008 isn’t amended) so they can be flown or driven to their parents who are here and paying coyotes to bring their kids up to the border. I am not a fool and the democrats are trying to impose immigration amnesty on us all using the back door approach and blaming republicans inability to pass immigration bills.

    My take home pay is going to be less this year than it was last year to help pay for this mess.

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