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PWC Voters Guide: School Board

By Greg L | 31 October 2015 | Schools, Prince William County | 9 Comments

With so many races on the ballot it might be a little hard to keep track of the candidates for School Board in Prince William County, but given how the Board is in charge of a budget greater than what the Board of County Supervisors spend, it’s arguably among the more import votes you can cast on November 3rd.  If you’re looking for something beyond sheer blind partisanship when considering which candidates you’re going to vote for, read on.

School Board Chairman: Here’s one race where paying attention to what the candidates have actually done gives you all you need to know about who you can trust to control this billion dollar budget and make sure it delivers value for the taxpayers and students it’s supposed to help.

Ryan Sawyers has no business in this race after the desperate shenanigans he pulled trying to establish a youth baseball league that would potentially generate a few million dollars he could tap into for his own personal gain.  Since these leagues depend on getting field assignments for their viability, stealing the roster of another league was his nice little hat trick to get county fields assigned to the league he could personally profit from instead of the league those kids actually played in.  Youth sports is big money, on the order of about $3 million a year in player fees, sponsorships and other league financial assistance and having the power to direct that amount of business can result in huge personal payoffs.  This guy wreaked havoc on sports leagues that were actually serving kids really well, caused a ton of litigation that embroiled a lot of volunteers in expensive litigation, and basically tried to bully a lot of good people trying to get them to submit to his ego and personal financial needs.  This guy doesn’t belong on the school board, he belongs in jail, and anyone voting for this reprobate needs a thorough mental evaluation.

Tim Singstock is a nice guy who I’ve known for a while, but I have no idea what he’s trying to do here.  He’s never shown any interest in what the schools have been doing before and suddenly launches a campaign for Chairman, no less.  Initially, the only thing he could say about his candidacy was that it was important for Republicans to retain the chairmanship.  Why?  Because party, apparently.  Never mind that under “Republican” Milt Johns the schools have become ridiculously overcrowded, we’re trying to address that by building the most outrageously expensive school buildings in the Commonwealth, and we raising the pay and benefits of a superintendent whose performance is seriously questionable to astronomical levels.  Lately we’re seeing more policy ideas from him and they’re not bad, but I question whether these are just campaign gimmicks rather than seriously-held principles.  I suspect that if Singstock is elected we’d get pretty much the same performance from him as we got from Milt Johns, which would be a disaster for the county.

Tracy Conroy, on the other hand is someone who has actually been involved in school policy discussions since at least the revolt by parents over the Math Investigations fiasco.  I may not agree with Conroy on every issue position she has, but it’s clear to me that she’s knowledgeable about how the schools work, competent in terms of reasonable policies that could be implemented to improve them, and seriously committed to being something other than a rubber stamp for what Superintendent Stephen Walts wants to do, which is about the best outcome we could reasonably ever hope for from the other two candidates here.  The school board needs actual leadership instead of slavish devotion to whatever the staff tells them.  If there’s to be any hope that Gill Trenum and Alyson Satterwhite might succeed in their efforts to reform and improve the executive management of the school system they’re going to need someone ready to fight for parents, taxpayers and students and Conroy is the best chance for that to happen.

Occoquan:  Here’s a contested race that can make a real difference, and I hope Occoquan residents seize this unique opportunity.

Lillie Jessie is the incumbent, an utter embarrassment of incompetence, racial grievance and “Black Lives Matter” foolishness.  Watching her during meetings might be entertaining at times, but only insofar as one can’t possibly imagine such an absolute trainwreck ever being given a position of public trust.  She has demonstrated that she was unaware of classroom overcrowding, that stuffing kids into classroom trailers is a problem, or that relying on proffers in exchange for even more development (and even more pressure on classroom sizes) is an issue.  She sure is an expert at spending more money though, especially if it doesn’t actually do anything to improve student outcomes, and in particular when it is only spent in her district instead of anywhere else.  Getting rid of this tragedy should be a significant priority for everyone in the county.

Karen Boyd is running to unseat her, but it’s kinda hard to distinguish her policies from Jessie’s, other than Boyd not being obviously insane.  Boyd is pretty much a mouthpiece for the PWEA teacher’s lobby and they certainly have an outsized influence on school board decisions already.  A vote for Boyd is simply a vote to reduce taxpayer’s and parent’s voices on the school board, and it’s not as if they have much of a voice at present.

Fortunately John Gray is also running here, and despite our alternating love/hate relationship with someone who is always switching parties and running in elections where he doesn’t have the credentials to compete, in this spot he is very, very well qualified, and it might serve well to have someone who isn’t likely to become a slave to party loyalty but who is highly focused on financial performance, budgeting and planning on the board.  Gray, while serving on citizen budget committees has done yeoman’s work finding waste and poor prioritization at the county level and demonstrated exactly the kind of competencies that are so desperately needed within this troubled organization.  I’m sure I’ll butt heads with him from time to time if he is elected, but I will never doubt his competence, his sincerity, or his devotion to getting the best out of the schools.  We desperately need the skill set John brings to the board and electing him would be a game-changer.  Anyone who Supervisor Maureen Caddigan calls “despicable” is definitely worthy of anyone’s consideration for elected office.

Coles: here’s an opportunity to make best use of the retirement of the lovable, if somewhat pliable and ineffective Michael Otaigbe, and the result here could have some very long-term benefits.

Reggie Henderson is the typical lefty who solves every problem by demanding more taxpayer dollars to throw at the problem, and as we’ve seen .  If elected he’ll most certainly become a mindless drone operated remotely by the superintendent who might allow him to observe, from time to time, the mason jar containing his preserved manhood that Dr. Walts will keep in a place of special reverence within his office.  There’s simply no reason why he should occupy a seat on the school board.  At all.

Willie Deutch would make a tremendous difference on the school board, however.  Deutch has been always been a tremendous policy guy and his systemic approach to planning, programming and budgeting would be an invaluable addition to the board as well as giving Trenum and Satterwhite a crucial supporter for their reform efforts.  It’s hard to understand why some many of these commonsense ideas has has haven’t been implemented long ago, such as making sure that the “critical unmet needs” identified by the schools aren’t the starting point for budgeting decisions and resource allocations instead of just dreaming up a few “wouldn’t it be nice if” items that suddenly seem to appear whenever some magically unanticipated pot of money appears.  He’ll be ready to not only ask some tough questions of the school staff, but will be prepared to offer the same kind of ingenious alternatives that are getting Gill Trenum such well-deserved attention lately.

Bill Reeder entered this race at the behest of, and with the support of Supervisor Marty Nohe who couldn’t countenance the idea of a budget hawk like Deutch possibly gaining traction in the Coles District, especially after Deutch supported Nohe’s opponent in the primary this year.  Reeder is the kind of educrat that likes to cozy up to school staff and ignore the opinions and concerns of parents and taxpayers, just like his mentor Nohe is fond of ignoring constituents so he can spend taxpayer money on highly dubious things like his own re-election.   If you think it’s in any way useful for School Board members incessantly whining to the Board of Supervisors that they’re not getting enough money while they spend the money they have on swimming pools instead of reducing class sizes, you’ll love Reeder, because that’s about the only policy position from him you can trust to be honestly held and not vacuous, empty, election rhetoric.

Neabsco: with the retirement of the excellent Lisa Bell, the quality of representation from this district is in deep peril.

Diane Raulston is an unqualified leftist with a history of dubious behavior who is about as far removed from Lisa Bell as it is possible to get.  Unfortunately, in this district when your name appears on a Democrat sample ballot you’re starting in the pole position.  She’s campaigned for this spot in the past and demonstrated shocking incompetence and bad judgment and there’s no reason to believe she’d perform any better as an elected official than she has as a candidate.

Joesph George seems to be a better pick here, someone who appears to be competent at least.  There’s just about no way he’d be as awful as Raulston even if there’s no clear evidence he’d be as good as Lisa Bell was for this district.  I hope he wins and that he’ll outperform as an elected official, as Neabsco really needs solid leadership in order to meet the challenges this district faces.

Potomac: The long-term incumbent Betty Covington is up for re-election against Justin Wilk, who would seem to have a conflict of interest in serving on the board as his company seeks to do business with Prince William County Schools.  Covington isn’t exactly a force for reform-based improvements on the board, but she isn’t the kind of mouthpiece for the education business racket that Wilk, a former county teacher, might turn out to be.  Whichever way this one turns, it probably won’t make much of a difference despite what Covington’s long-time supporters might say.  Covington was intellectually captured by the school staff long ago and hasn’t been on the right side of a narrowly decided vote in quite some time.  Wilk would only be different in the amount of annoyance that would come along with the votes.

Gainesville: Alyson Satterwhite is unopposed.  That’s a good thing.

Brentsville: Gill Trenum is unopposed.  That’s an even better thing.

Woodbridge: Loree Williams is unopposed.  That’s a waste, as Williams has been awful, but getting someone to beat an endorsed Democrat in this district is a pretty difficult challenge.  I’d recommend writing-in Jeff Frederick.

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  1. Patty said on 31 Oct 2015 at 4:33 pm:
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    I like Alyson Satterwhite and Gil Trenum. Several weeks ago I went to an open house of sorts for Singstock. I saw Milt Johns there. Just seeing Johns there was a bit unsettling for me. If I hear one more thing about pools in schools I think I’ll throw up. Thanks for the post. I will consider Conroy.

  2. Keret said on 1 Nov 2015 at 3:35 pm:
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    Excellent analyses … you are right on target……and make an important contribution to the election process…..

  3. Anonymous said on 1 Nov 2015 at 4:30 pm:
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    Don’t be frightened friend they are just words.

  4. James Young said on 1 Nov 2015 at 5:11 pm:
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    Jeff doesn’t live in Woodbridge. He lives in the Potomac District, in Montclair.

  5. Greg L said on 1 Nov 2015 at 11:00 pm:
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    Does it matter?

  6. Anonymous said on 2 Nov 2015 at 10:11 pm:
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    If you want to write someone in for Woodbridge, I would recommend writing-in the late editor of Virginia Virtucon, Terrence Boulden, as a tribute to the man and his commitment to making things better in the community he loved.

  7. Anonymous said on 3 Nov 2015 at 10:21 pm:
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    PWC Republican Party really screwed up with Singstock instead of Conroy. Sawyers is going to win by the split of Repubs that voted for Conroy.

  8. Greg L said on 3 Nov 2015 at 11:23 pm:
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    Singstock went in and grabbed the committee well before anyone else thought of doing so. That was smart on his part, but the committee might have thought for a second or two whether this actually might have been the best candidate.

    On the other hand, Conroy didn’t even try to get the PWCGOP endorsement and when Conroy put the National Organization For Women logo and link on her website (something I missed until after I wrote this piece) that created a HUGE problem that probably would have precluded a Republican endorsement. NOW is a huge abortion advocate, and had there been a discussion about that at any time during the campaign it would have ripped all the conservative support away from her. There’s a lot of people out there that think anyone advertising for an abortion advocating organization while running for school board is disqualified in their minds. I’d be more than open to an argument like that.

  9. Anonymous said on 3 Nov 2015 at 11:42 pm:
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    The child support stuff and being a bud with Johns and Walts sunk the dude. Ryan won by default. The Republican party in PWC needs to get rid of some people and take the clown Marty with them. I am more conservative than most but Repub leaders in this County suck.

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