Home Education Video: Va. Secretary of Education Atif Qarni Holds Town Hall in PW...

Video: Va. Secretary of Education Atif Qarni Holds Town Hall in PW County; Joined by Numerous Elected Officials

Elected officials at the meeting included PW County School Board Chair Babur Lateef, State Sens. Scott Surovell and Jeremy McPike; Dels. Elizabeth Guzman and Lee Carter; several members of the PW County School Board...

1212
7

I attended today’s Education Town Hall at the Prince William County Government Center, with the featured speaker being my friend, Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. Other elected officials in attendance included State Senators Scott Surovell and Jeremy McPike; Delegates Lee Carter and Elizabeth Guzman; Prince William County School Board Chair Babur Lateef; and several members of the Prince William County School Board (Diane Raulston, Lillie Jessie). See below for video, first of Secretary Qarni’s presentation, in which he presents the “30,000-foot view” of what’s happening in Virginia education. According to Secretary Qarni, “Virginia is for Learners”; we are all “lifelong learners.” His focus, as he puts it, is the “P through 20 continuum.” That includes:

1) Early childhood development/early education – “the best way to close the achievement gap is invest in our children early on, so expanding access, especially for our most at-risk students, is really important, it’s really critical”;
2) The K-12 continuum, in which there are two big “bucket items” – a) “a big focus on deeper learning” as opposed to “too much toxic testing” as opposed to “project-based learning” (Qarni noted that this is a “reset year,” so that “no school will be denied accreditation this school year”) and b) “the second bucket that is actually the closest to my heart is focused on teacher retention” (“the bottom line is that in order for us to catch up to the national average and get above that it’s a heavy lift…if we are going to catch up all our teachers [we’re talking] about nearly half a billion dollars…we need to invest in people first);
3) Fixing the physical infrastructure of schools, some of which are “over 100 years old”;
4) Post-secondary education (“we want to take the negative stigma away from going to a community college…for too long success [has been] defined that you have to go to college in order to be successful; that’s not accurate for everyone, every individual is different”)

(note: there was then a lengthy Q&A session, which I didn’t videotape, but will post if/when I find some video; UPDATE – see video, below)

Also, see below for video of Prince William County School Board Interim Chair Babur Lateef (D), who says:

1) “Ultimately my goal as chairman is to get the most kids into the programs they wish to get to“;
2) “Most of the time it’s not the kids who are the smartest who get into TJ or the most talented that get into our fine and performing arts school, it’s the kids with the best plan, the families with the best plan…I look at a multiple-pronged approach, engage parents at the lower elementary levels and say look, here’s the great opportunities that exist for your kid…my goal, our job is how do we disseminate the information the best way to do the most people to expand our opportunities…my goal is to get more of us to understand the opportunities that are available; that helps the entire group go up, it helps…raise the bar”;
3) “I haven’t met anyone who in America, if you show Americans the bar, I’ve yet to see anyone who’s not willing to go and try to get it…to be American is to understand that we will work really hard if you show us we got to do, and so those are our goals here in Prince William County…”

Finally, here’s video of State Sen. Scott Surovell, who argues passionately that the Thomas Jefferson School for Science and Technology’s admission statistics are “ridiculous,” that it’s comprised of around 1.4% of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch, compared to 34% in Fairfax County as a whole…“I don’t think taxpayers should be supporting a school that is not representative of our community…It’s obscene that only four percent of the school’s Latino, just two percent black…Our local school systems are not allocating resources within their systems in a way that fairly give these kids a chance…Our state needs to step in when our localities are not allocating resources [properly].”