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PWEA President Celebrates Its Accomplishments

| October 4, 2016 | 0 Comments | Education
Riley O'Casey, President of the Prince William Education Association.

Riley O’Casey, President of the Prince William Education Association.

Prince William Education Association’s new president, Riley O’Casey, is excited about the strides the association has made for educators and students this school year.

PWEA’s recent accomplishments include a reduction in the required number of grades teachers are required to input per marking period and the number of writing samples collected, as well as more planning time for teachers during workdays.

O’Casey explained that fewer requirements mean more time for educators to focus on learning, which ultimately benefits students. Recently, she explained that recent strides grew out of PWEA’s ‘It’s About Time’ campaign.

For years, teachers have told PWEA that they need more time to be effective, including more time to plan and collaborate with colleagues.

Last year, PWEA educators sat in a school board meeting grading. It was a demonstration of solidarity to PWCS, a way to say ‘we need more time.’ This time, PWCS listened.

Before school opened, Superintendent, Dr. Steven L. Walts announced that going forward teachers would only be required to post nine grades per students each marking period rather than the 18 grades previously required. The announcement was titled “Dr. Walts Heard You.”

O’Casey believes the change is a win for everyone. She defends the new nine-grade requirement, saying it is about quality over quantity.

“Those teachers who feel nine is not enough will put more in,” she said.

The flaw within the 18-grade requirement became apparent last winter. With an abundance of snow days, teachers scrambled to give assessments when time spent teaching would have been more effective.

Dr. Walts has now changed that. According to O’Casey, the superintendent went to her and said: ‘what do you think?”


Riley O’Casey (front left) and members of the PWEA during their ‘It’s About Time’ campaign.

“To have that collaboration, and to have him say ‘Let’s work on this together. I’m fixing it,’ it’s pretty big,” she said.

Similarly, PWEA helped change the way teachers collect their students writing samples. PWCS educators felt that writing folders, while a good way to track student progress from year to year, were becoming too taxing. They struggled to find time for students to complete all assignments since writing is a lengthy multi-step process.

PWEA advocated for teachers by promoting this change, and the administration agreed to it.

The use of flex days is another area where PWEA has seen positive changes. Workdays, which fall on the last day of the marking period, were meant for teachers to finish grading and entering their grades into their online grade books. However, some administrators required staff members to attend meetings or professional development seminars on those days.

“Flex days are for teachers to choose [how they want to use them], not for administrators to say, ‘you will do this on this day,’” O’Casey said.

She is hopeful that the pendulum is swinging back to teachers after moving so far away from them. “I do. I feel really, really good [about the direction we’re heading in.],” she said.

O’Casey emphasized that PWEA successes are the result of many people coming together and saying “enough is enough.”

She also wants citizens to know that PWCS educators are advocating for students. “First and foremost this is for the kids, but it is good for teachers too. It is good for all educators.”

PWEA gets its information directly from educators. Unfortunately, O’Casey said that some educators are still afraid to advocate for themselves.

“There is a huge fear of retaliation. It’s sad. It’s really sad,” she said, but she is happy to speak on their behalf.

PWEA has also tackled workplace bullying.

“I had been talking about bullying in the workplace for four years,” she said.

Thanks in part to the PWEA, PWCS now requires administrators to attend seminars to advise them on how to interact with their staffs in a professional manner.

O’Casey is dedicated to advocating for educators and improving conditions in Prince William County School, but she still praises the school division.

“I love this school division. Of course, it is not perfect, but they are listening a lot more. I will continue to say: collaboration and communication: this is what we need.”

© 2016, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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