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Satterwhite Seeks to Restore Decorum to PWC School Board

| September 20, 2018 | 0 Comments | Education

Respect is a word that Alyson Satterwhite repeated often in discussing her candidacy to become Chairman At-Large of the Prince William County School Board in a special election in November.

The Gainesville School Board representative said she would like everyone on the board to respect one another and in doing so, set a good example for the students.

She hopes to be a stabilizing force to get the school board back on track, and she wants to help Prince William County Schools prepare every student for a bright future whether that means college or a trade that helps them become qualified professionals in various stable and emerging fields.

Satterwhite never intended on getting into politics. In 2007-08, before Satterwhite was elected Gainesville representative, she was a parent advocate, requesting the school board not adopt Math Investigations.

She took on the school board, saying she always “kept it respectful.” Around the same time she was her son was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome and Satterwhite became a strong advocate for special needs students.

“That’s where my passion for special needs students come from,” she said. “As a parent, when I finished my son’s IEP his senior year, I had 24 years of IEP meetings (including ones for her daughter.)”

She was focused on the Women’s Ministry when parents encouraged her to run for Gainesville school board representative. “Now I do what I absolutely love. Now I’m advocated for children all over Prince William County.”

But Satterwhite served on the board during a tumultuous time. She strongly clashed with prior school board chairman Ryan Sawyers. She is affiliated with the Republicans, while he a Democrat, though school board members technically run independently of parties.

Some believe the issues were deeper rooted than the typical political squabbles and a county-wide “Repeal Ryan Sawyers” campaign that was making headway.

While things have settled down significantly under the leadership of Babur Lateef, who is running against her, Satterwhite seeks to restore decorum on the board and repair the board’s damaged reputation across the Commonwealth.

“[I want us] refocusing on respecting each other, professionalism and what it means to be a board member. As leaders, we set a tone for the division.”

Satterwhite has dealt with difficult situations. As parents and teachers made their concerns with Ronald Reagan Middle School principal very public last spring, Satterwhite walked a tightrope, acknowledging parent and teachers’ concerns while abiding by rules of employee confidentiality.

“I did a lot of listening,” she said, adding the school division sent a letter to parents regarding the incident, and she was very concerned about its tone.

“I lot of things we do great in Prince William County,” she said, ” and we have amazing schools,” but she also wants to foster a culture that is productive for everyone.

“[We need a] climate for our schools that people are respected from the top down and the bottom up. I want our teachers to feel listened to and respected and our students to be listened to and respected….I want to make sure we have very open communications with our employees. They want to feel heard; we need to listen.”

Satterwhite is cognizant that employees want a competitive salary as well. She would like the board to consider adjusting its five and ten-year fiscal plans to rethink raises, rather than trying to address them after the budget has been prepared.

And she also intends be proactive in regards school safety. As a member of the Safe Schools Advisory Council since 2012, it has been on her mind for some time. She is an advocate for more SROs last school year, and a police presence in the school.

She wants to lobby the General Assembly to make it easier for retired officers to work in schools without sacrificing their Virginia Retirement Funds, and not arm teachers who should be focused on educating students.

She has also gotten the school division to hire several more social workers. She believes it is imperative to check in on the wellbeing of the students and improve safety.

In a decision that divided the community, Satterwhite voted not to include LGBTQ individuals in the division non-discrimination policy. Now that the policy has changed to include people of various sexual and gender identities, she is not advocating to overturn the policy unless the government can provide clear guidance on the issue.

“I felt it was irresponsible to pass it when federal and state law was still undecided; nobody has a decision on that yet. It was irresponsible then, and for us to change it again, would be irresponsible. Right now, keep it as it is. Wait for a decision on the federal level. Taking our families and constituents on a roller coaster is not good for anyone.”

She always wants all students to know they are welcome. “We educate and we embrace every one of our students we want every one of them to be successful.”

But Satterwhite also wants to take steps towards common goals, such as reducing class sizes.She recommends looking into various options put forth by members of the board of county supervisors, such as applying a levy to provide dedicated funds for that purpose.

She hopes that people will research the candidates, stay involved with the schools and come out to vote in November.

In addition to current interim chairman Babur Lateef, Stanley Bender is running for the seat. He ran against Occoquan representative Lillie Jessie in 2012.

Satterwhite and Lateef will both be participating in a community forum, hosted by Prince William’s Committee of 100 on Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. at Northern Virginia’s Community College’s Manassas Campus. 

Bristow Beat intends post interviews with other candidates as well. We have not endorsed any candidate in the race.

© 2018, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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Category: Education

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