Friday, September 11, 2015

Gloucester School Board Upset Over Safety Concerns of Page Middle School

There are a number of people on the Gloucester County School Board whom are upset with the safety concerns we have raised and seem to think that the new school does not have any of the safety issues we have raised.  In a few areas they are correct.  For one, we were not made aware of the safety bars on the gates in the back.  When we walked through the area, gates that were closed were locked.  One was open that we went through.  We did not give it a thorough inspection to see how they actually worked.

Most people seem to think that not one student would ever think of trying to climb the fences in the back of the building.  Well we hope not.  They are designed to make it extremely difficult to consider climbing.  Trees are also not where one wants their children, preteens, teenagers, offspring, to be but many parents have found them in the trees anyway.

  The good news for everyone is that these gates do open from the inside using a push bar.  So they will not get trapped in the courtyards if there is ever a fire.

  To address the issue of how does the school get the handicapped students out of the building especially if they are on the second floor?  Troy Anderson made sure I received the below picture.

Troy explained that there are 4 of these stationed at each stairwell and at the media center.  I asked how many handicapped students the school has but did not receive an answer.  I wanted to know if 4 was enough.  Also, I want to know exactly how these are used.  No answer.  I have more questions regarding these.  
If there are more than 4 handicapped students at the school and should a real emergency ever occur, then who makes the decision who goes first?  What are the plans if these have to be used?  Will the students go down one side of the staircase while this is being used on the other side of the staircase?  From the picture shown on the Stryker, how will the person handling it maintain their own balance?

  Have any of the teachers been trained to use any of these?  Are certain teachers selected as primary handlers of these units?  Are there backup or secondary teachers who will take over the job should the primary teachers be unavailable?  Are there plans for drills utilizing these units?  

  We plan on getting the answers to these questions and we will publish that information as soon as we get it.  

  What still bothers us is the rails on the second floor and that stupid open floor plan.  I will say that aesthetically it looks nice but there are reasons schools were not built like this in the past.  It's not that it was "not" thought about it was considered dangerous for many reasons.  Our initial post we thought the rails were about 36 inches.  After looking at a picture taken but not posted we recalculated and estimated about 40 inches.  Charles Records informed us that they are 42 inches.  So that is 3 and a half feet tall.  I don't care if they are 6 feet tall.  In a Middle School my opinion is that they are very dangerous.  If you can throw a heavy bookbag over the top then whomever might be below can be very seriously hurt or worse.

  But there are some people who honestly think this would never happen.  I don't think accidents will ever happen but life likes to prove me wrong all the time.  Folks on the school board think that this is just some reason to complain for fun.  One of the students in this school is one of my own children.  My concern is the safety of not only my own, but everyone.  This school is a monument to stupidity.

Big Brother Is Watching:

Sold to you as, "for the safety of the students and teachers", these cameras have been mounted all over the place to make sure we have a record of anything that may occur.  If they are not doing anything wrong, then they have nothing to worry about.  On the other side of this coin, I want internet access to these cameras 24/7.  These cameras need to be in all the classrooms, teachers lounges, the Principle and Vice Principles offices, the cafeteria, break rooms, the kitchen, the gym and the workout room, and all back work rooms and storage.  They should also have full audio.

  In the event that certain teachers or the Principle and or Vice Principle have private meetings with parents then there should be a privacy mute option at that point for the audio only.  Again all cameras should be internet accessible for the entire Gloucester County public.  Now if they want to argue the privacy concerns, all I have to say is that if they are not doing anything wrong then there should not be any issues.  Also, if the School Board wants to argue the costs well all I have to say is they did not argue the costs for when they put these in.  Also were any of the public asked about whether or not we wanted these?  No?

  This is 1984 Orwellian despotism and not Constitutional Government.  No one needs to be spied on under the guise of safety.  But of course unless you are seeking to control the students in a quasi militant manner removing their self respect and dignity then this is the way to go about it.  Quash their individuality and turn them into machines that simply obey.  Then you have machines ready to work in the new progressive workforce where questions are never asked and assignments are happily accepted and acted upon.  One can learn to be happy in their new slavery.

The folks at the School Board want to sell you on their concept that the new Page Middle School is something to be proud of.  In my own opinion it is appalling on so many levels.  Aesthetically pleasing to the eye, yes, in some cases but that does not make it safe or sound.  These are my questions, opinions and or concerns and not everyone is going to share and or agree with them and that is fine.  That is part of what makes life more interesting.


Reducing Government Overhead Costs Through Consolidation

The Gloucester Board of Supervisors and School Board now have an opportunity to begin a process of consolidating certain functions that would result in considerable annual savings and streamlined operations. Currently, the school system has openings for a finance director and a human resources director. Instead of hiring two new directors, all school system financial and human resources functions, personnel and equipment should be transferred to the county finance and human resources departments. Consolidating these two areas alone would save approximately $243,000 annually in salaries and benefits alone.
The county needs a new vehicle maintenance garage and the school system needs to upgrade and expand its’ bus garage. All vehicle and equipment repair and maintenance activities should be consolidated at the bus garage property under the control of the school system. This would allow the school system to retain 100% control over the bus fleet which is essential to school system operations. It will also allow the county to sell the current garage property at Providence Road as suggested by Mr. Curry during the September 1st BOS meeting. All public works type functions, employees and equipment should be consolidated at the old Page site under the county’s control. Consolidating these areas will also produce considerable annual savings in salaries and benefits
The public utilities department “desperately” needs a new office and storage yard. Money was borrowed to purchase land and to design and construct them. Part of the money was spent on design work and a parcel of land was found, but the BOS froze the project over the land purchase aspects. The Board wanted to know if suitable property was already owned by the county or school system. It was determined that the old Page property and the new Page property are the only suitable properties. Construction of utilities’ office and yard should occur at the old Page property as the first phase of consolidating all public works type functions. A strip mall type office building should be constructed in phases along the alignment of the old school building and extending as long as necessary to provide office space for utilities, public works, buildings and grounds maintenance and any other appropriate public works type services.
Consolidation on the old Page property does not seem to appeal to those who have been set, since the tornado, on seeing the property sold. The interests of a few should never take priority over that which is in the best interest of the citizenry overall. Our public works type infrastructure is and has been in need of serious attention for many years and now is the most opportune time to render that attention through restorative and fiscally responsible action. The money saved and generated from the suggested consolidations could be used for associated construction costs and improving our school system. Growth in Gloucester will continue to be severely restricted as long as the toll remains on the Coleman Bridge and history demonstrates business growth in Gloucester occurs only as fast as the population grows. The only real way to spur growth under the current conditions is by making it worthwhile and attractive to live in Gloucester. The best way to do that is by developing a good county appearance and reputation and developing the “best” public school system. Consolidating the suggested services would be a step in the right direction, as it will ultimately free up funds that can be better invested in making our public schools the best in the Country. If our public schools are the best to choose from, people and businesses will come to Gloucester despite the toll.
Kenneth E. Hogge, Sr.

Governor McAuliffe Announces U.S. SBA Grant to Support Virginia’s International Trade Program

~ Program increases exports for Virginia’s small businesses ~

RICHMOND – Governor Terry McAuliffe announced today that Virginia has received $578,500 in grant funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) Grant Program.  The STEP grant is designed to increase the number of small businesses that are exporting and to raise the value of exports for those small businesses that are currently exporting. 

Speaking about today’s announcement, Governor McAuliffe said, “International trade is a key part of my plan to create private sector jobs and build a new Virginia economy that is less reliant on the federal government.  By providing resources and services to increase international trade, we help Virginia businesses find new customers around the world and, in turn, create new jobs for VirginiansWe are pleased to continue this effective partnership with our federal partners to provide assistance to even more of Virginia’s small businesses.”

“In 2014, more than 86 percent of Virginia’s exporting companies were small and medium-sized companies with fewer than 500 employees. These firms generated more than 28% of Virginia’s total products exported,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones.  “Helping Virginia small businesses sell their products and services abroad is one of our most effective business expansion strategies.”

The STEP Grant will generate international sales for Virginia’s small businesses by providing the following international trade promotion services for eligible small businesses:

·         Opportunities to participate in international trade shows
·         Face-to-face meetings with potential customers and partners by travelling to international markets
·         Website translation, search engine optimization and localization
·         Advertising and translation services

Receipt of this federal grant was made possible by Governor McAuliffe’s $1.0 million funding of the Virginia International Trade Alliance (VITAL), which was announced in July 2015.  To date, two federal grants totaling over $2.4 million have been awarded to Virginia to increase international trade.   VITAL’s goals are to increase Virginia’s exports by $1.6 billion and to create 14,000 trade-supported jobs over the next 5 years. The SBA grant will be administered by the International Trade Division of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.

Governor McAuliffe Announces Technology Award Winners

~ Improvements in service delivery, efficiency by state and local governments, universities cited ~

RICHMOND - The annual Governor’s Technology Awards were presented to honorees in nine categories at a special ceremony at the Commonwealth of Virginia Innovative Technology Symposium (COVITS) in Richmond on Sept. 9. On behalf of Governor Terry McAuliffe, Secretary of Technology Karen Jackson presented the awards to a distinguished group of Virginia government entrants, including state and local government and universities. 

“I want to congratulate the winners of these awards,” said Governor McAuliffe. “Building a new Virginia economy requires the ability to innovate and find ways to increase efficiency in government. The future is bright for the Commonwealth as these talented groups continue to use technology to make government more efficient, less expensive and more responsive to taxpayers.”
Winners were determined by a panel of government information technology (IT) experts. For 18 years, the Governor’s Technology Awards program has recognized public sector IT projects that have improved government service delivery and efficiency.

Multiple awards were presented in several categories because of the extremely close scores between projects. Executive summaries of each winner’s entries are posted on the COVITS website,, to provide inspiration and best practice examples to peers and partners.

The 2015 Virginia Governor’s Technology Awards winners, by category:


·         Electronic Death Registration System
Virginia Department of Health


·         Real Estate Property Report App 
Roanoke County         

·         Charlottesville Area Transit Mobile App
City of Charlottesville


·         The C.A.R.E. Application
Virginia State Corporate Commission

·         Transportation Network Company Registration
Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles

·         GIS-centric Development Management System
Prince William County

·         E-GIFT
Virginia Department of Health


·         Cloud Technology Partnership for Economic Development 
Chesterfield County


·         BeneVets Automated Claims Application 
Virginia Department of Veterans Services


·         Fire Department Tablet Project 
City of Lynchburg

·         CAD to CAD 
York-Poquoson-Williamsburg Regional 9-1-1 Center
James City 9-1-1 Center


·         The Geospatial Semester
James Madison University

·         Frictionless High Speed Research Network
Virginia Commonwealth University


·         OneSource Data Warehouse 
Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services

·         Public Safety Operational Data Storage (PODS)
Chesterfield County


·         Open Data Portal
City of Richmond


·         Citizen Portal 
City of Newport News

·         Virginia Law Portal
Division of Legislative Automated Systems

Governor McAuliffe Dedicates New Washington Boulevard Bridge Over Columbia Pike in Arlington

~ New bridge named Freedmans Village Bridge, honoring historic local community ~

RICHMOND - Governor Terry McAuliffe dedicated today a new bridge that carries Washington Boulevard (Route 27) over Columbia Pike (Route 244) in Arlington, as the “Freedmans Village Bridge,” in honor of Freedmans Village, a historic community that once occupied the surrounding land and was a refuge for freed and fugitive slaves during the Civil War. Transportation, community and local leaders, and descendants of Freedmans Village families, joined the Governor in celebrating the new transportation asset, while paying tribute to the historical significance of the Freedmans Village Community.

“Today’s dedication ceremony celebrates the completion of a new bridge that connects a vibrant and busy travel area in Northern Virginia, connects communities, and connects the present time with a rich, historical past in Arlington,” said Governor McAuliffe. “Community input and partnership was critical to this project’s development, and resulted in adopting the best available design options, and most importantly, led to the naming of the bridge as the Freedmans Village Bridge. The bridge is a model for the ommonwealth of how partnership and cooperation can produce positive results and critical improvements to our infrastructure.”

Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne added, “The new Freedmans Village Bridge is a great example of Virginia’s commitment to replacing aging and deteriorating infrastructure. Through the efforts of our project team, federal, local and contractor partners, and the local community, the new bridge and interchange accomplish our operational and safety goals, enhance travel for vehicles, buses, bicyclists and pedestrians, and preserve access to the local neighborhoods.”

The new bridge was built in an historical area where the federal government established the Freedmans Village in 1863 for newly freed slaves. On April 16, 2009, the Commonwealth Transportation Board designated the bridge as the “Freedmans Village Bridge.” The new bridge has features that reflect the historical significance of the area including bronze medallions depicting a house and a family from Freedmans Village.

The bridge has four 12-foot lanes, improved shoulders and an open area separating the westbound and eastbound spans, allowing natural light to illuminate Columbia Pike below. The bridge is built wide enough to accommodate growth, and bicyclist and pedestrian paths, along Columbia Pike.

The original bridge, built in 1942 as part of the Pentagon Roadway Network, was deteriorating to the extent that it rated as structurally deficient. Planning for the new bridge began in 1996, but faced budget delays and constructability challenges. A citizens’ task force was created in 2006 to address the aesthetics and accessibility of the bridge, as well as safety and operational issues. VDOT engineers worked with the task force and surrounding community to keep local South Queen Street open with full access to and from Columbia Pike.

Construction on the design-build project began in 2011 by Shirley Contracting Company. Landscaping around the bridge and interchange is scheduled to occur this fall.

Virginia Awarded $6.9 Million in American Apprenticeship Grants

~ Funds to be used to expand apprenticeships in high-growth industries ~

RICHMOND – Governor McAuliffe today announced that Virginia has been awarded $6.9 million in American Apprenticeship Grants from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to expand apprenticeships in high-growth industries.  U.S. DOL awarded $175 million in grants to 46 awardees, and Virginia is being awarded funding for apprenticeship initiatives at the Shenandoah Valley Workforce Development Board, Inc. and the Community College Workforce Alliance (CCWA). CCWA is the workforce development partnership between John Tyler Community College and Reynolds Community College.

Speaking about today’s announcement, Governor McAuliffe said, “I am thrilled that Virginia is receiving these funds to help support apprenticeship programs in the Commonwealth. Preparing our workforce to perform the jobs needed by employers is essential for creating a new Virginia economy, and apprenticeships combine both work experience and education.”

“Strategies like apprenticeship programs are both great for talent development and for sourcing talent for employers,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones. “We want to increase these programs in Virginia to help prepare our workforce, and we congratulate the award recipients.”

The Shenandoah Valley Workforce Development Board, Inc. was awarded $4 million to fund the Valley to Virginia Apprenticeship Initiative (V2V). The project will target skilled trades in the advanced manufacturing industry and in-demand occupations in H-1B career pathways including; Mechatronics, Industrial Maintenance Technician, CNC Machine Operator, Welder and Production Technician.

V2V is expected to build support for the Registered Apprenticeship Journeyman credential adding 600 new registered apprenticeships in Virginia.  Key business partners include:  A.G.Stacker, Andros Foods North America, Ball Advanced Aluminum Technologies Corporation, The Hershey Company, Kraft Foods, ThermoFisher Scientific, R.R.Donnelley, Tenneco, and the Virginia Manufacturers Association. Key educational and service partners include:  Lord Fairfax Community College, Blue Ridge Community College, Dabney S. Lancaster Community College, Massanutten Technical Center, Valley Career and Technical Center, and Goodwill Industries of the Valleys.

CCWA was awarded a $2.9 million grant to lead the Apprentice Virginia: Collaborative Workforce Solutions in Information Technology & Advanced Manufacturing project. Other partner colleges include Southside Virginia Community College and Danville Community College.  Partnerships with key employers including Ashland Specialty Ingredients, Maxx Potential, International Paper, DuPont Spruance and Rolls-Royce, as well as the South Central, Resource, Crater Regional and West Piedmont Workforce Development Boards will ensure program sustainability. The project will create and expand pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship opportunities for over 330 workers in targeted H-1B industries of information technology (IT) and advanced manufacturing in Virginia.

“These awards will assist Virginia employers with continuing to develop the highly skilled credentialed workers that are in demand in today’s competitive global economy,” said Ray Davenport, Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI).  “Registered Apprenticeship combines flexible, carefully defined and employer-specific training under the guidance of a highly skilled mentor at the worksite and occupation specific Apprenticeship Related Classroom Instruction.  DOLI looks forward to continue working with our partners to ensure that Virginia citizens have the skills demanded for today’s jobs and the jobs of the future.”

“The credentials and jobs at the heart of this announcement represent the pathway to Virginia's new middle class," said Glenn DuBois, Chancellor of Virginia's Community Colleges. “These grant resources will help us connect more people to what can be life-changing apprenticeship opportunities -- something that we are striving to do more of everyday across Virginia.”

The American Apprenticeship Grants will help Virginia, and other recipients nationwide, to collectively train and hire more than 34,000 new apprentices in high-growth and high-tech industries as diverse as health care, IT, and advanced manufacturing while scaling up proven programs in construction, transportation, and energy over the next five years.