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Banner printing Comm Dental

Pay $1,784 upfront for FOIA request

Kilbourn wants 16 months of correspondence on financial topics from county administration

By Phyllis Cook
Staff Reporter

Payne Kilbourn, a member of the King George School Board, has continued his own correspondence with the county administration over his pending Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) records request for more than 16 months of the correspondence of three members of the Board of Supervisors, two county officials and one former county administrator, from/to county officials, county citizens and others.
The correspondence that he is requesting goes back to January 1, 2008.  Since his initial email request, he has sent two others that narrow the request to financial topics.  
This week he was told by County Attorney Matt Britton that for county staff to undertake the massive records search Kilbourn has requested, he must first pay charges currently estimated at $1,784.  
Kilbourn’s first request had simply requested, “Please send me all correspondence from/to Mr. Howard, Mr. Grzeika and Mr. Sisson, from/to county officials, from/to county citizens, from/to others, from 1 Jan 2008 to the present.  Please send such information from 1 January 2009 to the present in a timely manner.  Please send me all correspondence from/to Mr. Brian David, Mr. Travis Quesenberry, Ms. Donita Harper for the same dates.  Please send such information from 1 January 2009 to the present as soon as possible.”
Kilbourn’s second email on the topic passed in the ether with Britton’s first response to deny the request, citing FOIA, which for an ordinary record request requires a public body to provide a document within five business days of receipt.
More than 16 months worth of correspondence even on a single topic is not an ordinary request.
Britton told Kilbourn, “Your request does not identify the records with reasonable specificity. Your request is vast in time (covering almost eighteen months) and is unlimited in scope.”  
Britton also told Kilbourn that some of the documents requested could be subject to exemption as public documents.
In addition, Britton noted to Kilbourn in his first response to him that if he wished to persist in his request that he was put on notice that, “it is not practically possible to provide the requested records,” adding, “A request within the statutory timeframe to review this extraordinary volume of records requires an extraordinary lengthy search, preventing the County from meeting its operational responsibilities.”
Britton added, that should Kilbourn “wish to submit a revised and particularized request the County will reevaluate the timeframe in which it can respond, and provide an actual cost estimate.”  
In the meantime, Kilbourn’s April 24 email was by way of a clarification and narrowed his request for records, saying, “Please allow me to clarify my request: it is for correspondence related to official duties only, and also, only for subject matter associated with county taxes, revenues, debt and expenditures.”  
After Kilbourn got Britton’s first answer, he wrote a third time, reiterating his first request, clarifying it as noted above to financial matters, and also narrowing it slightly further by noting that he was not requesting correspondence that is “privileged by attorney-client privilege, and that are not of a purely personal nature, from 1 Jan 2008 to the present.”
He also said the correspondence he wanted from/to the three current or former county officials were only those, “written by them in their capacity as county employees.”
Under FOIA, he wouldn’t get those two types of correspondence anyway, since they are not included in the definition of public documents.
Here’s what Britton said in his second and most recent response to Kilbourn, dated May 5:
“Thank you for clarifying, specifying and narrowing your request.  As I indicated in my last letter, even with your specifications, it is not practically possible to provide the requested records within the statutory timeframe.  To review this extraordinary volume of records requires an extraordinary lengthy search, preventing the County from meeting its operational responsibilities.
“Finally, the County has determined in advance that charges of producing the requested records are estimated at $1,784.00.  Please provide a deposit of this amount in advance to Travis Quesenberry.
“In the event that any documents are determined to be privileged and/or exempt from FOIA, and that the County does not wish to waive the same, I will provide you with the required log.”
The ball is now officially back in Kilbourn’s court.  
He can write a check for $1,784 to proceed with his document request, or he can forget the whole thing and not respond.
Regardless of whether Kilbourn proceeds or not, he has already used up a fair amount of county staff time with the research required to come up with an estimated cost for his record search, in addition to two thoughtful written responses from the county attorney.

The Arts at King George High School

In perfect harmony
KGHS Concert & Jazz Ensemble performs at Master’s Banquet

   On Friday, April 24, at the King George Lodge, number 314, the King George High School Concert & Jazz Ensemble, under the direction of Aaron Noe, provided an evening of entertainment before an audience of Masons and music enthusiasts. “I have the best job in the world, because I teach the best students in King George High School every single day,” Noe said.
   For years, Noe has broadened the music perspective of the KGHS band by taking them on field trips throughout the country.
   The band performed a medley of music renditions originating from the theme Small Town Sketches, which featured the following pieces: Concert in the Park; Winter Walk in the Park; Friday Night Football Game; County Fair.
   Speakers during the banquet featured Past Worthy Matron, Doris Upson, Reverend Dr. Larry Finch, Sr., pastor of Antioch Baptist Church, Past District Deputy and Grand Master, George Jackson, Past Master Darryl Scott, Minister Frankie White, Pastor Tyree Smith and Worshipful Master of King George Lodge number 314, Darrell W. Upson.
   Proceeds raised during the event were donated to the King George High School music program. Throughout the 2008-2009 school year, the Mason Lodge and the King George School Board have collaborated on the projects including the Spelling Bee contest at King George Middle School and the Science Fair at Sealston Elementary School. Also, the Lodge has established a scholarship for this year’s graduating seniors at King George High School.
Brenda Collins provided food services for the banquet.

Sch. Bd. member makes FOIA request to county

Kilbourn requests correspondence on financial topics for last 16 months

By Phyllis Cook
Staff Reporter

School Board member Payne Kilbourn made a FOIA request to the King George county administration last Thursday for a massive amount of documents.   
His email request read:  
“Please send me all correspondence from/to Mr. Howard, Mr. Grzeika and Mr. Sisson, from/to county officials, from/to county citizens, from/to others, from 1 Jan 2008 to the present.
Please send such information from 1 January 2009 to the present in a timely manner.
Please send me all correspondence from/to Mr. Brian David, Mr. Travis Quesenberry, Ms. Donita Harper for the same dates.  Please send such information from 1 January 2009 to the present as soon as possible.”
He signed the request as a private citizen, not as an elected official, noting his address and phone number as 4504 Caledon Road, King George, VA 22485, 775-0245.
He added that he wanted the massive amount of documents sent electronically to his personal email address.
It’s not known why Kilbourn’s request only focuses on correspondence involving three of the five members of the Board of Supervisors, disregarding correspondence of Cedell Brooks, Jr., and James Mullen.
Kilbourn’s request for such a potentially massive amount of correspondence on all topics would have certainly elicited an initial response from the county to ask him for a $200 deposit just to start with, to begin to cover staff time for research, as allowed under FOIA.
But the next day, Friday, April 24, Kilbourn sent another email to county officials, this time considerably narrowing his initial request.
That second email to county officials said, “Please allow me to clarify my request: it is for correspondence related to official duties only, and also, only for subject matter associated with county taxes, revenues, debt and expenditures.”  He added, “I should have included this clarification in the original request.”
Kilbourn has played a leading role in charging county officials with underfunding the School Board for the upcoming year and for the past couple of years when he has suggested that the Board of Supervisors should raise real estate taxes 25-30 percent to provide additional funding for the School Board.  
We asked Kilbourn if he would provide a comment on his FOIA request to the county and he responded to The Journal, but said, “No comment.”
~ OTHER KILBOURN EMAIL    Prior to emailing his FOIA request to the county, Kilbourn sent another email to his colleagues on the School Board and Superintendent Candace Brown.
That email outlined an attachment, saying, “A couple of you mentioned that it would be helpful to have some graphical depictions of various data that I cited in my paper on the school and county budgets.”
Kilbourn had supplied an op-ed piece published in The Journal last week, in addition to emailing a longer narrative on the topic of school funding in King George.  
In this email, Kilbourn listed the subject matter of several bar charts, one pie chart and another slide with bulleted points.  He told his recipients, “Please feel free to use these in printed form as you desire.”  He added, “I have decided to copyright these slides.”
The information in the slides is public information available from the school division and the Virginia Department of Education.
Kilbourn also copied this reporter on his April 23 email.  
In the body of the email, he stated, “For Ms. Cook: I am sending a copy of this email for your information.  If you desire to forward or distribute the copyrighted attachment, please first seek my permission.”
We responded, saying that we would not use the slide attachment.  
But we also told him, “But, I don’t think I need your permission to forward it along with your email, since under state law, your email and the attachment fit the definition of a public document under FOIA.  In addition, your powerpoint itself may not actually be copyrightable, because it would likely not be deemed sufficiently original, since it constitutes facts already in the public domain.  Also, Just about everything in most major publications is copyrighted. That doesn’t stop people from sharing that content without permission.”
County Attorney Matt Britton responded to Kilbourn’s request in a letter dated April 24:
“At this time the County must deny your request pursuant to Va. Code Section 2.2-3704(B). Your request does not identify the records with reasonable specificity. Your request is vast in time (covering almost eighteen months) and is unlimited in scope. In particular, while some of the documents that are encompassed in your vast request may be subject to Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), many are privileged. For instance, you request correspondence among “county officials,” which includes attorneys. In addition, while official correspondence is generally subject to FOIA, you request all documents to “citizens” and “others.” Certain personal correspondence is not subject to FOIA. By way of example, as currently stated, this request asks for letters to spouses and family members.”
Britton goes on to note that “A request within the statutory timeframe to review this extraordinary volume of records requires an extraordinary lengthy search, preventing the County from meeting its operational responsibilities.” 

Supervisors review proposed capital plan in detail

Board wants School Board to provide long-term plan for use buildings prior to renovations

   The King George Board of Supervisors tackled a proposed 5-year Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for 2009-10 through 2013-14 recommended by the Planning Commission.
   That review took place during a special meeting last week on April 15.  The requested CIP totals $116M.
   ~ RALPH BUNCHE ADDED TO CIP  Several projects requested for next fiscal year 2009-10 were set aside or pushed forward, but one new project was added.
   Supervisors were unanimous in backing a suggestion by Supervisor Cedell Brooks, Jr., to add Ralph Bunche to the CIP list. 
They decided to add $50K for a needs assessment of the Ralph Bunche building and property, with the use to be determined in the future.
   Ralph Bunche was finally turned over to the county by the School Board earlier this calendar year.
   ~ CIP PROCESS  The CIP is a five-year plan which is updated annually by the Planning Commission and forwarded to the Board of Supervisors through the County Administrator. 
   Each year, Supervisors adopt a capital budget and spending plan in one-year increments for funding of capital improvements items and projects. 
   Except for construction of a new Sheriff’s Department building and an animal pound, the CIP for the current fiscal year was basically put on hold, with no expenditures being approved without an okay from Supervisors prior to encumbering any costs, due to the slumping economy.
   Earlier this year, the Board had previously taken a look at the latest CIP recommendations when it reviewed rankings by the Planning Commission in February. 
   This time they took a closer look at each project.  The 5-year CIP program is expected to be reviewed again at a future meeting followed by subsequent adoption. 
   ~ MONEY TIGHT & MORE INFO NEEDED  But more information was requested by Supervisors prior to going forward with approval of the proposed CIP.
   Director of Finance/Deputy County Administrator Donita noted that $337K is only available to cash-fund any items in the first year of the 5-year program. 
   That compares to $1M+ in previous years.  Harper said that more debt service must be paid from the landfill revenue in the coming year. 
   She noted that landfill revenue was projected at about $7.2M, with debt service, mostly for schools, anticipated at $6.8M. 
   Harper noted that determining how to fund or shift some of the items in the 2009-10 funding year of the 5-year plan is the challenge, without enough of a fund balance available.  The cost for the items requested in 2009-10 is $5,987,081, with cost of all requests for the five-year period at a whopping $116M.
   Harper reminded the Board, “We have 15 percent in undesignated reserves according to our policy that can’t be spent.”
   ~ SCHOOL BOARD ITEMS QUESTIONED  11 projects totaling $64,977,477 were requested by the School Board.
   ~ Two projects were eliminated off the bat by Supervisors, as recommended by the Planning Commission.  Supervisors praised the Planning Commission for that recommendation. 
   Those requests were for Office 2007 Pro software costing $91,854 to replace computer software and 65 GPS units for buses at a cost of $120,252.
   The definition of a capital project in King George is an item or project costing at least $50,000, which is not recurring in operating budgets, and used for at least two years. 
   Bundling items to get to the $50K threshold is frowned upon.  Supervisors agreed with the Planning Commission, and it was stated that such items should be included in the operating budget.
   ~ $420K for purchasing six school buses was set aside because the county is planning on providing funding for school bus leases in the School Board operating budget.
   ~ $250,000 for connecting roads between the new high school and the old high school and the middle school was set aside.  The project might be nice to have, but is too costly at this time.
   ~ $3M for a stadium and field house at the site of the new high school needs another look.  Supervisors asked to be provided with a scaled back version that would not be as costly as the schematic designs reviewed last fall. 
   ~ Four more projects were shelved until Supervisors are informed by the School Board of its plan for long-term use of the school buildings involved and an assessment on the buildings can be performed. 
   The projects include $3.1M for renovations to Potomac Elementary School, $342K for roof replacement at old King George Elementary School, $2,225,500 to replace the heating, ventilation and cooling system at King George Middle School, for which the School Board has no plans for use in the foreseeable future, and $140K for well replacement at the middle school. 
   The other two projects requested by the School Board are in future years.  They are $20M for another elementary school and $35m for another middle school, when they have one that will be sitting vacant.
   ~ GOVERNMENT CENTER  Two projects were left for possible funding in 2009-10.  They include:
   ~ 150K to go toward an Operations Center, and
   ~ 150K to go toward a Human Services Center, both to eventually be constructed at Purkins Corner, where a new Sheriff’s Department and Animal Pound are expected to be started this year.
   ~ SMOOT LIBRARY  One project was requested for partial funding in 2009-10, as noted here.
   ~ $79K to go toward architectural and engineering services for expansion of the main library to add 15,000 square feet, along with some renovations of the existing building
County Administrator Travis Quesenberry noted that it might make sense to take the estimated $7M left from a bond issuance last fall to go toward the library and government center projects listed above.  It was noted that the library project was expected to be ready to put out to bid by early fall.
   ~ PARKS & RECREATION  Two projects from P&R made it to the list for consideration for next year, but only one will likely be funded. 
   Supervisors suggesting putting off phase 2 of Sealston Park for a year at a cost of $210K for construction of a restroom/concession facility and a multipurpose court.  Sealston Park is new and has 3 softball/baseball fields, 1 Little League field and a multipurpose field large enough for 4 soccer fields,
   ~ $90,000 for engineering and design of a park at Purkins Corner was left in the proposed plan with possible funding proposed for 2009-10.
   ~ SHERIFF’S OFFICE  One project was requested for 2009-10 funding and it was left in by Supervisors as noted below.
   ~ $83,710 is expected to go toward Radio & Vehicle Audio-Video Systems.
   ~ EMERGENCY SERVICES  Four projects were on the list for next year, but two were set aside, including replacement of a heavy squad truck for $184K and $100K toward operations of a regional training center.  Supervisors want more information before they go forward with either project in the near future.  They also had a question about whether a brush truck needed replacement in the coming year. 
   ~ $145K was given the nod by Supervisors to go toward an ambulance replacement program.

By Phyllis Cook
Staff Reporter


Brown tells Board: No RIFs

But Paulsen & Kilbourn say:  Stimulus funds can’t go into operating budget

   King George division Superintendent Candace Brown told Supervisor Cedell Brooks, Jr., and the rest of the county Board of Supervisors last week that no teachers would be laid off next year.
   Brooks’ question and Brown’s answer came at last Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Supervisors following a detailed presentation by Director of Finance/Deputy County Administrator Donita Harper about the use of federal stimulus funding coming through the state.
   King George is expecting $1,319,038 in stimulus funds for 2009-10, and a like amount for 2010-11, which all must be obligated by September 30, 2011.
The question came up when Brown was asked by Brooks about letters she had sent out the previous week to first-year employees saying they might lose their jobs.
76 such letters were mailed, saying, “Due to a substantial reduction in state funding, and an anticipated substantial reduction in local funding for the 2009-10 school year, King George Public Schools faces the possible elimination of several positions in our school system.  I regret to inform you that because of this budget crisis, you may not be employed for the next school year (2009-10).”
Brown also sent an additional 83 letters to 12-month and 220-day employees saying their positions were safe, but there could be, “a reduction in the number of days worked and consequently at a reduced rate of pay.”
~ QUESTION & ANSWER    Brooks specifically inquired of Brown last Tuesday, “Letters went out to teachers, so does this mean that they will not lose their jobs?”
Brown responded, “That’s correct.  Ms. Harper is correct.  This is information she and I received.”
Chairman Joe Grzeika cautioned, “I’ve been tracking it as well.  And you have to make sure which fund you are discussing.  Each fund is different and has different conditions.  But the stabilization fund is the one we are focused on tonight.”
   Brown stated, “From everything we have, we believe that the stabilization fund can be used for operating expenses.  The caution from the federal government and of course from the state government is - what are you going to do in two years when those funds are gone.  So that’s just something we have to think about.”
   Brown also said to Supervisors of Harper’s presentation, “She’s addressed the maintenance of effort issue, she’s addressed the 90 percent cost.  We think we are okay in those areas and we believe from everything that we’ve been reading that we can use all of those funds for operating costs for the upcoming school year.”
Brown added to Brooks, “So, the answer to you is –we would not be in a situation where we would have to lay off teachers, if in fact we use all of that money.”
   ~ DISCONNECT?    There would seem to be a disconnect between what Brown said to Supervisors and what some members of the School Board and the public say they have heard from her.
   The next evening at a School Board meeting on April 8, Brown described Harper’s presentation to the School as, “a very accurate, comprehensive presentation.” 
   The conversation took a turn after that, with a distinct emphasis on not using stimulus funds in the operating budget.
   School Board member Dennis Paulsen inquired of Brown, “I don’t quite understand how if we add the $1.3M of stimulus funds, when very rightly so, we can’t use those stimulus funds in our operating budget?”
   Brown said, “We can transfer expenditures in our operating budget for next year into the stabilization portion of the stimulus funds.” 
But Brown stressed the following, saying, “There is that continued caution under guiding principles from the state that says ‘make sure you don’t transfer anything into those funds unless there is a plan for sustaining those expenditures at the end of two years when the funds are eliminated’.”
   Brown added, “They also are suggesting that they are spent on one-time cost items, if you will, that goes into the renovation and modernization.  It does state that you can use them to save jobs.  The guidance we’ve received from the state superintendent is that salaries that we put in there should be used for positions that will be eliminated by attrition over the next two years.”
   Paulsen said, “Everything that I’ve read with the stimulus package, everything I’ve seen, everything I’ve read says don’t use it for your operating budget.”
School Board member Payne Kilbourn concurred, saying, “I’ve been talking to Dr. Brown at length about this and really studying this legislation, such as it is.  It’s clearly meant to be stimulative.  It’s meant to be, essentially in addition to most things, although there is some discussion about using it to take care of some teacher salaries and positions and so forth.”
   Kilbourn continued, saying, “But I’m very, very concerned that the county’s perception that we can just plug this wholesale into our budget is very naïve, probably illegal, is going to put Dr. Brown and our accounting people in a real bind, because what they are just doing now is gaming this money, shifting it around, putting labels on it, to try to use it to fill a very large budget deficit that they are handing us.”
   Kilbourn added, “It’s clearly not intended to do with it what they are suggesting we do with it and as I suggested, it might be illegal.”
   Kilbourn is correct in saying it cannot be simply plugged into the budget.  Division central office administrators must develop a spending plan/application for use of the funds, spend it, then get reimbursed.
   ~ PUBLIC COMMENT    During last Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Supervisors, two members of the public also spoke on the topic during public comment, prior to the presentation. 
   Resident Terri Rinko, mother of three and PTA President at King George Elementary School asked Supervisors to “level-fund the School Board this year.”
   She added, “From what I understand, the recovery stimulus plan we accepted is so full of stipulations and strings attached, it is unrealistic to believe we can use it to fund important school system recurring costs such as returning first-year teachers salaries, benefits, and our participation in such invaluable programs as Head    Start, sports and after-school activities, and the Commonwealth and Chesapeake Bay Governor’s schools.”
Resident Robert Kruger also urged level-funding for the upcoming year, saying that if not granted, three of four special education teachers were facing potential job loss.
   ~ LEVEL FUNDING AND STIMULUS FUNDING REQUESTED    Instead of having to use the federal stimulus money as it was designed to be used, the School Board instead wants the Board of Supervisors to allocate more money in local funding.   
   Brown submitted a revised proposed budget after the stimulus funds were approved by the state, which simply added the $1.3M to the School Board’s request, in addition to $1,676,619 more in local funding than the state says the county needs to provide.
   If the county provided that, then Brown and her central office staff would not have to devise a spending plan and request the federal stimulus funds.  They could use some of it or just leave the federal money on the table. 
   Members of the School Board appear concerned about using any portion of the stimulus funding to go toward the costs for any salaries over the next two years, since the federal funding evaporates in 2011. 
   So, they may decide to simply cut positions next year, instead of using the stimulus funding it as it is designed to be used to stave off cuts for at least two years.   

By Phyllis Cook
Staff Reporter


King George resident living the simple life swaps out his wife; trades her for high maintenance society belle

    King George, Va.  --  King George resident Steve Hickman decided to trade off his wife DeLaura Padovan earlier this year. But he didn’t get a choice in the swap. His replacement wife was selected for him by the producers of ABC TV’s Wife Swap.
    The intent of the show is to match up participants that live extremely different lifestyles. DeLaura lauded the producers saying in her case, “They selected almost total polar opposites.”
She was whisked off to the suburbs of New Jersey. Here she found a large house with a crystal chandelier prominently displayed so it was visible to even those passing by on the street. And in a few short days she was plunged into the lifestyle of a very high maintenance suburbanite, who was concerned with living a rather opulent lifestyle.
After attempting to walk in her high-heeled shoes, DeLaura’s impression of Shannon Nicole Burroughs was that she was definitely a material girl. She along with husband Shannon Michael and their 6-year-old twins Nicolas and Alexa live a very different life than the one DeLaura’s family lives in King George.
    Steve and DeLaura are musicians. And along with their daughters Tara and Maren Padovan-Hickman, 11 and 8 respectively, who are seasoned folk dancers they form a family musical troupe.
    But the family unit also lives the simple life residing in a small log cabin nestled on 57 acres of woods at the end of a long winding dirt and gravel driveway
    After I wended my way through the woods to their home, I was greeted by the family’s chickens. They are gentle creatures and the laying hens provide a good portion of the family’s diet.
But according to DeLaura and Steve they have learned that there are sometimes interesting crumbs left around cars. So they were not so much my welcoming party, but rather a scavenging team. The goats that are corralled in a small area in front of their house for the most part completely ignored my presence.
However, I was warmly welcomed into their home by the couple and their children. A row of windows and skylights along the gabled roof let sunbeams dance across the rafters and the floor. But there are no electrical lights in the home and by all accounts, the family lives like our American pioneer ancestors.
The entire first floor of the house is probably no larger than a great room in many homes in local subdivisions. There is a lower level and a loft atop a narrow steep staircase overlooking the main living area.
Their home is simple, with no frills but it is comfortable, and definitely filed with love. And that love reaches across generations with Steve having spent the winter gingerly hand stitching two quilts that had been assembled by the matriarchs of his family. He will be passing them on to his daughters along with his heritage.
Tara and Maren are home schooled and Steve explained that a good portion of the family life revolves around the kitchen table. “We make everything from scratch and we all work together as a team,” he said.
And the girls help with the chores on their mini farm, including feeding the goats and chickens and planting and harvesting their garden. Steve and DeLaura have sold their crops at farmers markets in the area and have also participated in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). They lead a lifestyle that leaves behind a very small carbon footprint.
But the couple also works outside the home. As professional musicians Steve and DeLaura earn their living by performing. He plays violin and harmonica and is the nation’s foremost Ham Bone artist and can be seen on various YouTube postings. He teaches at Picker’s Supply in Fredericksburg once a week.
DeLaura plays guitar and ukulele. She conducts a Music Together program for young children to help develop rhythm and tonal competency at St. John’s Parish Hall in King George. Early this month she also began a program in Fredericksburg.
But they also perform as a family at music camps and other venues. Given that, although a TV production set is not the usual stage upon which the family performs, it is not unusual for them to reply to ads soliciting talent.
On first glance it is somewhat amazing that this family that hasn’t owned a television set since the mid 1980’s were even aware of the Wife Swap show. It is even more astonishing when you add in the lack of electrical power at their home that they would even respond to an ad to participate in a reality television program.
But after answering the ad from a friend’s laptop computer, according to DeLaura the ABC representatives responded back in about 2 minutes.
That was last August. They borrowed a camera and prepared a home video that was accepted by ABC in October. Then the producers sent a TV crew out and after spending several days at their home the family’s forays into the world of the small screen was in progress.
She said they looked at it as a learning experience for their home schooled children and an interesting life adventure for the family. And as a professional musician, Steve said, “A gig is a gig.”
According to DeLaura the process was like a roller coaster ride with many highs and lows and constant motion. However, she and her husband had nothing but the highest praise for the production crews, saying they were very receptive about changing schedules to meet any needs of the family. But on April 17, when the episode featuring the family airs, that will all be history.
The only visible remnants of their adventure is the set of rules that still hang on the kitchen wall and a somewhat out of place looking crystal chandelier.
But the three 60 watt bulbs in the fixture suspended above the kitchen table have been replaced with small votive light candles.
Although Steve says it gives off a softer light as the flames dance off the reflective crystals creating a peaceful ambiance, they are not sure whether they will keep it. For now the family has reverted back to a life described by DeLaura and Steve as “serendipity” and “uncomplicated happiness.”
The episode was filmed in February, so life has quieted back down. Steve said if they had been asked 48 hours after production concluded if they would do it again, he would have definitely responded in the negative. But as time has passed, he thinks he might consider participating in another production.
 The family will be hosting a neighborhood viewing of the show at the King George Community Center on Apr. 17.
Since they down own a TV, they will be having one brought in from Fredericksburg’s Rent-A-Center. The family is requesting a donation of a food item as admission. All donated items will be given to the local food bank and popcorn and lemonade will be sold to benefit King George Parks and Recreation.
For information about Wife Swap visit To find out more about DeLaura’s Music Together program and to contact the family via e-mail visit her at

School division committee looking at alternative grading scale

King George resident Brian Jackson seems to have helped spark the establishment of a committee to investigate changing the grading scale used in the King George school division, particularly at the high school.
Parent Beckey Gallamore first publicly brought the topic up during public comment at a School Board meeting last August 13 and asked the division to look into changing it.
On February 10, Jackson’s email on the topic to Superintendent Candace Brown and other central office administrators seemed to get the ball rolling.
Two committee meetings have been held so far, on March 9 and March 30, with the next one set for April 27.  
The committee is headed up by Supervisor of Curriculum Ann Cocke and includes a mix of division staff and community members.   
The minutes of the first meeting state the committee’s purpose is to review the current grading scale and research grading scales from other divisions, then make recommendations concerning the grading scale.
With the current grading scale, it takes a 94 to earn an “A,” and an 86 for a “B.”  
But Jackson notes that in most high schools nationwide a 90 is an “A” and an 80 is a “B.”  
In both cases, an A receives 4 points and a B gets 3 when calculating grade point averages (GPAs).
Jackson said in his February 10 email to Brown, “As a parent of two middle school students who expect to attend college, I am very concerned over our county’s antiquated grading scale.  My children will soon compete for limited out-of-state admission opportunities but our current grading scale will place them at a distinct disadvantage when competing against students from school divisions using a 10-point scale and greater weights for advanced courses.”
Jackson noted that a recent Fairfax County Public Schools investigation into school grading policies reveals that contrary to what parents and students have been told, 55 percent of colleges surveyed do not recalculate grades and 89 percent compare individual applicants against their entire applicant pool.
Because letter grades are the #1 factor for college admissions, Jackson says the current King George grading scale is limiting the college choices available to county students.
“Our lower GPAs matter not only in terms of college admissions, but also acceptance into Honors programs, discounts on auto insurance, and awards of Merit Scholarships,” Jackson said.
He provided the example that Fairfax County discovered.  
“At many universities, a student simply needs a 3.5 GPA and a solid SAT Score to be eligible for an automatic, merit scholarship that may total thousands of dollars.  Overall, this GPA inequity could realistically cost King George families in terms of state college admissions, academic/ merit scholarships, college honors programs, and good student driver discounts. In this current economic crisis, it is an unfair burden to not permit King George County students to compete on a level playing field,” Jackson said.
Jackson pushed for the hard look at what’s happening across the state and nation with grading scales, saying, “I would like to begin a serious discussion about following Fairfax County’s lead and join the majority of American high schools who have implemented the more commonly used 10-point grading scale, with added weights for Honors and AP/IB classes. The Stafford County School Board has already voted to change their grading system to a 10-point scale and on 28 January, a majority of Loudoun County school board members expressed their support to change their 7-point grading scale. I am not alone in thinking that it is time for us to make the change as well.”
That discussion is now in the hands of that division committee.  No set timeline has been established for reporting.  The committee looked at the proposed 10-point grading scale, which provides grades as follows:  90-100=A, 80-89=B, 70-79=C, 60-69=D, Below 60=F.
The committee is developing surveys designed to elicit input from teachers, staff, and parents/guardians.
Jackson told The Journal, “At first blush, you may say a higher standard is desirable and it’s good that we have a tough grading scale because it raises expectations and makes our kids work harder.”
But he added, “While this sentiment may or may not be true, the point here isn’t higher standards, but rather that our present grading scale places King George students at a disadvantage when seeking college admission, merit scholarships, and good driver discounts.”
Jackson said he’d be fine with a grading scale if all the other divisions had the same scale.  
But they don’t.  
“GPA is a standard measurement of a student’s grades and academic achievement. When that standard is different from King George, it’s an inaccurate representation of the hard work a King George student does.”
Jackson noted that Fairfax County’s study produced an extensive investigation prior to a vote by its School Board to go to the new grading scale this fall at the beginning of next school year.  (The Fairfax report can be found on our website at accompanying this article online.)
Jackson also noted that the Fairfax County School board investigation found that the actual high school grades (A, B, C, or D) are the MOST important factor in college admissions.  
That finding is repeatedly acknowledged in the report with citations from the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC), the College Board, and the Fairfax County School Board’s own college survey conducted for the report.
Jackson found that the Fairfax report notes the following highlights of its study of grading scales:  ~ Fairfax’s  old six-point scale resulted in Fairfax students having notably lower GPAs than non-Fairfax students with similar SAT scores but graded on a 10-point scale, thereby putting Fairfax students at a competitive disadvantage for college admissions.
~ 75 school systems in 12 different states have adopted the 10-point scale in the last few years.
~ No evidence supports the current six-point scale in Fairfax.
~ On page 49, Figure 6, of the investigation report, it states that changing both the weights for advanced classes and the grading scale benefits all students, especially those with GPAs below 3.75.
~ The grading scale has no bearing on a high school’s academic standards.  A vast majority of our nation’s very best high schools use the 10-point scale (see the 2008 Gold Medal Winner High Schools).
 ~ A school district’s academic standards are measured by their four-year college attendance rates for high school graduates, mean SAT scores and Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate class participation and performance.
Jackson said, “If a student is taking the same courses and delivering the same performance in our county and it’s giving him a 3.5 average, and if he were simply in Stafford County or Spotsylvania county, his GPA would be a 3.9, then that’s patently wrong.  This uneven playing field places our kids at a distinct disadvantage and could potentially cost parents money and lost opportunities for our kids - this needs to change.”

fairfax county investigation report_120 pages.pdf

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