Manassas City School Board Candidate Ellen Purdy said she can help bring Manassas City Public Schools up to 21st century speed and prepare students for a future work force focused on science, math, engineering, and new technology if elected.
"To do anything other than integrating math and science is to, in fact, drag our kids down," she said.
Purdy, who is an engineer and works in research and development, said everything is going high-tech, including trade services. She is a strong supporter of the Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) program currently being used in the city's schools and supports funding to further integrate math and science towards the mastery of standards.
"In order to have a strong economy and provide the same opportunities to our children that we have grown up with, we have got to have a curriculum that is integrating math and science," Purdy said.
She said she tends to live years in front of everyone else, because her profession requires her to spend a lot of time in a laboratory. She has worked alongside NASA astronauts and the inventors of iRobot when the were inventing the Roomba—the vacuuming robot.
"I see the products about 10 years before they hit the rest of us and I know where we are going because I see it being invented," she said.
Purdy said the private sector is willing to reach across the table and help the local school systems because they are worried about how to train the future work force, but the schools have been slow to react.
Manasssas is home to tech companies including Lockheed Martin and Micron, among many others. Purdy said one thing she will work for if elected is to make sure the schools are partnering with the city and its local companies "to provide enhanced education opportunities for students, so they can get a sense of what the 21st century work force is really going to be like.
"In our 10 square miles we are so blessed with so much talent, so much capability," Purdy said. "We can leverage the resources they are willing to put on the table to help integrate math and science," she said.
Purdy is a federal employee and has experience with the legislative relief process. She said this experience would have been beneficial last fall when the state sought legislative relief from the 'No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)'—something many teachers have called unfair and burdensome to America’s schools.
The relief is being offered to the state, but Purdy said there is a lot that can be done as a jurisdiction. She said if elected she would work with the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), local elected delegates and congressional members to help seek legislative relief from NCLB and future mandates that may hinder the education system.
"We need to put the control and innovation back in the hands of our teachers and we can help take some of that pressure off that's been put in place," she said.
Purdy said one of the biggest reasons the NCLB waiver is so important to Manassas City Public Schools is because it did not envision a student body population where almost half of the students do not speak English.
Purdy said the school board's budget concerns her because the five-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) includes money for new buildings but no increase in funding to maintain those new buildings.
The total bond amount for the five-year CIP as proposed in the School Board's FY 13 budget is $80 million, according to documents. Fifteen million dollars is for renovations to existing structures in FY 13; $30 million is for a new school to replace Baldwin Elementary School in FY 14; and $35 million is for a new school in FY 16 to address an increase of 200 students every year. The school board also proposed in FY 12 $3 million to buy a new central office building.
But Purdy said the board's projected budget does not include the cost of ownership for the new buildings.
"The operating fund which they use to pay for maintenance of the buildings stays flat; the CIP stays flat," she said.
But more schools means more renovations and upgrades, she said.
"There's no total ownership cost analysis associated with the five-year capital improvement plan. It doesn't exist," Purdy said. "One of the number one rules of capital planning is what are your ownership costs, and that's not in the budget."
If elected, Purdy said she will bring budget analysis expertise, which she has acquired in her professional endeavours, to the board to ensure future CIP planning is based on ownership cost and alternatives.
Purdy says while she knows her unique perspectives will benefit the schools and community, she said she is really running for a seat on the school board because of her desire to serve the public and help provide the same experiences to future generations that a public education awarded her.
For more information about Manassas City School Board Candidate Ellen Purdy, visit www.purdyschoolboard.com