Stafford County Schools – Stafford County, Virginia

January 31, 2024

Stafford County Schools

commitment to excellence, innovation, and community collaboration

 

A school system shaping meaningful and successful student outcomes.

Stafford County Public Schools is a dynamic educational hub serving over 29,000 students across 33 schools. Strategically located between the vibrant cities of Richmond, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., Stafford County offers easy access to urban hubs, historical sites, and natural wonders, hosting landmarks like George Washington’s boyhood home, Ferry Farm, along with the unique presence of Marine Corps Base Quantico.

Renowned for its close-knit community, the district’s main objective is to empower every student toward a triumphant journey in education, career, and civic life. “I would say that our end game is meaningful post-secondary outcomes for our kids. And that’s just a fancy way of saying that we want every single one of our graduates to walk across the stage with a plan to either be employed, enlisted, or enrolled on their graduation day, ready for what comes next,” imparts Superintendent Dr. Thomas W. Taylor.

“There’s a lot that goes into making sure that every kid has that game plan. A cornerstone of that is having a fantastic staff that has high expectations for academic performance, supported by a school system that gives them the resources that they need to be successful.”

 

 

Expanding Opportunities through Specialized Academies

Stafford County Schools is continuously expanding its portfolio of opportunities for students focusing on areas that are based on both student interest and positive economic outcomes for the community. These include specialty centers at each of the high schools, highlighting pathways such as construction trades and engineering, health and medical sciences, business and entrepreneurship, media science, culinary, cosmetology, automotive, international relations and leadership, and aviation and logistics.

He emphasizes that the decision to introduce these academies stemmed from a thorough survey of parents and students, noting, “It was interesting, how aligned our parent responses and our student responses were, to what the local economic needs were. The one that surprised us the most was aviation. Virginia, in particular, is a very aviation-friendly state. There’s just a huge need for everything from pilots to mechanics to FBO operators. It’s a really exciting space to be in, and the fact that we could be a pipeline for that activity, it’s pretty awesome.”

Dr. Taylor expands, “We also offer cybersecurity in a dual enrollment program with our local community college. We’re getting ready to start a laboratory school with the University of Mary Washington, where we will focus on data science, coding, and IT. It is very exciting.” In addition, a collaboration with Stafford County Fire and Rescue has resulted in a highly successful career and technical program. Winning an award for being one of the best in the state, the program allows students to spend part of their day in the fire academy, graduating high school as certified professional firefighters.

Recognition of Exceptional Educators

Stafford County Schools recognizes the exceptional educators within the district and their crucial role in student success. Dr. Taylor mentions Jenni McCall, a math teacher who was not only named district-wide teacher of the year but was also honored as the Northern Virginia Teacher of the Year by Northern Virginia Magazine. With 4,300 employees, Stafford Schools is the largest employer in the county.

“We have received several accolades for our workforce in terms of how we support human capital, and we are very proud of our efforts to constantly have a focus on supporting our employees and making great strides in that space,” he acknowledges. “There’s an army of really fantastic teachers who care very deeply about kids and who are committed to the mission of having high expectations for academic performance, while also being committed to really meaningful post-secondary outcomes.”

Infrastructure Projects

Stafford County Schools is involved in several ongoing and upcoming infrastructure projects, addressing the growth in the region. Dr. Taylor maintains, “We are a bedroom community to our nation’s capital and the Quantico Marine Base and FBI offices there. We have a huge presence in that space, but it also means that people want to live in Stafford County, and we have not built a school for growth since 2008. So consequently, we have a lot of projects that are in the queue.”

The groundbreaking of a new high school with capacity for 2,150 students, and plans for two new elementary schools, show the commitment of the school system in proactively addressing the demand. “We are very excited about the growth that’s happening in Stafford County,” he adds.

Commitment to School Safety

In terms of school safety, Dr. Taylor underscores the importance of the strong partnership between the school system and the local sheriff’s office. “I am so proud of that relationship,” he remarks.

“Our Sheriff, David Decatur, is one of the best in the country. He has a team of just phenomenal experts that have worked hard to build a relationship with us and to be on the same page about safety, community safety, not just school safety.” The presence of a school resource officer in every school, combined with comprehensive safety plans and a focus on culture and climate, reflects the focus on creating safe and welcoming learning environments. “Campus safety is my number one priority, and this community supports that,” Dr. Taylor stresses.

“Even though it has a transient component tied to the military, and tied to Washington, this community is very tight-knit, and wants to see everyone be safe and wants to work together.”

 

 

Innovative Programs and Community Partnerships

Showcasing an innovative spirit, Stafford County Schools has taken on initiatives like the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, where accounting students help families with tax preparation. “We are the first school system in Virginia, and one of only a handful to start the VITA program with the IRS. Our accounting students are certified tax preparers and have done tax preparation for economically disadvantaged families in our community,” Dr. Taylor elaborates.

“I’m so excited. We have 19 of our accounting kids at two different school sites who are fully certified. And just this past year, they processed some 53 tax returns for families in need.”

Another significant initiative is the Bringing Occupational Opportunities To Students (BOOTS) program, where the district builds a home every two years. Not only is this an excellent opportunity for the community, but it also benefits the school, through both skill development and funding.

“The proceeds of the sale of that home go to finance our Building and Construction Trades Program. It’s fully funded and self-funded, the kids design it, the kids build it. They’re supervised during the process,” Dr. Taylor explains. With 25 homes completed, he says all of them are occupied, and are a source of pride for the district. “They’re fabulous homes, and our kids are very proud of the fact that they had a hand in building a house from start to finish all in one year.”

Stafford Schools takes pride in its collaborative efforts, notably with Samaha Architects, commissioned to design prototypes for the new elementary schools. Dr. Taylor also acknowledges valuable partnerships with Howard Shockey & Sons, who will be building the new high school, and local cybersecurity firm GCubed Inc., who are contributing majorly to the district’s cybersecurity program.

“In general, I am just absolutely proud of the relationship that we have with our business community,” asserts Dr. Taylor. He mentions Stafford Printing, and owner Howard Owen, who is part of the district’s business advisory council.

“I just feel nothing but support from this great community in trying to lift the school system in a meaningful way and to draw those connections to public education. As the region’s largest employer, I’m also the region’s largest restaurant chain. I have a public transit system that is larger than most metropolitan public transit systems. Our bus drivers are phenomenal. They care for our kids. Our nutrition staff has been named the best nutrition department in the state for two years in a row.”

Looking Ahead

Reflecting on the evolving landscape of education, Dr. Taylor shares a picture of Stafford County Schools as a school system that is not only meeting the challenges of the present but intentionally shaping the future.

He points to Stafford County Public Schools’ commitment to excellence, innovative programs, and collaborative community partnerships, sharing, “Children under the age of 18, represent approximately 20% of every community’s population, but they represent 100% of the future. We are going to continue to be relevant because we are crafting the future for our community. However, I think that Stafford County Schools will attain a level of prominence in the future, based on the type of programming that we put in place and the expectations for academic performance that we have for our kids that position them well in the marketplace so that they can contribute in a meaningful way.”

AT A GLANCE

Stafford County Schools

What: An education hub, serving 29,000 students in 33 schools

Where: Stafford County, Virginia

Website: www.staffordschools.net

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January 2024 cover of Business View Civil and Municipal

January 2024

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