Attention, Golfers!

The 2018 VB SPARK Golf Tournament will be held on Friday, May 18 at Honey Bee Golf Club.  The four-player best ball competition will begin at 1:00 p.m.  The cost per player is $100, which covers green fees, cart, range balls, and dinner.  There will be prizes and a raffle.

Here is the registration form:

Make checks payable to VB SPARK, and mail to P. O. Box 5078, Virginia Beach, VA 23471.

Thanks to our wonderful sponsors:


Chick’s Oyster Bar


Laser Quest

Lynnhaven Golf Park

Jessica Hester State Farm

Tidewater Import Car Service


Beach Bully Bar.B.Cue Restaurant

The Middle Resolution

ECI Enterprises

Old Dominion University Graduate School

Addicted to Golf

Carmines Chiropractic

Mermaid Winery


Special thanks to

Mr.  Kurt Noer

Heron Ridge Golf Golf Club

Hell’s Point Golf Course

Stumpy Lake Golf Course

The Signature at West Neck

SB Member Carolyn Weems to Speak April 18

VB SPARK will hold a meeting of its general membership on Wednesday, April 18, at 6:30 p.m., in the atrium at Princess Anne High School.

Carolyn Weems, member of the Virginia Beach School Board, will speak about “Educating Students and the Public about the Opioid Crisis.”

After graduating from Clemson University, Carolyn married her college sweetheart, Billy, and moved to Virginia Beach. They coached tennis and baseball at Old Dominion University, started an advertising specialty company and had 5 children. Mrs. Weems has spent the last three decades volunteering in schools, churches and various community groups.

In 2002, Mrs. Weems was elected to the Virginia Beach School Board and re-elected in 2006, 2010 and 2014. Her passion stems from a long family history of educators and her desire to advocate and improve the educational opportunities for students with learning disabilities.

In 2013, Carolyn and her family’s lives were drastically altered when her daughter, Caitlyn, died from a heroin overdose. As a result of her painful journey, Mrs. Weems speaks and works at the national, statewide and local levels to promote awareness and education about the devastating opioid epidemic our country and community are experiencing. She shared her story in “Heroin, the Hardest Hit,” a documentary released by the Virginia Attorney General’s Office. She also leads the Outreach Team of the Hampton Roads Opioid Work Group to help develop holistic community driven solutions to the current drug crisis. She is especially proud of being instrumental in expanding the health curriculum in Virginia Beach and testifying for HB1532 that ensures opioid specific education be implemented at all public schools in the Commonwealth. As a result of her motivation and determination, Mrs. Weems is the recipient of the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award and the Human Rights Commission Award.

Mrs. Weems has established Caitlyn’s HALO, a nonprofit organization dedicated to Helping Addicts and Loved Ones. Please feel free to contact Carolyn at

Right to Legal Advice Endangered by Policy Proposal

A policy change under consideration by the School Board would affect requests by Board members for a legal opinion from the School Board Legal Counsel.  As the policy currently stands, any Board member seeking such a legal opinion makes the request to the Chairman, who must forward the request to Legal Counsel.  The proposed change, however, would require a majority vote of the Board in order to obtain the legal opinion.

This change must be opposed with all vigor.

Among its many duties, the School Board is charged with ensuring that the operations of the school district are in full compliance with federal, state, and local laws.  In its deliberations and decisions, the members must therefore have unfettered access to legal advice.  Board members themselves are not necessarily experts in the law; that expertise is provided by the School Board Legal Counsel.  Consistent with this vital need, the policy as currently written properly compels the Chairman to forward requests for advice to the appropriate professional attorneys.

The proposed change, however, taints the process of obtaining this advice; it alters what should be a purely legal request into a political one.  Instead of obtaining the legal opinion that a Board member needs, she or he might be stonewalled or denied outright by political opponents.  This situation puts at risk the rights of the minority, and places in grave jeopardy the ability of the Board to discharge its responsibilities.

Teachers: Please Take Our School Discipline Survey

Please let me invite all teachers for the Virginia Beach City Public Schools to take our School Discipline Survey.  It should only take a minute or two, and your responses will remain anonymous.  The survey is here:

Thank you for helping us with this effort!

We’re Paying Too Much for New Schools

Following below is cost comparison information for school replacement construction.  All of the figures were obtained from the Virginia Beach City Public Schools website, and the Virginia Department of Education website.  It contains all of the relevant state averages going back to the 2014-2015 school year.

As you can see, we are consistently spending more per pupil and per square foot for our new schools than the state average — in some cases about twice as much or more!   Clearly we should be demanding cost savings.  Those dollars could have gone to teacher salaries, school safety, or a property tax reduction.


Kellam High School:

Original Building Opened: September 1962
Groundbreaking: September 30, 2011
Construction Start Date/Site Work: Winter 2010/11
Construction Start Date/Building: Summer 2011
Projected Completion: Spring 2014
Student Capacity: 2000
Current Student Membership: 1838
Building Size: 336,410 sq. ft. (two stories)
Total CIP Project Cost: $102 million
Architect: HBA Architecture
Site Contractor: A&W Contractors, Inc.
General Contractor: S.B. Ballard Construction Co.
Cost per pupil:  $55,495.10
Cost per s.f.:  $303.20
New high schools 2017-2018 (none)
New high schools 2016-2017
Loudoun County HS
Cost per pupil:  $46,945.00
Cost per s.f.:  $289.92
Loudoun County Median Household Income:  $134,464 (#1 in US in 2016) (source: U.S. Census Bureau)
Virginia Beach Median Household Income:  $61,805 (source: U.S. Census Bureau)
New high schools 2015-2016 (none)
New high schools 2014-2015
Statewide average cost per pupil:  $35,690
Statewide average cost per s.f. $175.65
Old Donation School (Brickell Academy):

Original Building Opened:
Old Donation Center (ODC) – 1965
Kemps Landing Magnet School (KLMS) – 1957
Design Start Date: November 2011
Construction Start Date: Summer 2014
Projected Completion Date: Fall 2017
Student Capacity: 1,375
(ODC-450; KLMS-750; Pullout Programs-175)
Building Size: 225,785 sq. ft. (two – three stories)
Total CIP Project Cost: $63,615,000(+)
Architect: RRMM Architects
Contractor: McKenzie Construction Corporation
Cost per pupil:  $46,265.45*
Cost per s.f.:  $281.75
Campostella K-8 STEM School (Norfolk), 2015-2016
Cost per pupil:  $25,919
Cost per s.f.:  $148.86
Also compare with middle school and elementary school averages following below.
Thoroughgood ES:
Original Building Opened: 1958
Groundbreaking: TBD
Construction Start Date: 2018
Projected Completion: 2020
New Building Capacity: 648
Current Student Membership: 677
Existing Building Size: 66,259 sq. ft.
New Building Size: approx. 94,000 sq. ft.
Total CIP Project Cost: $28.3 million
Architect: VIA Design Architects
General Contractor: TBD
Cost per pupil:  $41,802
Cost per s.f.:  $301.06
New elementary schools 2017-2018
Statewide average cost per pupil:  $29,172
Statewide average cost per s.f. $199.50
New elementary schools 2016-2017
Statewide average cost per pupil:  $26,319
Statewide average cost per s.f. $158.34
New elementary schools 2015-2016
Statewide average cost per pupil:  $22,025
Statewide average cost per s.f. $169.46
Richard H. Bowling Jr. ES  (Norfolk), 2015-2016
Statewide average cost per pupil:  $23,555
Statewide average cost per s.f. $157.32
Ocean View ES (Norfolk), 2015-2016
Statewide average cost per pupil:  $23,066
Statewide average cost per s.f. $168.80
Larchmont ES (Norfolk), 2015-2016
Statewide average cost per pupil:  $24,479
Statewide average cost per s.f. $170.77
New elementary schools 2014-2015
Statewide average cost per pupil:  $25,035
Statewide average cost per s.f. $185.27
Princess Anne MS:
Original Building Opened: 1974
Existing Building Demolition: Summer/Fall 2017
Groundbreaking: TBD
Construction Start Date: 2018
Projected Completion: 2021
New Building Capacity: 1,500
Current Student Membership: 1,479
New Building Size: 222,571 sq. ft.
Total CIP Project Cost: $78.9 million
Architect: RRMM Architects
Demolition Contractor: R. J. Smith Construction Inc.
General Contractor: TBD
Cost per pupil: $53,346.86
Cost per s.f.:  $354.49
New middle schools 2016-2017
Statewide average cost per pupil:  $36,384
Statewide average cost per s.f. $201.45
New middle schools 2015-2016
Statewide average cost per pupil:  $36,256
Statewide average cost per s.f. $198.11
New middle schools 2014-2015
Statewide average cost per pupil:  $40,121
Statewide average cost per s.f. $179.12
(+) This total contains cost of the site as well.
*Cost per pupil is based on current student membership, if available; otherwise, building capacity is used.
**Cost comparison data is from the Virginia Department of Education:


Lenient Disciplinary Policies Enabled Parkland Shooter

An intriguing article by Paul Sperry of Real Clear Investigations points to school discipline policy reforms as a significant factor enabling Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland shooter, to commit his heinous crime.  These reforms, aimed at reducing the number of suspensions and referrals to law enforcement, are said to have kept Cruz out of the reach of authorities when their involvement might have prevented the massacre.

According to the article:

“Despite committing a string of arrestable offenses on campus before the Florida school shooting, Nikolas Cruz was able to escape the attention of law enforcement, pass a background check and purchase the weapon he used to slaughter three staff members and 14 fellow students because of Obama administration efforts to make school discipline more lenient.

“Documents reviewed by RealClearInvestigations and interviews show that his school district in Florida’s Broward County was in the vanguard of a strategy, adopted by more than 50 other major school districts nationwide, allowing thousands of troubled, often violent, students to commit crimes without legal consequence. The aim was to slow the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

“‘He had a clean record, so alarm bells didn’t go off when they looked him up in the [NCIS] system,” veteran FBI agent Michael Biasello told RCI. “He probably wouldn’t have been able to buy the murder weapon if the school had referred him to law enforcement.’

“Disclosures about the strategy add a central new element to the Parkland shooting story: It’s not just one of official failings at many levels and of America’s deep divide over guns, but also one of deliberate federal policy gone awry.

“In 2013, the year before Cruz entered high school, the Broward County school system scrapped and rewrote its discipline policy to make it much more difficult for administrators to suspend or expel problem students, or for campus police to arrest them for misdemeanors– including some of the crimes Cruz allegedly committed in the years and months leading up to the deadly Feb. 14 shooting at his Fort Lauderdale-area school.

“To keep students in school and improve racial outcomes, Broward school Superintendent Robert W. Runcie — a Chicagoan and Harvard graduate with close ties to President Obama and his Education Department — signed an agreement with the county sheriff and other local jurisdictions to trade cops for counseling. Instead of the criminal justice system, students charged with various misdemeanors, including assault, were referred to counseling, which included participation in “healing circles,” obstacle courses and other “self-esteem building” exercises.

“Asserting that minority students, in particular, were treated unfairly by traditional approaches to school discipline, Runcie’s goal was to slash arrests and ensure that students, no matter how delinquent, graduated without criminal records.”

Read the whole thing here:

Few Preschoolers Meet Anti-Obesity Guidelines

Obesity has long been a serious health issue in America, with 36.5% of adults now meeting the CDC’s definition.  Since preschool children who are overweight face four times the risk of being overweight as adults, the state of Maine and Harvard University have devised guidelines for children known as “5-2-1-0.”  This concept recommends that children eat 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily, get no more than 2 hours of screen time, perform at least 1 hour of physical activity, and drink 0 sweetened beverages.
A study conducted by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center has found, however, that among the 398 children observed during a 24 hour period, only one child met all of the guidelines.  Less than 1% met the guideline for exercise; 17% failed to get emough fruits and vegetables; 50% had sugary drinks; and 19% spent too much time in front of a screen.  According to the researchers, a quarter of the children in the study were already overweight.
This study points toward parents as having a great responsibility in ensuring better future health outcomes for their children.  The findings were published in Preventive Medicine Reports.  You can find the article here:

VB SPARK Meeting on Wednesday, February 21

VB SPARK will hold a meeting of its general membership on Wednesday, February 21, at 6:30 p.m., in the atrium at Princess Anne High School.

Our guest speaker will be former NFL player Aaron Rouse.   As a student at First Colonial High School, he  excelled at outside linebacker and wide receiver, earning Defensive Player of the Year, as well as First Team Group AAA.  After graduation he played for Virginia Tech, where he was recognized as Freshman All-American, and later as All-ACC.  He was drafted by the Green Bay Packers, and went on to play for both NFL and UFL teams.  He will speak about the challenges of being a student-athlete.

The event is open to the public.

Letter Grades Under Attack

Jennifer C. Braceras, a Senior Fellow with the Independent Women’s Forum, has written a very timely article for the Wall Street Journal titled “The War on Grades Deserves to Fail.”  Schools across the country are abandoning traditional letter grades in favor of systems that purport to measure “progress toward competency” — rather than actual academic achievement.
“This type of ‘standards-based grading’ (as it is called) represents more than a change in nomenclature.  Whereas letter grades (or numeric percentages) measure the work a student has completed, the new system is concerned primarily with what the student will be able to do by year’s end…. This method of assessment makes even less sense in high school, where students are savvy enough to know that they need not work hard in October to show proficiency in June.”
Braceras points out that these alternative grading systems say little about whether students have in fact learned anything, whether they can meet deadlines, or whether they engage actively in the classroom, all of which are captured  via traditional grading, and which are critical for success after graduation.

To Close a Gap

The Telegraph, the British daily newspaper, reported yesterday that University of Oxford gave students extra time to complete their exams in mathematics and computer science in summer of 2017, in an effort to mitigate the achievement gap between men and women.  “Female [degree] candidates might be more likely to be adversely affected by time pressure,” explained the Board of Examiners.

What sort of message, I wonder, does this send to all the girls who aspire to become mathematicians, computer scientists, or other professionals in technical disciplines?  That women cannot compete with men on a level playing field?  That after decades of fighting for civil rights and gender equality it is time to cower behind a petticoat?  What about the female surgeon, airline pilot, and firefighter — do they get a few extra minutes, too?
Who else is entitled to a tilt in their direction, now that we are in the business of equalizing outcomes?  The New England Patriots have won their fair share of Superbowls, and so perhaps the Eagles should be allowed to field an additional player when they face off in the big game.
And what about those individuals who do not identify with the traditional binary gender classifications?  Who on this Earth stands fit to decide the fair and proper time adjustments in their situation?
Oxford, ranked number 1 in the World University Rankings by the Times of London, has raised some truly vexing questions.