A fight is brewing over teacher pay - Flocking is back for Woodson seniors - Kindergartners return to classrooms - Lake Braddock football wins season opener vs. Westfield

An interview with Robinson wrestling coach Bryan Hazard on winning a state championship amid the pandemic

Welcome to March and welcome to Braddock Buzz, where it’s starting to feel like spring. Keep the news, tips, and feedback coming to braddockbuzz@gmail.com, and drop us a note if you’re interested in advertising opportunities.

Thank you to our sponsor, Realtor Jennifer Mack, who’s hosting a free virtual seller’s seminar tonight at 7 p.m. Register online here, or by emailing Jennifer at jennifer@jennifermackproperties.com. Jennifer’s column this week discusses the latest trends in kitchen design.

Happening tonight: VDOT will hold a 7 p.m. virtual meeting on planned improvements to the intersection of Little River Turnpike and Guinea Road. The $366,000 project, expected to begin next month, is especially important to Truro residents, who are hoping it will reduce cut-through traffic in their neighborhood. Register to attend here.

County Budget

A fight is brewing over teacher pay

School Board members will appear before the Board of Supervisors tomorrow to press their case for teacher pay raises—after County Executive Bryan Hill unveiled a draft budget that completely rejects the School Board’s proposed 3% hike for FCPS employees. Hill’s FY22 budget would instead keep pay flat for all county employees—which he framed as a necessity given the pandemic’s toll on the economy.

The proposal would provide $14 million more for schools than in FY21, but this is far short of the $104 million boost requested by the School Board. Tomorrow’s hearing marks the start of a series of meetings to consider and amend the plan ahead of final adoption in May, with the FY22 budget year beginning July 1.

Already, the budget faces pushback from labor groups, including the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers. “We’re very disappointed with the proposed budget … because it would freeze pay for all county employees for a second year in a row,” the teachers union said in a statement. “We’re calling on the county to invest in its employees and provide the step and cost of living increases that they deserve.”

The proposal is also facing criticism for the opposite reason—for keeping taxes too high and spending too much. The budget would cut real estate taxes by 1 cent per $100 in assessed value—but the lone Republican on the Board of Supervisors, Pat Herrity of the Springfield District, says this isn’t enough. That’s because, despite the tax cut, homeowners will see their tax burden increase by an average of $224 due to rising property values, with residential real estate assessments up 4.25% over last year, to an average property value of $607,752.

"As a taxpayer, I would have hoped for at least a flat tax bill from my government during a pandemic,” Herrity said. “We need to be doing what our residents are having to do and figure out ways to work within our means.”

Where does our School Board member stand?

Braddock District School Board Member Megan McLaughlin is “disappointed” by the proposed budget’s lack of funding for FCPS employee raises—but also mindful of the “challenge of balancing local budgetary needs against its impact on taxpayers,” she said in an email to Braddock Buzz.

Here’s McLaughlin’s statement in full:

Each year, the School Board is tasked with submitting a needs-based budget to the Board of Supervisors. Due to limited federal and state funding, FCPS relies heavily on County revenue (it comprises more than 75% of our annual operating dollars). With this in mind, I have consistently cited the importance of balancing FCPS’ budgetary needs alongside its impact on County taxpayers. 

This year, our School Board was presented with a difficult budget challenge. On the one hand, the State has signaled a 3% pay raise for its own employees, as well as an offer to provide partial matching funds for teachers and school-based employee raises. In addition, surrounding school districts have recently advertised 3-5% raise for their employees. On the other hand, the School Board was aware that local revenue is projected to have limited growth. However, in order to remain competitive in the region, our School Board decided it was essential to include a 3% raise in our FY22 advertised budget request. 

Because local revenue has not grown at a rate similar to the State, the County Executive has stated there is not sufficient funding this year for County and FCPS employee raises. While I am disappointed by this news, I am equally mindful that the Board of Supervisors also faces a similar challenge of balancing local budgetary needs against its impact on taxpayers. 

At this stage, both the Board of Supervisors and the School Board have asked the State to provide its portion of the teacher/school-based employee raises, while removing the required local funding component. If this does not occur, the two budgetary options (to fund employee raises) will be operational cost-cutting and/or increasing the personal property tax rate. 

Given the County’s unemployment rate is 4% (vs pre-Covid 1.9%), as well as the projected increase in overall property taxes (due to higher home values), the County Executive has said he is disinclined to increase the tax rate. I look forward to hearing the Board of Supervisors’ perspective on additional funding for employee raises during our Joint Budget Meeting this Tuesday, March 2nd.

Schools

Kindergartners return to the classroom: Kindergartners have now returned to in-person learning for two days per week, while remaining virtual for two days—part of the phased timeline for bringing all grade levels back to in-person learning by March 16. Superintendent Scott Brabrand welcomed students back to Wakefield Forest Elementary School, as you can see in the video in this Tweet:

Flamingos return for Woodson seniors: Flamingo “flocking” is back for the graduating seniors of Woodson High School. The tradition began last year as a socially distanced way to celebrate Woodson’s graduating class—with flocks of plastic flamingos showing up in the front yards of seniors. The flamingos would then “migrate” to another senior’s yard—with a goal of reaching every one of Woodson’s 500-some grads. Just like last year, this year’s migration is being tracked on Facebook.

The idea was started by Woodson parents Kim Adams and Nicole Jabaley—and is being spearheaded this year by Debbie Stackiewicz and Alexandra Garrison, who’ve already raised more than $3,000 for the effort. They’re now looking for volunteers to help with the flocking—you can contact them here: woodsonclass2021@gmail.com

“This year we are doing things a little differently but our goal will be exactly the same—to celebrate every single senior in the Woodson Class of 2021,” said Stackiewicz.

Athletics

Lake Braddock football wins season opener vs. Westfield: Football kicked off last week, part of this year’s condensed pandemic schedule where winter sports went first, followed by fall sports and then spring sports. The Washington Post has coverage of Lake Braddock Secondary School’s victory Friday over Northern Virginia powerhouse Westfield, 26-7. “With as many kids as I have coming back, that older group has one goal, and that’s to win a state championship,” said Lake Braddock Head Coach Mike Dougherty.

Robinson wrestling coach on winning a state championship amid the pandemic

An interview with Bryan Hazard

The Robinson Secondary School wrestling team has just clinched its eighth state title—and fifth under Bryan Hazard, now in his 25th year as head coach. We caught up with Hazard, a longtime P.E. teacher at Robinson who’s now a resource instructor, to discuss what it was like to compete during Covid-19 and what it takes to build a successful high school athletics program.

The interview is below, edited for length and clarity.

Q: Hi, Coach Hazard. You must be exhausted.

Our bodies are all breaking down, the day after we finished the state tournament. And it’s not Covid, because I’ve been vaccinated. It was an exhausting year, but it was a great year—we had an amazing team. 

Q: Congratulations on winning the state championship. How many individual state champions did Robinson have this year?

Five.

Q: That’s five state champions out of 14 weight classes.

Yep. It was a record. We'd had four before. 

Q: What’s the secret to your success?

There's really no secret. When you have good kids and you have great athletes and you can mold kids to do the right things on the mat and hopefully off the mat—then good things happen. 

Q: What was it like dealing with Covid-19?

Every day I was waiting for our county to pull the plug. And so we trained our kids to just live in the moment and be happy that they get to wrestle. Usually our kids do extra workouts at different places—we had to put the kibosh on that. We really had to do our two hours here and just pray that nobody got sick. 

Q: Did any wrestlers test positive during the season?

Not one. We had one young man whose sister got sick, but he never got sick. We had to pause for two days, and when he got a negative test we were good to go.

Q: Do you have athletes this year who you expect will compete at the college level?

Two of our kids are going to be wrestling in college—Esteban Matiella and Joshua Pence. There’s a senior who I think has the ability but he's made a choice not to wrestle in college. He's going to be the next president.

Q: What does it take to build a successful athletic program at the high school level?

You have to build a system. I’ve seen some coaches who want to go so hard that they drive kids out. I want to keep kids in the program. I don't want to kick kids off the team. I don't want kids to quit a program. I want them to be successful humans later on. You also need a strong booster program. We have an alumni list of three to four thousand people who give of themselves, whether that's financial or people who give their time. 

In addition, you need stability in coaching. At Robinson, we’ve had just three head coaches in fifty years. We have assistant coaches who are unbelievably knowledgeable and loyal. Most of our assistant coaches have been with us for 10, 12, 15 years, or even longer. 

Q: Do you think it’s getting harder to recruit good coaches with all the increasing responsibilities that teachers face?

Look, coaches make pennies on the dollar. My stipend has actually gone down since I've been a coach in the last 25 years, because when you bring on additional coaches, you split that stipend with other people.

Q: Is the size of your stipend something you’d be comfortable sharing?

I'd rather not. But I can tell you that most sports teams have two stipends—one of about $4,000 and one of about $3,000. If you cut that five, six, seven ways, you can kind of gather what it is. Our assistant coaches are working their tails off, and it’s because they love it. Unless you have really dedicated people, it's difficult. People like to get paid. People like to be compensated for their work. It's a ministry, really, where you're giving back to kids.

Q: Do you see wrestling as a sport that’s increasing or decreasing in popularity?

At the youth level, the numbers are going up. Especially with women’s wrestling, which we’re trying to get sanctioned in Virginia now that it’s an Olympic sport, we have a whole new avenue for kids to compete. Obviously during Covid people were really fearful of any sports, and especially contact sports and combat sports, even though, if you look at it, the contact tracing for an individual sport like wrestling is easier. You have the same partner every day. You know, here’s my partner, here’s my opponent.

So, in terms of the youth and high school levels, wrestling is gaining in popularity. I think at the college level we need to do a better job of keeping programs around.

Q: What do you see as the importance of a sport like wrestling in a young person's life?

It creates stability. It teaches you the ability to fight for yourself, but also to fight for a team. It teaches hard work. It teaches balance. It teaches the ability to really know your body. I just think it's really a microcosm for life. If you're a good wrestler, you've gotta be good at everything, because you have to be a good student, you have to manage time, you have to manage nutrition. It's just a sport that builds character in men and women.

Service

Girl Scout community walk scheduled for March 13: Two Girl Scouts named Lauren and Kendall from Troop 147 sent us the reminder below about the community walk they’re organizing in Truro on March 13 to collect art supplies for United Methodist Family Services: 

We want to give back to the children and families who don’t have the privileges that we have, and are hoping you could help. Our walk will take place on March 13th, and we hope you can be there! It will take place in the Truro Neighborhood, starting at the clubhouse. The walk will officially start at 9 a.m. We are inviting you to come to our walk. It is an all-outdoor event. We require masks and social distancing. To ensure social distancing, you and your family will be assigned a timeslot (of every 5 minutes). You do not have to show up to the walk until a little bit before. 

For the walk “entrance fee,” we are asking for art supplies. For an earlier time slot, you should register online by March 10th so we can assign time slots. The fee for the walk is for every three people who participate, you are to bring one item of art supplies. If the amount of people you have is not a factor of three, please round up to the nearest factor. The art supplies must be unused or in good condition.

Dogs are allowed, but we are not responsible for them.

We suggest you register online first. To register online, use the link below. More information about the walk is in the registration form.

For any questions, you can email us at thesilverlining.project2020@gmail.com.

Link: https://forms.gle/GYwuktFxa3qHLKUt9 

For more information about UMFS: https://www.umfs.org/ 

Thank You! Stay safe!

News in Brief

  • Effective today, Gov. Ralph Northam is easing pandemic restrictions on social gatherings and dining establishments, with the number of people allowed at outdoor gatherings increasing from 10 to 25.

  • The Board of Supervisors voted 9-1 last week to ban the use of plastic bags for curbside yard waste, the Annandale Blog reports. The county is urging residents to instead use paper bags or reusable plastic bins—or to mulch their leaves and grass clippings as fertilizer.

  • The Planning Commission had been expected to make a decision last week on the Zoning Ordinance Modernization Project (zMOD), but has instead deferred a decision until its meeting this Wednesday.

  • The Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) is warning of a scam Facebook page that uses the FCPA logo and has been messaging people that they won a prize. “FCPA and Fairfax County will never friend request you or send you prize information via Facebook message,” the Park Authority said.

  • Three teenagers from the Braddock District—Jenny and Jessica Hosken, and Olivia Preston—were part of the inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts, WJLA reports.

Real Estate

Sponsored Content

Jennifer Mack column: Kitchen renovations can boost your home value—but pay attention to the trends

See Jennifer’s video column introduction here:

A kitchen renovation is one of the smartest things you can do to maximize the value of your home. Many buyers don’t want to spend time and money renovating a kitchen, so they’re willing to pay top dollar for homes that already have this work done.

I am seeing many homeowners move other spaces in their homes to make room for a larger kitchen. For example, laundry rooms and powder rooms are being relocated to create additional kitchen space. Eat-in kitchen areas are also being sacrificed to make one large kitchen where the breakfast eating area is the island. 

When it comes to kitchen islands, the bigger, the better. I am seeing islands that can seat four or five people in comfortable padded "bar stools" that are more like tall dining chairs. Islands also afford an opportunity for more storage space, so in some cases we’re seeing upper cabinets being removed from around the stove to have a more open and airy feel.

Smart appliances are all the rage now. Prices have come down quite a bit on these appliances, making them more common even in more modest homes. Touchless faucets are also more common as the pandemic has heightened people’s awareness of hygiene habits. Lights, ovens, and ice makers can all be controlled from an app on your smartphone, and millennial buyers embrace this technology. If you’re switching out outlets, consider installing some with a USB charger built in to reduce clutter on kitchen counters. 

We are seeing some bold statement decor in kitchens as we move away from some of the gray and neutral trends that have been popular the last couple years. A bold color pop on a backsplash or some of the cabinetry adds a fun element to the kitchen. Of course, not every buyer will agree with your choices, so keep it somewhat safe if you’re selling soon. If you don't feel confident about making choices that will be attractive to buyers, consider bringing in an interior designer for a consult. They are less expensive than you might think, and I am happy to refer some designers with great taste to help you get your dream kitchen or do a simple refresh!

I’ll be hosting a free, virtual seller’s seminar this evening at 7 p.m.—you can register here. Hope to see you there!

Jennifer Mack has more than 15 years of experience in the real estate industry, with her team servicing Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. Contact her at jennifer@jennifermackproperties.com or by calling 703-672-0038.

New listings

5328 Gainsborough Dr, Fairfax | 4 beds, 3.5 baths, 2,385 sf | $689,500

7431 Axton St, Springfield | 3 beds, 2 baths, 1,204 sf | $559,900

8018 Hatteras Ln, Springfield | 4 beds, 2 baths, 1,569 sf | $569,000

4944 Herkimer St, Annandale | 3 beds, 3 baths, 1,632 sf | $499,000

10715 Burr Oak Way, Burke | 4 beds, 2.5 baths, 2,806 sf | $705,000

10275 Latney Rd, Fairfax | 3 beds, 3 baths, 1,626 sf | $489,888

4800 Thiban Ter, Annandale | 4 beds, 3.5 baths, 2,237 sf | $764,000

9224 Byron Ter, Burke | 5 beds, 3.5 baths, 2,676 sf | $780,000

6034 Burnside Landing Dr, Burke | 4 beds, 3.5 baths, 2,880 sf | $774,900

8505 Thames St, Springfield | 5 beds, 2 baths, 2,418 sf | $659,000

9113 Cascus Dr, Annandale | 4 beds, 3.5 baths, 3,196 sf | $799,999

8909 Lake Braddock Dr, Burke | 4 beds, 2.5 baths, 2,228 sf | $749,900

4936 Gainsborough Dr, Fairfax | 4 beds, 3 baths, 2,400 sf | $625,000

7562 Kingman Dr, Annandale | 4 beds, 2 baths, 1,512 sf | $549,900

5406 Brixham Ct, Burke | 3 beds, 2.5 baths, 1,760 sf | $545,000

Recently sold

10442 Malone Ct, Fairfax | 4 beds, 3.5 baths, 1,419 sf | 6 days on market | $555,000

10011 Commonwealth Blvd, Fairfax | 4 beds, 3 baths, 1,409 sf | 5 days on market | $756,000

4618 Gramlee Cir, Fairfax | 4 beds, 2.5 baths, 1,976 sf | 3 days on market | $699,000

10301 Colony View Dr, Fairfax | 3 beds, 3.5 baths, 1,280 sf | 2 days on market | $475,250

5819 Oak Bucket Ct, Burke | 3 beds, 3.5 baths, 1,320 sf | 2 days on market | $465,000

10664 John Ayres Dr, Fairfax | 4 beds, 3.5 baths, 4,200 sf | 3 days on market | $830,000

5912 Oakland Park Dr, Burke | 5 beds, 3 baths, 3,144 sf | 2 days on market | $815,280

8712 Clydesdale Rd, Springfield | 4 beds, 2.5 baths, 2,748 sf | 6 days on market | $660,000

8805 Victoria Rd, Springfield | 5 beds, 2 baths, 1,500 sf | 6 days on market | $610,000

10929 Roma St, Fairfax | 4 beds, 2.5 baths, 1,208 sf | 6 days on market | $585,000

4206 Whitacre Rd, Fairfax | 5 beds, 3.5 baths, 2,026 sf | 2 days on market | $808,000

4415 Briarwood Ct N #41, Annandale | 3 beds, 2 baths, 1,132 sf | 2 days on market | $253,000

7753 Patriot Dr #44, Annandale | 1 bed, 1 bath, 666 sf | 2 days on market | $156,900

5515 Flag Run Dr, Springfield | 3 beds, 3 baths, 1,940 sf | 2 days on market | $577,000

7604 Cosgrove Pl, Springfield | 3 beds, 1 bath, 1,066 sf | 2 days on market | $470,000