Superintendent Walts

Dear Prince William County Public Schools Community,

As the leader of Prince William County Public Schools, I have served our students, staff, parents, and community for over 15 years. This has been a journey of working together with the mission of Providing Students A World-Class Education.

Students and staff always came first! I think my proudest achievement was to recommend to the 2005-06 School Board, full-day kindergarten for every student after my first year. The budget was good that year, and we were able to complete this initiative, the very next year. This doubled the learning time of our youngest learners, ultimately helping every teacher at every grade level. We have also slowly expanded pre-kindergarten opportunities.

I am pleased to say that all our schools are fully accredited by the state of Virginia. We are the largest school division in the state with all schools accredited without any conditions. As a part of that academic success, we achieved incredible results with our English learners and, over the years, our immigrant students became some our highest achievers, including valedictorians and salutatorians.

The 2018-19 Virginia Standards of Learning pass rates show that together, students in PWCS with disabilities, economically disadvantaged students, and English learners, as well as Black, Hispanic, and White students, surpassed the state average in all content areas. All eligible PWCS high schools continue to be ranked in the top 11 percent of 22,000 United States high schools measured by the "Washington Post" Jay Matthews Challenge Index.

SAT scores were up in 2019 by five points and exceeded the national average by 66 points. PWCS is working to close the SAT performance gap, with Black students outperforming counterparts state and nationwide in reading, math, and writing. Hispanic students in PWCS out-performed peers in Virginia and nationwide in both areas as well as the total score. More students are taking the SAT than ever before, prior to the pandemic, as well as enrolling in dual enrollment courses, and scholarships have increased by millions of dollars for graduates every year.

Over the years, we were able to staff a nurse in every building. Many counselors, social workers, psychologists, and other desperately needed mental health personnel were added to our faculty and staff.

Our local, state, and national awards in communications and public relations are the envy of the nation! It was a great honor to be selected by the National School Public Relations Association to serve on their National Board. Repeatedly, we have produced the Virginia Elementary Principal and Assistant Principal of the Year, a further compliment to those individuals and to our leadership training and professional development programs.

I have watched the school community grow by over 20,000 students in my time as Superintendent. During this time, our school division moved to a majority-minority student body. These were exciting times, which enabled us to celebrate and capitalize on our international diversity. As a faculty and staff, we moved from voluntary training in multicultural education to a rich professional development of cultural competencies that is reaching all our employees.

I was proud to work together to guide our school division through the decade of the Great Recession, and we are widely known for having no layoffs or furloughs. Thankfully, our budget and finance teams are highly credentialed, nationally recognized, and helped us through the financially lean times. During these fiscally challenging years, we continue to improve opportunities for students, and our graduation rate increased every year since the on-time graduation rate calculation started in 2008 with 83 percent. After increasing every single year, our graduation rate reached 92.4 percent last year and I anticipate it going up again. This is an improvement for the 12th consecutive year.

We enriched and expanded specialty programs, Career and Technical Education opportunities-from culinary arts to automotive technology to welding to technology certifications to name only a few, and created Elementary International Baccalaureate programs! Our reputation in the fine and performing arts is recognized throughout the state and nation! Students have excelled and received countless recognitions for their exceptional fine and performing talents. Our special educators work tirelessly to provide the services our students need to ensure they reach their full potential. We dramatically expanded our JROTC programs, which are nationally recognized. Our athletic programs produce top athletes, recruited from across the country every year! We enlarged our virtual course programming, and enriched and expanded curriculum offerings, and professional development opportunities, including mentoring, leadership, and cultural competency.

Thanks to the phenomenal work of our human resources team, there have been stronger efforts to recruit and retain the best and brightest educators, who encourage high school students to take rigorous coursework at all levels. These great educators encourage high school students, in increasing numbers, to take Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and Cambridge courses. We believe we are achieving our mission of Providing a World-Class Education for every student. We also developed a Growing Our Own program to encourage high school students to pursue an educational career and return to our schools to teach.

Working with other Northern Virginia Superintendents from being the newest to being the senior Superintendent of the region was, and continues to be, a powerful experience. I was humbled to be selected two times as the Region IV Superintendent of the Year. I worked with my colleagues to lead the effort to establish a regional science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) Governor's School that has led to exceptional success for our students and our community. Throughout our school division, we increased opportunities for students at all levels to become involved with robotics, placing PWCS on the world stage in numerous robotics competitions over the years.

We successfully opened over 20 state-of-the-art new schools on time and within budget. We completed hundreds of major building renovations to older schools and additions to many more and received multiple architectural awards for these designs. Our buildings are clean and beautifully maintained by our maintenance staff that is second to none!

We created standards for nurses' clinics, and continue to invest millions of dollars in those upgrades as well as safety and security personnel, technology, and safety upgrades throughout our great school division. We keep students safe from the moment our bus drivers pick them up in the morning until they are delivered safely in the afternoon! We built and expanded many existing Library Media Centers. Countless renovations and enhancements were done to athletic facilities across PWCS. We opened our first Aquatics Center, which is utilized by our students for water safety, school swim teams from across the county, community use, and even scuba diving classes!

We air-conditioned our entire fleet of over 900 buses over the past 15 years and just recently, completed making sure that all kitchens, where we prepare and serve award-winning meals, were appropriately air-conditioned as well. Monumental infrastructure upgrades and modernizations have taken place from HVAC systems to technology. Millions of dollars have been invested in student and teacher hardware and software, and instructional technology continues to jettison.

Our relationship with the business community expanded year after year with over 1,000 school business partners. We have enjoyed tremendous support from our business community, including hundreds of mentors for our students and opportunities of mutual interest. Our education foundation, SPARK, has gone from raising hundreds of thousands of dollars and resources each year to multi-million enhancements for our teachers and schools.

How has so much been accomplished? Our amazing teachers, support staff, and administrative leadership by principals, their leadership teams, and central office administrative support, together with loving, engaged parents and guardians, a great community, and county and state government support have been the answer! I value each and every one of you!

My wife, Kathleen, and I thank you as parents, for the privilege of providing our daughter, Delaney with an incredible educational experience beginning in kindergarten and finishing this year as a senior in high school. We sincerely appreciate what you have done for our daughter and for every other child in our school division.

I will continue to do my best to lead our school division as we navigate the uncharted waters caused by a global pandemic.

Today, I am announcing my retirement, which will begin July 1, 2021. I am doing this now to ensure the School Board has the time to select the next great Superintendent for Prince William County Public Schools.

Yours in service,

Steve Walts
Superintendent of Schools


Statement from the PWC School Board

The Prince William County School Board is beginning a nationwide search for a new superintendent to succeed Dr. Steven L. Walts, who has announced his intention to retire when his current employment contract expires on June 30, 2021. Dr. Walts has served as Division Superintendent for the Prince William County Public Schools since 2005.

"I greatly appreciate Dr. Walts' more than 15 years of leadership and service as the Superintendent of the Prince William County Public Schools," said Board Chair Dr. Babur B. Lateef. "The School Board will be working non-stop during this process to identify the best possible individual to carry on the important job of directing our schools at one of the most challenging and critical times in our history."

The Prince William County Public Schools system, which is the second largest In Virginia and the 35th largest in the nation, serves more than 91,000 students and employs more than 6,000 teachers among its workforce of more than 11,000.

Dr. Lateef also said Dr. Walts will be remembered for a significant increase in the on-time graduation rate, creation of full-day kindergarten, and the building of 25 new schools, all during a period that saw student enrollment nearly double.  

"I wish Dr. Walts and his family well as he transitions into a well-deserved retirement," Dr. Lateef said.