PWCS Superintendent Dr. LaTanya D. McDade shared the following publicly during the Prince William County School Board meeting held on January 18, 2023.

"I would like to briefly address the oversight leading to the delayed notification of some students receiving a letter of commendation from the National Merit Scholarship Program. First, it is important to note that we thrive on student success; academic achievement is our core business.

"Our school leaders and teams work incredibly hard to not only acknowledge but also celebrate all student achievement, and those schools that experienced this oversight based on sheer human error are devastated that this was a missed opportunity to recognize their students’ accomplishments. Many of our school leaders and educators regularly accompany our scholars to numerous regional and national competitions and have been present here in the Board room to celebrate our students’ successes, all while beaming with pride.

"Our school leaders and their respective teams, the school division, and school board are all committed to elevating student achievement in many ways. From press releases to our thriving futures focus at every school board meeting, we always are honored to celebrate all PWCS scholars. We are deeply sorry for the oversight and offer a sincere apology on behalf of our schools, school division, and school board for any frustration this delayed notification may have caused to our students and families.

"In the future, we will ensure every school has identified a dedicated person responsible for facilitating timely notification of student recognition. Additionally, we will reach out to the National Merit Scholarship Program to request a review of their notification process including a request to add the commendation notification directly to the student portal or distribute notifications directly to the student’s home rather than relying solely on a mailed notification to the local school. To date, all impacted student families have been notified, and we thank our families for their understanding."

Letter from Superintendent McDade to National Merit Scholarship Corporation

January 25, 2023

Tim McGuire
National Merit Scholarship Corporation
1560 Sherman Avenue, Suite 200
Evanston, IL 60201-4897

Dear Mr. McGuire,

Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS) acknowledges every student’s hard work, values every student’s triumphant achievement, and appreciates every student’s passionate dedication. We value the families and staff who support our students in launching thriving futures. With the collaboration and support from the School Board, I am responding to the notification process to students identified as Commended by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC), which has become a national issue for students, families, schools, and educational institutions.

It has been our experience that the protocol through which our students are notified can be improved to adopt more current technologies to ensure more effective communication. Notification sent by mail to the school principal, and not to the student or their family, displaces the agency and ownership away from our students. Additionally, while our individual schools are notified, the school division is not, which makes it difficult for us to follow up with our schools to ensure efficient notification takes place. We are committed to ensuring the timeliness of the notification to all students moving forward and seek your partnership in the same.

On behalf of all PWCS students, families, and staff, I am requesting an immediate revision and expedition to the NMSC notification process. I strongly request the NMSC collaborate with PWCS in modernizing a multi-layered notification system for our students and families. As part of this modernized notification process, we request NMSC send electronic (email and/or text) and mailed notifications directly to the homes of the designated Finalists, Semifinalists, and Commended Students, as well as their parents and guardians. We also ask for email notification to the schools and Superintendent. Additionally, for ease of access and timely communication, we ask for your collaboration with the College Board to post all awards or recognitions on the student’s online College Board account.

Furthermore, moving forward, I am requesting NMSC work with our schools to notify the colleges or other programs to which the affected Commended students have applied if the students were not notified before their application deadlines.

As trusted educational organizations, we need to create this change for all students. It is our collective responsibility to improve communication for the benefit of our students and families. I look forward to witnessing the positive impact of these changes on our students and students across the country.


LaTanya D. McDade, Ed.D.
Prince William County Public Schools