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Old 09-01-2014, 11:57 AM
5 posts, read 12,924 times
Reputation: 28


Hi all, I thought maybe you folks could give us some input on your thoughts on both teaching and living in/around northern VA. My husband has been teaching 10 years in southeast VA, currently in middle school English. He also is certified to teach Social Studies. Both of his certifications are for grades 6-12. He is also working on earning a master's degree as a Reading Specialist for K-12. I am wrapping up my final year of schooling and will have a master's in Elementary Education (PreK-6). My husband is a very passionate, creative teacher, and his students, against the odds, always score well above the district SOL averages. (His students' scores actually would be quite competitive with just about any VA district.) However, where we live, English (and Social Studies) teacher jobs in particular are very, very hard to come by with often 100s vying for one single position. For the last decade, he has commuted no less than an hour (often 1 hours in traffic) at one of our "tougher" school districts and would like to now teach in some place that is less stressful/more middle of the road with only an hour or less long commute. (I also realize it is subjective and that "tougher" here could look like roses elsewhere.) I on the other hand am open for any challenge and will grow wherever I am planted! So right now, we are looking about 1 year out, towards the 2015-2016 school year and aim for him to secure his position well in advance of it.

So from folks in the area, I'd like to know: 1) What is a pretty good school district, not riddled with crime/violence, that you would recommend for my husband in particular to consider teaching? (One that has a need for English and/or Social Studies teachers) 2) Keeping the commute at/or under 1 hour, where is a nice place to live considering our combined income as two teachers with kids?

If it helps to know, one kid is a rising 8th grader in a gifted program and the other is in 3rd and loves art and dance. We are willing to rent a place first, before buying a 3 bed, 2 bath SFH or townhome to feel out the area, however it would have to allow our 2 dogs (70lbs & 35lbs) to live with us. I know it's more expensive up there, so I'm estimating a housing payment around $2500, if possible, in a safe area?

Thanks in advance for all your help in this matter!!
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Old 09-01-2014, 12:41 PM
7,966 posts, read 18,046,715 times
Reputation: 2588
First you should know that in Virginia, county school districts are divided up into high school "pyramids" into which particular primary and middle schools flow. Forum members will have different opinions on "good" and "bad" schools. Note that the "bad" schools don't come close to approaching the drama in, say, "Lean On Me", "Dangerous Minds" or "The Substitute"; instead, it is more of a case of a plurality of lower-income students for whom English is their second language. (Spanish can be, but is not always, their first.) There can still be students from middle- to-upper-income households there as well. As one might imagine the "best" schools are generally in the most expensive areas and with the least socioeconomic diversity.

The forum consensus, if I understand it correctly, would be that Fairfax County Public Schools as a whole are among the best in the country. Loudoun is no slouch although its schools are becoming overcrowded as the country tries to build schools to keep up with its fast-growing population. Arlington is said to be pretty good as well although people tend to give higher praise to schools in North Arlington schools than those in South Arlington. Similarly in Prince William County, more positive press comes from parents in its western end (e.g. Bristow, Gainesville, Haymarket) than its eastern half (although people like Lake Ridge a lot).

Your preferred budget might rate a rancher in much of Fairfax and Arlington Counties, a TH in Loudoun County and (potentially) a two-story SFH in Prince William County and points due south. For your purposes, I don't think the City of Alexandria would be desirable.

As I am married to an educator, I will say that the only "bad" thing that you are likely to face is pressure from administration to make sure your students pass the SOLs.
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Old 09-01-2014, 12:59 PM
Location: The Cathedral
208 posts, read 181,365 times
Reputation: 169
That's a very good summary, but like everything everywhere, the situation here is dynamic. While Fairfax County would have been a fairly easy #1 call not long ago, refusal by the County Board of Supervisors to allow tax rates to increase sufficiently from what they were cut to during the Great Recession has led to chronic underfunding of the county's public schools. Salaries and workng conditions are suffering to the point of creating a significant teacher-drain into neighboring Arlington County VA and nearby Montgomery County MD. That said, Fairfax County schools remain top-notch, but they have been going in the wrong direction for better than several years now.
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Old 09-01-2014, 01:40 PM
406 posts, read 505,873 times
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Seems like you should nail down the job search first. Since counties like Fairfax and Loudoun are so large geographically, you really need to know where you'd be teaching before contemplating where to live.
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Old 09-02-2014, 08:48 AM
5 posts, read 12,924 times
Reputation: 28
Tone509, thank you for your summary of the area schools! This really helps. I had not ever seen the "pyramid" set up of schools, such as in Fairfax county, until now. I love how many schools are available to consider in this county--definitely would increase the odds for my husband in his search.

The_Bishop Thanks for chiming in, I understand how frustrating that could be. I can tell you that it's not much sunnier this way either for school funding here or any of the neighboring cities. My husband's school system really doesn't have the money though. As such he often will buy novels for his students, even class sets of books, with his own money so they will have fresh and inspiring materials, and then donates them to the school library when he is done.

Acgood, you are so right about how large the areas are, so I will be sure to return to ask more on housing once we know where we will be teaching.

To all-- Thank you all so very much! We really appreciate you all sharing your insight!
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