PRINCE WILLIAM EDUCATION ASSOCIATION
8510 Bucyrus Ct
Manassas, VA 20110
P (703) 361-2444
F (703) 361-2178
by Megan Link, PWEA Past President
Recently, I have had opportunity to re-read a written history of our organization which is inextricably intertwined with the history of public education in Prince William County. The document, entitled Now and Then with P.W.E.A. was first published in 1963 by members Hattie Mae Partlow (a former PWEA President) and Pauline Smith.
Let me begin, as is proper, at the beginning. Formal education in Prince William County appears to have begun as early as 1659 with the importation of a tutor from Maryland. In 1724, six years prior to the formation of the county, a parson’s report to his bishop makes reference to parish schools. In the early to mid-1800’s several academies and a seminary were firmly established in the county.
The Constitution of Virginia, adopted in 1869, established free public schools. The Asbury Methodist Church located on West Street in Manassas made available a single room for this purpose. Financed through a combination of government agency and privately raised funds, purchases of second hand furniture, and donated books, the very first public school in Virginia was opened. The first School Commissioner or Superintendent was former Union soldier, George C. Round, after whom the George C. Round Elementary School of Manassas City is named. The first public school teacher was Elizabeth Chamberlain Bennett.
Almost thirty years later, a Manassas Journal article records the birth of the Prince William Education Association as a meeting taking place on November 28, 1896. A follow-up quote from The Virginia School Journal of January 1897 states, “This is practical work in behalf of public schools, and with such gentlemen as constitute the officers and leaders of this Association in charge of it, the cause of public education must take a great stride forward in Prince William County.”
The Prince William Education Association, currently comprised of 4000 education professionals and paraprofessionals, remains dedicated to the tenets of public education and continues to take its direction from those humble beginnings of more than 100 years ago. Our organization continues to be involved in those issues found at the very core of providing “great public schools for every child.”