The Price of Readiness

I read with interest your article about the Yamanaka family and their emergency preparedness planning [Prince William Extra, Feb. 16]. I laughed at the Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate, sausages and sour cream chips.

In today's frightening times, I needed that laugh. I went out and got water, among a few other items, to have on hand "just in case." My husband and I have three children, and I can only pray that if something should happen, the kids have enough the eat.

But my mood changed when I turned the page to read that both Mr. and Mrs. Yamanaka do this for a living. The article is an advertisement for their company! How are they like the rest of us in Manassas, trying to cope with the stress and worries of "what may happen"?

Of course they're hailed as a model family by the Red Cross of the National Capital Area -- they teach classes through the Red Cross. I guess what I was hoping to find was a family like mine and, for that matter, like the rest of Manassas and the metro area. Families doing the best they can in tough times. Parents talking to their children about what's going on in the world and trying to give them some comfort and plenty of reassurance. Not chocolate and potato chips. Not "professionals" in the matter of emergency preparedness. And not an increase in business for mom and dad's company.

I am curious to know if the Yamanakas contacted The Post about their family. What a way to profit off people's fears.

Gina Michak


A Valiant Rescue

The worth of a community is proven by how it comes together in difficult situations. In the early hours of Feb. 9, the residents of the River Run Senior Apartment community in Dale City faced a major fire in their building. I received a call from my 89-year-old mother, expressing her fear and concern over what was unfolding before her.

Though the fire was unusually large, every resident was delivered to safety because of the outstanding professional work of our Prince William County and area firefighters, police officers and Red Cross workers. On this bitterly cold morning, these paid staff members and volunteers were absolutely exceptional in their handling of this difficult and dangerous fire. What a great job they did in protecting the lives of these senior citizens.

My mother, her neighbors at River Run and our entire community in Prince William salute our local first responders for a job well done. They indeed proved the worth of our community.

David G. Brickley


Regulating Charter Schools

It is indeed gratifying to read Ella Shannon's glowing description of the Prince William County school system [Prince William Forum, Feb. 16]. I have known Mrs. Shannon as a community activist and government watchdog for over a decade, and I know that she does not lightly dole out praise for government programs and agencies.

So when I read her description of Prince William County schools as "ahead of the curve" and an "ever-improving system," it makes me think that maybe the School Board and Superintendent Edward L. Kelly have been doing something right these past seven years.

During that time, we have expanded our specialty programs from one high school and one elementary school to all eight high schools, seven middle schools, 11 elementary schools and one traditional school serving grades 1 to 8. We have established a network of express transportation to help parents take advantage of the specialty programs, and we have 2,173 students who travel outside their assigned boundary every day to avail themselves of the educational program that best meets their needs.

In 2002, the School Board received and considered a charter application for a school that would serve ESOL students learning English and English-speaking students learning foreign languages. While several board members thought this concept had merit, the application itself was not acceptable.

Virginia has one of the strictest charter school statutes in the nation, requiring local school boards to specifically waive any deviation from its own policies and also to petition the State Board of Education for waivers from any state regulations. It is a complicated process, requiring any applicant to know not only what program they wish to offer, but to understand how that program deviates from the thousands of regulations governing existing public schools. That is why the School Board voted to continue negotiations in November, suggesting to the charter applicant that they re-submit a new application.

I can assure both Mrs. Shannon and the public at large that we will only grant a charter to an applicant that will meet the requirements of state law and our own policies, and will enhance the quality of the educational system in Prince William County.

All this must be done through a program that is cost-neutral to the taxpayer. To do so would be entirely in keeping with the governing values of the third-largest and most progressive school division in Virginia.

Lyle G. Beefelt

School Board member,