Does history matter? I think it does. And when it comes to the EDA, history can matter very much indeed.
Back in 1998, a local Warren County paper carried my letter criticizing new “secrecy provisions” that the county’s Economic Development Authority had recently adopted. “The EDA’s bunker mentality flies in the face of every tenet of open, honest, and responsible government,” I wrote. “It champions the image of wheeling-and-dealing, behind closed doors, using the public purse and authority to pursue unwritten and often private goals rife with unintended consequences. What are they trying to hide?”
A few days later I received a typewritten, unsigned letter: “Why don’t you mind your own business?” it read – period.
Then our driveway and mailbox were vandalized.
The sheriff’s deputy asked, “Do you have any enemies?”
“How much time do you have,” I laughed (I’ve been in politics for a long time).
Stephen Heavener, the EDA director at the time, sent me a four-page handwritten tirade. “I recommend that you educate yourself on the reality of competitive economic development,” he wrote. Well, I had taught graduate-level courses on the subject, but I was always willing to learn.
So I asked more questions.
What was Mr. Heavener’s bottom line? “Secrecy.” Where was the public oversight the taxpayers were demanding? “We welcome scrutiny,” he wrote. (Really? One provision of the EDA’s new policy went so far as to prohibit the disclosure of “any information not required to be disclosed by the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.” Some “scrutiny”!)
Well, he had private meetings with individual supervisors, he told me.
But secrecy limits scrutiny, so I asked Mr. Heavener about the EDA’s understanding of ethics, as articulated perhaps in its employee handbook. “I have no idea about what you mention concerning ‘the ethical dimensions of the development process,’” he wrote. But he did mention ethics when I suggested that the EDA recruit businesses that might find northern Virginia to be too expensive and lacking in Warren County’s amenities. No way. Our EDA Director considered it “unethical” to recruit from a “nearby community.”
He called that “competitive.”
Fast forward twenty-one years. Mr. Heavener had “no idea” about ethics. Did Jennifer McDonald do any better? And if these two were clueless about the subject, where were our elected officials with fiduciary responsibility over the EDA for 21 years? Did they have “private meetings” with EDA’s directors? Did they ever inquire, publicly or privately, about the “ethical dimensions” of the EDA’s “secret” conduct of its business?
The question is timely. Consider the comments of Board of Supervisors Chairman Daniel Murray regarding the public outrage over the scandal that has made Warren County a national laughing-stock. According to a report by a local NBC affiliate, Murray criticized “the disgraceful behavior of the people in Warren County — false accusations, things that they don’t understand.”
“False accusations”? Well, Mr. Chairman, what accusations are true? And if we don’t “understand things,” do you – and your fellow board members – understand them?
Next: if the Board did “understand things,” why didn’t you take appropriate action instead of, yes, “stonewalling” citizens who demanded you do so?
And if the Board didn’t “understand things,” why didn’t you resign?
Chairman Murray and his colleagues can’t have it both ways. They can’t plead ignorance and still insist that they are competent and should stay in office.
Our Supervisors have proven their incompetence beyond a reasonable doubt. Not only that, the entire Board and its senior staff have signaled truly stunning arrogance in demanding that the taxpayers pay their legal bills, raising future taxes even higher.
What to do now? Clearly the secrecy precedent set by Mr. Heavener and continued by McDonald and the EDA board was accepted as policy by the current and former Supervisors. That policy has allowed what one new EDA board member now calls a “catastrophic failure.”
It’s time for a change. The EDA should be closed down. And whatever entity – if any – takes its place, our elected officials must make sure that it isn’t too secret, too complicated, too sophisticated, or too cumbersome to prevent our elected officials from “understanding things.”
And the Board of Supervisors?
The people of Warren County deserve a government they can trust. And today more than ever, we need one.
We don’t trust this one.
Warren County, Virginia
It is about time we recognized the true heroes of the Republican Party. They are not the dopey louts who rampaged through our nation’s capital and the moral cowards who still cover for them.
They are not the ranting demagogues exploiting the emotions of the resentful. They were the unsung people not seeking attention, but doing their jobs: from poll workers to police officers. They were Republican state legislators and governors who did not bend to pressure to overturn the elections in their state. They were Republican judges who did not allow mere allegations unsupported by credible evidence to deny votes that happened. They were a Vice President who stayed loyal to the Constitution and the rule of law above any man. They were Republican congressional representatives and senators who did not fear to try and hold their own president accountable and dared to stand on their conscience instead of following the majority in their party. They did not win. But they showed more bravery than the majority in their party who did.
It is Republicans like those who could save the soul of the party from being lost to a band of fascists if they find the nerve to do so. My father was a lifelong Republican who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. After the sacrifices that generation made to defeat fascism, I’m glad he was not alive to see his party dishonored by America’s Mussolini.
Ocean City, NJ
Appreciative parent supports Funk for School Board in Happy Creek District
I am writing this letter to extend my support and endorsement to Dr. Antoinette Funk for Warren County, VA School Board-Happy Creek District.
As a parent of a former Ressie Jeffries student, I would like to share my experience of having Dr. Funk as assistant principal during my child’s elementary education.
Dr. Funk is a conscientious professional. Her decisions were always based on what was in my child’s best interest. We were not always in agreement; however, she always gave explanations regarding her decision and willingly listened to our concerns (including those of my son). She provided other options as she deemed available and made final decisions based on the needs of my son, providing support at school and at home.
Dr. Funk understands the relation between having a strong bridge between school and home. She was fair and respectful. My child benefited tremendously throughout his school years and into adult life due to his time at Ressie under Dr. Funk’s educational and social guidance. Being a parent of a special needs child herself gave her insight into the daily challenges of students and teachers. I found her to be honorable, thorough, and supportive. I knew my son was being academically challenged.
I say without reservation that Dr. Funk is dedicated and commits herself to serve the educational needs of each individual student. Her expectations and consequences were always made clear. Her commitment to education is a priority, and she remained a source of support and education well into his middle school years.
I ask you to make an informed decision in your choice in the upcoming election. If you want an experienced, dedicated individual, committed to making decisions and standing up for what is best for the education of your children, vote for Dr. Antoinette Funk for Warren County, VA School Board-Happy Creek District.
We need Angela Robinson on our school board
Angela Robinson – a person who will fight for your child.
I am writing to share my experience with Angie Robinson as a teacher, advocate and now friend. My daughter had begun to show signs of learning difficulties when she was in elementary school. I had known Angie through the school, but had not had her teach my child. When my daughter made it to fourth grade, she had fallen behind, and I just could not get the services needed for my daughter.
Angie assured me that she would do whatever she could to help my daughter and to address the concerns that I had. Angie was able to do that and even more. She made sure my child got her special services through an IEP, and she continued to follow through with my child throughout her years in Warren County schools. She offered to go to IEP meetings after she left the elementary setting. She even went as far as to continue to tutor my daughter throughout her high school years.
Angie cares about our children. She cares about their journey and their future. She dedicated her time to fight for my daughter. This is why we need her on our school board – to fight for the students who need to be fought for. She understands how the system works and how important it is to make our students successful. I am proud to say that my daughter graduated from Skyline High School, and we couldn’t have done it without the support of Angie Robinson. She cares about our students, our families and our schools. We need Angela Robinson on our school board.
Front Royal, Virginia
Response to ‘Open Letter to Warren County voters…’
The writers assert the reason for the relatively high percentage of private and home-schooled children in the community are generally failing standards in state and this county’s public school systems. This assertion ignores the impact of a half century of location of private, Catholic educational institutions into this community, prominent among those Christendom College, Chelsea Academy and Seton Home School. Those institutions, among others like Human Life International, have been followed into this community by an expanding Catholic population of a generally conservative outlook, an outlook that might blur the Constitutionally mandated separation of church and state for some.
Many families within that community have their own preference for a religiously based education for their children, regardless of the quality of the public school system here. Add the even longer-standing private school option of Air Force Junior ROTC and Methodist-sponsored Randolph-Macon Academy, now at the middle and high school levels, and you have an even greater private school alternative to public education in this community that predates current debates over educational and social policies and standards.
Whether one receives a better quality education publicly, privately, or in the home is matter of opinion and debate that will reflect the perspectives – religious, social and political – of the involved parties, as Mr. Waller’s and Lundberg’s letter illustrates. But leaving relevant facts out of the debate to promote one’s opinion as factual analysis is too often a symptom of advocacy, as opposed to objective exploration of the topic under scrutiny.
Royal Examiner Editorial Board member
Setting the Record Straight Re: School Budgets
On October 19, the Royal Examiner published an open letter from two concerned citizens regarding their opinion that the entire Warren County School Board needs to be replaced. Many things were said in that letter to which a person might choose to respond, but one thing, in particular, stood out to me: “…it costs $64 million annually to educate 4,958 students in the Warren County Public School (WCPS). That means Warren County taxpayers are paying almost $13,000 to educate one public school student a year. That seems excessive!”
Is $13,000 per student excessive? I decided to compare some numbers to find out.
Firstly, as reported by the Royal Examiner on May 6 of this year, the budget approved for 2021-22 was $63,944,829. Divided across 4,958 students, that would be $12,897 per student.
The national average for public school spending is $12,612 per student. This is a difference of $285. Put another way, Warren County spends 2.25% more per student than the national average.
Ah, but excess is not determined solely by the grand total. We could spend a fraction of this budget, and if it was allocated poorly (spent frivolously to paint fences, perhaps) then it could still be considered excessive. The website for Warren County Public Schools helpfully has a link to the full budget; on page three, we can see that 76.31% of the budget ($48.8 million) is explicitly allocated for instruction.
Is that excessive?
Also interesting to note, near the end of the Warren County Public Schools budget (on page 38), the School Board has helpfully compared Warren County’s per-student spending to the state average. Since 2017, Warren County Public Schools has consistently spent almost $2,000 less per student than Virginia’s average.
Is it excessive to have a budget in line with the national average, a budget BELOW the state average, with almost all of the budgeted funds being explicitly directed to educating our children?
I suppose we will learn what the people think on November 2.
Front Royal, Virginia
Grateful classroom grandparents endorse Melanie Salins, Stephanie Short and Al Gunn for Warren County School Board
As grandparents and residents of Warren County, we are grateful to have Melanie Salins (North River District), Stephanie Short (Happy Creek), and Al Gunn (write-in candidate Fork District) running for the Warren County School Board.
They are all parents, and teachers with varied teaching experience who genuinely care about students’ welfare, what is being taught to school age children, and all that pertains to what is in their best interest.
These individuals are strong supporters and advocates for parental involvement in their children’s education. A primary heart-felt desire of theirs is to listen to, empower, and engage parents in discussions addressing curriculum concerns.
These candidates understand that parents know their children the best, and are the first and primary educators of their children.
We strongly encourage you to cast your votes on November 2nd for Melanie Salins, Stephanie Short and Al Gunn.
Tim and Jean Hart
Warren County, Virginia