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A Perhaps Futile Search for a Middle Ground on the Confederate Soldier Statue

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(Royal Examiner reporter/editor Roger Bianchini’s response to Gary Kushner’s Oct. 22 Letter to the Editor)

Having butted heads philosophically in print with both Mr. Kushner and the current leadership of Front Royal Unites over the issues of institutional racism in modern American society (Kushner) and the advisability of compromise on the Confederate Statue issue to avoid the very backlash we are now witnessing (Porter/FR Unites), let me attempt to draw a middle ground on this conflict of perspectives.

While I sincerely believe Mr. Kushner does not consciously harbor racist intentions, I think I might be safe from a threat of civil action in describing him as somewhat racially insensitive to the plight of citizens of color in modern American society as a consequence of the lingering aftermath of slavery and racism in our culture.

I also feel that Mr. Kushner may be correct in his description of the current FR Unites leadership’s intransigence on the Confederate soldier statue’s location issue. As I have written in a past opinion piece, I felt and still feel that a compromise allowing the statue to remain, but adding some sign that the statue remains at the courthouse with other war memorials as a result of two opposing perspectives reaching agreement in 2020 on a mutually satisfactory outcome. As I wrote in the story on the Oct. 20 meeting, I believe the suggestion expressed at the meeting by Richard Hoover that a statue commemorating the sacrifice of Warren County people of color who were held as slaves be erected on the courthouse grounds is the best compromise idea out there.

Room for another memorial? Why not add rather than subtract to the number of memorials on the Warren County Courthouse lawn? Royal Examiner Photo by Roger Bianchini

Let me add one personal observation on a related subject. Several FR Unites speakers expressed disappointment at the absence of county officials at their previous Sunday “Teach In” as I understood it to be, revolving around the statue removal issue. I observed some of the speakers in the online live stream of the event. An LFCC professor described slavery as the root issue of the Civil War underlying the “state’s rights” issue – which was essentially the right to keep slaves as free labor to bolster the Southern state’s economies; as well as the racism expressed openly by Confederate political leadership in justifying secession and racially based slavery. Okay, most rational, educated people understand these things.

Another speaker and county citizen of color eloquently described her experience of racism in this community during the era of desegregation of our public schools, and consequently after in her adult life and work experience. Again, this isn’t news to people who are paying attention – are you listening, Mr. Kushner?

But I ask, and from what I saw there was no one present at the event who asked this question – how much do these known historical experiences of about 160 years and 50 years ago directly address the issues at hand concerning the fate of the Confederate soldier’s statue on the Warren County Courthouse lawn in 2020?

Wouldn’t an advisable strategy for anyone concerned with advocating equal treatment under the law and an end to protections of institutional racism, particularly in the conduct of law enforcement in the treatment of suspects nationally, be NOT to give those not so concerned with these issues or even perhaps harboring lingering racist tendencies themselves, an issue upon which to aggressively push back against your organization and its root issue of equal treatment under the law?

If there was a statue of openly racist Confederates like its President Jefferson Davis or Vice-President Alexander Stephens on the courthouse lawn, I would vigorously support their removal. But as has been noted by supporters of the Confederate soldier’s statue remaining where it is, most, if not all, of those 600 or so names on that monument were not from slave holding families. To my knowledge there are no known writings of any of those men justifying slavery and promoting the racism at its root. None of us will ever know what was in their hearts and minds when they went to war, or when they returned from it, if they did.

So, why draw a hardline in the courthouse grass on removal of a monument to the sacrifice in going to war, even if on the wrong side of history, of those 600 county sons?

Wouldn’t the cause of equal justice under the law be better served by focusing our energy and the energy of our municipal governments on a positive act, rather than a negative one? That act would be raising public funds to see a memorial to the human sacrifice of those who lived in Warren County as slaves be erected in a place of honor on the courthouse lawn, not far from the Confederate soldier memorial.

Now THAT would indicate that Warren County is exhibiting progress and cultural growth and a desire for equal treatment under the law for ALL its citizens in the 21st century. But that is only likely to happen after people with opposing perspectives begin, not only to talk, but to LISTEN to each other with a willingness to at least consider the other’s perspective.

Is it too late for that to happen here in Front Royal and Warren County? – Ms. Cascada, Mr. Porter, Mr. Kushner are you LISTENING?

Roger Bianchini
Royal Examiner

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Opinion

We need Angela Robinson on our school board

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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.

Stacey Sprague
Front Royal, Virginia

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Opinion

Response to ‘Open Letter to Warren County voters…’

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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.

Roger Bianchini
Royal Examiner Editorial Board member

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Opinion

Setting the Record Straight Re: School Budgets

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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.

Excessive, indeed.

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.

Joe Plemmons
Front Royal, Virginia

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Opinion

Grateful classroom grandparents endorse Melanie Salins, Stephanie Short and Al Gunn for Warren County School Board

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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.

Sincerely,

Tim and Jean Hart
Warren County, Virginia

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Opinion

An open-letter to Warren County voters: Elect an entirely new school board as soon as possible

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Dear Warren County voters:

We, the two undersigned members of Front Royal, want a clean sweep of the Warren County School Board members as soon as possible.  We desperately need new ideas on the board — from individuals willing to stand up and fight against:

  • “Critical race theory” is being taught in our public schools.
  • Current transgendered-bathroom and locker room policies.
  • Attempts to eliminate gifted programs by stressing “equity” in public education.
  • Inappropriate sexual material in library books.
  • An inflated school budget
  • The failure to recognize parents as the “primary educators of children” — not the State Board of Education or teachers unions.

The current school board seems unable to deal effectively with these problems.

Warren County parents are shocked when they learn that 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!

Warren County parents are also shocked when they learn the high percentage of school-age children in Warren County that are attending — not public schools — but home schools, private schools, or religious schools.  The figure is about 23 percent.   That means that almost a quarter of the school-age children in Warren County have been pulled from public schools by their parents.  Parents say the primary reasons they have taken this action are:

  • Falling academic standards — especially the ability to read, write, and think logically.
  • State mandates
  • Classroom discipline problems.
  • Failure of local schools to recognize that parents are the primary educators of children — not the State Board of Education or teachers unions.

Parents tell us they simply are not satisfied with the product local public schools are producing.  Reading and math scores are simply unacceptable.

Warren County voters will go to the polls on November 2nd to elect three new school board members.  To learn more about the candidates running for the three seats, we strongly recommend you watch the Royal-Examiner-filmed forum, held at St. John’s Catholic Church on October 1st, which is available online.

Click here to get to the filmed forum.

The candidates who attended the forum said it was a very fair, bipartisan, and well-organized event.

Two candidates — both of them endorsed by the education establishment — dropped out of the forum at the last minute after initially telling the Catholic organizers of the event they would be pleased to participate.  Their empty seats were noted by many of the 250 people who attended the forum.

In summary, we strongly encourage all Warren County citizens to vote on November 2nd — but not for a candidate endorsed by the education establishment.  We don’t need any more “education insiders” — like Terry McAuliffe — representing Warren County parents and taxpayers on our school board.

Remember what McAuliffe said on September 28th in a debate with his GOP opponent for governor, Glenn Youngkin: “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” 

McAuliffe could not have been more wrong.

He obviously doesn’t realize that the state is not the primary educator of children — parents are!

Sincerely,

Ralph Waller, local business owner
Colonel John Lundberg, U.S. Army (retired), Front Royal resident

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Political ideology or educational background and common sense for North River School Board seat?

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Despite other candidates, and their preferred party falsehoods and tactics being pilfered, in apparent desperate attempts for votes to their failing campaigns, I continue to be thankful for the conservative, independent, classy and coherent approach which Angela Robinson continues to apply towards her campaign for School Board for the North River District of Warren County, VA.

Angela is a true educator, with a college degree (in education at that), a mother, wife, former local public school educator, current public school administrator, all while maintaining her strong conservative fiscal, social and common sense approach to education.

Angela, truly, understands the frustrations of Richmond and Washington.  She has the understanding and means (that are, actually, legal and practical) in how to address Supreme Court decisions on public education, as opposed to wasting taxpayer time and money on certain lawsuit failures, further disrupting the free and appropriate public education that all children are entitled to.

Angela trusts our teachers and administrators to do their jobs, while not shying away from asking, NOR ANSWERING, tough questions, and demanding accountability.  She won’t “block” you for asking her a tough question, or for disagreeing with her.  She will graciously seek to understand you, your thoughts and concerns.

Despite her conservative and Christian values, Angela understands the constitution, how it applies to education, and will maintain a common sense approach, to ensure that “all” children in Warren County (to include our most impoverished) will be treated with the same dignity and respect that she would desire for herself.

You will never hear Angela refer to children she has never met as “confused and misguided”.  Angela will, actually, get to know the young people of her district, and our county, as opposed to tossing out ignorant, confused and misguided statements, just to make a political establishment and their cultist juice drinkers happy.

In the end, if being conservative matters to you, Angela Robinson is your best bet.  If having someone with the proper education and credentials to insist on success, and actually possess the credentials to make it happen, Angela Robinson is your best bet.  Finally, if you want someone who will truly look out for the educational, emotional and social needs of your child, as opposed to seemingly trying to gain some form of political power, only to put our county on the road to lawsuits and failure, Angela Robinson is the clear choice for the North River District of Warren County, Virginia School Board.

Brought to you by an Independent Conservative resident, who thinks for himself, applies common sense to the realities of life, and refuses to drink the juice of a local political Cult.

Michael S. Williams
North River District Resident
Lifelong Advocate for Youth
Town of Front Royal, VA

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