Blue Ridge Singers Spring Concert Series: INTO ETERNITY
April 21, 7:30 p.m.
- Front Royal Presbyterian Church
115 Luray Ave. | Front Royal, VA 22630
April 23, 4:00 p.m.
- First Baptist Church of Winchester
205 W. Piccadilly St. | Winchester, VA 22601
April 25, 7:30 p.m.
- All Saints Catholic Church
9300 Stonewall Rd. | Manassas, VA 20110
April 30, 4:00 p.m.
- Trinity Episcopal Church
9108 John S. Mosby Hwy | Upperville, VA 20184
Virginia State Police urges safety as summer travel begins amidst tragic loss during Memorial Day weekend
The 2023 Memorial Day weekend has unfortunately led to the loss of nine lives, which included four motorcyclists. The statistical count for this tragic weekend commenced on Friday, May 26, 2023, at 12:01 a.m. and concluded at midnight on Monday, May 29, 2023.
The Virginia State Police participated in the nationwide Operation Crash Awareness Reduction Effort (C.A.R.E.) and the annual Click It or Ticket campaign. Throughout this period, Virginia Troopers registered 771 seat belt violations and 136 child restraint violations.
Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent, expressed his concern with summer approaching and schools letting out. He emphasized the urgent need for responsible driving and adherence to safety protocols.
All available Virginia State Police patrolled the highways during the four-day Operation C.A.R.E. initiative, aiming to reduce traffic crashes and fatalities due to impaired driving, speeding, and seat belt violations. The initiative resulted in 4,990 speeders and 1,924 reckless drivers being cited, with 89 impaired drivers being arrested. A total of 1,846 traffic crashes were investigated, and 634 commercial vehicles were inspected. The initiative also led to 169 felony arrests and assistance to 1,447 disabled motorists.
Fatal crashes were reported from the City of Richmond, and Henry, Loudoun, Orange, and Shenandoah counties. Loudoun and Henry counties reported two fatal crashes each, while two out of four fatal motorcycle crashes occurred in Loudoun County.
Comparatively, the 2022 Memorial Day Operation C.A.R.E. initiative reported 16 fatalities.
Funds generated from the summonses issued by Virginia State Police are directed towards court fees and the state’s Literary Fund, which supports public school construction, technology funding, and teacher retirement.
A Day of Remembrance: Colonel James Wood II Chapter, Virginia Society Sons of the American Revolution and American Red Cross hold Memorial Day event
The hallowed grounds of Winchester’s National Cemetery reverberated with the echoes of history this Memorial Day. Local citizens, the youth of Cub Scout Den 45, the Colonel James Wood II Chapter of the Virginia Society Sons of the American Revolution (named after Colonel James Wood II, an influential figure in the American Revolution), and the American Red Cross (a humanitarian organization tracing its roots back to 1881) came together to pay homage to the heroes of our past.
This event beautifully encapsulated a tradition that traces its lineage to the era of the Civil War. The roots of this observance trace back to a suggestion by Henry Welles in 1865 in the village of Waterloo, New York, for a day of decorating the graves of the fallen Civil War heroes, which came to be known as Decoration Day.
In keeping with this rich history, ahead of the Memorial Day ceremony on May 29th, flags were placed on the graves at the National Cemetery. Leslie Caliva of the American Red Cross, an organization with a rich history of service, hosted the formal observance. The color guard, led by Commander Brett Osborn, and the honor guard, led by Jim Cordes, presented colors in a show of respect for the fallen.
CJWII Chaplain Thomas Reed, inheriting the historic title of Chaplain, offered an inspiring invocation, while the Pledge of Allegiance was led by Charles Hunter, USA (Ret), from the storied VFW Post 2123. The keynote address was given by Terry Stotler, Chief of Voluntary Services at the Martinsburg Veterans Administration Medical Center, detailing the myriad of services the VA provides to support the veterans in the tri-state area of northwest Virginia, northern West Virginia, and western Maryland.
Following a musket salute fired by the SAR Musket Squad and renditions of ‘God Bless America’ and ‘Taps’ by Charles Hunter, SAR members stood alongside dual members Bryan Buck (Fort Harrison), Dave Cook, and Jim Cordes (Fairfax Resolves), participating in the ceremony and bringing history to life.
As we remember our fallen heroes on this Memorial Day, we recognize the historical journey from Decoration Day to Memorial Day and the nationwide observance it has grown into today. This commemoration at the Winchester National Cemetery symbolizes a steadfast tradition and a tribute to those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.
Report on Virginia public education standards and policies overdue
Over a four-month period in 2022, Virginia leaders in education and workforce development held a series of meetings to provide recommendations to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration on improving state K-12 education.
However, a report on recommendations from those meetings, which were convened to fulfill the requirements of a 2022 law known as House Bill 938, remains six months overdue, with no explanation for its delay.
Asked about the report last month, Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s office did not provide an update on its status or why it hasn’t been released. A follow-up request in May went unanswered.
“The administration values the input from public school principals, school superintendents, school board members, and school teachers received both through the [House Bill] 938 workgroup and other feedback opportunities,” said Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter in an April email. “We continue to incorporate this feedback into the policies and actions needed to restore excellence to education and ensure our schools are serving every child. A detailed review of the policies and actions implemented over the last year and the Department’s policy recommendations will be outlined in the report.”
House Bill 938, which passed the General Assembly last year, required the Board of Education, Secretary of Education, and Superintendent of Public Instruction to create a group of stakeholders to evaluate various state policies and performance standards for public education.
Among the goals the group was tasked with evaluating were “promoting excellence in instruction and student achievement in mathematics,” expanding the availability of the Advanced Studies diploma, “increasing the transparency of performance measures,” and ensuring those measures “prioritize the attainment of grade-level proficiency and growth” in K-5 reading and math, and “ensuring a strong accreditation system that promotes meaningful accountability year-over-year.”
A report on the group’s findings and recommendations was due to the House and Senate education committees by Nov. 30, 2022.
During a Feb. 2, 2022 hearing, Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera called the legislation an opportunity for Virginia to develop a strategic plan to ensure public school students are prepared for life and the demands of the future.
“There are a lot of signs that we don’t have that, and that means taking a review of our standards, our curriculum, our assessments to make sure they are best in class and our proficiency levels are aligned with what the economy and democracy requires, and also our accountability system is aligned to make sure that we are holding systems accountable for serving every single child in Virginia,” Guidera said.
During the same hearing, Del. Roxann Robinson, R-Chesterfield, who carried the bill, said the legislation was “part of the governor’s ‘Day 1 Plan’ to empower parents” and a “mission statement as to where we want to take our education system.” She did not respond to interview requests.
Fifteen teachers, principals, parents, superintendents, school board members, and higher education and business experts were convened by the administration for the work group, which met at least four times before concluding its work in November, according to an October 19 report to the Board of Education. The group was also broken into four smaller groups that focused on “Mathematics Excellence and Achievement,” “Advanced Studies Diploma Options,” “Academic Growth and Assessment,” and “School Accreditation and Data Transparency.”
Each topic group met individually and was assisted by members of the Department of Education and the Region 5 Comprehensive Center, which provides assistance to states on education and is funded by the U.S. Department of Education.
According to a Nov. 3 draft provided to the Mercury, some of the work group’s recommendations included providing additional funding for elementary and middle school math specialists, revising state accreditation profiles to make them more accessible, and improving communication about how both learning growth and proficiency contribute to school performance scores.
Members who spoke with the Mercury said they were uncertain of whether there was any opposition to the recommendations after they were submitted.
“The timeframe for the HB 938 group was fairly limited, and so we could only accomplish so much,” said Kimberly Bridges, an assistant professor of educational leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University and a member of the workgroup. “But I think there were folks at that table who were more than willing to keep working if the state had asked. But again, it just kind of ended, the report was drafted, and the folks on the working group did what they were there to do.”
A timely report
Members of the work group said the report is particularly timely given that the Board of Education is currently considering new accountability and accreditation systems.
In May 2022, the Youngkin administration released a report calling for “a new path” for Virginia education after student proficiency ratings and test scores on state and national assessments dropped following the COVID-19 pandemic. The administration has blamed changes to school accreditation standards made by prior Democratic-controlled Boards of Education for the declines and, most recently, has proposed changes to how the state scores its schools.
At the same time, the administration has pushed for state education to focus more on workforce readiness, with Youngkin calling for every high school student in Virginia to graduate with “an industry-recognized credential.”
Courtney Baker, director of workforce and training for the Associated General Contractors of Virginia, who served on the Mathematics Excellence and Achievement topic group, said one of its recommendations was for Virginia to focus more on applied mathematics associated with careers such as architecture and engineering, instead of the “standard fast-paced, credit-driven approach.”
Additionally, the group recommended allowing students enrolled in career and technical education courses to qualify for Advanced Studies diplomas. Similar efforts to expand career and technical education in Virginia through legislation failed during the last General Assembly session.
[Read more: Bills to bolster career and technical education falter in General Assembly]
Baker said Virginia is “plagued” by a workforce shortage, pointing to estimates from construction industry groups that more than 250,000 craft professionals will be needed in Virginia by 2026.
“While we continue to hear how important the trades are to the health of Virginia’s economy, we do not see that reflected in current policy,” Baker said. “Students cannot pursue CTE training and qualify for prestigious advanced diplomas, CTE classrooms are in need of additional funding, and we have CTE instructors who are retiring and not being replaced.”
Proficiency vs. growth
Educators and lawmakers have debated for years how student success should be measured and whether assessments of school performance should focus more on student proficiency, as measured on state exams, or evidence of growth in test results.
Most Virginia schools remain fully accredited despite student testing declines
The Youngkin administration has argued for a greater emphasis on proficiency, saying that the inclusion of growth factors in school accreditation rankings has masked deficiencies in performance.
Officials were especially skeptical of the state’s most recent accreditation results, which showed only a few schools fell short of full accreditation despite student declines on standardized tests. Specifically, the number of fully accredited schools dropped from 92% in the 2019-20 school year to 89% for the 2022-23 year.
“This broken accountability system fails to provide a clear picture of the academic achievement and progress of our schools to parents, teachers, and local school divisions,” Youngkin said at the time. Former Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow similarly said the school ratings “fail to capture the extent of the crisis facing our schools and students.”
Both Balow and former Del. Glenn Davis, R-Virginia Beach, who chaired the House Education Committee, told the Washington Post that school accreditation rankings shouldn’t lump together proficiency and growth.
However, many education experts argue both factors are important in determining school success — a conclusion supported by the HB 938 work group, which in its Nov. 3 document stated that “focusing on both proficiency and growth provides an accurate depiction of how schools are performing.”
“The board should ensure that growth and proficiency continue to be included in one combined rate and increased parent-friendly communication surrounding its meaning would promote transparency,” the document says.
Members of the work group recommended the Board of Education “consider a weighted balance” of the two and conduct further investigation on the issue.
“We need accountability that looks at both student growth and students reaching proficiency. If you want to get a holistic picture of what’s happening with learning in schools,” Bridges said. “If you’re only looking at proficiency, particularly after coming out of this pandemic, and all of the impacts that it’s had on kids and their learning … then you’re only getting a piece of the larger picture.”
Members of the work group said they hope the report will be prepared and included as part of the board’s discussions.
Rodney Jordan, a former president of the Virginia School Boards Association who served on the work group, said Virginia has had a long history of educational excellence, but the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated many of the challenges students face.
I don’t want to see the pandemic used as an excuse for allowing opportunity gaps, lack of support for teachers and ill-defined student outcome goals to persist; I want to see those things lessened, frankly deliberately eliminated,” Jordan said.
However, he continued, education leaders must “acknowledg[e] that where students start and where students end can vary from school to school and community to community, and we have to find ways of accelerating academic excellence for all of our children while also finding ways to continue to … raise the bar and ceiling simultaneously.”
by Nathaniel Cline, Virginia Mercury
Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.
Traffic Charges filed after car strikes Downtown Front Royal Pavilion support beam
The below photos show the result of a motorist striking one of the Front Royal Village Commons/Gazebo area Pavilion support beams on Thursday, May 25th. The time of the accident was listed on the resulting traffic summons as 2:27 p.m. (14:27). The driver was identified at the scene by responding Front Royal Police as local resident Elizabeth Smith. She was issued a summons for “Driving a vehicle which is not under control; Reckless Driving.” No injuries were reported as a result of the accident. Smith has a pending mid-July traffic court date in Warren County General District Court. As of publication, the pavilion remained cordoned off pending permanent repairs.
Town Talk: Cameras in the classroom: A conversation with Jennifer Mulligan, Parent of Pre-K student starts petition
In this Town Talk, our publisher Mike McCool speaks with Jennifer Mulligan, a parent who has started a petition to have cameras placed in Pre-K and Special Needs classrooms.
A recent incident in a local Warren County Preschool classroom has prompted concerned residents to advocate for increased safety measures for children. A petition is now circulating to install security cameras in all preschool and special needs classrooms across the county.
The petition, titled “Safeguarding Our Vulnerable Youth,” was born out of concern for the safety of children, particularly those who are unable to express or defend themselves, such as disabled and nonverbal students. The initiative seeks to establish preventative measures to discourage untoward behavior and provide tangible support for staff who report incidents.
The proponents strongly believe that the presence of cameras would have either prevented the incident that took place in the local Pre-K classroom or ensured quicker action in response to it. “Cameras will not only discourage bad behavior but also provide evidence and support staff who report it,” the petition reads.
Warren County residents who are 18 or older are encouraged to read the petition and lend their support. The community believes that through collective effort, change can be enacted to ensure the safety of their children.
The petition calls upon school administrators, the school board, and authorities to take immediate action. The advocates argue that installing cameras in classrooms is a simple yet effective solution to create safer learning environments for the most vulnerable students.
By pushing for this change, Warren County residents are working together to not just react to an unfortunate event but to proactively establish safeguards that promote transparency and child safety within the school system.
Click here to sign her petition or visit her Facebook page.
Town Talk is a series on the Royal Examiner where we will introduce you to local entrepreneurs, businesses, non-profit leaders, and political figures who influence Warren County. Topics will be varied but hopefully interesting. Let us know if you have an idea or topic or want to hear from someone in our community. Send your request to news@RoyalExaminer.com
Circle of Kindness: R-MA cadets and senior citizens forge a bond of encouragement
It’s often said that what goes around comes around. This idiom recently played out in an unexpected and heartwarming way for the students of Randolph-Macon Academy (R-MA).
This past February, the academy, a co-ed private boarding school for grades 6-12 located just an hour from Washington, D.C., participated in a unique initiative to spread kindness. The initiative, spearheaded by the local organization We See You Warren County, was designed to inspire residents to write letters filled with encouragement, gratitude, and hope. Randolph-Macon Academy hosted these LOVE letters during Valentine’s week, with the academy’s cadets penning thoughtful missives to the seniors at the Warren County Senior Center.
Little did these cadets know this act of kindness would soon be reciprocated.
In their final week of school, a time typically filled with anticipation and anxiety, the graduating cadets of R-MA received a surprise: a flood of kind and encouraging words from the very seniors they had written to earlier in the year.
The cadets, graduating from a school renowned for its superior university-prep curriculum and elite Air Force JROTC program, were overcome with emotion at the gesture. This was a significant way to wrap up what has been one of the most memorable years of their academic journey.
Last year, R-MA celebrated the graduation of 59 students from the Class of 2022, all of whom secured university acceptances and together amassed over $16.6 million in scholarships. This year’s graduating class, buoyed by the seniors’ heartfelt messages, looks forward to taking their next steps into the world, carrying with them lessons in kindness, humility, and mutual respect.
This delightful exchange between the cadets and senior citizens demonstrates the strong bonds that can be built within a community, even between the youngest and oldest members. It reminds us all of the power of simple gestures of kindness and the joy of giving and receiving.
Find out more about the Randolph-Macon Academy experience by visiting their website: RMA.edu.
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