Connect with us

Local News

Governor Glenn Youngkin delivers address to the Joint Assembly

Published

on

On January 17, 2022, Governor Glenn Youngkin delivers to the Joint Assembly in Virginia’s State Capitol.

As prepared for Delivery

Good afternoon.

Standing here before you, and looking around this room, I’m struck by the history that’s been made in this place, the people’s house.


As well as the fact that the work you do here has great consequence for the people of Virginia. And so it is as we gather here today.

Mr. Speaker, Madam President, Lt. Governor Earle-Sears, Chief Justice Goodwyn, and Justices of the Supreme Court, members of the General Assembly, my fellow Virginians, today we begin anew, all of us together.

After years of fractured politics, a deadly pandemic, lives and livelihoods lost, soaring mental health incidents and drug overdoses, rising crime rates, ever-increasing costs for housing, food and fuel, Virginians have sent us here to turn the page.

They came out in record numbers to make their voice heard. They chose a new vision for the future.

Today, I want to speak to that vision and begin our partnership to address the priorities of the people.

I’ve enjoyed getting to know so many of the members of these two legislative bodies both Republicans and Democrats.

You have invited me to your homes. We’ve shared meals together. We’ve done community service together. And I thank you for that.

We’re all part of Team Virginia.

And as I shared on Saturday, we can take inspiration from Dr. Martin Luther King’s life which we celebrate today and his words that “we may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”

The work we have to do, we must do together.

And there isn’t a better example of people coming together on behalf of Virginia than the brave crews, the law enforcement heroes, and the first responders who worked during yesterday’s storm in the freezing cold, ice and snow to keep our streets safe, the lights on and our hospitals open.

Before I speak to the work ahead, I want to recognize someone who has traveled with me every step of the way.

She inspired me to live a life of faith as a younger man. She is an example of humility and strength not just to our children but to women across this great commonwealth.

She is the best partner I could ever imagine our First Lady, Suzanne Youngkin.

After a year of campaigning at diners, senior centers, schools, housing projects, courthouses…even pickup basketball games, I’ve taken the measure of our people.

I’ve found them to be resilient, optimistic, courageous. I listened to their hopes and concerns their dreams and fears. Their stories of inspiration and stories of tragedy.

Some cried on my shoulders. Some prayed over me. And some spoke bluntly maybe a little too bluntly at times.

Almost all expressed a desire for a Virginia worthy of the ambitions of its people.

I come here today to echo their clarion call for change.

To form a government that works for ordinary citizens. That’s a catalyst for opportunity and not an obstacle. And that addresses the kitchen table concerns of working families that are real and mounting.

It’s been said that all great change starts at kitchen tables across America.

You see, that’s where families talk about what matters to them. It’s also where parents discuss their worries stagnant wages in the face of rising expenses caring for an elderly parent and trying to find a way to save for their kids’ future.

I want to share with you something that we’ve all heard from voters.

They’re genuinely concerned that the cold halls of government are disconnected from the cold realities families face while sitting at their kitchen tables every day.

In that respect, we shouldn’t misconstrue record revenue for government as economic success for Virginians.

The view from the people, whose labor generates those tax receipts is quite different than the talk in Richmond.

They see an economy whose growth has stalled at less than 1% per year for 8 years. With household incomes stagnating over the last year — as the cost of living has sky-rocketed.

They see declining schools, they see violent crime reports dominating the news, they see record low labor participation, they see small businesses struggling, and they see government failures and encroachments on their liberties.

From the perspective of every day Virginia families times are tough. And the state of our Commonwealth is not what it should be.

Today we’re at the proverbial “tipping point” where the cash flow to the government from rising tax burdens is very high.

And yet the impact of high costs and high taxes, and an increased regulatory burden are clearly being felt in the real economy and the real lives of Virginians.

The good news is that we have the ability to course-correct before this poor performance becomes permanent.

With current and projected tax driven surpluses we can lower the tax burdens on Virginia families.

And make crucial investments in those critical pillars to the great Virginia promise of a lower cost-of-living, excellent schools, safe communities, a rip-roaring economy that lifts up all Virginians, and a state government that works for Virginians.

To do that, I’m asking each of us in this body Republican and Democrat alike to come together.

To rise above the Richmond of divisive, special interest politics, the small and the parochial to usher in a sweeping vision of change

And to put this commonwealth on a pathway to prosperity.

On day one, we hit the ground running, signing 11 executive actions, and swearing in a full cabinet, outstanding individuals, who are qualified and share Virginia’s values.

As of today, we’ve worked with legislators to introduce 59 pieces of legislation to tackle our day one agenda.

And we’ll be submitting a package of 25 budget amendments to reflect our bipartisan priorities.

We’re addressing issues that are critical to the future of this commonwealth. And that every member in this chamber can get behind.

Virginians have given us a license to lead. They have charged us all to deliver on a Day One agenda.

We know on some issues there’ll be deep disagreement.

But I believe this chamber is big enough for us to talk through our differences. And there is more that binds us than divides us.

For we all share a common goal to leave a better Virginia for our children.

We’re going to start by investing in Virginia classrooms.

Education is the key to opportunity. The means by which all children and their parents can realize their greatest dreams.

Virginia schools have a lofty reputation. But lately we’ve not lived up to that reputation.

In fact, our education standards for math and reading are now the lowest in the nation.

Unelected political appointees lowered standards which inevitably led to a decline in student performance.

60% of our students don’t meet national proficiency standards, including over 70% of Latino students, and over 80% of black students, failing to meet standard on the math NAEP tests. Remarkably, despite these dramatic declines noted by the National Center for Education Statistics only one Virginia school has been deemed failing
because accreditation standards were lowered.

Starting now we’re ending the accountability shell games intended to make us feel good but amount to the often stated “soft bigotry of low expectations.”

Let’s stop cheating our kids.

On this we should join arms and purpose together so that when our time here is done we’ll collectively have raised education standards from the lowest to the highest in the nation.

I’m also calling for $150 million to help us meet our goal of starting 20 new charter schools.

Whether they’re called charter schools, lab schools, or schools of innovation – it doesn’t really matter.

I don’t care what we call it I just care that we do it.

We’re joined today by the students of Green Run Collegiate Charter School in Virginia Beach. Green Run Collegiate shares a facility with Green Run High School.

They have an innovative curriculum. They provide access to every child in the school district to attend the collegiate program. They’re thriving and their parents are thrilled.

Please join me in welcoming these future Virginia leaders to our commonwealth’s capitol.

We’re going to build partnerships between the commonwealth and our great universities to create lab schools of excellence.

It could be a lab school in Southwest Virginia in partnership with UVA Wise.

It could be an entrepreneurship or entertainment industry-focused school partnering with one of our amazing historically black colleges and universities.

Or a partnership with Old Dominion University for opportunities in offshore wind development or maritime projects.

When it comes to the education budget, I’ve heard consistent bipartisan agreement from all of you that the budget you’ll pass, and that I’ll sign will reflect a record investment in education including a significant boost in teacher pay.

With the exception of a parent or guardian no one impacts the future of a young child more than a quality teacher.

We will attract quality professionals to Virginia schools. And we will pay teachers as the professionals they are.

We must also recognize that the people most responsible for a child’s education are parents.

My message to parents is this,

You have a fundamental right, enshrined in law by this General Assembly, to make decisions with regard to your child’s upbringing, education and care.

And we will protect and reassert that right.

Hear me clearly when parents are empowered and engaged, a child’s life is enhanced.

I’ve heard the concerns of parents about curriculum.

Virginia parents want our history – all of our history, the good and the bad to be taught. And they want their children to be told how to think, not what to think.

That’s why we should not use inherently divisive concepts like Critical Race Theory in Virginia. And why we should not be teaching our children to see everything through the lens of race.

That’s also why I want to give parents the right to be informed before their child is exposed to sexually explicit materials.

Please, send me the same bill you passed on a bipartisan basis in 2017 and I will sign it.

The classroom environment must be safe, so children can learn.

I’m asking members of this general assembly to prioritize school safety by putting a school resource officer on every campus.

I also ask you to join me in protecting students from sex trafficking organizations that recruit them on and off campus.

Let’s train educators to see the signs of trafficking. And to stand in the gap for children at risk of being preyed upon.

Let’s also involve local law enforcement agencies in the approval of school safety audits.

And whenever someone preys upon a child in a Virginia school — we must require it to be reported to local law enforcement for investigation.

No more cover-ups. No more sweeping it under the rug. Parents deserve to know if their child is at risk.

Schools exist for the educational benefit of children, and for that reason they must remain open. I strongly encourage everyone to get vaccinated for Covid-19 and get the booster.

As we battle covid, its parents that should decide the health measures taken for their children.

That is why I signed an executive order that allows parents to opt-out of mask mandates in schools. This is a matter of individual liberty.

Again, this body passed a law that protects parent’s fundamental right to make decisions concerning the upbringing, education, and care of their children.

And health care workers should get to make those decisions too.

And I will continue to oppose President Biden’s COVID vaccine mandate for health workers as we continue to fight a crisis of staffing in Virginia’s healthcare system.

Our fight against COVID-19 will move forward based on this simple principle we will protect lives and livelihoods.

That means no more mandates and no more shutdowns. As I said on Saturday it means Virginia is open for business.

It also means the science since the beginning of the pandemic has not been static. We now have therapeutics better testing protocols and fortunately a less severe variant.

And of course, we have vaccines. It means, educating our friends and neighbors and encouraging them to get the vaccine and the booster.

There are 1.6 million unvaccinated Virginians today.

And speaking to you as your Governor, I’ll never tell you what you must do. But speaking to you as a friend and a neighbor I strongly encourage you to get the vaccine.

The data is clear people who do not get the vaccine are four times as likely to be hospitalized.

The vaccine will not only help keep people out of the hospital, it will also keep people working, earning a paycheck and growing our economy, something that has to remain a top priority for us all.

Our Day One Plan will jump-start jobs.

We’re going to repeal needless regulations. We’re going to invest in job training. We’re going to foster innovation. And we’re going to win the competition for jobs and corporate re-locations.

I support a significant investment in mega-sites.

To make sure we don’t lose the next advanced battery manufacturing plant after seeing several go to Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia.

And while we’re at it let’s broaden the baseball stadium authority to include football. And perhaps we’ll get one of those too.

I want our rural Virginians to know we’re spreading prosperity far and wide. And rural Virginia won’t be left behind.

We’re not only bringing jobs, we’re bringing high-speed broadband.

Every governor for the last decade has stood in this chamber and told you that rural broadband was a priority. This time we’re going to get it done.

We’re also going to make certain that key projects at our ports and our highways are completed.

So the message is clear, if your cargo container ships is stuck off the coast of another state come to Virginia.

We’re ready for your business. And we won’t make supply chain problems worse with regulatory red tape.

And let me be clear, I believe in the fundamental right to work.

If anyone tries to bring me a bill that creates forced unionization it will meet the business end of my veto pen.

The states around us have created more jobs, grown their economies faster, and took steps years ago that we must take now, lower taxes, business-friendly regulations, workforce development, and more.

This is a real competition, and to win, we have to “play to win.”

One of the other challenges businesses face especially small businesses is the high cost of providing health care for their employees.

Over the last three years, you sent the governor eight versions of an association health plan bill to make it easier for workers to get health care.

It was vetoed eight times. Pass that bill again and I will sign it.

Virginians are struggling with the high cost of living, in a commonwealth with skyrocketing housing costs, rising fuel prices, and the silent wage theft of inflation.

There are economic fundamentals we don’t control in Virginia – that must be dealt with at the federal level.

But Washington continues to fiddle in the face of real supply chain challenges. And allows our nation to be overly-reliant on China for critical goods and services.

But there is one vital thing we can do to help Virginians. And that is remove some of the tax burden — added on top of rising prices for groceries, gasoline and housing.

That’s why I support suspending the recent gas tax increase for a year and fully eliminating the grocery tax immediately.

There’s bipartisan support for eliminating the grocery tax. Together, we will give Virginians real relief.

We also need to give Virginians a real break on their personal income tax by doubling the standard deduction. And providing the largest tax rebate in Virginia history.

These tax cuts benefit the people who need it the most.

And represent the largest tax relief ever given to the people of Virginia $1,500 this year for the typical Virginia family.

But beyond the economic implications of this package, I believe we have a special obligation to a group of individuals that have served our country with distinction our military veterans.

Those who risk life and limb for country and community don’t do it for the pay. They do it because service is in their blood.

The care and support of our veterans, have always transcended partisan politics.

That’s why I’m asking this General Assembly to act on something long talked about.

Let’s eliminate the tax on the first $40,000 in military retirement pay together.

Anyone who wears the uniform risks their life each day on the job. And this includes police officers, firefighters, EMTs, every first responder that keeps us safe.

We’re in a fractious era and no group of individuals is under greater scrutiny today than our law enforcement.

A culture of lawlessness has filled the void in Virginia with violent crime on the rise.

In November, Police Officer Michael Chandler of the Big Stone Gap Police Department was violently gunned down by a vicious criminal.

Incidents like this are all too common today.

We’ll never know the depth of his loss to his family but we grieve with them and pray for them.

In Virginia, we must stand with our law enforcement agencies. And therefore, I’m asking you to fund our police to protect our communities.

Officer Michael Chandler’s widow — Natasha Chandler is also a member of law enforcement. She’s a Wise County Deputy Sheriff who even after losing her husband, insisted on returning to serve.

She’s watching this afternoon.

Please join me in recognizing the sacrifice that her husband, Michael, made on our behalf.

The budget submitted to this General Assembly includes pay raises for troopers, sheriffs’ deputies and corrections officers.

Those are strong first steps I know we all support.

But we need to provide more funding for our police departments. And more funding for training and equipment.

Together, we should dedicate $100 million in ARPA funds to a training and equipment grant program for law enforcement. And provide capital funding for a new state police training facility.

Furthermore, I’m asking you to dedicate $26 million in state funding for police departments. But only in localities that are increasing funding for their police departments.

We’ll also fund community violence intervention by dedicating at least $5 million to Operation Cease Fire.

It’s time to take down the temperature around discussions of policing.

The solution is constructive engagement and dialogue. Not inadequate funding which creates more lawlessness.

And when it comes to lawlessness, I want to be crystal clear.

If we won’t tolerate it in communities across the commonwealth then we certainly won’t tolerate it within a state agency.

On Saturday, I fired the entire parole board.

And I asked Attorney General Miyares to begin an investigation into what happened there.

The violations of law and the Constitution, the unconscionable refusal to notify families, of victims about pending decisions to release murderers, were simply unacceptable.

We will not accept selective violations of our constitutional rights. We will protect all of them.

We don’t get to pick and choose the parts of the Constitution we want to preserve and protect.

In order for our government to work for the people, we must also reform the institutions of government that fail to serve the people.

I’ll admit I’ve never run a government agency. But I know something about running a business.

And we’re going to bring business efficiency to government bureaucracy.

That’s why I appointed a Commonwealth Chief Transformation Officer — to oversee government transformation.

We will make government more responsive, more efficient, and more transparent and we’ll start by fixing the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Virginia Employment Commission.

Furthermore, we will be innovative in leveraging federal transportation funds to address the challenges of growth and gridlock.

In Virginia, we are going to build roads, bridges, rail lines and utility lines.

We are going to be better prepared for weather events that strain our highways and the electric grid.

And we will marshal our resources to make our infrastructure the most reliable in the nation.

As I travel Virginia, I remain in awe of the raw natural beauty of our Commonwealth.

The mountains, waterways, beaches, parks, farm land, livestock, vineyards, and natural resources testify to our Creator’s artistry.

I deeply treasure the natural beauty of Virginia. And my administration will dedicate itself to protecting and promoting it as a core principle of our service.

That’s why we will end the dumping of raw sewage in the James River once and for all.

I also support fully funding best management practices on our farms in order to protect our soil and water from the Chesapeake Bay to the Jackson River.

And we are going to see the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay to the finish line.

Coastal resiliency is critical to me.

And it’s critical to our nation because of our Port and military assets in Hampton Roads.

That’s why we’re going to create the Coastal Virginia Resiliency Authority to battle rising seas and make sure the federal government does its part too.

Let me state our goal.

Let’s work together in partnership. To build a government as virtuous as our people. One that serves.

You don’t have to look too far to find examples of that spirit among the people of Virginia.

I met a veteran of our military on the campaign trail by the name of Natasha Barijon (BEAR-ee-un).

She’s an immigrant. And like so many first generation immigrants, she loves this country with a passion few can understand though certainly our lieutenant governor can.

Natasha knows what life is like in other parts of the world.

Which is why tears flowed down her face when she told me about her journey to America her pride in serving in our military and the hopes and dreams she has for her daughter to grow up in a better America.

Natasha represents the best of America.

She may not have been born here but she is every bit American as someone who was. Because she has lived the ideals of this great land.

Natasha is also watching today.

Please join me in recognizing her service to our country and her dreams for her daughter.

Virginia is home to heroes. Many living and many who lie in eternal rest.

I attended the funeral of one such hero last month, in Virginia Beach – the Commanding Officer of SEAL Team 8, Brian Bourgeois.

Brian could light up a room with his laugh and he could put his subordinates at ease during the most tense moments.

He gave his life in service to freedom. And he left behind a wife, Megan, and five children. One of which – Barrett – led us in the pledge of allegiance on Saturday.

What price would we in this room put on freedom?

For some freedom is so precious they would offer everything in its defense.

Those of us who live in the freedom they so valiantly protect must live lives worthy of their sacrifice. Set aside petty divisions. Set aside ego and self-advancement. And join together to make this Virginia we love better, stronger, freer.

My friends in this esteemed legislature, I’m inspired to be with you this afternoon. And to be working with you to build a future of limitless opportunity and strengthen the spirit of Virginia.

Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Share the News:

Local News

McFadden bows out of mayoral race, throws support to Vice-Mayor Lori Cockrell

Published

on

Front Royal Town Councilman Joe McFadden has announced, through a media release from the Warren County Republican Committee, that he is withdrawing from his mayoral campaign.

In a recent release sent by GOP spokesman Steven Kurtz, McFadden wrote, “I have realized that I simply do not have the time required to collect signatures or run a campaign to get elected to the position of Mayor of Front Royal. I also understand that the level of time commitment needed to be Mayor may be more than I would be able to accommodate at this point in my life. When I announced I was running, I asked that you all vet the very best candidate. I’ve been working behind the scenes to do that very thing too.”

McFadden indicated that he and Vice-Mayor Lori Cockrell “had a long discussion after which we agreed that Lori would take my place and run for Mayor.”

McFadden stated in the release, “Over the past several months, I’ve come to the firm conclusion that Lori is in fact the best choice for the WCRC endorsement and for all Front Royal citizens.”


Contacted by telephone, McFadden told Royal Examiner that he remained committed to serving the citizens but felt he could best serve his constituents by supporting Cockrell in her run. He acknowledged that while the town council and mayoral races are supposed to be nonpartisan, he felt the Warren County Republican Committee would endorse Cockrell’s bid for mayor.

McFadden pointed out in the release that Cockrell “has my full committed support. I hope she will also garner the committee’s support as she collects signatures and campaigns to be the Mayor of Front Royal.”

Royal Examiner reached out to Cockrell, who replied via email, “After much prayer and following a long discussion with many family members and friends, I have decided to seek the endorsement of my party for a term as Mayor of the Town of Front Royal.

In the coming weeks, I plan to meet with the citizens of Front Royal on their doorstep and seek their advice on the direction of the town government over the next two years. Based on those discussions, I intend to propose a series of goals the town could achieve if I am fortunate enough to be elected Mayor. If elected, I will work closely with the council in both settings and achieve those goals. I greatly appreciate Councilman McFadden’s support of my candidacy.”

Mayor Chris Holloway was elected to serve a four-year term from January 2019 to December 2022. He previously served as Councilman from 2008 to 2010 and as Vice Mayor from 2010 to 2012. He indicated earlier this year that he would not launch a mayoral campaign.

In addition to Cockrell throwing her hat into the ring, councilman Gary Gillespie announced his bid for the mayor’s seat earlier this spring.

 

Share the News:

Continue Reading

Local News

Strasburg Councilman John Massoud announces candidacy for State Senate

Published

on

John Massoud recently announced his candidacy for the newly created 1st state senate District, which encompasses Shenandoah, Clarke County, Frederick County, Warren County, and Winchester City.

John Massoud

“After some deliberation and prayers from friends and family, we have decided to run for State Senate,” said Massoud.

“As State Senator, I will be the 21st conservative vote in bringing down Senator Louise Lucas’s Liberal “Brick Wall ” stonewalling Governor Youngkin and Speaker Gilbert’s legislation. I will vote to cut the gas tax, end the grocery tax, restore our constitutional right to bear arms and repeal red flag, support pro-life legislation to end taxpayer-funded abortion and late-term abortion in Virginia, and pass pro parent common-sense policies to put a stop to masking and woke bureaucrats shoving liberal nonsense down our kids’ throats. I will also ensure that ALL Virginian’s religious freedoms are respected and oppose so-called COVID mandates that only mean more government and less liberty.”


Massoud added: “My father moved to America in 1962 after my father was forced to leave because he refused to convert to Islam and renounce his Christian faith. America is the land of promise, but every day radical leftist policies encroach on our religious, social, and personal freedom. I am running because it’s time we stood up and said no to more government, more mandates, and win back Virginia for conservatives. If I am privileged to serve in the State Senate, I will be fighting for our Valley Values in Richmond.

Share the News:

Continue Reading

Local News

School division proposes grading policy changes, relocating LFK students during construction

Published

on

The superintendent and staff at Warren County Public School (WCPS) earlier this week detailed proposed plans for an updated division-wide grading policy, as well as where to relocate students during upcoming renovations at Leslie Fox Keyser (LFK) Elementary School.

WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger (left) explains proposed grading policy changes to Warren County School Board member Andrea Lo (seated). Photos and video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger and other division staff provided information and recommendations to Warren County School Board Chair Kristen Pence, Vice-Chair Ralph Rinaldi, and members Antoinette Funk, Andrea Lo, and Melanie Salins during the board’s Wednesday, May 18 work session.

In discussing updates to the grading policy, Ballenger told the board that he has been meeting with three committees of teachers and administrators from elementary, middle, and high schools to revise the current policy, which most recently was updated in January 2018.


Ballenger’s presentation to the School Board included the recommended changes by each of the committees at the respected level, and he said a final draft will be presented to the board for consideration.

“We have been able to put out a decent product that teachers are proud of,” Ballenger said about the draft grading policy document.

One of the “biggest changes,” he said, includes the addition of definitions for several terms, including ‘no credit,’ which is defined as a zero for an assignment in middle or high school.

Ballenger explained that all three committees felt it was important to define what no credit means. “It means that you’re not getting anything,” he said. “We needed to make sure that students, parents, teachers, and everybody understood that no credit means a zero.”

For instance, the proposed high school grading policy states that credit will only be given for assignments that are attempted. No credit will be awarded for any assignments that are not attempted.

At the teacher’s discretion, students may be permitted to make up, retake, and/or correct material in a timely manner as appropriate to the course pacing, and students must schedule a time with the teacher that may fall outside of the course’s normal class time, according to the draft document.

The goal, said Ballenger, is to “make sure students take some responsibility for their grades.”

Pence, who said she appreciated the work that’s gone into drafting an updated grading policy, said: “This is going to be a hard year for some students, but hopefully, this gets them better prepared for the real world and college.”

WCPS is now seeking public input on this and all of the proposed grading policy changes. Click here to read through the draft policy.

Draft grant applications presented

WCPS Director of Elementary Instruction Lisa Rudacille, who is also the principal at E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School, and WCPS Coordinator Title I & Title III Donna Boies presentation to School Board members with details for the school division’s Title I, II, III, and IV draft grant applications.

WCPS Director of Elementary Instruction Lisa Rudacille (right) and WCPS Coordinator Title I & Title III Donna Boies (left) present draft grant applications to School Board during May 18 work session.

The Title I-A, II-A, III-A, and IV-A applications seek federal funding to improve basic instructional programs, teacher and principal training and recruiting, support for language instruction for English learners, and to increase the capacity of school divisions to provide all students with access to a well-rounded education, according to the administrators.

While no motion was needed on Wednesday from the School Board, Rudacille and Boies said a motion and vote for approval of the grant applications will be requested at the board’s June 1, meeting. They wanted to give board members a chance to go through the draft applications now before making any decision on them next month.

Where will LFK students go?

Division staff pointed out that with the construction of the LFK renovations scheduled to start in January 2023, there are several considerations to make now prior to the start date so that the board can make decisions and parents can be notified. Students will be relocated beginning in August, they said.

(Left to right) WCPS Director of Special Services & Homeless Liaison Michael Hirsch; WCPS Director of Maintenance Greg Livesay; LFK Assistant Principal Jessica Vacca; and WCPS Assistant Superintendent for Administration George “Buck” Smith presented challenges and recommendations for relocating LFK students during planned construction phases at the elementary school.

“We have to have a plan in place,” said Ballenger, who added that staff is looking at its options and what would be the best choices to ensure consistency for students, as well as accommodating for construction.

For instance, one of the challenges is limited space on the LFK property site that will not allow for modular buildings to be utilized for the duration of the project, which is slated to be completed by August 2024, said Livesay.

Ballenger added that the topography at LFK also poses an issue since the school is on a hill. And it’s not feasible to put a modular unit on the asphalt where it would take up parking spaces. Livesay noted associated additional costs to installing modulars, as well.

LFK Assistant Principal Jessica Vacca agreed with Ballenger’s recommendation to relocate fifth-grade students to Warren County Middle School during specific construction phases. The school’s administrators have experience with such a move because that’s what was done during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when students had to socially distance themselves.

Having a school with over 530 students, no walls, and no doors made it difficult to keep students at LFK during the pandemic, so the fifth graders went to the middle school. Vacca said that students and parents did well with that strategy.

Relocating pre-kindergarteners is also a consideration, said Hirsch. Some of the options suggested included moving their classes into available spaces at other elementary schools during renovations or to the Riverton United Methodist Church, which has offered class space to WCPS.

Hirsch noted that there are many students with disabilities among the incoming class of preschoolers who will need specific accommodations, as well, and he noted that minimizing their transitions is key.

Smith said there are also bus considerations to make, as well as food service, access to a nurse, ensuring the facility is ADA compliant, that there are sufficient communications available, and green space for outdoor play. “These are just some of the challenges to overcome,” he said.

Rinaldi said he supports the division’s current plan and recommendations and added that there’s always room for adjustments to be made.

Share the News:

Continue Reading

Local News

Laurel Ridge partners with Opportunity Scholars to bring more education and career training opportunities to students

Published

on

Laurel Ridge Community College on Wednesday signed an agreement with Opportunity Scholars that will open the door to higher education and career training for more students who come from families with lower and middle incomes.

Opportunity Scholars provides the up-front costs of education and career training – including short-term training – to Winchester and Frederick County students who plan to pursue jobs in their own communities in one of the following high-demand, high-skill areas:  public service, healthcare, education, business, IT and trades.

Pictured left to right: LFCC President Kim Blosser, Opportunity Scholars CEO Knox Singleton and Opportunity Scholars Board Member Lorna Martinez Magill.

Laurel Ridge President Kim Blosser said Knox Singleton, CEO of Opportunity Scholars, reached out to her in early 2018, shortly after she became president. He told her he was very interested in helping secure educations for young people. The two met shortly after and discussed the barriers to education many young people face.


“Knox is a great listener and he and I talked about the support systems that are often missing, and how those missing supports keep students from achieving all they can,” Dr. Blosser said.

She said it has been proven that “it’s better to be born rich than smart” when it comes to an individual’s later socio-economic status.

“We simply have to change that,” said President Blosser. “There is no reason these smart kids who just need the extra social and emotional and financial supports to be successful can’t achieve all they’re capable of achieving.”

Singleton said he was fortunate to be born into a middle-class family, which afforded him many opportunities.

“You don’t get to pick your parents, you don’t get to pick where you’re born,” he said. “This is really about the American dream.”

Nearly half of area students don’t further their education beyond high school, according to Singleton.

“At Opportunity Scholars, that is our mission,” he said. “We want to step in with that half, and we want to help them get an education. We have wonderful partners who will make that happen.”

As part of the agreement, Opportunity Scholars will pay for and provide personal, career and academic mentoring for high school and college preparation, as well as most of the expenses related to earning a degree or certification. Opportunity Scholars staff will articulate transfer pathways from Laurel Ridge to Shenandoah University for those careers that require a bachelor’s degree.

2019 Millbrook High School graduate Tihany Martinez-Gonzalez said she hopes to become an English as a Second Language teacher with the help of Opportunity Scholars.

“Before I met Opportunity Scholars, I was worried – where was my career going to go, was I going to be able to go to school?” she said. “I couldn’t afford it.”

When she arrived in the U.S. from El Salvador, Martinez-Gonzalez didn’t speak English, and learning ESL is difficult, she said.

“When I saw a lot of kids needed help [with ESL], I thought, I want to do that, too,” she said of her decision to teach English.

Del. Mark Keam, who represents Virginia’s 35th District, and has previously served as vice chair of the Finance Committee and chair of the Higher Education Subcommittee, was impressed by the program.

“This is such an amazing opportunity that you’re creating, not just for our students, but for the entire region,” he said.

Del. Keam said he’d like to see Opportunity Scholars extend around Virginia. Rather than thinking of education as a product, we should be thinking of it as part of the nation’s infrastructure, he said.

“It’s the backbone for every other service that America needs,” said Del. Keam.

Learn more about the program at opportunityscholars.org.

Share the News:

Continue Reading

Chamber News

Chamber welcomes Garcia & Gavino to Front Royal

Published

on

Nike Foster Cales of the Front Royal/Warren County Chamber of Commerce, along with Town Manager Steven Hicks, Board of Supervisor Chair Cheryl Cullers, Chamber Board Vice-CHair Bryon Biggs, and friends welcomed Garcia & Gavino Bakery at 40 E. 8th Street to the Front Royal community.

Garcia & Gavino is a locally owned & family-run business. Melissa Garcia and Ivan Gavino, along with son Seth say their goal is to bring family heritages and traditions and incorporate them into favorite treats. They specialize in sweets, but their tamale fairies make regular visits to bring delicious specials and occasional keto-friendly treats to us.

Their new hours are: Tuesday – Thursday, 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, Friday, 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, Saturday and Sunday, 9:00 am to 3:00 pm.

Follow them on Facebook too.


Share the News:

Continue Reading

Local News

School Board approves pending $1.9M in bonuses for WCPS employees

Published

on

The Warren County School Board, during its Wednesday, May 18 meeting, unanimously approved more than $1.9 million to be used to pay a one-time bonus to all full-time and part-time employees of Warren County Public School (WCPS). The Warren County Board of Supervisors also must weigh in on the request.

School Board Chair Kristen Pence, Board Vice-Chair Ralph Rinaldi, and board members Antoinette Funk, Andrea Lo, and Melanie Salins voted yea to the recommendation from WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger to approve giving full-time employees a net payment of $1,500 and part-time employees a net payment of $750. Employees hired on or after January 1, will receive a net payment of one-half of the approved amount, Ballenger said.

WCPS Superintendent Dr. Chris Ballenger recommends a one-time bonus for division employees. Photos and video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

The superintendent pointed out that the School Board’s approval is contingent upon the Board of Supervisors approving the necessary transfer of funds between categories for the School Board to execute the payments.


The estimated cost of the bonus ($1,908,452) would be paid with approved fiscal year 2022 budget savings primarily generated from the inability of the school division to fill several positions during the school year, lag pay savings from when an employee leaves and their replacement is hired, and staff turnover savings said Ballenger.

The School Board also, on Wednesday evening, unanimously approved other purchases contingent on the appropriation of funding from the Warren County Board of Supervisors.

For instance, board members voted to approve a $343,600 contract award to Black Stone Roofing LLC, which will replace the membrane roof at the Blue Ridge Technical Center.

WCPS Director of Maintenance Greg Livesay told the board that the existing membrane roof has developed multiple leaks over the years, with previous repair attempts being unsuccessful. He said WCPS staff posted bid invitations online at the end of March, and a pre-bid meeting was conducted on April 13 that brought in eight contractors.

Livesay said five bids were received on April 29, with Black Stone Roofing “being the lowest, most-responsive bidder at $343,600.” The project could to ready to start in early to mid-June and completed within a four-to-six-weeks timeframe, depending on the weather, he said, adding that the contractor has the needed materials in hand, “so there are no lead time issues getting this project started.”

The board also approved the $96,117 purchase of additional Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) kits for all elementary schools and Brighter Futures. WCPS Director of Elementary Instruction Lisa Rudacille, who is also the principal at E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School, said LLI was implemented this school year at all elementary schools to help address the reading gaps that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on learning.

The Fountas & Pinnell LLI System is an intensive, small-group, supplementary literacy intervention for students who find reading a challenge, Rudacille said, adding that the goal of LLI is to lift the literacy achievement of students who are not achieving grade-level expectations in reading.

“Schools have requested the purchase of additional LLI kits to support more students in the coming school year and, in the case of Hilda J. Barbour, which has used the program for many years, to also update and replace worn materials,” said Rudacille.

Additionally, the School Board approved a contract to New Virginia Tractor of Winchester, Va., in the amount of $27,903.26 to purchase two John Deere Zero Turn Mowers.

“In order to assume responsibility for the grounds maintenance for both high schools effective July 1, the Facilities Maintenance Department will need to purchase two zero-turn mowers,” said Livesay. “The existing equipment that was provided to Warren County when they assumed responsibility will remain in use by the County as they are responsible for the grounds maintenance at the middle and elementary school until April 2023.”

The board also approved a WCPS recommendation that the superintendent is authorized to request that the Warren County Board of Supervisors approve several fiscal year 2022 Operating Fund category transfers.

WCPS Director of Finance and Clerk of the School Board Robert Ballentine said the funds transfers between different categories must be made to balance the books.

“It’s an evening up of the money. A bookkeeping move to move money into the right categories so that we don’t overspend,” said Ballentine.

New scholarships

Additionally, the School Board approved, with gratitude, two new scholarships.

The Limeton United Methodist Church Scholarship will offer $2,500 to one graduating senior at both Warren County High School (WCHS) and Skyline High School (SHS) to attend Lord Fairfax Community College, which soon takes on its new name, Laurel Ridge Community College. According to Ballenger, additional criteria is that one scholarship will be awarded at each school; students must maintain a 3.0 GPA in high school, and awards will go to students in need due to financial hardship.

Reaching Out Now (RON) will provide $500 scholarship awards through the creation of its new Harlee Anne Hire Scholarship Program to support and encourage student-athletes at WCPS. Two awards of $500 each will be made during the 2021-2022 academic school year through the RON Endowment Program to a student-athlete at WCHS and at SHS, said Ballenger. The program’s main goal is to offer financial support to a current senior athlete at WCHS and SHS and “to encourage serious and deserving students to continue their studies after graduation,” he said.

The new scholarship program is named for Hire, 16, who died earlier this month. She would have been a 2024 SHS graduate. Ballenger said she played right field and was a catcher for the SHS Varsity Softball team. “Harlee loved sports” and “also had a servant’s heart,” said Ballenger, noting that Hire had earned the most service hours volunteering for the RON Girls of Destiny Program.

School Board Chair Kristen Pence tables action on forthcoming VSBA revised policy.

For next time

The School Board tabled action on the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) revised policy GCL Professional Staff Development.

Every employee holding a license issued by the Board of Education is required to complete cultural competency training, in accordance with guidance issued by the Board of Education, at least every two years, according to WCPS Assistant Superintendent for Administration George “Buck” Smith.

Each employee required to complete cultural competency training also must complete at least one such training no later than the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year, Smith told School Board members, noting that this was a July 2021 policy revision of the approved May 2021 GCL policy.

WCPS staff have communicated with representatives from the Virginia Department of Education for an update on the module that has been approved and revised by Gov. Youngkin’s administration, which Smith said is set to release the new module “within the next week or so.”

Board member Salins suggested tabling action on the item because the new module has not been released yet. “We would be voting on something that we can’t even read yet,” she said.

But board member Lo said that because teacher licensure is attached to the policy action, “it’s not up to us; we have to pass this.”

Board Chair Pence said that action on the item can be taken by the School Board during its work session in June when members should have a copy of the module.

.

Share the News:

Continue Reading

 

Thank You to our Local Business Participants:

@AHIER

Aders Insurance Agency, Inc (State Farm)

Aire Serv Heating and Air Conditioning

Apple Dumpling Learning Center

Apple House

Auto Care Clinic

Beaver Tree Services

Blake and Co. Hair Spa

Blue Ridge Arts Council

Blue Ridge Education

BNI Shenandoah Valley

C&C's Ice Cream Shop

Christine Binnix - McEnearney Associates

Code Ninjas Front Royal

Cool Techs Heating and Air

Down Home Comfort Bakery

Downtown Market

Dusty's Country Store

Edward Jones-Bret Hrbek

Explore Art & Clay

Family Preservation Services

First Baptist Church

Front Royal Women's Resource Center

Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce

G&M Auto Sales Inc

Garcia & Gavino Family Bakery

Gourmet Delights Gifts & Framing

Green to Ground Electrical

Groups Recover Together

House of Hope

I Want Candy

I'm Just Me Movement

Jen Avery, REALTOR & Jenspiration, LLC

Key Move Properties, LLC

KW Solutions

Legal Services Plans of Northern Shenendoah

Main Street Travel

Makeover Marketing Systems

Marlow Automotive Group

Mary Carnahan Graphic Design

Merchants on Main Street

Mountain Trails

National Media Services

No Doubt Accounting

Northwestern Community Services Board

Ole Timers Antiques

Penny Lane Hair Co.

Philip Vaught Real Estate Management

Phoenix Project

Reaching Out Now

Rotary Club of Warren County

Royal Blends Nutrition

Royal Cinemas

Royal Examiner

Royal Family Bowling Center

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Oak Computers

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Spice

Ruby Yoga

Salvation Army

Samuels Public Library

SaVida Health

Skyline Insurance

St. Luke Community Clinic

Studio Verde

The Institute for Association & Nonprofit Research

The Studio-A Place for Learning

The Valley Today - The River 95.3

The Vine and Leaf

Valley Chorale

Vetbuilder.com

Warren Charge (Bennett's Chapel, Limeton, Asbury)

Warren Coalition

Warren County Democratic Committee

Warren County Department of Social Services

Warrior Psychotherapy Services, PLLC

WCPS Work-Based Learning

What Matters & Beth Medved Waller, Inc Real Estate

White Picket Fence

Woodward House on Manor Grade

King Cartoons

Front Royal
70°
Partly Cloudy
5:55am8:23pm EDT
Feels like: 70°F
Wind: 6mph SSW
Humidity: 58%
Pressure: 29.9"Hg
UV index: 0
SunMonTue
82/46°F
64/43°F
66/45°F

Upcoming Events

May
21
Sat
9:00 am Kids’ Fishing Tournament @ Shenandoah River State Park
Kids’ Fishing Tournament @ Shenandoah River State Park
May 21 @ 9:00 am – 2:00 pm
Kids' Fishing Tournament @ Shenandoah River State Park
Held in the picnic area by the river. 2 prize categories: biggest catch and most unique catch Children ages 15 years and younger are eligible to compete Check in with the ranger at Shelter 1[...]
10:00 am Birds of the Woods and Fields @ Sky Meadows State Park
Birds of the Woods and Fields @ Sky Meadows State Park
May 21 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am
Birds of the Woods and Fields @ Sky Meadows State Park
Sensory Explorers’ Trail Join Shenandoah Chapter Master Naturalist Margaret Wester and explore the habitat of birds and the woodland wonders utilized for their survival. Discover the diverse stories of the Eastern Bluebird, Tree Swallow, Wood[...]
11:00 am National Kids to Parks Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
National Kids to Parks Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
May 21 @ 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
National Kids to Parks Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Children’s Discovery Area This National Kids to Parks Day, join us for fun-filled activities and music at our interactive discovery stations. Kids, pick up a scavenger hunt brochure and hike on the Track Trail or[...]
May
22
Sun
2:00 pm Common Scents: Historic Perfume ... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Common Scents: Historic Perfume ... @ Sky Meadows State Park
May 22 @ 2:00 pm – May 23 @ 4:00 pm
Common Scents: Historic Perfume Making Workshop @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. Have you ever wondered how to harvest the fragrance of a flower or capture the irresistible aroma of sandalwood? Then this hands-on workshop is for you! Join us and learn how people in[...]
5:00 pm Let’s Come Together @ DoubleTree by Hilton
Let’s Come Together @ DoubleTree by Hilton
May 22 @ 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm
Let's Come Together @ DoubleTree by Hilton
A Night of Prayer and Worship, All are Welcome Prayers led by Pastor John Miller of Abundant Life Church and other Local Pastors DoubleTree by Hilton 111 Hospitality Dr. Front Royal, VA Sunday, May 22[...]
May
25
Wed
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
May 25 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
May
28
Sat
8:00 pm Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
May 28 @ 8:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area: Discover our International Dark-Sky Park! Our evenings begin with a half-hour children’s “Junior Astronomer” program, followed by a discussion about the importance of dark skies and light conservation. Then join NASA Jet Propulsion[...]
May
30
Mon
7:00 pm 2022 Memorial Day Community Band... @ Gazebo
2022 Memorial Day Community Band... @ Gazebo
May 30 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm
2022 Memorial Day Community Band Concert @ Gazebo
2022 Memorial Day Concert by Front Royal Community Band Monday, May 30, 2022, 7pm, at the Gazebo on Main St. (sponsored by American Legion Post #53)
Jun
1
Wed
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Jun 1 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]