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New 19-year-old WCPS teacher takes on 4th grade at A.S. Rhodes



Welcome to the classroom of first-year teacher Alexis Stiles, a 19-year-old native of Front Royal. Photos by Kim Riley

FRONT ROYAL – First-year teacher Alexis Stiles, 19, on Monday successfully concluded her first day as a Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) educator and faces only 180 more days of instruction for the 2018-2019 school year.

The Front Royal native — who’s also taking graduate classes, coaching a competitive gymnastics team, ‘adventuring’ with friends during down time, and maintaining the Stephens City house she bought earlier this year — doesn’t appear fazed by the looming June 6, 2019 last-day-of-school date. She’s got this.

“I really liked how excited they are to have me this year as their teacher,” said Stiles about her 18 students at A.S. Rhodes Elementary School, many of whom she taught last year as an instructional assistant. “That like never happens to people.”

After graduating early from Skyline High School to attend Lord Fairfax Community College (LFCC), Stiles started working for WCPS as a substitute teacher two years ago before moving into a full-time position at Rhodes during the 2017-2018 school year.

“And this year I’m a full-time, fourth-grade teacher!” she said excitedly.

The breakneck speed at which Stiles simultaneously completed high school academics with a GPA above 3.8 continued at LFCC, where she earned an associate degree in business administration and education, and then at the online Western Governors University (WGU), graduating in June with a bachelor’s degree in educational studies.

“When I started WGU in July of 2017, I only had 37 percent of my degree done,” Stiles explained. “So, I took six classes from July to December 2017, and then from January to May this year, I completed 18 credits.

“And I was working 60 hours a week at Rhodes, and I was a gymnastics coach” for three different competition teams based in Winchester, “and doing crazy amounts of school.” Stiles said.

During her last semester at WGU, Stiles also had to complete 75 hours of classroom observation, which she squeezed in during lunch breaks while working at Rhodes. “I didn’t get enough sleep; maybe five hours a night. Sometimes less,” she said. “But I did it.”

Stiles currently is working toward a master’s degree in business administration at WGU. “I would like to be a gymnastics gym owner while teaching and then once my gym is up and running really well, then I want to become a principal,” said the former competitive gymnast who now coaches one 10-girl competitive gymnastics team three days a week at East Coast Gymnastics and Cheer in Winchester.

“I don’t see why I’d change my mind about taking the principal route, but I am still really young,” she said.

Her future also will entail obtaining a PhD in leadership administration, Stile said, “but you have to be teaching three to five years before you can start your doctorate.”

Her energy to excel isn’t lost on WCPS Superintendent Greg Drescher.

“Alexis is ready to be a teacher,” Drescher told the Royal Examiner on Tuesday. “I am impressed with her willingness to put in the effort that it takes to complete a task. She is definitely driven to get things done. I look forward to seeing her impart this attribute to the students she teaches.”

Drescher also doesn’t ignore the fact that Stiles is 19-years-old, technically considered a teenager before her next birthday on Aug. 26.
“Alexis is probably the youngest teacher I remember us hiring,” he wrote in an email. “Occasionally we will have a 21 or 22-year-old who graduated a year early from college, but most are 23-years-old by the time they graduate.”

In fact, during the recent WCPS teacher orientation trainings, Stiles said of the 76 new teachers in attendance, she was the only one under the age of 21.

“Alexis shows us that there are different paths to getting to the goal of being a teacher,” Drescher added. “There is nothing wrong with fast tracking schooling to meet a goal, just like there is nothing wrong with taking the more traditional route. I believe both routes can meet success.”

Successful first day of school year 2018-2019 for new WCPS teacher, 19-year-old Alexis Stiles.

Lori Layman, principal at A.S. Rhodes Elementary School, agreed, pointing out that when Stiles joined the Rhodes staff last year as an instructional assistant, “she quickly developed positive relationships with students and families.”

“She could be found every morning last year greeting students by name in our car drop-off lane,” Layman told the Royal Examiner. “Students and parents alike appreciated the positive energy she displayed every morning.”

Layman said Stiles worked with several veteran Rhodes’ teachers during school year 2017-18 and has adapted many of their strategies to create her own teaching style.

“She is motivated to do her best for herself, her students and our school,” the principal said. “I’m looking forward to helping her grow as a teacher.”

Stiles, who currently holds a Virginia provisional teaching license for a year while she completes state teacher certification exams, admitted that she is, has been, and always will be a perfectionist. “I always strive for more,” said Stiles, also a state-awarded college gymnast, as well as the recipient of several higher education academic awards and scholarships.

“I don’t go into things to just do them. I go into things to do them to the best of my ability,” she added.

It’s an attitude that Mandy Mcandrew-Van Fossen, owner of East Coast Gymnastics and Cheer, has seen Stiles perfect for years.

“I started coaching Alexis when she was in elementary school. She’s always came to practice with a smile on her face and ready to learn,” said Mcandrew-Van Fossen. “She worked really hard and tried her best at all times.”

In fact, she doesn’t think it’s surprising that Stiles “went above and beyond to graduate two years early and achieve a teaching career at an early age.”

Alexis Stiles, grade 4 teacher, A.S. Rhodes Elementary School. List of classroom expectations for students.

What does Stiles possess that sets her apart? When asked to pick five adjectives to describe herself, without hesitation the beauty pageant contender said: “ambitious, motivated, hardworking, and definitely positive and caring.”

Stiles attributes her work ethic to her dad, who manages Penske Truck Rental in Manassas, Va., while her caring and loving traits are due to her stay-at-home mom, a former registered nurse.

Those traits likely will serve Stiles well this school year.

Already she thinks that fourth graders are fun kids to be around. “They’re easy to talk to because they’re mature and I have a very mature group of kids I’m very excited about,” she said.

“I can conduct independent or full group work and they’re engaged, which is harder to do in lower grades” because younger students get more easily distracted, Stiles added. “And then when they get too old, they definitely don’t want to listen to you. Fourth grade is an amazing age.”

There are a couple of challenges she’s foresees this school year. “There’s a lot to cover in a short amount of time so I need to make sure I prepare my lessons as well as possible to make sure all of the curriculum is covered before the SOLs,” Stiles said, adding that Virginia students must take three Standards of Learning (SOL) tests in fourth grade — it’s a lot of work for them, she said.

Stiles also said she’ll be challenged to consistently think about how the students think as she devises those lesson plans. “I always performed extremely well in school so as I write these lesson plans, I am constantly thinking and reassessing what I have written to myself to double check, ‘will fourth graders understand this?’”

All of Stiles’ hard work and press to fast track her teaching career are due to her love for children.

“They’re why I do it,” she said. “For the longest time I’ve wanted to be a teacher. I want every kid to know that they’re important.”

Alexis Stiles with the classroom library she built with her own money, A.S. Rhodes Elementary School.

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In From New York State Larry Tuttle Sr. Steps to the Plate, I Mean McDonald Federal Trial Witness Box



With the federal criminal prosecution of Jennifer McDonald again on hold, this time from Tuesday, September 19 through Friday, September 22, if not longer, due to what was described by the prosecution as an “unexpected health issue,” we decided to fill the gap with a recounting of earlier testimony this writer witnessed in the wake of his own testimony of Wednesday, September 13. As previously reported, McDonald is charged on 34 counts related to the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (FR-WC EDA, EDA) “financial scandal,” as it has come to be known. Those charges include bank fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and aggravated identity theft.

As reported in my lead story on my two days, September 12 and 13, in the 10th Western District of Virginia federal courthouse, among the other witnesses scheduled that day after my testimony was Larry Tuttle Sr. Tuttle identified himself as defendant Jennifer McDonald’s stepfather George Hassenplug’s cousin. He is a resident of Monroe, New York, he told the prosecution during direct examination. He also noted that he was last employed in 1993, before being in “a terrible car accident,” after which he has survived on Social Security disability benefits of about $1700 a month, he said in response to a direct examination question. Spending some time near Tuttle and what I believe was his wife in the courthouse third-floor hallway prior to either of our testimonies, I could see that he had some difficulty moving around, rising, and sitting back down.

The 10th Western District of Virginia federal courthouse in Harrisonburg, site of the again stalled criminal prosecution of Jennifer McDonald. Photo 10th Western District of Va. federal courthouse website.

As I watched his testimony following my own, the prosecution’s interest in Tuttle soon became apparent. He testified that as a favor to his cousin, George Hassenplug, he had signed some apparently partial real estate documents sent to him at his New York home during the time frame coinciding with some of the Jennifer McDonald real estate transactions that later came under legal scrutiny as allegedly involving misdirected EDA assets. Tuttle testified that while he knew who Jennifer McDonald was due to his cousin’s relationship with her by marriage to McDonald’s mother, that he did not know her personally and had never met her.

Asked if he was close to his cousin George Hassenplug, Tuttle replied that he “had been” from the 1990s to 2017 and that they had talked on the phone three to four times a week regularly during that period. Tuttle also testified that he didn’t own, nor was he invested in any property. As for real estate experience, he noted that he had a mortgage on a home prior to his accident.

Prosecution counsel asked Tuttle if he knew  William “Billy” Biggs or had ever discussed business opportunities with him. Biggs was a long-time Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority Board of Directors member and treasurer during and prior to McDonald’s EDA executive directorship, circa 2008 to 2018. Tuttle replied “no” to both questions, the second one on the “business opportunities” query after a defense objection was overruled by Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon.

An early 2018 EDA board meeting, before suspicions arose about then EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald, center-facing camera, movement of EDA assets. EDA board Treasurer William “Billy” Biggs is seated, back to the camera at the far right. Monroe, New York resident Larry Tuttle Sr. testified that he didn’t know Biggs and had never discussed business opportunities with the EDA treasurer despite Tuttle’s name appearing on some financial documents suspected to have been involved in the movement of EDA assets. Royal Examiner File Photo Roger Bianchini

Tuttle was then asked a series of questions, many about loans apparently attributed to him involving real estate transactions involving the defendant. Had he ever loaned $3 million to facilitate a real estate transaction brought to him by his cousin? Tuttle laughed as he said, “No.”

Had he ever loaned $1.9 million to McDonald’s Da Boys LLC real estate company? This one drew a somewhat nasally laugh accompanying his “No” response, leading to an apology to the court for snort-laughing his answer, which drew some sympathetic laughter from the jury.

Tuttle was also shown a “Death Settlement Agreement” with his name on it — “I’ve never seen this before in my life,” he testified. Another “No” followed a question about a $1.75-million loan on mortgages.

If I heard correctly, Tuttle estimated he currently had $29 in his savings account, leading to his level of amusement at the financial questions being asked of him, particularly his loaning large amounts of money to facilitate real estate transactions.

Tuttle did say, however, that a portion of paperwork regarding a Buck Mountain Road transaction sent to him attracted his attention enough that he asked his cousin George Hassenplug if he should sign it. He said he was told that he shouldn’t worry, that “the deal will fall through in a couple of months.” Asked if he was involved in a $1.95-million loan related to that sale, he again replied, “No.” It might be recalled that the Buck Mountain Road transaction involved another witness that day in court, William Vaught Jr. That transaction saw the sale and repurchase of that property at an approximate $600,000 loss to the buyer in under a month, as the deal apparently did “fall through,” as predicted by George Hassenplug to his cousin.

William Vaught Jr.’s testimony indicated he was told that ITFederal principal Truc “Curt” Tran was initially involved in that projected purchase but had later backed out. It is believed that the Aggravated Identity Theft federal charge against McDonald involves Tran’s assertion his name was forged in documents related to this real estate transaction. This reporter did not see Tran’s testimony due to his status as a pending witness at the time of that testimony.

Back to Tuttle’s direct examination, he was asked if he had ever received money from Jennifer McDonald. “No,” came his now familiar reply. Had he received $560,000 related to a Rileyville Road transaction? Once again, the answer was “No”.

Asked about his signature on a $1.075-million loan, Tuttle replied that he did not believe it was his. He observed that he “wrote a lot neater” than the signature on the document. He added that it was possible it was his signature, but he doubted it and did not recall signing that document.

Near the end of his direct examination, Tuttle was asked if he’d ever received money for his willingness to put his signature on the documents sent to him by his cousin. “No,” he replied. How about “gifts?” came the follow-up question, to which he responded in the positive, citing what he estimated as a $10 T-shirt sent to him. That led to the prosecution’s introduction of Exhibit 534, a photo of that T-shirt which had “That’s Mr. Tuttle” and letters appearing to be “COTB.” Asked the meaning of the T-shirt lettering, Tuttle said he was told it meant “Taking Care Of Business or something to that effect.”

On a brief cross-examination, the defense raised the specter of a Little League baseball game he had attended at which he had been asked to leave by an umpire after questioning ball and strike calls involving a nephew. The “That’s Mr. Tuttle” on the T-shirt was a reference to his responding, “That’s Mr. Tuttle to you,” to the umpire, defense counsel asserted. Tuttle said he had been asked to leave the game but denied that he had responded, “That’s Mr. Tuttle to you,” to the umpire.

And with that and a brief re-direct examination to clarify a date on one of the documents shown him, Larry Tuttle Sr.’s turn at the plate, I mean on the witness stand, ended.

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Rabies Outbreak Detected in Front Royal’s Feline Population



Warren County Health Department Issues Directives on Containment and Prevention.

A recent incident in the Oregon Hollow Road area of Warren County has sounded the alarm bells for local pet owners and animal enthusiasts. A feline displaying signs of rabies infection was detected, prompting immediate action by the Warren County Animal Control Deputies.

On September 14, 2023, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office attended to an animal control call involving a seemingly ill feline. The on-scene Animal Control Officer found a confined cat among several others on the property. The complainant highlighted a troubling trend: people frequently desert cats in the area.

The caged feline’s behavior raised suspicions of a potential rabies infection. This suspicion was later echoed by a local veterinary clinic, where the cat was taken for a professional opinion. The unfortunate confirmation led to the feline’s humane euthanization, and its samples were sent to the Warren County Health Department for further testing.

By September 20, the grim results were in. The Warren County Animal Control Officer received confirmation that the feline was indeed infected with rabies. Given the severity and potential spread of this disease, the Warren County Health Department acted promptly. They issued a directive that, for public safety reasons, all remaining cats on the property would be trapped and humanely euthanized.

The Warren County Sheriff’s Office has since amplified its efforts to spread awareness. Residents are urged to update their pets’ rabies vaccinations and to exercise caution, especially around unfamiliar animals that may exhibit erratic or unusual behavior.

Rabies, a potentially fatal disease, poses a severe threat to both animals and humans. The quick response by Warren County Animal Control highlights the significance of early detection and intervention. As the county grapples with this challenge, collaboration and vigilance among residents will be paramount. Warren County’s residents are encouraged to stay informed, taking the necessary precautions to ensure their safety and that of their beloved pets.

For further information on rabies prevention and vaccination clinics, contact the Warren County Health Department or visit the Virginia Department of Health website.

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Local News

Michael S. Williams Receives Prestigious 2023 Community Builder Award



Unity Masonic Lodge No. 146 Honors a Community Pillar.

In a heartwarming ceremony, Michael S. Williams was recently presented with the 2023 Community Builder Award. Acknowledging his unparalleled contributions to the betterment of the community and his dedication to nurturing young minds, Williams’s recognition came as a testament to his tireless efforts.

Jennifer Knox, Principal at E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School, initiated the event, expressing her gratitude for the presence of all attendees, specifically highlighting the Early Act Program. “It’s evident just how much you all cherish the moments you spend at the school with Mr. Williams,” she stated, reflecting on the evident warmth and respect the community holds for him. Knox, not missing a beat to praise the initiative, shared her appreciation of the program during a recent district board meeting, emphasizing the positive impacts it has brought about.

The highlight of the event was the words from Will Bryan of the Unity Masonic Lodge No. 146. Taking a jovial moment to impersonate Michael, Bryan, amid laughter and playful banter about misplaced glasses, transitioned to the reason for the gathering. Addressing the young attendees, he sought acknowledgment for the deep respect and appreciation the community holds for Williams. By the sea of raised hands, it was evident Michael was indeed a beloved figure.

The Community Builder Award, Bryan announced, was being presented to Michael Shawn Williams for his “outstanding service to the community.” The accolade didn’t just commend his services but recognized the profound impacts of his efforts, making the community a more vibrant, cohesive space for everyone. The gesture, from Unity Masonic Lodge No. 146, underscored the value of individuals like Williams in the broader fabric of the community.

Closing his tribute, Bryan added a personal note, reflecting the sentiments of many present. “We appreciate you,” he began, his voice holding a mixture of gratitude and admiration, “I am a better man because I’m around you.”

Michael S. Williams’s receipt of the 2023 Community Builder Award was more than just a ceremonial recognition. It was a moment of collective gratitude from a community that has benefited from his unwavering dedication and service. In the words and gestures of both young and old, one thing was clear: Michael S. Williams’s impact resonates deeply within the hearts of many.


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Chamber News

A Tale of Two Visions: Butler’s Achievements vs. Cline’s Commitments



Butler and Cline: Two Distinct Visions for a Safer Warren County.

In a riveting forum, Warren County citizens gathered to hear from two stalwart contenders, Mark Butler and Crystal Cline, both vying for the coveted position of Warren County Sheriff. With a term lasting four years, the stakes are high, and the commitment deeper.

Crystal Cline, having served the Front Royal Police Department for over two decades, began with a heartfelt thank-you to the chamber for facilitating the forum and the community for their presence. She reminisced about her deep roots in Warren County, highlighting her involvement ranging from the Mom’s Club to coaching the traveling volleyball team. Cline’s main thrust was the need to restore leadership and integrity to the role of sheriff. She voiced concerns over the dissolution of the Animal Control Division and the pressing need for dedicated School Resource Officers (SROs). Most poignantly, she discussed the department’s retention issue and the imperative of a full staff. Addressing Sheriff Butler’s claim about a massive drug bust, Cline firmly stated that such an incident hadn’t transpired in Warren County and stressed the significance of integrity in leadership.

On the flip side, Sheriff Mark Butler, the incumbent, recounted the tumultuous period four years ago when Warren County grappled with a major scandal. He emphasized the changes he had championed during his tenure, such as attaining the accreditation that was lost in 2019, introducing community policing, and enhancing safety – all while lessening the taxpayer’s burden. One of his crowning achievements, he mentioned, was the confiscation of 77,000 fentanyl pills last year, which he tied to a broader narrative on the devastating drug epidemic. Butler concluded by affirming the commitment of his department to the Constitution and the rights it guarantees to the citizens.

As November 7th approaches, the air in Warren County is thick with anticipation. With two distinctly passionate perspectives on the table, the choice voters make will significantly shape the future of the county’s law enforcement.

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Chamber News

District 31’s Destiny: Foreman, Morrison, and Oates Lay Their Cards on the Table



A Night of Passionate Pitches: Who Will Lead the 31st District Forward?

The auditorium was thick with anticipation as three formidable candidates – Steve Foreman, Grace Morrison, and Delores Oates – took to the stage, each presenting their visions for District 31 in the House of Delegates.

Grace Morrison, a compelling independent contender, has deep ties to Warren County, having moved there in 2011. Living atop a picturesque hill with her family, Morrison is firmly grounded in the community. Underscoring her desire to provide genuine representation for District 31, she spoke about the importance of unfettered and unrestricted communication between delegates and the residents. A strong believer in the Virginia Constitution, she vowed to remain transparent and amenable, aiming to serve the people first and foremost.

Democratic hopeful Steve Foreman took the audience on a journey through history, recalling the legacy of America’s representative democracy birthed in the House of Burgesses. With a heart-centered on public education, Foreman is keen to recognize and champion the needs of teachers while also pushing for more competitive school funding. He emphasized the imperative for families to have a strong foundation, advocating for rights that range from fair wages to ensuring safety from gun violence. His commitment to unity, compromise, and the collective good was unmistakable.

Rounding out the trio was Republican nominee Delores Oates. Born and raised in the district, her profound connection to the community was palpable. Having served on the Board of Supervisors, she understands the intricacies of governance firsthand. Oates accentuated the importance of school choice and its potential to raise overall education standards. She also highlighted her commitment to preserving rural values, safeguarding elections, and defending the Second Amendment.

With such diverse perspectives and visions for the future of District 31, the citizens of Warren County face an important decision. As election day approaches, the anticipation grows, promising a pivotal moment for the district’s future.


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School Board Reviews Several Division-Wide Policies to Improve WCPS Practices



Several people attended the Warren County School Board’s September 20 work session/retreat to voice concerns about school discipline and other policy issues that the board is reviewing. Photos/Video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

The Warren County School Board, during an almost four-hour long work session held on Wednesday, September 20, reviewed several division-wide policies in an effort to either craft new policies or update others related to items including class video surveillance, student discipline, drugs and substance abuse, goals for school community relations, and threat assessment teams, among others.

Additionally, the board, during a closed session at the end of the work session/retreat, voted to accept the resignation of Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) Technology Director Timothy Grant, effective Sept. 30. Starting on Oct. 2, WCPS Finance Director Robert Ballentine will resume the additional duties Grant also held as the School Board Clerk, and Doug Stefnoski will take over as WCPS Interim Director of Technology, according to two personnel reports issued by WCPS and presented to the School Board.

Grant told the Royal Examiner that he has taken a job as the new tech director for Frederick County (Va.) Public Schools. “I will miss everyone here,” Grant texted, “but it’s an opportunity for me to grow as a technology administrator.”

During the work session, School Board Chair Kristen Pence, Vice Chair Ralph Rinaldi, and School Board members Andrea Lo, Antoinette Funk, and Melanie Salins discussed numerous policies, bylaws, and regulations. WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger was also present.

The group regularly exchanged ideas and answered questions posed by several parents and educators who attended the public meeting, which was held at Skyline Middle School, where a recent student assault on another student has stoked requests for improved parent notifications, student discipline, and video cameras, among others.

That incident follows the June 12 indictment of former WCPS preschool teacher Kayla Ann Bennett, who taught at Hilda J. Barbour Elementary School. Bennett is charged with two felony counts of Cruelty/Injure a Child and four misdemeanor charges of assault and battery. Bennett’s defense has filed six not-guilty pleas to the charges, and she remains free on an own-recognizance bond.

Some work session particulars

The School Board members discussed how to improve communication with the public during their meetings, particularly for those parents, educators, or other citizens who may not want to speak openly about specific sensitive issues or topics.

For instance, Rinaldi suggested allowing parents, educators, or concerned citizens to sign up to speak to the board during a closed session that could be held at the end of a regular meeting or work session so that certain topics could be shared openly and honestly with the five board members. 

Because such a process would make those discussions non-public when School Board meetings are public meetings that get videotaped, other board members said the board would have to check with its attorney to make sure the process would be legal.

Depending on what the attorney says, the board decided it may or may not hold a separate meeting sometime before its Wednesday, October 4, regular meeting. It would be an open meeting beginning at 5:30 p.m. that follows the normal community participation process, and then starting at 7 p.m., people who have signed up or who are in the audience and want to speak to board members privately could do so during a closed session. 

“I mean, we’ll try it, and we’ll figure out what’s wrong with the plan immediately and go from there,” Pence said.

Warren County School Board members from left: Salins, Pence, Rinaldi, Funk. Lo is off camera to Salins’ left.

The discussion about school discipline policy was prompted by resident Virginia Cram, whose son attends Skyline Middle School and was recently assaulted and had his jaw broken by another student during gym class.

Cram asked the board what they had done since she spoke to them about her son’s assault during the board’s September 6 meeting. Cram and others think that the principal should be fired for what they say was improper handling of the situation, but the School Board does not have that authority, the superintendent does. And WCPS personnel issues are private.

In response to Cram’s question, Pence said that for the past two weeks, the attorney has been looking through the policies that the board has in place to try to provide members with feedback on how to move forward with any changes or new policies.

Additionally, she said that several School Board members also visited Skyline Middle School to observe students and faculty and to have separate conversations with teachers and administrators “to try to get better background information” on what the discipline problems are at the school.

“But to be quite honest with you,” Pence told the small audience, “this is where our discussion is going to happen because we can’t have that discussion outside of the public.”

Pence and Rinaldi, who visited the school together earlier this week, reported that they saw good teacher coverage in the hallways to stop students from running or correct inappropriate behaviors. 

“Typical kids in the lunchroom, a little bit of handsy-ness with each other, same thing they would do at the food court in the mall. And they were corrected. I saw an assistant principal go up there and correct a couple of kids in the lunchroom,” added Rinaldi. “Typical middle school behavior. I walked into every bathroom, there was nothing going on in there.

“I saw some non-participation in PE, which I didn’t care for. I’m a former PE teacher,” he said. “So, with all that being said, I didn’t see kids sneaking under the bleachers. I looked under the bleachers. I didn’t see anything going on there. So my impression was, yeah, there’s a few things that need to be tightened up.”

Lo also visited the school and said she basically saw the same things. Some of the poor behaviors she witnessed sparked questions for her, she said, such as: What are the next steps? Is there more that I’m not seeing? Should there be more that I’m not seeing?

Lo also said that she talked to about ten teachers and five other people who were either administrators or office staff. 

“A couple of themes that I saw was that teachers have seen improvement since the start of the year. My guess would be since all eyes are on Skyline Middle School, perhaps some of that has even gone since our last meeting,” Lo said. “I did see administrators who told me that this was the second day that they were handling tardy passes in a different way and recording those differently. And the feedback that I received was that there were fewer people in the halls today than there had been last week.”

Salins, who homeschools her own children, said her experience was quite different when she visited the school last week.

“I saw very different things when I was here. I didn’t see the principal at all,” she said. “I saw teachers trying their very, very best to get what I will not consider as normal middle school behavior under control. I mean, I coached inside of middle schools, and I have a middle schooler. I don’t see a teacher being told that a student is going to F her up and then a whole host of other threats and then being just sent back to class. I don’t find that to be acceptable. I still didn’t see the principal during any of that. The random slapping, cussing teachers; the teachers were absolutely out in the halls doing their best, telling kids not to do this, not to do that. But I saw a lot of eye rolls” from students.

Pence said that “all eyes are on Skyline Middle School right now.”

“Everyone is painfully aware of the concerns that have been brought up here,” Pence said. “And so from a board standpoint, our job now is to, one, make sure that our policies are appropriate, are the policies that we need, and then from there, we need to make sure that they’re enforced because the policies are not going to be useful in having if we’re not going to follow them.”

Superintendent Ballenger (above) reiterated that stance in an email to the Royal Examiner.

“As a start, we know that we have discipline policies in place, and are they being enforced in our schools?  Are disciplines handed out according to the student code of conduct?” he wrote. 

Other important takeaways from the meeting, Ballenger said, were suggestions to look into possibly increasing the presence of adults at Skyline Middle with central office staff. He also said they will continue to look into and address concerns and provide support.

“We want to make sure that disciplines are handed out according to the student code of conduct at all schools and see if there are any teachers that would like to volunteer to have cameras installed in their classroom,” added Ballenger, noting that the board also reviewed updates to the camera policy and members were provided policy revisions and updates from Sands Anderson as part of the policy revision and update.  

Following the board’s closed session, he said members approved the personnel report, the personnel report addendum, the team leader supplements, and added a supplement for a technology supervisor to Grade 37.


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Aders Insurance Agency, Inc (State Farm)

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Explore Art & Clay

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Front Royal Independent Business Alliance

Front Royal/Warren County C-CAP

First Baptist Church

Front Royal Treatment Center

Front Royal Women's Resource Center

Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce

Fussell Florist

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No Doubt Accounting

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Reaching Out Now

Rotary Club of Warren County

Royal Blends Nutrition

Royal Cinemas

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Royal Family Bowling Center

Royal Oak Bookshop

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Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Spice

Ruby Yoga

Salvation Army

Samuels Public Library

SaVida Health

Skyline Insurance

Shenandoah Shores Management Group

St. Luke Community Clinic

Strites Doughnuts

Studio Verde

The Arc of Warren County

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

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

Warren Coalition

Warren County Democratic Committee

Warren County Department of Social Services

Warren County DSS Job Development

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
Rain Shower
7:01 am7:08 pm EDT
Feels like: 54°F
Wind: 9mph N
Humidity: 95%
Pressure: 29.99"Hg
UV index: 1

Upcoming Events

10:00 am Abram’s Delight: Annual FIWF Wee... @ Abram's Delight Museum
Abram’s Delight: Annual FIWF Wee... @ Abram's Delight Museum
Sep 23 @ 10:00 am – 4:30 pm
Abram’s Delight: Annual FIWF Weekend @ Abram's Delight Museum
Join George Mercer’s Company of the Virginia Regiment at Abram’s Delight in Historic Winchester Virginia DATE: September 23 & 24, 2023 TIME: 10:00 am to 4:30 pm LOCATION: 1340 S. Pleasant Valley Road, Winchester, VA[...]
10:00 am Abram’s Delight: Annual FIWF Wee... @ Abram's Delight Museum
Abram’s Delight: Annual FIWF Wee... @ Abram's Delight Museum
Sep 24 @ 10:00 am – 4:30 pm
Abram’s Delight: Annual FIWF Weekend @ Abram's Delight Museum
Join George Mercer’s Company of the Virginia Regiment at Abram’s Delight in Historic Winchester Virginia DATE: September 23 & 24, 2023 TIME: 10:00 am to 4:30 pm LOCATION: 1340 S. Pleasant Valley Road, Winchester, VA[...]
10:30 am College Day @ Corron Community Development Center
College Day @ Corron Community Development Center
Sep 27 @ 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
College Day @ Corron Community Development Center
Join us for College Day at the Middletown Campus, 10:30 a.m. to noon, Wednesday, Sept. 27, in the Corron Community Development Center. Meet with reps from more than 40 public and private universities, including Bluefield[...]
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Sep 27 @ 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[...]
10:00 am Fall Wild Edible Plants: Earth C... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Fall Wild Edible Plants: Earth C... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Sep 30 @ 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Fall Wild Edible Plants: Earth Connections Series @ Sky Meadows State Park
Carriage Barn in the Historic Area. Join professional outdoor instructor Tim MacWelch to learn about the remarkable seasonal wild edible and medicinal plants of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This full-day hike will cover native and[...]
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Oct 4 @ 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[...]
11:00 am The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 7 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work showing off their skills. Members of The Blacksmiths’ Guild of the Potomac have set up shop in the forge, located behind[...]
1:00 pm Front Royal Bluegrass Music Jam @ The Body Shop
Front Royal Bluegrass Music Jam @ The Body Shop
Oct 7 @ 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Front Royal Bluegrass Music Jam @ The Body Shop
New Bluegrass and traditional music jam the first Saturday of each month starting Feb. 4th, from 1pm till 4pm. All levels of playing invited to attend.
11:00 am The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 8 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work showing off their skills. Members of The Blacksmiths’ Guild of the Potomac have set up shop in the forge, located behind[...]
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Oct 11 @ 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[...]