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New leader approved for Blue Ridge Tech Center; new school choice position adopted



The Warren County School Board, during its Wednesday, March 15 work session, unanimously voted to approve the appointment of a new director/principal for the Blue Ridge Technical Center (BRTC) and likewise adopted legislative positions that the board wants the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) to institute.

WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger (right) introduces the new director/principal of Blue Ridge Technical Center, Vince Gregg (left), during the School Board’s Wednesday work session. Photo and Video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

School Board Chair Kristen Pence and board members Antoinette Funk, Andrea Lo, and Melanie Salins were present for the votes, while Vice Chair Ralph Rinaldi was absent from the meeting.

Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) Superintendent Christopher Ballenger recommended Vince Gregg be appointed as the BRTC director/principal starting on July 1 to replace the current leader, Jane Baker, who retires on June 30.

Gregg has been employed by WCPS since 2008, when he was hired as a social studies teacher at Skyline High School, where he then became dean of students in 2011, serving in that capacity until joining Warren County High School as an assistant principal two years ago, according to Ballenger.

“Mr. Gregg has shown outstanding leadership qualities within our division,” Ballenger said, noting that there will be an overlap in duties during July, with Gregg coming in and Baker finishing out her duties.

Following the board’s approval of Ballenger’s recommendation, Gregg thanked the members for their support.

“I feel like the luckiest guy in the school system,” Gregg said. “I’ve admired the good work done by the staff of the Blue Ridge Tech Center and all of our CTE teachers for the last 15 years.

“I think we all go into this line of work in order to help kids and help set them on the right path in life, to show them a viable route to honest employment and the happiness that follows hard work and a plan for the future,” he added. “I don’t think there’s a group of people who do this better than our [CTE] teachers, and I am humbled and beyond excited to join their team.”

The School Board also unanimously voted to approve WCPS legislative positions related to the VSBA’s Support for Private Education, Vouchers, and Tax Credits; the State School Health Advisory Committee; and Disorderly Conduct for School-Based Offenses.

Specifically, the School Board would like to see their adopted legislative positions likewise adopted by the VSBA in its legislative policies.

For instance, the VSBA currently opposes federal or state efforts to mandate school choice, including efforts to divert or condition funding from existing federal and state programs.

The School Board’s position now states that “VSBA will remain neutral on federal or state efforts to allow school choice.”

Also, in this section on Support for Private Education, Vouchers, and Tax Credits, the School Board would like to see this deleted from the VSBA legislative policy: “Private and home schools have no direct accountability to taxpayers for their use of tax revenues because they are explicitly excluded from public accountability under both state and federal law. With vouchers and tuition tax credits, private and home schools would have an advantage in competition with public schools because they can be selective in admissions and can refuse to provide services that public schools, by law, must provide. Vouchers and tuition tax credits for private and home schools could result in fewer existing state and federal funds appropriated to support public school programs. The VSBA opposes any federal or state voucher and tuition tax credit legislation and any legislation that would provide vouchers or tuition tax credits for elementary and secondary private and homeschooled school students. The VSBA also opposes measures requiring the transfer of local taxpayer funds to other jurisdictions or to private providers should a student choose to enroll in a virtual program outside of their home school division.”

On its agenda, the School Board listed its reasoning for the changes in this section: “The generalized belief and reason we have public education is because, as a society, we recognize that education is important to our future, and we are willing to work together to make sure all children receive a quality education. As we progress, we have learned to appreciate and respect the wide array of learning styles and needs. We are past the point of one size fits all education and need to continue to expand the methods and opportunities available. As voters elect representatives and call on them to expand school choice opportunities through newly proposed legislation, it is counterproductive for the VSBA to lobby to kill such bills. Expanding opportunities for others does not mean lesser opportunities for local school districts.”

Prior to the board’s vote to adopt the WCPS legislative positions, Warren County resident Bertha Jenkins (above) told members it was “disappointing and concerning” that the School Board was voting to amend and remove the legislative positions adopted by the VSBA.

“The same School Board took an oath of office to the Virginia Constitution,” said Jenkins, “and nowhere in the Virginia Constitution does it say free parental school choice for private education or homeschooling while disenfranchising your fellow taxpayer that has no child and infringing on your First Amendment right to petition government for redress of grievances.”

Jenkins said she “never imagined” she would have to address a public education school board to remind members of their constitutional duty to the public education system.

“School choice should never have a seat at the table in public education,” she said. “School choice is a private education choice by parents funded by taxpayers at the expense of the public education system. Parents already have the right to choose what education best suits their child.”

Jenkins also said that she has observed “the systematic tearing down” and dismantling of the public education system in Warren County by local officials, political candidates, politicians, parents, religious groups, special interest groups, “and now our School Board.”

“Vote to continue to support VSBA and their legislative positions that were originally presented to this court, not the amended or omitted [proposals] that are on this action agenda,” she urged board members. “Remember your oath and be a champion for public education.”

Nevertheless, the board unanimously voted to adopt the WCPS legislative positions.

Prior to their vote, board member Salins said there was “a misunderstanding” about what VSBA is and then provided what she called “a quick reminder” that VSBA is a lobbying group that is funded by tax dollars.

According to the VSBA — which is a nonpartisan, voluntary organization of Virginia school boards — the organization has as one of its goals “to advocate effectively for Virginia’s public schools and children before all levels of government and the public.”

Additionally, the VSBA also provides a variety of services, such as governance training, policy services, legal services, superintendent search assistance, collective bargaining services, and strategic planning services, among others. The organization also consists of several task forces, such as the VSBA Task Force on Students and Schools in Challenging Environments, that make recommendations to the Virginia Board of Education and the state Department of Education on a variety of topics.

Salins said VSBA’s legislative positions are not legally binding laws and that the Warren County School Board is “not amending laws, changing laws, or doing anything else. We are simply requesting that they stop lobbying against the actual state representation, who are the elected officials to speak on behalf of the taxpayers.”

“None of this in any way, shape, or form is a means by which to undermine the public school system,” she said. “It’s actually to provide for the sustainability of it and make sure the parental rights are intact.”

In another action, the School Board approved the Architect and Engineering (A&E) design cost of $20,850 to replace the Blue Ridge Technical Center roof. The project will be funded by federal government grants.

The board also unanimously approved the Interagency Agreement between WCPS and RSW Regional Jail. The agreement establishes the guidelines and areas of responsibility between WCPS and RSW Regional Jail for the provision of special education and related services to eligible inmates.

Click here to view the work session in its entirety on this exclusive Royal Examiner video.

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2023 Outstanding Student Athletes recognized at the Partlow Insurance Sports Breakfast



Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival® President, Sharen Gromling, is pleased to announce the area’s top high school and college student-athletes.  Students are chosen each year to represent their school during the Partlow Insurance Sports Breakfast which takes place during the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival® on Saturday morning, May 6, 2023, at 8:00 am inside the Tolley Dental Zone at James R. Wilkins, Jr. Athletics & Events Center on the campus of Shenandoah University.

The 2023 outstanding local student-athletes include:

Andrew Link, James Wood

Andrew has earned both his academic and varsity letters at James Wood. He has earned two for football, two for basketball and will earn his fourth letter this season in track and field. Honors include being Team Captain for basketball and track. Andrew earned All-State Honors in 2021 for both the 110 meter and 300 meter hurdles and in 2022 for 300 meter hurdles. He earned a district championship in the 300m hurdles in 2021 and 2022 and in the 110m hurdles in 2022. He also earned a regional championship for 300m hurdles in 2022 and 55m hurdles in 2023.  He is 3rd all-time at James Wood in both the 55m and 300m hurdles. Andrew earned the “Most Outstanding Sprinter/Hurdler” award by his coaches in 2021 and 2022. He has been a two-year starter for basketball and earned the “Coaches Award” for basketball in 2023. He played Tight End, Wide Receiver, and Linebacker for varsity football.  Andrew was also awarded “Senior Player of the Game” for football in 2022 and earned the Sportsmanship award.  Andrew is an Eagle Scout and member of the National Honor Society.  Andrew has a 4.15 GPA and plans to attend the United States Coast Guard Academy where he will continue running track.

Jamie Mae Kelly – Skyline High School

Jamie Mae Kelly is from Front Royal, Virginia and attends Skyline High School. Over her four-year high school career, Jamie has earned 12 varsity letters (4 volleyball/4 basketball/4 softball).  In volleyball, Jamie was Team Captain her junior and senior seasons. During her junior season she was Second Team All-District. Her senior season Jamie was First Team All-District, Second Team All-Region, and First Team NV Daily All-Area team while also being voted Skyline Volleyball MVP. As a three-time team MVP basketball player, Jamie was Second Team All-District as a freshman, First Team All-District and Second Team All-Region in both her sophomore and junior seasons, before exploding into First Team All-District and First-Team All-Region her senior season.  Jamie was on the Strasburg Holiday Classic All-Tournament Team during both her junior and senior years, as well as First Team NV Daily All-Area team both her junior and season seasons.  Jamie reached a career milestone this past season when she scored her 1000th career point and leaves the Hawks as their second all-time leading scorer.  Currently in her senior softball season, Jamie Kelly earned both Second Team All-District and Second Team All-Region her sophomore and junior seasons and was awarded First-Team NV Daily All-Area as a junior shortstop/pitcher.  Jamie has a 3.52 GPA and has signed to play collegiate softball for Potomac State College next season.

Sara Waller – Warren County High School

Sara has earned 11 Varsity letters for Warren County High School, playing 4 years of Varsity Volleyball and Softball, and 3 years of Varsity Basketball. Sara has been named 2nd team All-District and 2nd team All-Region for her sophomore and junior years in Softball and junior year in basketball. Sara has been a 4-year starter and 2-year team captain on the varsity volleyball team where she earned 2nd team All-District and All-Region honors as a sophomore and 1st team All-District and All-Region honors as a junior. During the 2022 season, Sara helped lead her team to a Region 3B Championship and State Semi-Final appearance. During this run, Sara was named 1st team All-District, 1st team All-Region along with Region 3B Player of the Year and 1st team All-State for Class 3. Sara was also named the 2022 Northern Virginia Daily Player of the Year. Sara is ranked 5th in her graduating class with a 4.19 GPA. She is the Senior Class Vice-President, the National Honor Society Historian, and the Vice President of Hospitality for the Warren County High School DECA program which competes at the National level. Sara intends to continue her volleyball career in college while studying Marine Biology.

Emma Ahrens – Sherando High School

Emma Ahrens has earned 10 varsity letters at Sherando (4 cross country/2 indoor track/3 outdoor track/1 band).  She is a five-time state qualifier, and two time state medalist in cross country and the indoor 3200m. She is also a national qualifier in the indoor 3200m and 5000m. Emma earned Winchester Star and Northern Virginia Daily honors in each of her seasons between freshman and senior year. She also plays two instruments in multiple bands at Sherando and is active in Student Council and National Honors Society.  Emma has a 4.25 GPA and has committed to run cross country and track for Concordia University Wisconsin in the fall.

Christopher LeBlanc- Clarke County High School

Christopher LeBlanc has earned 6 Varsity letters, 4 from Soccer and 2 from football. Due to covid his freshman year he was a 3-year starter at the midfield/attacking positions from his sophomore year to senior. In his sophomore season from 2020-21 he earned 1st team All-District, and Region. His junior season from 2021-22 he won the Class 2 state championship and earned 1st team All-District, Region, and all Area by the Winchester Star. He also earned 2nd team All-State. For his current senior season, he is expected to perform well again and make a deep run into states. During his 2021-22 junior season in football, he earned 1st team All-District, Region, and Area by the Winchester Star for punting and kicking. His senior year from 2022-23 he earned 1st team All-District, Region, Area by the Winchester Star, and 2nd team state, for punting. He earned 2nd team All-District, Region, Area by the Winchester Star, and state for kicking. Chris was also a member of the Screamin’ Eagles Marching Band from his 8th-10th grade years and was a section leader starting his freshman year. He has also been a member of DECA since his junior year. Christopher has a 3.889 GPA and has signed a letter of intent with Shenandoah University to play football.

Emerson Fusco – Handley High School

Emerson Fusco has earned 7 varsity letters at John Handley High School.  He was a 3-year starter in Football as a Defensive Back and Running Back.  He earned All-District and All-Region Honors his junior and senior years and was All-Area for the Winchester Star both seasons.  On the hardwood for the Judges, Fusco was a 4-year starter.  He was All-District and All-Region and was the Northwestern District Player of the Year his junior and senior years.  Additionally, he was voted the Region 4C Player of the Year his senior season and garnered All-State Honors.  He also scored the 2nd most points all time at Handley, scoring 43 points in a playoff game vs Sherando.  He was also the Winchester Star Player of the Year his junior year (has not been released to date for 2022-23). He has a 3.4 GPA and will play college basketball next year.

Nicholas Hayden- Millbrook High School

Nicholas Hayden is a senior cross country/track and field athlete from Millbrook High School. Nicholas has earned state titles in the 800m outdoor and 1000m indoor races. He also has five district titles and two region titles between track and cross country. He holds Millbrook High School records in the 500m, 800m, 1000m, 5000m, and 4x400m relay. He was the 2022 Winchester Start Track and Field Athlete of the Year. Nicholas is a member of Millbrook’s Chapter of the National Honor Society and Future Business Leaders of America. Nicholas has a 4.465 GPA and will attend and run track for Columbia University, majoring in Finance.

Kailyn Allanson – Legacy Christian Academy

Kailyn Allanson is a senior at Legacy Christian Academy.  She has played Varsity Volleyball for 4 years and was a part of the 2022 National Championship team.  Kailyn has a GPA of 3.18.  She will attend Arizona State University to study Criminal Justice.

Miles Moore – Shenandoah University

Miles Moore from Richmond, Virginia graduated from Manchester High School. He is currently a senior at Shenandoah University and ran all 4 years for the Hornets while playing football 2 of those years. He has set numerous records at Shenandoah breaking the 100 meter dash, indoor 200 meters dash, outdoor 200 dash, 4x100m relay, and the 4x200m relay records. Miles is a 6-time Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) champion. He received USTFCCCA All-American in March for the Indoor 200 meters placing 8th at the NCAA Championships. Miles earned USTFCCCA All-Region, All-ODAC, and VaSID All-State.  Miles intends to use final year of eligibility to run at Mount St. Mary University receiving his master’s degree in Sports Management.

Ella Drury – Mountain View Christian Academy

Ella Drury has been a student of Mountain View Christian Academy for the last four years. She is a member of the graduating class of 2023 and is President of the Academy’s Student Government Association. During her high school career, she has been an SGO and National Honor Society member for two years and a member of Mountain View’s Drama department for all four. She played varsity volleyball her junior and senior year as a middle hitter. She is also a part of the Academy’s Chapel Worship team, where she sings and plays guitar. Ella has a GPA of 3.7.  After high school Ella plans to stay in her hometown of beautiful Winchester, VA to work and save money until she feels secure enough to move to New York City, where she will begin a career in acting.

Tickets to the Partlow Insurance Sports Breakfast are available at

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Shenandoah University, Valley Health partner to tackle region’s nursing shortage



Shenandoah University, in collaboration with Valley Health and the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA), is working to tackle the region’s nursing shortage through a program that will enhance the training of aspiring nurses and create a sustainable pipeline of new healthcare


NextGen Nurses program will draw upon the expertise of semi-retired and retiring nurses to help train the next generation of nurses before they leave the profession. The program, which is designed to provide a replicable model that can be used throughout the state, will create a reliable source of new nurses in the Shenandoah Valley by increasing regional opportunities to meet clinical training requirements through preceptorship and simulation.

This project was funded in part by GO Virginia, a state-funded initiative administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) that strengthens and diversifies Virginia’s economy and fosters the creation of higher-wage jobs in strategic industries.

The NextGen Nurses program is funded by a $496,000 GO Virginia Economic Resilience and Recovery Grant.

“Shenandoah University is grateful to have the support and financial backing of GO Virginia and the Department of Housing and Community Development for such a vital program during a critical period for health and nursing care in Virginia and across the country,” said Lisa Levinson, M.S.N, acting dean of the Eleanor Wade Custer School of Nursing. “We’re proud to partner with Valley Health on such an important endeavor to facilitate an increased nursing workforce in the region. We aim to ultimately improve the quality of life in the Northern Shenandoah Valley and provide a model to be followed across the state to help address the nationwide nursing shortage.”

The pandemic exacerbated workforce shortages in the healthcare sector, including an exodus of nursing professionals and a shortage of clinical trainers for nursing students.

As part of the NextGen Nurses program, Shenandoah University’s highly skilled faculty in the Eleanor Wade Custer School of Nursing – which boasted one of the state’s highest National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) first-time pass rates (97.47%) for the 2021-22 academic year – will develop a series of scalable, relevant and easy-to-use educational on-demand modules designed to accelerate training for retired nurses, and other eligible nurses, to become clinical preceptors.

“Clinical training is one of the most pressing concerns in contemporary nursing education, making this NextGen Nurses program all the more important,” said Shenandoah University Provost Cameron McCoy, Ph.D. “We are grateful for the continued partnership of Valley Health, GO Virginia, VHHA, and DHCD as we collectively improve nursing education in the Shenandoah Valley. At Shenandoah University, our nursing faculty are perpetual innovators and, as such, are exceptionally well positioned to lead and partner in the development of these essential modules.”

Valley Health, with the assistance of the Virginia Department of Health, will recruit and onboard nurses who no longer work full-time at the bedside to complete the SU-developed training modules before being employed as clinical preceptors.

“This academic-practice partnership with Shenandoah University is an important element in our broader workforce development strategy,” said Theresa Trivette, DNP, Valley Health chief nurse executive. “It is critically important that we draw upon the knowledge of our most experienced nurses in the region to help train and support our newest nurses to assure we are able to continue providing the highest quality of care for our community.”

Additionally, NextGen Nurses will increase opportunities to use simulation as a supplemental option in clinical preceptorships. Shenandoah has hired a director of the clinical simulation and obtained the necessary equipment to create a simulation lab capable of fulfilling up to 25% of the 500 clinical hours required for aspiring nurses. The simulation lab will reduce the need for SU’s School of Nursing preceptorships by 25%, relieving some of the burden on local healthcare providers to serve as preceptors and/or clinical sites, a role that has become more challenging due to the growing workforce shortages.

The NextGen Nurses program aims to hire 35 retired or retiring nurses as clinical preceptors by June 2024.

“GO Virginia Region 8 is thrilled to provide funding for the NextGen Nurses project, addressing critical workforce shortages exacerbated by COVID-19,” said Chris Kyle, GO Virginia Region 8 chair. “Region 8 will benefit from this project, which will help rebuild capacity in the health care system as we continue to focus on this critical health care shortage in our region. We embrace the opportunity for replicable projects in the region, knowing economic prosperity will expand from high-paying career pathways. Everyone should celebrate this win!”

About Shenandoah University

Shenandoah University was established in 1875 and is headquartered in Winchester, Virginia, with additional educational sites in Clarke, Fairfax, and Loudoun counties. Shenandoah is a private, nationally recognized university that blends professional career experiences with wide-ranging education. With approximately 4,200 students in more than 200 areas of study in six different schools, Shenandoah promotes a close-knit community rich in creative energy and intellectual challenge. Shenandoah students collaborate with accomplished professors who provide focused, individual attention, all the while leading several programs to be highly nationally ranked. Through innovative partnerships and programs at both the local and global level, there are exceptional opportunities for students to learn in and out of the classroom. Shenandoah empowers its students to improve the human condition and to be principled professionals and leaders wherever they go. For more information, visit

About Valley Health

Valley Health is a nonprofit health system serving a population of more than 500,000 in the Northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, the Eastern Panhandle and Potomac Highlands of West Virginia, and western Maryland. As a healthcare provider, employer, and community partner, Valley Health is committed to improving the health of the region. The system includes six hospitals, more than 70 medical practices and Urgent Care centers, outpatient rehabilitation and fitness, medical transport, long-term care, and home health. For more information, visit

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Laurel Ridge Community College Workforce Solutions to begin offering in-demand ITIL 4 certification from PeopleCert



Laurel Ridge will begin offering ITIL 4 Foundation, an internationally recognized in-demand IT management certification, beginning this June. Students taking the ITIL course will learn the skills they need to lead and manage an IT business service through every stage.

Additionally, the fast-paced, four-week online course will prepare students for the ITIL 4 Foundation exam. It is being offered by Laurel Ridge Community College Workforce Solutions with certification provided through PeopleCert, the global leader in assessing and certifying professional skills.

“Our college is the heartbeat of workforce development, and we are the direct line to providing the skilled workforce local employers need,” said Laurel Ridge Marketing Director Guy Curtis. “The IT realm in organizations, especially in a post-pandemic and hybrid working world, needs so many skilled people, and training in ITIL 4 will meet their needs while also creating long-term careers for our graduates – with average annual salaries for entry-level workers starting at almost $110,000.

“With the number of tough-to-fill jobs in the market, we are inviting more people to gain education and training and move forward in their working lives. And, with the need for IT service management skills on the rise across the nation, ITIL is a great foundation course to obtain management skills, which lay the foundation for other stackable credentials.”

ITIL was originally developed by the British government to improve performance in IT services and has been adopted by IT professionals and organizations in multiple industry sectors worldwide, helping to increase business value through digital and IT services.

“This program is ideal for students currently working as it enhances their current skills and can help them launch a new career and become more marketable in the workforce,” Curtis said. “One of our core values – a passion for lifelong learning – is about the need for individuals to keep pursuing new opportunities, to grow and keep pace with the in-demand skills of today.

“And, with ITIL recognized by both the G3 and the FastForward grant programs as a training course resulting in industry credentials for high-demand professions in the region, this makes it more affordable for students to subsidize their next career move.”

FastForward grant funding covers two-thirds of the tuition costs for Virginia residents, and the G3 program pays for costs not already covered by grants and other financial aid for qualified students. Learn more at

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New school division facilities director approved



Among several action agenda items, the Warren County School Board, during its Wednesday, March 29 meeting, unanimously approved the appointment of a new facilities director for Warren County Public Schools (WCPS).

Following a recommendation from WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger, School Board Chair Kristen Pence, Vice Chair Ralph Rinaldi, and board members Antoinette Funk, Andrea Lo, and Melanie Salins voted 5-0 to approve the appointment of Bryan Helmick, who on July 1 will officially replace Greg Livesay, who has retired as the WCPS maintenance director.

The Warren County School Board approved the appointment of Bryan Helmick (above) as the school division’s new facilities director during its regular Wednesday meeting.

Bryan Helmick and his wife, Nina Helmick, who is the principal at Ressie Jeffries Elementary School, raised two sons and one daughter, all graduates of Skyline High School. They currently have six grandchildren attending Ressie Jeffries, Ballenger said.

Mr. Helmick had a successful career of more than 30 years as a mechanical contractor with the Steamfitters Local 602 out of Washington, D.C., performing duties such as journeyman HVAC, mechanic field facility supervisor, service manager, and construction manager, said Ballenger.

Helmick, who also coached football and baseball for years at Warren County High School and Skyline High School, was hired by WCPS in the summer of 2021 to serve as the facility supervisor. He currently serves as the interim facilities director.

“I always knew I wanted to be an employee of Warren County Public Schools, but I never knew in what capacity,” Helmick said. “In June of 2021, the opportunity to become the facility supervisor… was offered, and I knew at that time it was the right move.

“The goal from day one was always to excel and work my way to facilities director,” he added. “I will take this position very seriously and work hard every day to succeed in this new challenge.”

Also, during its meeting, the School Board paid special recognition to the Skyline High School Boys’ Basketball team on Wednesday evening. Head Coach Harold Chunn (above at podium) and Assistant Coach Stephen Rinker (above far right) received the recognition with three of the Hawks’ players: sophomore Dwayne Tucker (above far left) and seniors Elias Carter (second from left) and Zack Diggs (second from right). The Hawks team made it to the state semifinals with a final record of 26 wins and one loss. The team was 14-0 in its Northwestern District division.

“That record is astonishing,” said Rinaldi. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a record that good. It takes a lot of work to get there.
“You guys are leaders of your school; don’t take that for granted because other kids look up to you,” he told the student athletes.

More board action

The School Board also unanimously approved eight other action agenda items during its meeting:

1.) A contract totaling $68,832 over four years was awarded to Document Solutions Inc. for the lease of copiers at E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School, which is updating the copiers in the building, according to WCPS Technology Director Timothy Grant. The budgeted item will cost $1,434 a month.

2.) The 2023-2024 Special Education Annual Plan, which includes an application for federal funding in the amount of almost $1.28 million for 611 part-B and $33,545 for 619 part-B for total funding of just more than $1.31 million to be submitted to the Virginia Department of Education.

3.) A Memorandum of Agreement between WCPS and the Warren County Community Health Coalition establishes the guidelines and areas of responsibility between WCPS and the coalition and supports eligible students experiencing trauma in middle and high school. For example, the Warren Coalition, which supports a drug-free county, will provide supervision to the behavioral health coach and anxiety/depression specialist at WCPS, which will provide office space and a computer for the health coach.

4.) A Cooperative Agreement between the Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired and WCPS establishes the guidelines and areas of responsibility between WCPS and the department and provides support to eligible WCPS students.

5.) An expenditure of over $15,000 for purchasing the Grand Canyon University Grow Your Own Participant coursework costs $27,740. WCPS Personnel Director Shane Goodwin told board members that growing and retaining the school division’s current workforce is imperative to its mission to keep an exceptional teacher in front of every student every day. “To accomplish this mission, Grand Canyon University provides academic counseling, coursework, and content to nine current WCPS employees in both teacher and instructional assistant roles,” he explained. “These employees will earn licensure through completed coursework in the areas of elementary education, special education, and secondary education, with an emphasis in humanities.”

WCPS will pay for a portion of the coursework (the target is 80 percent), with the employee paying the rest, said Goodwin, noting that the agreement stipulates that employees must work for WCPS for a minimum of two years beyond completion of the licensure eligibility or pay back the amount invested by WCPS on a prorated basis as specified in the related Memorandum of Understanding.

“Our belief is that by investing in our current workforce in this unique way, we can better ensure the workforce we need for our future,” Goodwin said.
“This is a good way to keep teachers in our system,” agreed Rinaldi. “Seems like we’re training facilities for places east of here. Teacher retention is critical for us.”

6.) Renewed contract with Sodexo America LLC as the WCPS food management services company for the period of July 1, 2023, to June 30, 2024, and to accept any administrative (non-material) changes as required by the Virginia Department of Education. There is an 8.4 percent proposed cost increase for the 2023-2024 school year, according to WCPS Assistant Superintendent of Administration George “Buck” Smith.

7.) Authorization for the superintendent to request that the Warren County Board of Supervisors appropriates $28,000 from the amount withheld for the 2023 Operational Budget of $1,215,459 to the school division’s capital improvement fund for the A&E fees that are needed to turn the existing auditorium into a multi-purpose room at E. Wilson Morrison Elementary.

8.) Request that an additional $241,346 in budgeted state funding be appropriated to Category 63000-Pupil Transportation to cover greater-than-anticipated fuel costs for buses and vehicles and that $25,000 be appropriated to the 64000-Facilities budget category. According to WCPS Finance Director Robert Ballentine, the amended state budget for FY 2023 that was adopted on February 25 provides $241,346 in greater than originally budgeted state funding. The increase primarily comes from technical adjustments and membership adjustments. Ballentine also said that WCPS projects that reimbursements for HVAC repair parts purchased for Warren County facilities and reimbursed by the County will total approximately $25,000.

Click here to watch the School Board’s March 29 meeting.

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Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: Spotted Salamander



This handsome Spotted Salamander came in to us after they were found walking inside a barn, dried out and looking lethargic. The finder was kind enough to drive them to us for evaluation.

Salamanders are known to walk miles during breeding season between wetland locations, and it is possible a cold snap got in the way of this one’s trek.

Thankfully, this salamander had no obvious wounds or injuries on exam. We did treat them with antibiotics for any potential cat attack wounds as that may have been why the salamander was found in the barn to begin with, though a cat interaction was not witnessed.

Thankfully, after just a few days of treatment and rest and relaxation, this salamander was cleared for release and returned home!

Thanks so much to the finder who spotted this critter and cared enough to get them evaluated. We couldn’t give wildlife a second chance without caring finders and supporters like you!

Did you know?

The Spotted Salamander is great at eluding predators!

They spend the majority of their time hiding under rocks, fallen trees, or leaf litter to avoid being seen. Plus, the bright, contrasting spots along their neck, back, and tail serve as a warning to predators that they secrete a toxin, which makes them taste bitter.

So even when spotted, they don’t look like a tasty treat!

Looking for an easy way to help native wildlife? Become a monthly BRWC donor! For as little as $5/month, you can provide year-round, sustainable support that helps us fulfill our mission.

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Michal Ashby, children’s librarian receives the Elks Distinguished Citizenship Award



On March 15, 2023, Michal Ashby, children’s librarian at Samuel’s Public Library, received the Elks Distinguished Citizenship Award. “For Outstanding and Meritorious Service to Humanity,” the award was presented by Lodge 2382 of Front Royal.

“The award from Elks Club was the most significant professional honor of my life,” Ashby said. “The people I have met in that group have been some of the sweetest people I have ever met. Their selection of me for the award has positively impacted my life for years to come. Their generosity humbles me.”

This honor does not come out of the blue. Ashby has been instrumental in helping the library maintain a partnership with the local Elks Club for some time. “They are passionate about literacy and have been contributing to our programs for years,” she said. “Like other civic organizations such as Kiwanis Club and Rotary, they make a huge difference in our community.”

To anyone who knows her, it is obvious that Michal Ashby is a passionate human being driven by many goals. One of her greatest passions is the adult and teen volunteer base that serves the library. “Without a foundation,” she said, “a house wouldn’t stand.” She sees her volunteers as being that foundation. “They help us with everything from weeding our children’s garden, cutting out crafts for story-time, shifting books, shelving movies, and doing light cleaning. Sometimes they even offer to dress up in a costume for a special program!”

As Ashby talked about her passion for the library and the community in which it stands, it became evident why she received the award. “Every day, I am reminded why I serve this community,” she said. “Every day, I see parents who thank us for what we do, children who ask us about good books, and teens who tell us how much the library means to them. Our community drives my passion for our department and the library.”

Ashby has served the library since 2006. In that time, the children’s staff and the teen volunteer program have grown. The library has achieved many goals, adding regular art, gardening, and science programs to complement its literacy-based programs. It now maintains a children’s garden, a Storywalk at Eastham Park, and a variety of community partnerships. “I am proud that these things have happened during my ‘stewardship’ of the children’s department,” Ashby said. She also said that her current goal “is to increase our presence and our impact in the community,” chiefly through partnerships with organizations that choose to do programming with the library.

The passion of Michal Ashby extends to every part of her life. Her hobbies include gem mining, rock hounding, history, genealogy, and reading. “I am an avid reader,” she said. “Recently, I have been enjoying our non-fiction. I love to read about space, geology, and Egyptology. Children’s books are quick reads in comparison to adult non-fiction. I also recently have been re-reading the classics such as 1,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne.”

Bringing the community every interest imaginable with a built-in mechanism for reaching out to other libraries, Samuel’s is truly a product of evolution in the eyes of those who remember presenting their selection of loans to a librarian, as they can now handle the check-out process themselves with the assistance of cutting-edge computer technology. Despite such improvements, the library continues to be a friendly place where magical things can happen, protected by the stewardship of people like Michal Ashby.

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Marlow Automotive Group

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Northwestern Community Services Board

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Philip Vaught Real Estate Management

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Royal Blends Nutrition

Royal Cinemas

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