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.
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.
A Day of Remembrance: Colonel James Wood II Chapter, Virginia Society Sons of the American Revolution and American Red Cross hold Memorial Day event
The hallowed grounds of Winchester’s National Cemetery reverberated with the echoes of history this Memorial Day. Local citizens, the youth of Cub Scout Den 45, the Colonel James Wood II Chapter of the Virginia Society Sons of the American Revolution (named after Colonel James Wood II, an influential figure in the American Revolution), and the American Red Cross (a humanitarian organization tracing its roots back to 1881) came together to pay homage to the heroes of our past.
This event beautifully encapsulated a tradition that traces its lineage to the era of the Civil War. The roots of this observance trace back to a suggestion by Henry Welles in 1865 in the village of Waterloo, New York, for a day of decorating the graves of the fallen Civil War heroes, which came to be known as Decoration Day.
In keeping with this rich history, ahead of the Memorial Day ceremony on May 29th, flags were placed on the graves at the National Cemetery. Leslie Caliva of the American Red Cross, an organization with a rich history of service, hosted the formal observance. The color guard, led by Commander Brett Osborn, and the honor guard, led by Jim Cordes, presented colors in a show of respect for the fallen.
CJWII Chaplain Thomas Reed, inheriting the historic title of Chaplain, offered an inspiring invocation, while the Pledge of Allegiance was led by Charles Hunter, USA (Ret), from the storied VFW Post 2123. The keynote address was given by Terry Stotler, Chief of Voluntary Services at the Martinsburg Veterans Administration Medical Center, detailing the myriad of services the VA provides to support the veterans in the tri-state area of northwest Virginia, northern West Virginia, and western Maryland.
Following a musket salute fired by the SAR Musket Squad and renditions of ‘God Bless America’ and ‘Taps’ by Charles Hunter, SAR members stood alongside dual members Bryan Buck (Fort Harrison), Dave Cook, and Jim Cordes (Fairfax Resolves), participating in the ceremony and bringing history to life.
As we remember our fallen heroes on this Memorial Day, we recognize the historical journey from Decoration Day to Memorial Day and the nationwide observance it has grown into today. This commemoration at the Winchester National Cemetery symbolizes a steadfast tradition and a tribute to those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.
Traffic Charges filed after car strikes Downtown Front Royal Pavilion support beam
The below photos show the result of a motorist striking one of the Front Royal Village Commons/Gazebo area Pavilion support beams on Thursday, May 25th. The time of the accident was listed on the resulting traffic summons as 2:27 p.m. (14:27). The driver was identified at the scene by responding Front Royal Police as local resident Elizabeth Smith. She was issued a summons for “Driving a vehicle which is not under control; Reckless Driving.” No injuries were reported as a result of the accident. Smith has a pending mid-July traffic court date in Warren County General District Court. As of publication, the pavilion remained cordoned off pending permanent repairs.
Circle of Kindness: R-MA cadets and senior citizens forge a bond of encouragement
It’s often said that what goes around comes around. This idiom recently played out in an unexpected and heartwarming way for the students of Randolph-Macon Academy (R-MA).
This past February, the academy, a co-ed private boarding school for grades 6-12 located just an hour from Washington, D.C., participated in a unique initiative to spread kindness. The initiative, spearheaded by the local organization We See You Warren County, was designed to inspire residents to write letters filled with encouragement, gratitude, and hope. Randolph-Macon Academy hosted these LOVE letters during Valentine’s week, with the academy’s cadets penning thoughtful missives to the seniors at the Warren County Senior Center.
Little did these cadets know this act of kindness would soon be reciprocated.
In their final week of school, a time typically filled with anticipation and anxiety, the graduating cadets of R-MA received a surprise: a flood of kind and encouraging words from the very seniors they had written to earlier in the year.
The cadets, graduating from a school renowned for its superior university-prep curriculum and elite Air Force JROTC program, were overcome with emotion at the gesture. This was a significant way to wrap up what has been one of the most memorable years of their academic journey.
Last year, R-MA celebrated the graduation of 59 students from the Class of 2022, all of whom secured university acceptances and together amassed over $16.6 million in scholarships. This year’s graduating class, buoyed by the seniors’ heartfelt messages, looks forward to taking their next steps into the world, carrying with them lessons in kindness, humility, and mutual respect.
This delightful exchange between the cadets and senior citizens demonstrates the strong bonds that can be built within a community, even between the youngest and oldest members. It reminds us all of the power of simple gestures of kindness and the joy of giving and receiving.
Find out more about the Randolph-Macon Academy experience by visiting their website: RMA.edu.
Sheriff’s Office to provide more transparent information to County residents
Sheriff Mark Butler is pleased to announce that the Warren County Sheriff’s Office is the 1st agency in the Commonwealth to make Citizen Connect available to a community. Citizen Connect is an application from Southern Software, Inc. that provides a host of services for our community to see.
This is an opportunity to increase transparency, provide more convenient customer service and ensure better communication with our residents. S
Starting May 30, residents will be able to receive automated crime notifications using the free Citizen Connect website. You can sign up for these services through our website. This Application provides the following online services:
• Daily Reports – A listing of Arrest, Incident, and Accident Reports will be available to the public. This is what is commonly referred to as the “police blotter” and will keep residents better informed as to the incidents around their homes, businesses, or routes of travel.
• Incident Reports – An abbreviated report may be downloaded by Incident Number, Date Range, Name, or Location. Please note that there will be no narrative included. Persons wishing to obtain a complete report will still be required to file a Freedom of Information request with our office.
• Wanted Persons – A list of the most wanted people will be made available to the public in this searchable database.
• Missing Persons – A list of active missing persons reports will be posted. Once located, these reports will be closed and can no longer be seen on the website. This will be helpful in keeping the public aware of endangered people, with the intent to locate them quickly.
• Anonymous Tip Line – Allows residents to report a tip without leaving their personal information.
• Submit a Report – This allows our citizens to submit non-emergency reports that do not require a response from a Deputy immediately. These include damage to property, lost property, and harassing phone calls.
Statement of Commonwealth’s Attorney Bell on Case Filing regarding Sheriff Butler
Shortly before 3 p.m. Tuesday, May 30, under the above headline Warren County Commonwealth Attorney John Bell issued the following press release regarding an official inquiry into the credibility of Warren County Sheriff Mark Butler as a potential prosecution witness moving forward. This is that release in its entirety:
“Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney John Bell issued the following statement:
“This office has received a number of inquiries in response to a recent online article at theshawreport.org which discusses, in part, a filing made by this office in a pending Circuit Court case involving Sheriff Butler. All prosecutors have a legal and ethical duty to disclose exculpatory evidence about a witness, that is, any information that casts doubt on the truthfulness of that witness. It is a painful duty when that witness is a law enforcement officer. It is a particularly painful duty when that officer is your elected Sheriff.
“We were obligated to make such a disclosure in the case (click for linked material) of Commonwealth v Hutzell, CR22-533, a Circuit Court case in which Sheriff Butler was the arresting officer. The disclosure consists of the results of two Internal Affairs investigations conducted by the Town of Herndon Police Department when Sheriff Butler was employed there as an Officer in 2019. The Town of Herndon concluded that then-Officer Butler falsified statements in two different official Police report about two separate incidents.
“As a result of this information, we are unable to call Sheriff Butler to the witness stand as a credible witness. We are currently evaluating all cases where Sheriff Butler is a potential witness to see if the prosecutions can proceed without him. There will also be a review of some prior cases to evaluate the impact of his participation.”
Ukrainian Catholic Church of Saints Joachim and Anna to be consecrated in Front Royal by Archbishop Gudziak
On Sunday, June 4, Front Royal is going to be honored by a visit from the Most Reverend Borys Gudziak, the Metropolitan-Archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy (archdiocese) of Philadelphia. The Archbishop will be in town to consecrate the Ukrainian Catholic Church of Saints Joachim and Anna, located at 1396 Linden Street in Front Royal.
Saints Joachim and Anna began in 2015 as a mission of the Ukrainian Catholic National Shrine of the Holy Family in Washington, D.C., and acquired the Linden Street property in November 2021.
The parish, which currently has 41 registered households, is served by Administrator Fr. Robert Hitchens, originally of Pennsylvania, and parochial vicar Fr. Andrii Chornopyskyi, originally of Ukraine, who take turns driving out from D. C. Divine Liturgy is Sunday at 10:30 a.m., preceded by Confession.
The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) is an Eastern Catholic church in communion with the Pope of Rome. Byzantine Christianity was established among the Ukrainians in 988 A.D. by St. Volodуmуr. The Ukrainian Catholic Church has been in communion with Rome since the Union of Brest (1596). From 1946 until 1989, however, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was illegal and persecuted by the communist regime, as Ukraine had been annexed by the Soviet Union. Archbishop Borys was born in 1960 in New York to parents who were World War II refugees from Ukraine. The Ukrainian Catholic Church first arrived in the United States in 1884, following the first Ukrainian diaspora. The current war in Ukraine has sent over 8 million people worldwide as refugees and over 5 million internally displaced. Over 250,000 have been allowed into the United States.
Here in Front Royal, only about 20% of the parish of Saints Joachim and Anna have a personal connection with the “old country.” It, like other Eastern Catholic Churches, is growing because many are attracted to its ancient traditions, the beautiful Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, which was first written down around the fourth century A.D., and its vibrant community life.
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