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New school division HR director approved by School Board



The Warren County School Board, during its Wednesday, May 17 work session, unanimously approved three action agenda items, including a recommendation for a new school division director of human resources.

School Board Chair Kristen Pence, Vice Chair Ralph Rinaldi, and board members Antoinette Funk and Andrea Lo were present at the work session. School Board member Melanie Salins was absent on Wednesday.


Warren County Public Schools Superintendent Christopher Ballenger (right) recommended Jody Lee (left) as the new HR director for the school division. Lee, who is currently the assistant principal at Skyline High School, received a unanimous vote from the School Board to begin the new job on June 1.


Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) Superintendent Christopher Ballenger introduced and recommended Jody Lee, who was born and raised in Front Royal, Va., and graduated from Warren County High School in 1992. 

Lee earned a bachelor’s degree in 1997 from Frostburg State University and was hired by WCPS as a teacher and coach in 1998. Lee later became dean of students at Warren County Junior High School in 2004 before earning his master’s in educational leadership from George Mason University in 2006. 

He became the assistant principal at Skyline High School when it opened in 2007 and has continued to serve in that capacity since then. He lives in Warren County with his wife and two children.

The board voted unanimously 4-0 to accept Ballenger’s recommendation to hire Lee for the HR director position, which he will start on June 1.

After thanking the board for its support, Lee said that as a life-long resident of Front Royal, he’s “invested as can be” in WCPS, where he said many of his life influencers, including teachers and coaches, had a positive impact on his life.

“I look forward to working with a great team,” Lee said. “I know how important it is to bring good people to our school system and also to retain them, and that’s going to be my focus. I’m looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead.”

Lee is stepping in for outgoing HR Director Shane Goodwin, who has been named Frederick County Public Schools’ new Assistant Superintendent for Administration.

The School Board also voted 4-0 to approve a solid waste removal contract totaling $95,472. Bryan Helmick, who is the incoming facilities director for WCPS, made the recommended action to the board to approve the annual service agreement for solid waste removal and dumpster service with Republic Services, which also holds the current agreement for solid waste pick-up and dumpster service that’s scheduled to expire on June 30. 

The WCPS Facilities Department put the contract out for bid, said Helmick, and Republic Services was the only bidder with a price of $95,472. The 2022 cost for waste pick up was $92,475.22, he said.

“I guess with fuel and everything, they had to go up, I guess,” said Rinaldi prior to the School Board’s vote to accept the proposed contract.

Helmick explained that WCPS has also added a lot of pickups. “When our contract with them first started, we had a one-day-a-week schedule to pick up,” he said. “We’ve gone to two and three days a week for most schools now.”

At the same time, Helmick said that the summer schedule expanded from one day a week to two days a week to cover the expanded school lunches program during COVID-19.



In the last action item, WCPS Transportation Director Aaron Mitchell (above) recommended, and the board concurred, that it approves new radios that will be installed in school buses and all student transport vehicles. The purchase price of $32,410.13 from T Mobile was unanimously approved.

Mitchell said that the Transportation Department is attempting to update its current 20+ year-old radio system and wants to use the push-to-talk radio equipment.

“This would allow us to have radio transmission via cellular service, as well as wifi,” he said. “Our testing of different products showed T Mobile’s service served our needs best.”

Work Session topics

During its work session portion of the meeting, Mitchell also discussed a $13,600 grant award that WCPS received from the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) for bus driver incentives and retention. 

Mitchell presented the board with four proposed options to consider for distributing the funds that are based on employee attendance. No motion was needed at the meeting as the item was only up for discussion.

While it’s a one-time grant, Mitchell said he hopes that WCPS could continue to incentivize drivers by using funds remaining from either unfilled or unneeded subcontracts, for instance.

Ballenger told School Board members that because it’s a salary-related item and the funds have to be expended by June 30, the board should probably consider it for action during its June meeting.

Mitchell said he wants to reward employees “because they did the right thing for no other reason than to do the right thing.”

Board member Funk agreed, saying she would like to see incentives given to employees who miss four or fewer days, noting that while situations do occur when a driver misses 10 days, that’s a lot, she said.

Lo pointed out that she thinks the options are fair since no one would be penalized for having to take off more than four days.

Another item discussed during the work session by WCPS Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Heather Bragg was the draft grant applications for Title I, II, III, and IV federal funds.

Bragg said the applications must be presented to VDOE by July 1. “However, we don’t yet have this year’s funding levels,” so the applications are based on this year’s numbers, she said, adding, “they will be adjusted for when we do get the state’s final numbers coming to us for these federal funds.” 

The Title I-A, II-A, III-A, and IV-A applications seek federal funding to improve basic instructional programs, teacher and principal training and recruiting, support for language instruction for English Learners, and increase the division’s capacity to provide all students with access to well-rounded education, said Bragg.

Bragg also presented the second reading of the WCPS Revised Policy JED Student Absences/Excuses/Dismissals policy, which the division attendance committee worked on throughout the 2022-2023 school year to draft.

Members of the attendance committee included division and school administrators, school counselors, and attendance officers, and the revised policy has been shared with school attendance committees for feedback.

Bragg said that one of the goals has also been to make the policy more readable and understandable for parents.

Ballenger presented the last discussion item on restructuring WCPS Special Services, which he proposes being split into two separate programs: Special Services and Pupil Services.

“We want to make it more manageable by reducing the complexity of the department, reducing inefficiencies, responding to new demands, developing more effective programs, increasing accountability, and increasing student services provided by WCPS,” he said.

Under the Special Services umbrella would be special education, including speech therapists, psychologists, occupational and physical therapists, the pre-kindergarten program, the jail program, the medical homebound program, and the Learning Center’s tier II. Certain positions also would be reclassified.

Another goal for Special Services would be to have a registered nurse who oversees the nursing program. “We want to provide a stipend for that position,” said Ballenger, noting this would be an addition to the budget.

Pupil Services would be pulled out as a standalone program and would include most of the division’s alternative education settings, including Diversified Minds, Brighter Futures, and after-school programs, among others. The principal position also would become similar to the principal/director position at the Blue Ridge Technical Center, according to Ballenger.

The restructuring “would give us the opportunity to separate these two programs,” Ballenger said. “It’s really cumbersome right now.” And the separation would permit WCPS to be better able to serve students and create better programs, he said.

Watch the School Board’s work session in its entirety on this exclusive Royal Examiner video.


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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.

The participants of the ceremony from the Sons of the American Revolution, the American Red Cross, and the Disabled Veterans of America.


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.

The Colonel James Wood II Chapter enacted a solemn flag folding ceremony, in which the American flag was folded into the symbolic tri-cornered shape reminiscent of the hat worn by the Patriots of the American Revolution. Left to right, Richard Tyler, Patrick Moore, and Thomas “Chip” Daniel. 


Musket Squad firing a salute. Left to right, Doug Hall, Brett Osborn, Allan Phillips, Will Reynolds, Jim Cordes, Dave Cook, Chip Daniel, Brian Bayliss, Sean Carrigan, and Paul Christensen. (Photos courtesy of Thomas “Chip” Daniel.)


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.

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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.

Some temporary emergency support is offered by the non-stained beam to the right of the damaged beam in the aftermath of a May 25 accident in which a car struck one of the Village Commons Pavilion support beams. Fortunately, no one, including the driver, was reported injured as a result of the accident. – Royal Examiner Photos Roger Bianchini


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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.

Photos courtesy of R-MA.

Find out more about the Randolph-Macon Academy experience by visiting their website:

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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.

Click here to sign up for crime alerts. 

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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 Commonwealths Attorney John Bell issued the following statement:

“This office has received a number of inquiries in response to a recent online article at 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.”

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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.

Photo courtesy of Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.


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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Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
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