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OPINION: Warren County schools are facing a crisis that impacts everyone in our community

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Warren County schools are facing a crisis that impacts everyone in our community, whether you have children in the school system or not. The schools are not able to competitively compensate our experienced teachers, who are lured to higher paying opportunities by neighboring counties.

Since school year 2011-2012, WCPS instructional turnover has increased 140%, which correlates with a 162% increase in areas NOT at accreditation levels, over that same 7-year period. Teachers in Warren County who have less than 10 years’ experience have a 54% student pass rate compared to teachers with greater than 11 years of experience, who have an 85% overall student pass rate.

We are now entering the 7th straight year of increased teacher turnover. During their exit interviews, the number one reason cited by our experienced teachers for leaving Warren County Schools is compensation.

The consequences of this issue not only impact our schools, it has a systemic impact on our community. School performance measures have affected the ability to attract and retain entrepreneurs and employers to our community. Businesses strongly consider the pipeline of educated labor when making the decisions to locate or expand their businesses. When employers choose to locate or expand in Warren County, that lessons the tax burden for all citizens. School performance is a strong factor in that decision. Our property values are also negatively impacted by the perception of our school performance, as consumers compare homes in our county to those of surrounding areas with higher performing systems. Again, another lost opportunity to broaden the base for tax relief for our community.

The November 30, 2018, “Strategic Vision for the Future of Warren County” contains clear and compelling evidence to support our Board of Supervisors in funding this request. 85% of citizens responded that the biggest challenge facing our school system was “relatively low pay for teachers is incentivizing higher quality teachers to move to schools in surrounding counties”. The vision statement commits to “Support an excellent school environment that retains quality teachers and graduates the next generation of leaders”.

I call upon our Board of Supervisors to see that this vision is executed on behalf of the citizens of Warren County.


Jeanian Clark
Workforce Development Professional

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OPINION: Layton is effective, deserves support for Commonwealth’s Attorney bid

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I write  to you and your readers in support Mr. Bryan Layton, Esquire, in his quest to be the next Commonwealth’s Attorney for the County of Warren, Virginia. I carefully weighed entering this contest myself, and after careful deliberate consideration of current affairs I declined to run.  Both Messrs. Layton and Bell are friends and colleagues of mine, and we have all dined and had adult beverages together. And if I am not mistaken both have been to events at my home.  I respect both Messrs. Layton and Bell. But a choice must be made.

I have known Bryan since he moved to Warren County to work. He is an excellent attorney and does his job well.  I have always found him to be honest, ethical, and able to fairly evaluate and value a case. He does not waste time on cases that should not have been brought by the police and zealously prosecutes those cases which are properly brought. He strives for justice. He is an effective and efficient prosecutor and works to protect the citizens of this county on a daily basis.

In the past several weeks, Mr. Bell called for a special grand jury to be empaneled, which was done but not because of Mr. Bell. Please let that be known.  Mr. Bell and those around him who have tried to politicize this process, now seek to blame Mr. Madden and thus Mr. Layton for “not doing enough,” such is absurd. Since December the CA’s office had been in communication with the Judge to request a Special Grand Jury, which the press has not reported on.  Such accusations are bogus and ill-informed, if not just ignorant. Those naysayers were not aware of the ongoing investigation because they are simply not privy to such information, nor should they have been. Certain court orders which are available to the public, show that the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney (hereinafter CA) was already working on developing a case along with the Virginia State Police.  Mr. Bell and those should be familiar with § 52-8.1 and § 52-8.2 of the Code of Va.

The laws of this Commonwealth require that when certain people or organizations are to  be investigated, there is a proper mechanism for doing so. Otherwise, you may end up with political witch hunts. In the instant matter, when the CA realized that local law enforcement was not providing him the whole story, he realized that an outside organization, namely the Virginia State Police (VSP) needed to be brought into to investigate the matter since the Front Royal Police Department (FRPD) was effectively obstructing him from learning information (remember the FRPD and the Warren County Sherriff’s Office (WCSO) are the investigative agencies for him to use) and since the Sheriff was possibly involved the WCSO would also be tainted. Thus, the referral. The CA’s office in conjunction with the VSP then started their own investigation. See the public search warrants that have been unsealed.

Mr. Layton and Mr. Madden had already been addressing such matters, drafting relevant search warrants, subpoenas, affidavits in support of the search warrants and knew full well that a special grand jury would be required as early as late last summer/early fall of 2018. But folks, timing is everything. Calling for a special grand jury before your investigation is even partially done is putting the cart before the horse and frankly could jeopardize the entire investigation.  Prudence rather than headlines is called for. And thankfully Messrs. Madden and Layton displayed prudence and patience and were not seeking headlines. This due diligence allowed the VSP to conduct a significant part of its investigation to develop facts and background which can then be presented to a grand jury. That is how a case is developed.

The CA’s office was well aware that local media coverage could and would create undue influence over a potential jury due to premature disclosure of evidence or revelations regarding people that were or are the foci of the investigation.

We should all be very thankful of the discretion exercised by Messrs. Layton and Madden in the discharge of their duties, and for not political grandstanding as Mr. Bell is displaying now in his press releases and mailings which impugn the character of two good men.

On Thursday, April 25, 2019, the citizens of Warren County have the right to vote in the Republican Canvass (primary) at the Warren County Community Center (the old library) from 3 to 8 pm. I ask if you are a registered voter to please attend (make sure to bring photo id) and vote for Bryan Layton for Commonwealth’s Attorney.


David W. Silek,
Attorney at Law
Front Royal, Va.

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Today is Holy Saturday, the Saturday before Easter

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Holy Saturday… the watch had begun. A Carpenter had been tried, convicted, executed and now entombed… the tomb sealed at the request of His enemies. Why the fear? They denied that He was the Christ, didn’t they? His followers had fled and were in hiding.

Evil hates and fears Goodness and Love… and followers of Christ’s Father are these! JESUS is Truth, Love, Goodness… the LIGHT OF THE WORLD. The evil ones hate all these things… Eternal Life they mock… and this we have. Our enemies do not grasp this. What they do not understand is Christ. All this is ours because we love… as Jesus teaches. Our love is not of this world. His enemies did not want to understand Him. They love the things of the world… lust, riches, status… they hated Him all the more because He promised none of these.

Those who follow Him will be feared and hated. But, we shall have no fear… He is with us! His love, shown through us, is evidence that He lives. The battle has been won! So my friends, we shall come before His altar in gladness, and we shall lift our voices in joy and thanksgiving! Jesus shall rise… He is risen! Amen.

Reverend Larry W. Johnson
Front Royal, VA

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OPINION: Layton has ethics and experience

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When we heard that Bryan Layton was running for Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney we felt compelled to speak.

Bryan Layton is honest, ethical and very hard working. He is committed to seeing justice done and doesn’t play games with the criminal justice system. If someone is guilty he will work hard to make sure that they are appropriately punished. However, Bryan will work equally hard to make sure that an innocent person is not convicted unjustly.

Prosecutors wield a great deal of power in Virginia. This is the reality of the system. With a piece of paper they can have a person arrested and held in jail. This is one of many reasons why Bryan Layton is one of the best prosecutors we have seen, in both skill and ethics. He has shown us repeatedly that he wields power justly.

Those of us who have both worked with Bryan Layton and fought against him in court know him as the right kind of lawyer for Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney. He is tough and fair, and has the experience to do the job well.

William A. “Beau” Bassler
David L. Hensley
Nicole M. Spicer

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OPINION: Indifference is no answer

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For better or maybe for worse, the Mueller Report is now out.

Regardless of an individual citizen’s point of view, there is data within this Report that cannot be ignored.

Years ago when I was practicing law (in Connecticut before moving to Virginia), my job was to make people (jurors or judges) believe my client’s point of view. If it was a civil case, I had to make them accept my position “by a preponderance of the evidence.” If a criminal case, my challenge as counsel was to protect my client from a finding of guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This was a fact-based system with a “search for truth.”

After I moved to Virginia in 1988, I had given up lawyering and became a mediator and trainer. No longer was I advocating for “the Truth” of a matter; rather I was advocating for “Resolution” of differences. I was a neutral, not an advocate. I even wrote a well-received little book called “Ironing It Out: Seven Simple Steps for Resolving Conflict.” I also spent several years as an Adjunct Associate Professor of Political Science and Public Administration at Shenandoah University in Winchester. While there, I taught courses in Conflict Resolution, American Politics and the Presidency. Since then, I fashion myself as an amateur “expert” in Presidential History.

August 18, 2019 was an historical day in both American Political History and in the history of the institution we have come to acknowledge and appreciate – called “the American Presidency.”

I said earlier that now I was interested in finding Resolution as opposed to establishing the Truth, but that does not mean that facts don’t count. We know that a number of Presidents got themselves or their administration in trouble because they discounted the facts of the situation. This has led to several scandals (almost every Presidential administration has had at least one), censure, impeachment or resignation (only once so far).

Which brings me back to the present… There are those who fervently support President Trump. They may not like his “style,” but they like what his administration has done or hopes to do. On the other hand, there are those who cannot stand him or what the Presidency has become. I tell people who ask me, from both sides, what will happen. I always give the same answer I gave years ago during the Nixon Watergate years, ‘TRUST THE AMERICAN SYSTEM OF DEMOCRACY.’

FACTS that we have now learned in the Mueller Report have got to count for something. They cannot be ignored. Indifference is not an option. Indifference is a vote for what the FACTS show has happened and may continue. There comes a time when one must take action. Whether it is in support of what has now been disclosed or it is in opposition within our system. The time to make one’s voice heard is NOW!


Charles “Chips” Lickson, JD, Ph.D.
Front Royal, Virginia

Former practicing, lawyer, mediator, teacher and Associate Professor of Political Science at Shenandoah University. Lickson is the author of eight previous non-fiction books including Ethics for Government Employees. He is currently finishing a fact-based novel, Refuge for a Scoundrel, due out in fall, 2019. Lickson will teach an upcoming class “Scandals in the Presidency” at Westminster Canterbury, in Winchester, VA.

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OPINION: Candidate Poe doesn’t know the law

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Thank you for posting your video interview of Jason Poe. It was interesting and as always, I like that the Royal Examiner is on top of things that concern our community.

I do have an issue however about someone running for Sheriff and not understanding the law. You asked Mr. Poe about a lawsuit filed against him, which he said he was not aware of, and you also said something about the fact that it had been almost 2 years since the accident. Mr. Poe stated that he knew nothing about the lawsuit, he was not served.

The statute of limitations on personal injury matters such as this is two years from the date of the accident. The accident in this case occurred on December 24, 2016. The lawsuit was filed in a timely fashion. That two years is generally spent gathering information and attempts by the insurance company to settle the case. If they are unable to settle they file suit – which appears to have occurred here. However, they can request service or withhold service. That being said when a lawsuit is filed the attorney will copy the named Defendants and/or their attorney on the filing of the same.

So Mr. Poe should have received this in the mail. The Sheriff’s office would have also received it and I’m sure notified their former employee, Jason Poe, of the same. He, however,  acted as if he did not know what the statute of limitations is, more concerning is that he went on record – in your interview and stated “it was a minor accident”, there was barely an impact, he was going between “24 and 26 mph at the time of impact.” He further stated that he knew the passenger and he felt bad because he knew her.  Mr. Poe stated “they stopped suddenly to watch Santa Claus cross the bridge”. There were two children in the back of the vehicle.

If Mr. Poe observed two children in the back of the vehicle and Santa Claus crossing the bridge, why didn’t he observe the car stop in front of him? Was he following too closely?

If Mr. Poe understood the law, as a candidate for Sheriff, he would understand that the statute of limitations has NOT run out for those two children in the back of the car. The statute of limitations does NOT run out on minors until 2 years after their 18th birthday. The other thing he said was – they stopped suddenly. He didn’t apologize, he didn’t accept responsibility, he didn’t admit any wrongdoing – he laid the blame on the driver of the car he hit and only said he felt bad because he knew the passenger. Can he accept responsibility for his actions? Clearly not. As an Officer of the Law, which he was acting in the capacity of at the time of the accident shouldn’t he have paid more attention? Shouldn’t he have been concerned about all the people in the car, not just the one he knew?

This is a candidate for Sheriff?

Just one more thing Ms. Shaw – Mr. Poe stated that he left the Sheriff’s office on January 23, 2017. He stated he started at Winchester January 23, 2017. I called the Sheriff’s office – his last day was January 17, 2017. I cannot obtain the information as to whether or not he was given any type of administrative leave as a result of this accident and I don’t know if you can get it via FOIA. But I do know this, despite what he said, the accident was 12/24/16 and he left 1/17/17. I don’t think this was a coincidence and I do not believe he is being very transparent. I wish your video had been live so people could call in and ask these questions.

Thank you for allowing a concerned resident of this County to voice his concerns. And again, thank you Norma Jean Shaw for your reporting on all this mess going on around here. You’re an asset to the County.

Arthur DuBois
Warren County

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Today is Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter

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Today is Maundy Thursday. Jesus said, “For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15). This is the “mandatum”… our mandate as Christians to serve others. He washed His apostles feet and went out to a garden to pray. He asked them to watch, but they fell asleep. Jesus was arrested, tried, beaten, spit upon, and humiliated beyond words… our Lord… our Teacher… who taught servant-hood and love.

All during the night, He would be humiliated and tortured, and have placed upon His head a crown… one of thorns. More painful was the abandonment… the men He taught… the twelve… abandoned Him.

People abandon Him daily by living sinful lives. We have the chance now to show our love by following His “mandatum”… to become a servant… to serve… to love… to proclaim Jesus as our Savior.

Does the cock crow for me… or ye? I pray not… (reference verse: Luke 22:34).

Reverend Larry W. Johnson
Front Royal, VA

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