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Randolph-Macon’s summer World Religion class crosses classroom boundaries



Randolph-Macon Academy students sophomore Peter Babineau, senior Alan Williams, senior Grace Wagner, and junior Khoi Nguyen Su pose with their interlocking world religions project shortly before it is completed. (All that is missing is the crank in the center.) Courtesy Photo Celeste Brooks

Today’s education isn’t the same silo-approach that existed years ago. Cross-curricular projects encourage students to analyze a challenge, considering it in a critical manner while at the same time being creative in how to approach a solution. This philosophy was highlighted this summer at Randolph-Macon Academy when computer science instructor Stephanie Wagner approached World Religions teacher Michael Williams with the idea of doing an engineering project for his class.

To Michael, the idea sounded perfect. He uses a “jigsaw” approach to teaching, in which the students each take a section, learn about it in-depth, and teach it to their peers. This project would take that to a different level, as the students would be creating a technological piece of art that would be suitable for display.

After going through several sketches of how they might create a visual representation of each major religion and how they connect together, student Alan Williams (a rising senior at the Academy) created an engineering sample built out of small cogs used in the robotics program. With a visual sample to go off of, Michael was able to make his assignments.

Each student was responsible for designing a cog for two major religions, as well as a third cog that represented a commonality between the two. Buddhism and Hinduism, for example, are joined by a cog representing peace, while Christianity and Judaism are joined by one that tells of Moses. Smaller religions, such as Wicca, are presented by decorative pieces.

The students used a combination of Adobe Illustrator and hand-drawn artwork to design the cogs and decorative pieces. A laser cutter burned the designs into a wood piece and cut them out. The cog pieces, as well as decorative pieces were screwed onto a wooden backboard. In the center of it all is a larger cog that lists the names of the four students, and also holds an iris and a crank. Upon turning the crank, all the cogs on the board move in unity.

“We spend so much time talking about what we don’t have in common,” said Michael, “that part of the goal we had this summer is to find out what we do have in common. All we hear about what is on this board is what’s wrong with it all. We got to look at what is right. We live in a multicultural country, and one of the things this shows us is that if one of the pieces were to break down, the entire thing would cease to function. For them to see that we all need one another to make this world work, for me was pretty incredible.”

The students were enamored with the project and put in far more hours than the class had required, often staying late in the evenings to work on it. Student Grace Wagner (also a rising senior at R-MA) estimated that the cogs each took two hours to cut out, while her mother, Stephanie Wagner, estimated that from concept to completion, each cog represented closer to about twelve hours of work. Because the work included everything from art and graphic design to engineering and math, the students assisted each other and ended up learning about the religions as they were doing so.

“When students are doing and creating, they learn more,” said Stephanie. “This entire creation didn’t exist two weeks ago. These students will always remember making it, and they are much more likely to remember what they learned in doing so – not just about the different religions, but about the mathematics and engineering and the computer design work as well. This is what the world requires of our students. When you go to work, you don’t only use one skill. You need many, and you need to understand how to use them all at the same time when you’re approaching a challenge. The way we teach our students needs to reflect that.”

Randolph-Macon Academy (R-MA), founded in 1892, is a college-preparatory, coeducational boarding school for students in grades 6 through 12. Students in grades 9-12 participate in R-MA’s 91st Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), and have the opportunity to learn to fly through a unique flight program. The Academy also offers several summer programs. R-MA is affiliated with the United Methodist Church and is located in Front Royal, VA.

By Celeste Brooks

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Changes coming to North Royal Avenue



Photo by Mike McCool, Royal Examiner.

The former Title Max building (and for some us the old Hardees) is coming down. Dupont Credit Union has purchased the property. So we’ll see if we’ll have another credit union in town soon. Also changes coming to to the other end of town too. CVS is moving into the RiteAid building, Big Lots to the old Food Lion and rumors that Starbucks in looking at the current CVS space. Now everyone is asking where will Chick-fil-A go?

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Thermal Shelter of Front Royal will open on December 21st



Eric Repleog (Virginia Hills Church), Bobby Stepp (New Hope Bible Church), Michele Smeltzer and Jim Bunce (Marlow Heights Baptist Church) discuss the Thermal Shelter opening on December 21st. Photo and video by Mike McCool, Royal Examiner.

The Thermal Shelter of Front Royal will open on December 21st  and will be open every night until April 4, 2020.

The Thermal Shelter is a non-profit organization, non-denominational, low barrier, overnight shelter for homeless adults (over 18) men and women. The Thermal Shelter works in partnership with local churches, during the winter months.  Their guests are provided a hot dinner, bed and a packed breakfast & lunch in the morning.

Free transportation to Shelter is provided each night. Guests are picked up between 6:30pm – 6:45pm  at the CCap office, which is located behind St. Luke’s Community Clinic at 316 N. Royal Avenue in Front Royal.

Mike McCool, the publisher of the Royal Examiner spoke with Michele Smeltzer along with  Jim Bunce from Marlow Heights Baptist Church, Eric Repleog from Virginia Hills Church and Bobby Stepp from New Hope Bible Church in the exclusive video:

Here is the list of local churches and times when they will be the host for the Thermal Shelter:

Saturday, December 21, 2019 New Hope Bible Church – 80 N Lake Dr., Front Royal
Saturday, December 28, 2019 Dynamic Life Church – 1600 John Marshall Hwy, Front Royal
Saturday, January 4, 2020 (Fauquier) Linden United Methodist Church 13466 John Marshall Hwy, Linden
Saturday, January 11, 2020 First Baptist Church – 14 West 1st Street, Front Royal
Saturday, January 18, 2020 Front Royal United Methodist Church- 1 West Main St. Front Royal
Saturday, January 25, 2020 Calvary Episcopal Church- 132 N. Royal Ave, Front Royal
Saturday, February 1, 2020 Riverton Methodist Church – 55 E. Strasburg Rd, Front Royal
Saturday, February 8, 2020 Marlow Heights Baptist Church – 517 Braxton Rd, Front Royal
Saturday, February 15, 2020 Marlow Heights Baptist Church – 517 Braxton Rd, Front Royal
Saturday, February 22, 2020 Virginia Hills Church – 737 Rockland Rd, Front Royal
Saturday, February 29, 2020 Virginia Hills Church – 737 Rockland Rd, Front Royal
Saturday, March 7, 2020 First Baptist Church – 14 West 1st Street, Front Royal
Saturday, March 14, 2020 Church of the Rock – 620 Virginia Ave, Front Royal
Saturday, March 21, 2020 Church at Skyline – 7655 Stonewall Jackson Hwy, Front Royal
Saturday, March 28, 2020 Front Royal Presbyterian Church- 115 Luray Ave, Front Royal

For more information, please visit their Facebook Page here.  Also you can contact: Michelle Smeltzer (540) 892-6108

Donation are accepted (and needed) and can be mailed to :

Thermal Shelter of Front Royal
PO Box 454
Front Royal, VA 22630

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EDA in Focus

January 10th set for decision on EDA civil defendant motions to quash



Attorneys for multiple Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority civil litigation defendants argued for dismissal of their clients’ inclusion in that list in Warren County Circuit Court on Thursday, December 12. After hearing over 4-1/2 hours of testimony surrounding a 45-minute lunch break, Judge Bruce D. Albertson took those arguments and plaintiff counsel counter-arguments under advisement.

After an explanation to defendants present, including Donald Poe, April Petty and Jesse Poe, about the reason for the time he will take before returning to court to make a ruling on their and other defendants’ counsel arguments, Albertson set a date of January 10, at 2:30 p.m. to make his ruling.

That is the same date the judge continued a scheduled Show Cause hearing on a Civil Contempt charge against primary EDA civil and criminal defendant Jennifer McDonald earlier during the Thursday docket. McDonald’s civil contempt hearing will follow an already scheduled McDonald criminal hearing on the 1 p.m. docket on January 10.

McDonald’s criminal case attorney Peter Greenspun informed Albertson he was taking over his client’s civil case as well in the wake of the withdrawal of her former civil attorney Lee Berlik.

Greenspun told the court he needed additional time to familiarize himself with the civil aspects of McDonald’s legal situation.

A third EDA-related hearing on Thursday morning’s docket was Donald Poe counsel William Ashwell’s motion to Quash a Perjury charge regarding the Earth Right Energy principal’s testimony to the EDA Special Grand Jury. That case went forward first on what was slated to be an 8 a.m. start to Thursday’s docket, delayed by late arrivals of a court reporter and McDonald’s Northern Virginia-based attorney.

After hearing Ashwell and new Rockingham County prosecutor’s arguments, Albertson deferred a ruling on dismissal of Poe’s perjury charge to the January 22 date on which that trial is scheduled to begin.

Ashwell told the court that his client was the one defendant “not on the continuance train” with an originally slated perjury trial date of December 6 having been moved to a three-day slot in January to accommodate the recent placement of a new prosecutor’s office to handle all the EDA criminal cases. Incoming Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney John Bell has recused himself from EDA cases and current County Commonwealth Attorney Bryan Layton has withdrawn due to his pending departure from the office.

It was another long EDA day at the Warren County Courthouse – Royal Examiner File Photo/Roger Bianchini

In addition to McDonald on her case and Donald Poe, April Petty and Jesse Poe who were present with counsel Thursday, EDA civil defendants represented in Thursday’s Demurrer motions hearing were Truc “Curt” Tran and ITFederal and Poe’s Earth Right Energy Solar Panel Installation company.

The basis of those defense counsel arguments for dismissal of their clients from the civil case revolved around several points. Primary among those is the plaintiff notion of an overarching conspiracy that somehow links the various defendants to central figure and former EDA Executive Director McDonald; and that there were definable contractual breaches by those defendants making them individually liable for funds that came their way through McDonald.

Lead plaintiff attorney Cullen Seltzer argued that there did not have to have to be direct knowledge among all defendants of each interlocking conspiracy McDonald is alleged to having been a party to for that conspiracy to exist.

He used an analogy to a gang that planned to rob every Bank of America in Richmond, saying a gang member assigned to one “bank job” did not have to know the detail of every other bank robbery to be criminally liable for the entire take.

Seltzer dismissed defense arguments that “McDonald is a rouge tornado dumping all this EDA money into all these pockets” without the recipients’ knowledge that something illegal was transpiring that they were beneficiaries of.

However, Jesse Poe and April Petty’s attorney William Schmidheiser argued that such a conspiracy theory did not apply to his clients, whose alleged “unjust enrichment” did not go directly to them, but rather to real estate companies handling the closings on their homes.

Schmidheiser noted his clients’ limited incomes, telling the court the reason he represented them both was a necessity to pool their resources to finance their defenses. He called their being packaged as part of an alleged $21 million civil suit conspiracy for mortgage payoffs of $125,000 (Petty) and $280,000 (Jesse Poe) was, short of the loss of a child or a cancer diagnosis, one of the worst things that could happen to an average person.

He said that while there might be “unjust enrichment” claims the plaintiff could argue – we’ll deal with those down the road, he told the court – the circumstance of his clients’ involvement distanced them from the plaintiff EDA counsel’s conspiracy theory.

He compared his clients’ circumstance to that of the casino McDonald is alleged to have lost at least $750,000 gambling at, noting that while the casino received cash from McDonald that could have been EDA assets, the casino was not a defendant.

In arguing that Earth Right Energy’s (ERE) contracts with the EDA through its then-executive director were valid and binding, attorney Ryan Huttar told the court that at the time those contracts were enacted “Jennifer McDonald (was) the EDA”.

That was a point the EDA legal team disputed, noting that large dollar (over $10,000) transactions had to be approved by the EDA Board of Directors, which they stated, did not happen.

ITFederal attorney Brandon Elledge argued that the EDA Board did approve the $10 million dollar loan it is seeking recovery of from his client, as well as the subsequent vendor payments of $1.4 million also in dispute.

Sands Anderson plaintiff counsel countered that the loan and the vendor payments were received under false pretenses concocted by Tran and McDonald in concert.

Elledge also stressed that Tran remains current on his loan payments, and that no proof had been offered that his client personally benefited from the payments, rather than professionally as intended. Oddly however, the Deed of Trust on the property was amended so that Tran only has to spend $2 million of the $10 million loan on the Front Royal property.

In setting the January 10 date for a decision on the motions to dismiss the defendants from the civil suit, Judge Albertson compared himself to a student.

“The attorneys teach us their view of what the law is” related to their cases “and it will take several weeks to fact check their arguments – I will treat this seriously, please be patient,” he asked the defendants present.

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Clear Brook woman charged in South Royal Avenue traffic incident



A 44-year-old Frederick County woman has been charged regarding a Monday evening traffic incident on South Royal Avenue in Front Royal. According to the RSW Jail website, Susan Miller Harbaugh, from Clear Brook, Virginia, was booked on two charges, Driving While Intoxicated and Vandalism, Intentional Destruction of Property (monument).

Harbaugh was booked into the jail at 12:29 a.m. Tuesday morning, December 10, and released at 5:28 p.m. that afternoon.

Susan Miller Harbaugh at time of processing into RSW Jail – Photo RSW Jail website

According to Front Royal Police Sgt. Jason Winner, “On December 9, 2019, at approximately 9:50 p.m. FRPD officers were dispatched to the area of the 200 block of South Royal Avenue for a report of an accident. While responding to the area, officers were informed that a vehicle had left the scene of that accident and was traveling North on Royal Avenue.

“Officers located the vehicle that left the accident and conducted a traffic stop. It was determined during the accident investigation that the vehicle had struck a light pole on the side of the road.

That pole was knocked down into the roadway and was struck by another vehicle.”

Harbaugh was apprehended on North Royal Avenue.

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Front Royal man arrested after reported shooting in the 200 block of Cloud Street



George Lee Good. Booking photo, courtesy of Front Royal Police Department.

On November 27, 2019, at approximately 11:55 pm, the Front Royal Police Department responded to a report of a shooting in the 200 block of Cloud Street. When Officers arrived on scene, they encountered a male subject with non-life-threatening injuries, including a gunshot wound to his inner thigh.

Based on investigative findings, a suspect was identified as George Lee Good, 28, of Front Royal. Warrants were obtained on Good for 18.2-51 Maliciously Shoot or Wound; 18.2-53.1 Use of a Firearm in the commission of a felony; and 18.2-308.2 Possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Other charges may be forthcoming regarding other involved individuals.

George Good was taken into custody without incident by Winchester Police Department during a DUI checkpoint. Good is currently at Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center where he is being held without bond. This investigation is on-going and anyone with further information is asked to contact Detective D. L. Fogle at (540)636-2208 or via email

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Three hospitalized after Saturday night Route 55 East head-on collision



A 20-year-old Front Royal woman has been charged with reckless driving in connection with a three-car accident at 10:53 p.m. Saturday evening, December 7, off John Marshall Highway near Linden. According to a Virginia State Police Press Release issued Tuesday afternoon, December 10, a head-on collision between two of the involved vehicles sent the three occupants of those cars to Winchester Medical Center with serious injuries.

The driver of the third vehicle, which was being passed westbound on Route 55/John Marshall Highway 100 feet west of Route 651 (Gore Road), was uninjured.

Virginia State Police Trooper D. Ayers is investigating the accident. That investigation is ongoing.

According to VSP, “A 2014 Chevy Cruze was traveling west on Rt. 55 when it crossed a double solid yellow line and attempted to pass a westbound 2006 Nissan Murano. The Chevy attempted to avoid an approaching eastbound 2006 Hyundai Sonata and collided with the Nissan. That impact caused the Chevy and Hyundai to collide head-on.”

Above, White’s Chevy Cruze, and below the Hyundai Sonata following Saturday night’s head on collision that seriously injured all three occupants who were, fortunately wearing seatbelts. The driver of a third vehicle the Chevy was attempting to pass and struck trying to avoid a head-on was uninjured.

The driver of the Chevy, Brittney N. White, 20, of Front Royal, Va. was charged with reckless driving (46.2-854) passing at a hillcrest. White, along with a 19-year-old female passenger in her car, were two of those transported to Winchester Medical Center for treatment of serious injuries. Both were wearing seat belts.

The driver of the eastbound Hyundai, a 17-year-old female of Front Royal, was also reported to be wearing a seatbelt and was also transported to Winchester Medical Center with serious injuries.

The driver of the Nissan that White was attempting to pass, a 58-year-old male, of Stanley, Va. was uninjured and was also wearing a seat-belt.

The crash remains under investigation.

The Virginia State Police were assisted by the Warren Sheriff’s Office, and Warren County Fire and Rescue.

According to a Warren County Fire and Rescue post on the incident one of the occupants of the head-on collision vehicles had to be cut out by responding units, a process that took 10 minutes. The other injured and uninjured parties were able to self-extricate from the vehicles. Of the incident Warren County Emergency Services wrote:

“Just before 11:00 p.m. on Saturday night, WCFR units were dispatched for a reported motor vehicle traffic crash in the area of John Marshal Highway and Faith Way.

“An EMS unit from Linden Station 4 quickly arrived on the scene to find two vehicles with major damage from what appeared to be a head-on type collision. It was determined that a total of three vehicles were involved in the crash which contained a total of four possible patients. Three patients were able to self-rescue from their vehicles, a fourth was trapped as a result of the crash.

“Crews began to treat the injured victims while firefighters worked to extricate the trapped driver. It took approximately 10 minutes to extricate the trapped patient.

“Three total patients were ground transported to Winchester Trauma Center, the fourth refused any treatment on the scene.

“Crews were assisted on the scene by Warren County Sheriff’s Office and the Virginia State Police.

“Units on the call: Ambulance 4, Medic 1, Medic 10, Rescue Squad 1”

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King Cartoons

‘Tis the Season


Front Royal
07:2216:51 EST
Feels like: 35°F
Wind: 2mph NNE
Humidity: 95%
Pressure: 30.1"Hg
UV index: 0
min 34°F


Upcoming Events

6:00 pm Holiday Open House @ Ruby Yoga
Holiday Open House @ Ruby Yoga
Dec 13 @ 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Holiday Open House @ Ruby Yoga
Ruby Yoga will host a Holiday Open House Friday, Dec. 13. Doors open at 6 p.m. with free gentle yoga starting at 6:20, followed by refreshments and door prize drawings.
7:30 pm Canticum Novum: Sing a New Song @ Front Royal Presbyterian Church
Canticum Novum: Sing a New Song @ Front Royal Presbyterian Church
Dec 13 @ 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Canticum Novum: Sing a New Song @ Front Royal Presbyterian Church
The Blue Ridge Singers presents its 2019 Christmas concert titled “Canticum Novum:  Sing a New Song” featuring some of the finest Christmas choral music across the centuries at one of the most popular events in[...]
11:00 am Celebrate George Washington @ Samuels Public Library
Celebrate George Washington @ Samuels Public Library
Dec 14 @ 11:00 am – 12:30 pm
Celebrate George Washington @ Samuels Public Library
December 14 is the 220th anniversary of George Washington’s death. Today we will learn more about this great leader of our country and celebrate his legacy. Refreshments will be served. For ages 7 to 18.[...]
11:00 am Saturday with Santa @ Warren County Community Center
Saturday with Santa @ Warren County Community Center
Dec 14 @ 11:00 am – 2:00 pm
Saturday with Santa @ Warren County Community Center
Bring the kids and your camera for yummy snacks, crafts, and a picture with Santa and Mrs. Claus! All are welcome!
1:00 pm “Clara, Little Mouse & the Golde... @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
“Clara, Little Mouse & the Golde... @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Dec 14 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
"Clara, Little Mouse & the Golden Key" @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Join us for this original version of the timeless story ballet The Nutcracker Suite. Follow Clara and Little Mouse on a journey to find what the Golden Key unlocks… Christmas will never be the same[...]
4:00 pm R-MA Hosts Community Christmas C... @ Randolph-Macon Academy | Boggs Chapel
R-MA Hosts Community Christmas C... @ Randolph-Macon Academy | Boggs Chapel
Dec 15 @ 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm
R-MA Hosts Community Christmas Concert @ Randolph-Macon Academy | Boggs Chapel
The local community is invited to join the Randolph-Macon Academy family for an afternoon of holiday spirit with the R-MA Band and Chorus! The annual R-MA Christmas Concert will be held on Sunday, December 15th,[...]
4:30 pm Science Scouts and More @ Samuels Public Library
Science Scouts and More @ Samuels Public Library
Dec 17 @ 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm
Science Scouts and More @ Samuels Public Library
Tuesday, December 3: Kids will explore popular books and book series through science, games, food, and more! After reading a Christmas story, we’ll discuss giving and how it affects us and the people around us.[...]
7:30 pm Christmas Concert @ Boggs Chapel on the R-MA Campus
Christmas Concert @ Boggs Chapel on the R-MA Campus
Dec 17 @ 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Christmas Concert @ Boggs Chapel on the R-MA Campus
Christmas Concert | Presented by the American Legion Community Band Tuesday, December 17, 2019, at 7:30 pm Boggs Chapel on the R-MA campus in Front Royal, VA
10:15 am Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Dec 18 @ 10:15 am – 12:00 pm
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
10:15 Toddler story time | 11:00 Preschool story time Wednesday, December 4 and Thursday, December 5: Gingerbread and Candy Canes will be the delicious theme of our stories, songs, and craft this week! Siblings welcome.[...]
10:15 am Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Dec 19 @ 10:15 am – 12:00 pm
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
10:15 Toddler story time | 11:00 Preschool story time Wednesday, December 4 and Thursday, December 5: Gingerbread and Candy Canes will be the delicious theme of our stories, songs, and craft this week! Siblings welcome.[...]