The Warren County School Board on Wednesday, May 5 approved the 2021-2022 budget for Warren County Public Schools (WCPS), as well as the appointment of a new principal for Skyline High School.
During its first action agenda item, the School Board approved the appointment of Danelle Sperling, the principal at Leslie Fox Keyser Elementary School for the past five years, as the new principal at Skyline High School beginning on July 1. Sperling replaces Michael E. Smith, who had been Skyline High School’s principal since July 2015.
According to the Skyline High School website, Smith’s name, title, and pictures have been removed. The Royal Examiner today asked WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger to provide more details about when and why Smith left his position. Ballenger responded in an email that such information regards a personnel matter “and our policy and practice is not to discuss personnel matters.” And while it’s unclear when Smith left his position, Ballenger wrote in his email that “the admin leadership team continued to lead the school.”
On Wednesday night at the board meeting, Ballenger introduced and recommended Sperling’s appointment, telling the School Board that she “has a wealth of experience in and out of education and has served in various positions in Georgia, Ohio, New Jersey, and Virginia.”
Sperling’s experience includes stints as an assistant high school principal, a middle school special education teacher and department chairwoman, music therapist, writer and editor for the U.S. Department of Defense, and group home and program manager, all of which “have provided her with the extensive preparation needed for this position,” Ballenger said during the meeting.
The superintendent added that Sperling is a dedicated community member, who has been a Warren County resident for 14 years, and her two children both attend Warren County Public Schools.
Following a motion by board member James Wells and a second by member Kristen Pence, the board voted unanimously to approve Sperling’s appointment, with Board Chairman Arnold Williams, Jr., and board members Catherine Bower, Wells, and Pence voting aye. Board member Ralph Rinaldi was absent during the May 5 meeting.
“I have been truly, truly blessed for the last five years to work with the most amazing faculty, staff, students, and families” at Keyser Elementary School,” Sperling told the School Board members following their vote. “It is an experience for which I will forever be grateful.”
Sperling said she’s also grateful for the opportunity to help lead Skyline High School and “to continue to serve my community in this new role.”
WCPS now begins the search for Sperling’s replacement at Keyser Elementary.
The second action agenda item approved unanimously by the board, with Rinaldi absent, was the fiscal year (FY) 2021-2022 Operating Fund Budget in the amount of $63,944,829 and the Cafeteria Fund Budget in the amount of $2,896,000.
The Warren County Board of Supervisors at its April 27 Special Meeting approved the FY 2022 County Budget, which included both the WCPS FY 2022 Operating Fund Budget in the amount of $63,944,829 and the School Cafeteria Fund Budget in the amount of $2,896,000.
The approved Operating Fund budget represents a reduction of $165,589 from the proposed FY 2022 School Operating Fund Budget that was adopted by the School Board at its February 17 meeting.
Reductions to the proposed budget totaling $165,589 were then made at the board’s April 7 meeting and the adjustments were included in the final recommended budget.
“A couple of things happened since then that we’re going to have to absorb within our current budget and we can do that with our staff turnover,” explained Ballenger prior to the board’s vote. In fact, WCPS Personnel Director George “Bucky” Smith told the board that thus far, the division will have to fill 20 resignations and seven retirements.
The items WCPS will absorb, according to Ballenger, include a decision by Warren County supervisors to authorize the establishment of its own tech department. WCPS had been providing the County with one full-time and one part-time tech specialist. Now that the County will have its own three-person tech department, WCPS “will not receive that revenue,” Ballenger said, “so we will have to absorb that other part-time so that we can keep the one full-time employee.”
The other item relates to the Virginia State minimum wage, which is set to increase in January 2022. Ballenger said that WCPS decided to proactively implement the increase now. “We just felt that it was fair to our staff members who are in those positions,” he told board members. “It’s the right thing to do and it’s something that we can manage.”
The cost for WCPS to cover the minimum wage increase is around $27,000, Ballenger said.
In reviewing other budget highlights, Ballenger pointed to a 2-percent salary increase for teachers, plus a step. WCPS also adjusted the majority of its salary scales in the budget, he explained and placed all employees at their appropriate steps according to their years of experience.
However, there were several salary scales that did not get adjusted, such as those for maintenance journeymen, a maintenance bus driver, certain administrative personnel, and a social worker and psychologist, among others, according to Ballenger, who said their positions have been moved to the proper step for their years of experience.
Another benefit of the approved operating budget is that it “helps us in providing stability for our health insurance, so we’ll be able to take the savings from moving carriers to Aetna and put that in our account to help offset any increases we would see in future years,” he said.
WCPS will also add staff, including two activity drivers — who drive students home following practices, events, or other participation activities — one English language teacher, two gifted and talented teachers, one half-time criminal justice teacher, one history teacher, a special education assistant, a sign language interpreter, and one dual enrollment English teacher, said Ballenger.
The approved budget also includes a $100,000 increase for maintenance, he added, “so we can move from 40-percent scheduled maintenance to 60-percent scheduled maintenance. We want to schedule more of the work instead of always running around and trying to fix what’s broken. Let’s go ahead and get in front of this.”
Ballenger also said that previously approved federal COVID-19 relief funds will enable WCPS to complete HVAC renovations at Leslie Fox Keyser Elementary and at Blue Ridge Technical Center, both of which also need new roofs. The school district also wants to buy eight new buses, as well as new textbooks for science, English as a Second Lange, and foreign language, according to the budget.
Overall, the new final budget will enable WCPS “to attack all the things we want to attack and address this year,” Ballenger said.
“It’s really nice to see that we can take care of our community,” Board Chairman Williams commented after Ballenger’s presentation.
Approval followed a motion by board member Pence, a second by Vice Chairwoman Bower, with all members voting aye and Rinaldi absent. A copy of the final approved budget is available at: https://go.boarddocs.com/vsba/warren/Board.nsf/files/C2QSWS71E353/$file/FY22%20final%20budget.pdf.
The School Board also unanimously approved 10 other action agenda items, including the purchase of elementary science textbooks totaling $236,747.75; an almost $160,000 contract for new Chromebooks for the 2021-2022 school year; a new preschool curriculum costing $33,349.73; and two contract awards to the Gordian Group, one in the amount of $56,969.36 to perform site work and to erect a newly purchased greenhouse at Skyline High School, the other for $22,427.21 to provide all labor and materials to prepare and paint the west side exterior windows and columns on the historic front entrance to Skyline Middle School.
School Board Vice-Chair Bower asked WCPS Technology Director Tim Grant if the approved purchase of the new laptops will fulfill the school division’s technology needs. Grant replied that the purchase of technology is always going to be a revolving door for WCPS, as it is in other districts.
To view the entire WCPS School Board meeting video, go to: https://wcps.new.swagit.com/videos/120466.
VDOT: Warren County Traffic alert for July 4 – 8, 2022
The following is a list of highway work that may affect traffic in Warren County during the coming weeks. Scheduled work is subject to change due to inclement weather and material supplies. Motorists are advised to watch for slow-moving tractors during mowing operations. When traveling through a work zone, be alert to periodic changes in traffic patterns and lane closures.
*NEW* or *UPDATE* indicates a new or revised entry since last week’s report.
Mile marker 0 to 15, eastbound and westbound – Right shoulder closures for utility work from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm through July 30.
*NEW* Mile marker 7 to 15, eastbound and westbound – Overnight single lane closures for pavement marking, Tuesday and Wednesday nights from 9:00 pm to 5:00 am.
Mile marker 8 to 7, westbound – Right lane closures for utility work, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm through July 30.
Mile marker 300 to 299, northbound and southbound – Right shoulder closures for utility work, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm through July 30.
Route 55 (Strasburg Road) – Flagger traffic control for safety improvements between Shenandoah County line and Front Royal town limits, 7:00 am to 7:00 pm through July 29.
Route 55 (Strasburg Road) – Shoulder closures for utility work in the area of Route 664 (Whipporwill Road), 8:30 am to 3:30 pm through July 15.
Various roads – Flagger traffic control when needed for debris cleanup. Weekdays during daylight hours. Estimated completion July 22.
Vegetation management may take place district-wide on various routes. Motorists are reminded to use extreme caution when traveling through work zones.
Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at www.511Virginia.org.
The VDOT Customer Service Center can assist with reporting road hazards, asking transportation questions, or getting information related to Virginia’s roads. Call 800-FOR- ROAD (800-367-7623) or use its mobile-friendly website at my.vdot.virginia.gov. Agents are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Town man charged with 20 felony counts of child pornography possession after lengthy investigation
Following an eight-month investigation, Front Royal Police officers have arrested a town man for possession of child pornography.
Richard E. Jones, 41, of Front Royal, was arrested on Thursday, June 30, and transported to the Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren (RSW) Regional Jail, where he was charged with 20 felony counts of Possession of Child Pornography.
A Friday media release from Police Chief Kahle Magalis states that detectives, on Oct. 12, 2021, executed a search warrant on an Accomac Drive home, where “several electronic devices were located and seized for evidentiary purposes.” The release says, “Over 400 images of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) were extracted from the seized electronics.”
Jones went before the magistrate and was ordered to be held without bond. He has an initial court date for the listed offenses on July 28, 2022, at 10:00 a.m. in Warren County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
FRPD Detective T. A. Smith is the lead investigator in the case. Anyone with further information regarding this case is asked to contact Detective Smith at (540) 636-2208 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Front Royal Police Department is an active member of the Northern Virginia/DC Metro (NOVA/DC) Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, which is coordinated by the Virginia State Police. Anyone with information regarding the solicitation or exploitation of a minor is encouraged to contact the Front Royal Police Department.
Front Royal Police investigating an unattended death in Town
The Front Royal Police Department is investigating an unattended death after responding to a Thursday night, June 30 call around 10:30 p.m.
Upon arriving at First Bank, at 1729 North Shenandoah Avenue, officers located a deceased white male, 41, in the grassy area between First Bank and United Bank parking lots. The Front Royal man, whom the FRPD has not identified, appeared to have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
A media release from FRPD Chief Kahle Magalis said the victim was not affiliated with the bank and is believed to have walked there from a nearby hotel. This incident is under investigation with assistance from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
The release states, “Due to the pending nature of this ongoing investigation and respect for his family, no further details can be provided at this time.”
Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to contact Detective T. A. Smith at (540) 636-2208 or by email at email@example.com.
School Board approves reduced FY23 operating budget ‘to keep the doors open’
While the local school district’s new budget isn’t exactly what the Warren County School Board originally sought, they voted 5-0 on Wednesday, June 29 to approve it so that Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) may continue operating uninterrupted.
During the School Board’s special meeting, School Board Chair Kristen Pence, Vice-Chair Ralph Rinaldi, and members Antoinette Funk, Andrea Lo, and Melanie Salins unanimously adopted the WCPS fiscal year 2022-2023 budget, which totals roughly $69 million and includes approximately $53.2 million for its operations fund, almost $12.4 million for capital improvements, and nearly $3.4 million for the cafeteria fund.
The new operations budget is less than what the school district initially adopted and then sought approval from the Warren County Board of Supervisors (BOS) because the BOS on Tuesday, June 28 unanimously voted to temporarily fund WCPS operations at 75 percent due to fiscal concerns. So, while WCPS had requested almost $71 million for its school operating fund for FY23 — which brought its total FY23 budget request to nearly $92 million — the school division for now, agreed to adopt the total $69,007,344 budget for the upcoming school year.
That amount, said WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger, is enough to allow the district to continue operations starting on July 1. “If we did not have a budget of course on Friday we would not be able to open our doors,” he told the School Board. “This at least allows our doors to stay open.”
As part of the FY23 budget, WCPS employees will receive a 5 percent salary increase, inclusive of an experience step, as well as $1,000 bonuses provided by the State of Virginia. WCPS Finance Director Robert Ballentine said employees can expect to receive those bonuses by the end of the year.
The state bonuses will be in addition to the pandemic-related bonuses for WCPS employees. Full-time employees who worked during the 2021-2022 school year — and who are returning for the upcoming school year — will receive a net bonus of $1,500; this includes recent retirees. Part-time WCPS employees during school year 2021-2022 will receive $750, while employees hired after Dec. 31, 2021, are eligible for half of the full-time and part-time bonuses.
After some back and forth during the last month between the boards, the BOS on Tuesday agreed to allow WCPS to transfer $125,000 between School Board budget categories to help cover its one-time employee bonuses, which are expected to total about $1.7 million and are majority funded by leftover funds from the last school year’s vacant positions, mid-year turnover, new employees entering on a lower pay scale, etc.
The approved FY23 WCPS operating fund also covers funding for 15.5 new positions, grounds maintenance, pupil transportation, and technology, among other items, according to the supervisor’s budget document.
The School Board and the BOS plan to continue working together to finalize the FY23 budget for WCPS. Both Pence and Ballenger told the Royal Examiner earlier this week that they remain hopeful for improved communication between their boards.
“I’m glad we now have the opportunity to talk about this budget in more detail and discuss how this will impact the school system so that a sound decision can be made concerning the division’s FY23 budget,” Ballenger wrote in an email.
“I look forward to the conversations that lie ahead between the School Board and Board of Supervisors budget subcommittee,” wrote Pence.
During the School Board’s special meeting on Wednesday, Funk said that the board’s budget committee members are discussing the budget and the options presented during the BOS meeting on Tuesday and hope to meet with BOS budget subcommittee members next week.
Lo said that School Board budget committee members also discussed how to build better communication between them and the BOS budget subcommittee members “to ensure our goals are aligned with the goals of the supervisors so that we’re working together.”
Rinaldi said there should be a timeline developed and adopted to have the FY23 budget settled. “I think that’s important to start our plan for the fall,” he added.
The School Board unanimously agreed to request that the BOS increase the WCPS technology category in the FY22 budget operating fund by $140,476. WCPS has received a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) grant to install Wi-Fi connectivity on its school buses. To spend the grant money, an additional appropriation must be received by the BOS. Ballenger said the grant money is for a Wi-Fi radio system being installed to allow direct communications between the buses and the schools. “We’re getting close to having [this system] fully implemented for this year,” he added.
In circling back, Pence said, the School Board during a previous meeting had voted to approve the purchase and the use and to date had not made this additional appropriation.
For this type of grant, WCPS Finance Director Ballentine explained that WCPS must spend the money first before getting the federal reimbursement, “which is in the pipeline right now,” he said.
Because of that, the County has already fronted, so to speak, the money to pay for it. So, this request would basically be paying back the County for those local funds that were advanced to pay for the system, and then WCPS will get reimbursed with the federal funds, said Ballentine.
In a proactive step, School Board members asked Ballentine if they should change how they make such requests of the BOS. For instance, when informed of receiving a grant, should the School Board then go to the BOS and explain that the grant is forthcoming, what will be done with the funds, and at that time make a request to increase an appropriation by that specific amount. Then the School Board would be in a position to issue a contract and accept the grant.
“The way that I look at it, that would be, in an ideal world, the best way to handle that,” Ballentine said. “It’s asking for permission rather than forgiveness.”
Following a motion by Rinaldi to request that the BOS increase the School Board’s fiscal year 2021-2022 operating fund budget category 68000 Technology by $140,476, with a second by Funk, the board voted 5-0 to approve.
Additionally, WCPS Director of Personnel Shane Goodwin (above) presented the 2022 Personnel Report to the School Board on Wednesday for approval.
“We’ve all been working hard to make sure we find the very best candidates for our students to be in our classrooms and in each one of our facilities,” Goodwin said.
Prior to the vote on the personnel report, School Board member Salins asked if board members could be present during exit interviews for outgoing WCPS staff. Goodwin said he’d like to ask Dr.
Ballenger to work with the group “and we’ll find a way to present that in a format that you’d like.”
Salins again asked: “Is there a way for us to heed the advice the [Warren County] Board of Supervisors gave us [during its June 28 meeting] and actually do physical interviews with staff that is leaving in the hopes that we can stop them from leaving and just settle any issues that they might be having?”
“The practice that is in place now goes back some time,” Goodwin answered. “I’m sure there’s an opportunity for us to adjust that as you may see fit or as needed.
“Of course, I would love the opportunity for us to retain people because we wouldn’t have to recruit,” said Goodwin. “We’d be glad to look into that as long as it fits into our policy that you all have approved. If needed, we could create a new one. We would be happy to do that together.”
Following a motion by Funk with a second by Salins, the School Board voted 5-0 to approve the 2022 Personnel Report, which included four resignations, one retirement, and 12 appointments.
To watch the meeting in its entirety, go to: https://wcps.new.swagit.com/videos/176504
St. Luke’s Community Clinic shares medical supplies with locals and third-world countries
Often, following the death of a loved one, families are left wondering what to do with items no longer needed, such as medical equipment and supplies. Some organizations
St. Luke’s Community Clinic in Front Royal, which serves low-income and indigent patients, will happily accept all types of medical equipment and supplies.
St. Luke’s Executive Director, Vicki L. Davies, says that the clinic frequently gets donations when medical equipment and supplies are no longer needed. Many of the donated items go to local residents who have expressed a need and can be kept permanently or returned when no longer needed.
Davies says typical items donated to St. Luke’s include walkers, wheelchairs, shower chairs, etc. When there is an overabundance of items, (which typically happens about every three months) the clinic has three loyal volunteers who show up and transport the surplus equipment to the Manassas Medical Missionaries facility. From there, the supplies are loaded onto a boat or airplane for shipping to third-world countries, where all medical equipment is in short supply.
The volunteers, affectionally referred to by Davies as “our cellar rats,” pack all the supplies into boxes and label them for shipment. The Shenandoah Area for Aging helps with the donation of supplies by driving the equipment to the Manassas location.
Davies says items typically sent overseas include dressing and wound care supplies, medical equipment, C-Pap machines, tube feeding supplies, and this month a prosthetic leg. She said, “I think it’s wonderful how non-profits work together to help others so that expensive medical supplies do not go to waste.
St. Luke’s Community Clinic strives to serve eligible residents of Front Royal/Warren County. For more information on new patient screening requirements or ask how to donate medical equipment and supplies call: (540) 636-4325. St. Luke Community Clinic, 316 North Royal Avenue, Front Royal, Virginia or visit the website https://saintlukeclinic.org/.
Celebrate smart, safe & sober this July 4 holiday weekend
Independence Day traditions include backyard barbecues, festivals, family gatherings and fireworks. To keep all those living, working, visiting and traveling through Virginia safe during the extended holiday weekend, the Virginia State Police is encouraging Virginians to play it smart and plan ahead to ensure everyone on the road is safe and sober.
“Summer days are filled with celebrations, vacations, outdoor festivals and backyard cookouts, but no matter where your plans take you, please make safety your priority,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “With fatal traffic crashes on pace this year to mimic last year’s record number, I urge all Virginians to buckle up, eliminate distractions and never drive buzzed, drunk or under the influence. Together we can make this Independence Day the safest on record!”
If planning to drink alcohol at a July 4 function, plan ahead and arrange a designated driver, use a rideshare service or taxi, or utilize public transportation to be certain you get home safely. Party hosts are encouraged to serve non-alcoholic beverage options, and to help prevent any guests from drinking and driving home from their event.
As part of its ongoing efforts to increase safety and reduce traffic fatalities on Virginia’s highways during the coming holiday weekend, Virginia State Police will increase patrols from 12:01 a.m. Friday (July 1, 2022) through midnight Monday (July 4, 2022) as part of the Operation Crash Awareness Reduction Effort (C.A.R.E.). Operation C.A.R.E. is a state-sponsored, national program intended to reduce crashes, fatalities and injuries due to impaired driving, speed and failing to wear a seat belt.
During last year’s four-day Independence Day Operation C.A.R.E initiative, there were 12 traffic deaths on Virginia highways. Virginia troopers arrested 61 drivers operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs, cited 4,025 speeders and 1,434 reckless drivers, and issued 510 citations to individuals for failing to obey the law and buckle up. Troopers also assisted 1,550 disabled/stranded motorists.
With increased holiday patrols, Virginia State Police also reminds drivers of Virginia’s “Move Over” law, which requires motorists to move over when approaching an emergency vehicle stopped alongside the road. If unable to move over, then drivers are required to cautiously pass the emergency vehicle. The law also applies to workers in vehicles equipped with amber lights.