The Warren County School Board, during its Wednesday, May 18 meeting, unanimously approved more than $1.9 million to be used to pay a one-time bonus to all full-time and part-time employees of Warren County Public School (WCPS). The Warren County Board of Supervisors also must weigh in on the request.
School Board Chair Kristen Pence, Board Vice-Chair Ralph Rinaldi, and board members Antoinette Funk, Andrea Lo, and Melanie Salins voted yea to the recommendation from WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger to approve giving full-time employees a net payment of $1,500 and part-time employees a net payment of $750. Employees hired on or after January 1, will receive a net payment of one-half of the approved amount, Ballenger said.
The superintendent pointed out that the School Board’s approval is contingent upon the Board of Supervisors approving the necessary transfer of funds between categories for the School Board to execute the payments.
The estimated cost of the bonus ($1,908,452) would be paid with approved fiscal year 2022 budget savings primarily generated from the inability of the school division to fill several positions during the school year, lag pay savings from when an employee leaves and their replacement is hired, and staff turnover savings said Ballenger.
The School Board also, on Wednesday evening, unanimously approved other purchases contingent on the appropriation of funding from the Warren County Board of Supervisors.
For instance, board members voted to approve a $343,600 contract award to Black Stone Roofing LLC, which will replace the membrane roof at the Blue Ridge Technical Center.
WCPS Director of Maintenance Greg Livesay told the board that the existing membrane roof has developed multiple leaks over the years, with previous repair attempts being unsuccessful. He said WCPS staff posted bid invitations online at the end of March, and a pre-bid meeting was conducted on April 13 that brought in eight contractors.
Livesay said five bids were received on April 29, with Black Stone Roofing “being the lowest, most-responsive bidder at $343,600.” The project could to ready to start in early to mid-June and completed within a four-to-six-weeks timeframe, depending on the weather, he said, adding that the contractor has the needed materials in hand, “so there are no lead time issues getting this project started.”
The board also approved the $96,117 purchase of additional Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) kits for all elementary schools and Brighter Futures. WCPS Director of Elementary Instruction Lisa Rudacille, who is also the principal at E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School, said LLI was implemented this school year at all elementary schools to help address the reading gaps that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on learning.
The Fountas & Pinnell LLI System is an intensive, small-group, supplementary literacy intervention for students who find reading a challenge, Rudacille said, adding that the goal of LLI is to lift the literacy achievement of students who are not achieving grade-level expectations in reading.
“Schools have requested the purchase of additional LLI kits to support more students in the coming school year and, in the case of Hilda J. Barbour, which has used the program for many years, to also update and replace worn materials,” said Rudacille.
Additionally, the School Board approved a contract to New Virginia Tractor of Winchester, Va., in the amount of $27,903.26 to purchase two John Deere Zero Turn Mowers.
“In order to assume responsibility for the grounds maintenance for both high schools effective July 1, the Facilities Maintenance Department will need to purchase two zero-turn mowers,” said Livesay. “The existing equipment that was provided to Warren County when they assumed responsibility will remain in use by the County as they are responsible for the grounds maintenance at the middle and elementary school until April 2023.”
The board also approved a WCPS recommendation that the superintendent is authorized to request that the Warren County Board of Supervisors approve several fiscal year 2022 Operating Fund category transfers.
“It’s an evening up of the money. A bookkeeping move to move money into the right categories so that we don’t overspend,” said Ballentine.
Additionally, the School Board approved, with gratitude, two new scholarships.
The Limeton United Methodist Church Scholarship will offer $2,500 to one graduating senior at both Warren County High School (WCHS) and Skyline High School (SHS) to attend Lord Fairfax Community College, which soon takes on its new name, Laurel Ridge Community College. According to Ballenger, additional criteria is that one scholarship will be awarded at each school; students must maintain a 3.0 GPA in high school, and awards will go to students in need due to financial hardship.
Reaching Out Now (RON) will provide $500 scholarship awards through the creation of its new Harlee Anne Hire Scholarship Program to support and encourage student-athletes at WCPS. Two awards of $500 each will be made during the 2021-2022 academic school year through the RON Endowment Program to a student-athlete at WCHS and at SHS, said Ballenger. The program’s main goal is to offer financial support to a current senior athlete at WCHS and SHS and “to encourage serious and deserving students to continue their studies after graduation,” he said.
The new scholarship program is named for Hire, 16, who died earlier this month. She would have been a 2024 SHS graduate. Ballenger said she played right field and was a catcher for the SHS Varsity Softball team. “Harlee loved sports” and “also had a servant’s heart,” said Ballenger, noting that Hire had earned the most service hours volunteering for the RON Girls of Destiny Program.
For next time
The School Board tabled action on the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) revised policy GCL Professional Staff Development.
Every employee holding a license issued by the Board of Education is required to complete cultural competency training, in accordance with guidance issued by the Board of Education, at least every two years, according to WCPS Assistant Superintendent for Administration George “Buck” Smith.
Each employee required to complete cultural competency training also must complete at least one such training no later than the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year, Smith told School Board members, noting that this was a July 2021 policy revision of the approved May 2021 GCL policy.
WCPS staff have communicated with representatives from the Virginia Department of Education for an update on the module that has been approved and revised by Gov. Youngkin’s administration, which Smith said is set to release the new module “within the next week or so.”
Board member Salins suggested tabling action on the item because the new module has not been released yet. “We would be voting on something that we can’t even read yet,” she said.
But board member Lo said that because teacher licensure is attached to the policy action, “it’s not up to us; we have to pass this.”
Board Chair Pence said that action on the item can be taken by the School Board during its work session in June when members should have a copy of the module.
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: Eastern Gray Squirrel
Cue the Jaws theme for a squirrel with a shark fin-shaped bandage! This young male Eastern Gray Squirrel was brought into care after the finder noticed him limping on the front right leg. Radiographs revealed a broken radius (one of the forearm bones) most likely due to a cat attack, given the cat-sized puncture wound over the fracture site.
Fractured limbs can be difficult to treat in most wild mammals, especially smaller ones with sharp teeth and claws to rip off bandages, their e-collars (“cones”), or even surgical hardware. It’s especially tough when the injury occurs in a species that is highly mobile and all about climbing.
To combat some of these factors, our vet team placed a sling to immobilize the affected limb (they had to get a bit creative and fashioned a padded “shark-fin” vest to prevent him from chewing it off). After recovering from anesthesia, we are happy to report that he wasted no time in figuring out how to continue his squirrely antics with the remaining three limbs.
We will be tracking his progress closely over the next few months as the bone heals by performing regular physical therapy and monitoring his bandage site for complications.
These creative solutions are common in wildlife medicine where you are dealing with hundreds of different species, all with different illnesses and injuries, and at every stage of life. Help us continue to create creative solutions and provide high-quality medical care to 3,500+ patients annually, covering over 165 different species, by donating to Blue Ridge Wildlife Center.
To learn more about the incredible work at BRWC, we invite you to watch this video:
Virginia Colleges Launch Innovative Program to Address Teacher Shortage
Lab Schools to Train High School Students as Future Educators.
Virginia is taking a significant step towards addressing its teacher shortage with the launch of a groundbreaking partnership between Laurel Ridge Community College, Germanna Community College, and James Madison University. This initiative, part of the state’s broader College Partnership Laboratory Fund, is not just a solution to a critical issue but a beacon of hope for future educators.
The Virginia General Assembly established the College Partnership Laboratory Fund in 2022, committing $100 million to this cause. Following the success of the first lab school associated with Virginia Commonwealth University, the Virginia Board of Education recently approved two more lab schools, including the Future Educators Academy.
Dr. Kim Blosser, President of Laurel Ridge, expressed excitement about collaborating with Germanna to operate the lab school at the Middletown and Fauquier campuses. “Our public school divisions, especially rural areas, face acute teacher shortages. This program is a step towards addressing that need, focusing on educating high school students who will eventually serve their local communities,” said Dr. Blosser.
The Future Educators Academy is a unique approach designed to bridge the gap in the teaching workforce. Students enrolled in this program will simultaneously work towards an associate degree and a high school advanced studies diploma. Moreover, they will receive guaranteed admission into JMU’s College of Education, potentially earning their bachelor’s degree in education within two years.
This accelerated and rigorous program is inclusive, targeting all students with a passion for teaching, including at-risk groups and those who have experienced pandemic-related learning setbacks. Governor Glenn Youngkin, who prioritizes establishing lab schools, highlights the program’s accessibility and commitment to educational recovery.
Dr. Janet Gullickson, president of Germanna, explained the vision behind the Future Educators Academy. “Our goal is to create a no-cost, accelerated path for students to fill teaching positions quickly. The idea is to nurture our K-12 teachers who will contribute to their home communities,” she stated.
The initiative is timely, considering the current challenges in the education sector. It offers a sustainable solution by empowering young aspirants to step into the teaching profession equipped with early training and a sense of community responsibility.
Germanna’s lab school students will begin in fall 2023, while Laurel Ridge will welcome its first cohort in fall 2025. This strategic timeline ensures a steady flow of trained educators into Virginia’s school system in the coming years.
The Future Educators Academy is a testament to Virginia’s commitment to resolving the immediate teacher shortage and fostering a new generation of educators equipped to face the challenges of modern education.
Cub Scouts Bring Joy to Pediatric Patients with Jared Boxes
Local Scouts Offer Comfort and Fun to Hospitalized Children.
Warrenton, VA – In a heartwarming act of community service, the young members of Cub Scout Pack 1166 Wolf Den from Warrenton, VA, have brought smiles and comfort to pediatric patients at Fauquier Hospital. During October, these spirited youngsters crafted and delivered handmade Jared Boxes, transforming a potentially intimidating hospital experience into joy and playfulness.
For more than two decades, over a million Jared Boxes have been distributed by various groups nationwide. Brimming with activities such as fidget toys and coloring pages, these boxes have been a beacon of happiness for young patients. The Cub Scouts of Pack 1166 have joined this noble effort, contributing their energy and creativity to this cause.
Sarah Shilling, a Cub Scout Leader, inspired her troop with the idea of this impactful service project. Her vision was to involve young children in community service in a meaningful and relatable way. The Jared Box Project perfectly aligned with this goal, empowering children to support their peers through thoughtful gifts. “I always encourage them to look for the helpers. It is empowering to have them be the helpers in this case,” Sarah remarked, highlighting the project’s positive impact on both givers and receivers.
Matthew Martinez, another dedicated leader and volunteer at Little Fork Volunteer Fire and Rescue, has witnessed firsthand the anxiety children face during medical emergencies. His involvement in the Jared Box initiative stems from his desire to alleviate these fears. “I see many kids upset and scared during transport. I wanted to do something to brighten their day and get the Cub Scouts involved,” he shared.
The effectiveness of Jared Boxes is not just theoretical. Jess Laurent, a fellow Cub Scout Leader, shared a personal story. “My son was one of the first surgical cases to be done during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Masks and COVID testing were scary, but he received a Jared Box. That act provided him comfort and helped ease his nerves,” Jess recalled, emphasizing the boxes’ reassuring presence during stressful times.
The successful delivery of these Jared Boxes in October has endowed Fauquier Health with a valuable resource. These boxes offer a sense of normalcy and fun to children facing medical challenges, thus fostering a deeper sense of community and empathy within the hospital environment.
The Cub Scouts of Pack 1166 have demonstrated that age is no barrier to making a significant impact. Through their efforts, they have brightened the days of many young patients and set an inspiring example of community service and compassion.
About Fauquier Health
Fauquier Health, located at 500 Hospital Drive, Warrenton, VA, is a community-focused health system emphasizing high-quality, individualized patient care. Serving Fauquier and neighboring counties, it includes a 97-bed accredited hospital, a 113-bed rehabilitation and nursing center, an assisted living facility, a wound health center, and a wellness center offering various health programs. Additionally, Fauquier Health operates multiple specialized physician’s offices. For more information, visit FauquierHealth.org or call 540-316-5000.
Winchester SPCA Thrift Shop Ready to Show Off Its New Look at Grand Reopening, Sat. Dec. 2
The Winchester Area SPCA has expressed excitement in announcing the grand re-opening of its thrift shop on Saturday, Dec. 2, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Winchester-area community is invited to join a day of celebration and shopping at the newly renovated and revitalized thrift store located at 1944 Abrams Creek Drive, Winchester, VA.
“We are extremely grateful to the Winchester business community for supporting this endeavor,” said Lavenda Denney, Executive Director of the Winchester Area SPCA, in a recent press release. “The thrift shop is the lifeblood of our animal shelter and clinic. This revitalized space offers an improved shopping experience and directly supports the Winchester Area SPCA’s mission of providing care and compassion to needy animals in our community.”
It was noted that a grassroots effort has given the Winchester Area SPCA Thrift Shop a total transformation over the last few months. Winchester area businesses have generously funded the entire project, which includes the installation of new lighting, new display furniture, relocating the front entrance, the addition of dressing rooms, fresh paint throughout, reconfigured floor space, a coffee bar, several new merchandise sections, and new landscaping that incorporates native plants. Additionally, the exterior features a mural created by Winchester artist Sarah Gallahan.
The release acknowledged local businesses that contributed to the renovation, including Four Square Architects, BAC Dumpsters, Sunbelt Rentals, Vulcan Materials, Blue Ridge Glass and Metal, United Rentals, Sherwin-Williams in Stephens City and Winchester, Winchester Printers, Frogale Lumber, Glass Doctor, Hunter’s Head Tavern, and Ayrshire Farm. Sharon Phipps of Boyce generously donated the funds for the coffee bar, and Airynee Damewood of Upperville provided landscaping services.
Some parts of the renovation still need sponsors, however, and the Winchester Area SPCA asks other businesses and individuals interested in donating to contact Lavenda Denney for more information.
“We still have several naming opportunities available,” she added.
The grand reopening event will feature a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m., followed by exclusive in-store promotions, live music, photos with Santa and his sleigh, face painting for children, exciting raffles throughout the day, and refreshments, including hot cider, popcorn, and cookies.
“We are thrilled to invite the community to join us in celebrating the grand reopening of the Winchester Area SPCA Thrift Shop,” said Nicole Seal, the thrift shop’s manager. “If you haven’t visited us recently, you’ll find it so much easier to discover what you need and, of course, unexpected treasures!”
Shoppers can expect a wide array of merchandise, including clothing, accessories, home goods, vintage finds, pet supplies, tools, technology, and more. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the store benefit the Winchester Area SPCA’s programs and services, so each purchase involves a meaningful contribution to the welfare of animals in our community.
Save the date for Saturday, Dec. 2, and join the Winchester Area SPCA Thrift Shop for a day of festivities, community engagement, and fantastic finds – all aimed at making a difference in the lives of animals in need.
And don’t forget that our Warren County community now has its own Humane Society and Julia Wagner Animal Shelter-supporting “Pick of the Litter Thrift Store” in the southern commercial area of downtown Front Royal off Commerce Avenue at 450 South Commerce Avenue, Suite E. That location is not far from the Humane Society’s Discount Spay and Neuter Clinic on the John Marshall Highway side of that commercial area. In fact, the Pick of the Litter Thrift Store celebrated its first anniversary earlier this month, on November 4.
But for more information about the Winchester Area SPCA and its Thrift Shop re-opening, visit winchesterspca.org.
(Information from a release by the Winchester SPCA)
VIDEO: Occupant Fatality Confirmed in Friday Morning Blue Ridge Ave. Residential Structure Fire in Front Royal
On the afternoon of Friday, November 24, Warren County Assistant Fire Chief Gerry Maiatico confirmed a fatality in the residential structure fire reported that morning at 240 Blue Ridge Avenue. Maiatico said the department received reports of one occupant likely trapped inside and that remains of one human victim had been discovered inside the structure once first responders were able to access the interior of the building. Maiatico said initial efforts to suppress the fire to the point where entry and extraction could be accomplished were thwarted by the intensity of the fire.
No identity was being released, and a cause of death had yet to be determined. The remains were being sent to the State Medical Examiner’s Office to attempt to confirm a cause of death. Neighbors said a lone older woman lived in the residence at the northeast corner of the intersection of Blue Ridge Avenue and Prospect Street with some pet cats, which had outside access through a pet door.
The structure fire was reported at 7:20 a.m., Assistant Fire Chief Maiatico said. The Front Royal Police Department and Loudoun County Fire Marshall’s Office assisted at the scene.
Thanks to Michael Hasty for the video footage.
Local Edward Jones Senior Branch Office Administrator Earns Professional Designation
Ginny Musil has taken a step in her development recently by obtaining the Financial Paraplanner Qualified Professional(TM), or FPQP(TM), designation through the College for Financial Planning®.
“At Edward Jones, we are committed to continuous learning as we help our clients achieve the things that matter most to them,” Bret Hrbek. Ginny has worked hard to earn this designation, and I have no doubt that this additional education will benefit our clients and our branch.”
Musil has been with Edward Jones for five years. Hrbek and Musil can be reached at 540-635-8229. You may also visit their website at www.EdwardJones.com/Bret-Hrbek.
Edward Jones is a leading financial services firm in the U.S. and through its affiliate in Canada. The firm’s more than 19,000 financial advisors serve more than 8 million clients with a total of $1.8 trillion in client assets under care at the end of June 2023. Edward Jones’ purpose is to partner for positive impact to improve the lives of its clients and colleagues, and together, better our communities and society. Through the dedication of the firm’s approximately 52,000 associates and our branch presence in 68% of U.S. counties, the firm is committed to helping more people achieve financially what is most important to them. The Edward Jones website is at edwardjones.com, and its recruiting website is careers.edwardjones.com. Member SIPC.