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.
WATCH: Christmas Parade 2022
If you missed the Christmas Parade or want to see it again, sit back and enjoy!
This year the Front Royal/Warren County Chamber of Commerce Christmas Parade was hosted by Mike McCool, Publisher of the Royal Examiner, and Niki Foster, Executive Director of the Front Royal/Warren County Chamber of Commerce. Special thanks to Mark Williams, videographer, and the parade sponsor Lindsay Chevrolet.
If it’s early December it must be time for Kiwanis’s Pancake Day Breakfast thru Lunch community fundraiser
The Kiwanis Club of Front Royal held its annual Pancake Day fundraising event at Warren County High School’s cafeteria from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, December 3rd. This event raises significant funds, which are put back directly into our community and our schools to help the children of Warren County. Kiwanis is a global organization of volunteers dedicated to “changing the world One Child and One Community at a time.”
All proceeds from the event go right back into the community. Kiwanis thanks all those sponsors, members, and others who help make this event an annual community success.
VDOT: Warren County Traffic alert for December 5 – 9, 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.
No lane closures were reported.
Mile marker 299 to 300, northbound and southbound – Overnight left lane closures for equipment unloading and barrier installation, 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. through the night of December 15.
No lane closures were reported.
*NEW* Route 840 (Water Plant Road) – Flagger traffic control near I-81 for the I-81 overpass bridge inspection, Monday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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 about 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.
Drive sober or get pulled over this holiday season, and every day
This holiday season, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is partnering with the Warren County Sheriff’s Office to share the message about the dangers of drunk driving. NHTSA and the Warren County Sheriff’s Office want all drivers to remember this lifesaving message: Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over. Drivers will see officers working together from December 16, 2022, through January 1, 2023, to take drunk drivers off the roads.
According to NHTSA, 11,654 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2020 that involved an alcohol-impaired driver. On average, more than 10,000 people were killed each year from 2016 to 2020, and one person was killed in a drunk driving crash every 45 minutes in 2020. Therefore, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office is working with NHTSA to remind drivers that drunk driving is illegal and a matter of life and death. As you head out to the holiday festivities, remember: Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.
Warren County Sheriff’s Office and NHTSA are reminding citizens of the many resources available to get them home safely. Drunk driving is not acceptable behavior. It is essential to plan a sober ride home before you ever leave for the party. There are too many resources to get you home safely. There are just no excuses for drunk driving.
Nationally, driving with a BAC of .08 or higher is illegal, except in Utah, where the limit is .05 g/dL. And the costs can be financial, too: If you’re caught drinking and driving, you could face jail time, lose your driver’s license and your vehicle, and pay up to $10,000 in attorney’s fees, fines, higher insurance rates, and lost wages.
- Remember that it is never okay to drink and drive. Even if you’ve had only one alcoholic beverage, designate a sober driver, plan to use a ride service, or call a taxi or a sober friend to get home safely.
- If you see a drunk driver on the road, contact the Warren County Sheriff’s Office at 540-635-4128.
- Do you have a friend who is about to drink and drive? Take the keys away and make arrangements to get your friend home safely.
For more information about the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over enforcement period, visit www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drunk-driving.
Human remains found in Fairfax identified as missing Front Royal resident Kevin Smith
Last month, Front Royal Police Department detectives received information that the Fairfax County Police Department was working an investigation regarding the discovery of unidentified human remains in their jurisdiction. The remains, which were sent to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, underwent extensive DNA testing and forensic analysis. Based on the DNA testing, statistical analyses, and other facts and circumstances surrounding the case, it was determined that the remains were those of missing Front Royal resident Kevin Smith.
Kevin was first reported missing on January 28th, 2020, after his parents had not seen or heard from him in about a week. Following the initial report, an extensive investigation and search was undertaken in a concerted effort to locate Kevin and bring him home safely. Numerous agencies and community members assisted with the investigation by offering specialized equipment, resources, and information related to Kevin’s disappearance. Despite everyone’s best efforts, Kevin remained missing until the discovery of his remains earlier this year.
We would like to extend our thanks to the public and community members who assisted with this investigation. We would also like to thank the Fairfax County Police Department, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, and the Virginia Department of Forensic Science for their help locating and identifying Kevin’s remains. Chief Magalis added, “This is certainly not the outcome we had hoped for regarding the disappearance of Mr. Smith. We give our sincere condolences to the Smith family during this very difficult time.”
Anyone with any further information regarding this case is asked to contact Detective M.P Gallagher at (540)636-2208 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stephens City Church shelters homeless Nov 19-26 to support local WATTS week-long event
Stephens City UMC (SCUMC) hosted the Winchester Area Temporary Transitional Shelter (WATTS) during the week of November 19-26, 2022, including Thanksgiving Day. Altogether, nineteen churches will rotate the weekly assignment between November 5, 2022 and March 25, 2023. The people we serve (our guests) come from all walks of life and all levels of education. Some are newly homeless; others have been homeless most of their adult life. They are mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons. Many have mental health issues, especially PTSD, and substance abuse. But all need our love and care, and that is what we offer for 7 days. Our guests are fed, clothed, warmed, and kept safe.
This undertaking could not be accomplished without MANY volunteers. There are seven dinners to prepare and serve, seven breakfasts served at 6:00 am, and daily grab-and-go lunches to offer. We also provide snacks and cold and hot drinks for when the guests are first received.
As the guests arrive, they are searched and go through an intake process. No outside food or drinks are allowed, and no vapes. Their weapons (usually knives) are collected before they get on the bus, kept in a locked box, and returned the next morning after they exit the bus. Medications are also kept in a locked box at the shelter and are available upon request. Then the guests are directed to their cot. The shelter is bare bones; each guest receives a hand towel, wash cloth, two sheets, a blanket, and a pillow. WATTS is a low-barrier shelter, which means we do not drug- or alcohol-test, we don’t ask for ID, and we don’t care if a guest arrives intoxicated, high, unkempt, or exhausted. All guests are treated equally and with respect and without judgement. WATTS has only five rules for guests and volunteers to follow:
- No smoking or vaping within the facility or bus and only in designated areas and times.
- No aggressive, violent, or threatening behavior or foul language.
- No alcohol or illegal substances are allowed in the facility or bus.
- No weapons are allowed in the facility or bus.
- Respect the guests, volunteers, staff, and facility.
The maximum number of guests we can accommodate each night is 35. SCUMC was at or near capacity every night, with 6-7 women. A guest is guaranteed a bed if they were in the shelter the night before. People who are turned away are sometimes offered a blanket and/or a bag lunch and directed to other local resources. Unfortunately, two to ten guests are routinely turned away. And since WATTS is only for adults, families have very few resources available to them.
Once the guests have been through intake, they can relax and enjoy hot drinks and a variety of snacks. You can see the exhaustion and stress on their faces as they walk in the door, but the tense lines and guarded eyes slowly ease. Many go to the bathroom right away because they have not had access to one all day. Others lie down on their cot to rest after spending the day walking around town, trying to stay warm.
At about 7:30 pm, the rules are reiterated by the manager and then a prayer is said. We had some amazing prayers spoken by the guests!
Then it is dinner time! Some of the meals served to the guests included meatloaf, open-faced turkey sandwiches, fried chicken, lasagna, baked chicken, chili, vegetable soup, and pulled pork and chicken BBQ sandwiches. First Presbyterian Church of Winchester delivered turkey dinners on Thanksgiving Day.
This year we offered a Clothing Room in Room 102. We had coats, sweaters, underwear, socks, boots, jeans, and other clothing for men and women. What the guests did not take will be donated to Congregational Community Action Project (C-CAP) in Winchester, except for some coats and leftover snacks and sandwiches I took to the Warming Shelter, located at Market Street UMC at 131 S. Cameron Street in Winchester. They always need donations, especially drinks, lunches, fruit, and other snacks. The Warming Shelter is open 7 am to 6 pm Monday through Saturday except Thursday when it closes at 4:30 pm and Sunday 12 pm to 6 pm.
A huge thank you to all the groups that volunteered. The list includes the Clawson’s Bible Study group, United Women in Faith, the Koinonia Sunday School class, the Caring Outreach Group, and the Stephens City Preschool from SCUMC. Groups that partnered with SCUMC included the Stephens City Mennonite Church, Grace and Mercy Ministries, Grace UMC in Middletown, and Shenandoah University Cross-Country team.
Some individuals who helped tremendously include Diane Clawson (volunteer co-lead); Dee and Steve Morris; Donna Steward; Lisa Gillman; Carole Baker; Galen and Sandi Snider; Laura Fieo; Gary, Missy, and Cindee Steele; Scott and Valerie Taylor; Linda and Rick Taliaferro; Bill and Lorraine Orndorff; and Pastor Bertina Westley. There were many other volunteers who served and I apologize if I didn’t mention you.
WATTS operates year-round, even when the Night Shelter is not open. Transition Support Specialists (TSS) assist the guests in obtaining IDs, Social Security, job applications, forms for Centralized Housing Intake, and apartments, applying for Medicaid, Medicare, and SNAP benefits, and information and placement in drug and alcohol detox/rehabilitation programs. TSS also check on guests who now live in apartments, motels, or nursing homes. TSS take guests to doctor appointments, dialysis, chemotherapy treatments, and other essential appointments.
I would like to thank the community for providing me the opportunity to work with this very necessary mission. And thank you to the church congregations and civic organizations for supporting WATTS!
If you would to know more about the WATTS mission, shelter locations and schedules, or how to donate, visit the web site at watts-homelessshelter.org.
Article by Deborah Phillips
Deborah Phillips is one of the Co-Leader Volunteers of the SCUMC week-long WATTS event and serves as Secretary, Board of Directors for WATTS. Phillips has a MS in Medical Microbiology and Immunology. She worked in research labs for over 15 years, including at the CDC, Emory University, and Indiana University and as a Medical Editor for over 20 years before retirement. Phillips currently owns two businesses. She creates memory art from heirlooms as Heartsong Hill Designs (www.heartsonghill.com). She also owns a hobby farm with chickens, goats, and rescue dogs. Her second business, Heartsong Hill Hungry Goats, (www.heartsonghillgoats.com) employs her goats to offer a natural and chemical-free way to clear land.