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
Skyline High School announces band teacher Daniel Holland 2022-2023 Teacher of the Year
Skyline High School is proud to announce that our fabulous band teacher, Mr. Daniel Holland is our 2022-2023 Teacher of the Year!
Danny has taught at Skyline High School for the last 5 1/2 years. He earned his undergraduate degree in Instrumental Music PreK-12 from James Madison University and his master’s degree from Bowling Green State University.
At SHS, Danny teaches guitar I and II, concert band, dual enrolled music artistry, and marching band. Marching and concert band require extensive time commitments both in school and after hours. Additionally, Danny teaches a jazz band group that rehearses before the official school day begins.
Through his expert instruction, he provides students with opportunities to connect through music, enhance positive school culture, and engage our greater community in school spirit and camaraderie.
The Skyline Marching Hawks perform shows each year at our football games, parades, and various competitions, where they have earned many accolades! Danny not only produces marching shows with excellent sound and great visual appeal, but they also convey important messages to the students and the spectators.
The 2022 competition show was entitled: “Try, Try Again,” and according to Danny, focused on the “idea and philosophy that success in anything, whether it be band, sports, academics, and so many other skills, can only truly manifest from learning to cope and grow from the mistakes and missteps we inevitably make.” This show was a gift to our school and our greater community.
Outside of school, Danny is an active member of the Virginia Music Educators Association, most recently presenting at their 2022 annual VMEA conference in November 2022. Additionally, Danny performs as a professional musician as the acting principal oboist of the Waynesboro Symphony.
Danny was nominated for this honor by his peers, colleagues, and students. Here are some of their beautiful words:
- “The immense amount of time and effort Danny puts into making the SHS band program the best it can go above and beyond. The support and safe space he provides to students are invaluable.”
- “I’m amazed by Danny’s dedication. He was not only present for interviews for my position but was present before the start of school working with the band. The marching band is present for so many events/games, and it seems like he rarely does not stay past normal hours. He is also helping with the cross-county musical. He has been very kind and helpful with my many questions. His students seem to find his room safe, and he has created a great work ethic with his students.”
- “Mr. Holland is an amazing teacher who wants the best for his students. He makes playing music fun and very enjoyable. I wouldn’t have been able to become the musician I am today without Mr. Holland.”
- “He is the best teacher I have ever had. He’s very supportive of his students and other faculty. He is the reason our marching band is great.”
- “Mr. Holland is so supportive and loves what he does. He will do anything to make sure you succeed in anything you do, and when he sets his mind to something, he will do everything he can to make it happen.
- “Mr. Holland is an amazing teacher in general, and he is very helpful and kind. I have struggled to pick up new skills, and he broke it down for me, so I got it quickly.”
The accolades of his colleagues and students are absolutely true!
Danny’s impact on his students, fellow WCPS fine arts teachers, and SHS colleagues is felt in so many ways! Danny models grit and perseverance through difficult situations daily, creating genuine and supportive relationships with his students through his love of music.
For these and many other reasons, Danny Holland is the Skyline High School 2022-2023 Teacher of the Year!
Town Talk: A conversation with Shane Goodwin, Danelle Sperling, Robert Hupman – Reaching Out Now, Christmas Meal at Skyline HS
In this Town Talk, our publisher Mike McCool speaks with Shane Goodwin, Danelle Sperling, and Robert Hupman about the Linda Kroll Community Meal Program.
On December 15, 2022, at 4:30 pm, Reaching Out Now and its partners will host a Christmas meal for families with children in our local school system at Skyline High School School.
This event will feature a traditional Christmas menu with turkey, ham, shepherd’s pie, vegetable medley, rolls, and dessert, all prepared by Chef Devin and the Blue Ridge Technical Center’s Culinary Arts program students.
Town Talk is a series on the Royal Examiner where we will introduce you to local entrepreneurs, businesses, non-profit leaders, and political figures who influence Warren County. Topics will be varied but hopefully interesting. Let us know if you have an idea or topic or want to hear from someone in our community. Send your request to news@RoyalExaminer.com.
Thanksgiving officially second busiest Thanksgiving travel period in the history of the Transurban Express Lanes
Transurban, the operator of the 495, 395, and 95 Express Lanes, announced that the 72-hour travel window from the Tuesday before Thanksgiving Day itself was the second busiest Thanksgiving travel period in the history of the express lanes.
More than 155,000 customers took the Express Lanes, with nearly 1 in 4 traveling for free at least once with an E-ZPass Flex set to HOV mode.
Today’s announcement comes on the heels of the 10th Anniversary of the Express Lanes opening in November. In commemoration, Transurban released the annual ‘state of the lanes’ polling research that provides insights on how customers continue to value the expanded travel choices of the Lanes as well as a report detailing the significant impact the 495, 95, and 395 Express Lanes have had in transforming the region.
The primary research from a sample of 1,490 Washington D.C. area drivers found:
- 76% overall customer satisfaction
- 3 in 4 GWA drivers have used the Express Lanes, up from 62% in 2021
- Nearly 7 in 10 drivers (69%) see a regional benefit from the Express Lanes
- Drivers are more likely to say they have carpooled for free vs. paid a toll to travel the Express Lanes at least once a month in the last 6 months – 54% vs. 47%
Over the last decade, the 495, 95, and 395 Express Lanes have saved nearly 10 million Greater Washington Area (GWA) customers more than 33 million hours of time in one of the fastest-growing regions in the U.S. The Lanes have saved time for those living nearby and supported growth in the local community. The Lanes have bolstered the local economy by creating an estimated 53,000 jobs and $8 billion in economic activity, including the growth of existing businesses and the attraction of some of the world’s largest employers, including Amazon, Boeing, Raytheon, and Capitol One.
“More than 10 years ago, we started a journey alongside Virginia leaders to introduce a new way to travel, putting technology to work to unlock congestion and tangibly improve the quality of life of travelers in this region,” said Pierce Coffee, President Transurban North America. “Now we celebrate this partnership that gives more people more time back in their day through choice and convenience.”
About Transurban North America
Transurban is one of the world’s largest toll-road operators and developers, working to get people where they want to go as quickly and safely as possible. By embracing collaboration with the government, our public-private partnerships deliver transformative infrastructure solutions across five markets. In the fiscal year 2020, our global customers saved 376,000 hours on average each workday across 2.0 million trips on our roads with faster, more predictable travel options. With a leading market share of transportation P3 investment in North America, we are pioneering travel solutions like dynamically tolled Express Lanes and are partnering with the government to think about the policies, technology, and infrastructure that will get you home today and ten years from now. Learn more about Transurban North America at: Transurban.com | Expresslanes.com | A25.com
School Board approves virtual instruction contract, other housekeeping items
The Warren County School Board, at its Wednesday, Dec. 7 meeting, approved the expenditure of $72,600 for the spring semester of online instruction provided by Virtual Virginia.
Virtual Virginia is the online instructional service provider for Warren County students enrolled in the virtual education option.
Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Heather Bragg told school board members that a total of 65 students—10 at the elementary level—have enrolled for the spring semester, and the provider must be paid in advance of the January 2023 spring semester’s start.
Ms. Bragg told the board that the elementary school fee was a set price for each pupil for the core curriculum, while secondary school pupil fees are calculated at $300 per credit, which allows the students to get their core classes as well as electives.
Board member Ralph Rinaldi asked Bragg to elaborate on why students might enroll in the virtual learning program rather than attend school in person. The Covid pandemic introduced students to virtual learning, and some continue out of anxiety about returning to the traditional classroom setting, she said. Bragg added that some students just do better in the virtual learning environment.
Students enrolled in the virtual learning option are provided computer access, as well as a school counselor and a local mentor who supervises the students.
Antoinette D. Funk motioned to pay for the spring semester, which was seconded by Melanie C. Salins, followed by a unanimous vote.
Other action items from the meeting include:
- A vote to increase the hourly rate for selective positions, beginning Jan. 1, 2023. Employees currently making less than $12 per hour will begin earning the federal minimum wage of $12 next month.
- Purchase approval for network battery backup equipment for Skyline Middle School at $51,270.
- Second reading of the proposed 2023-2024 school year calendar. The board will approve a final calendar at the first January 2023 school board meeting. The calendar would have students return to school on Aug. 9, 2023, and end the school year on May 23, 2024. It includes banked hours that would cover inclement weather cancellations and 13 professional days for teachers.
- Voted to approve the policy on sexually explicit material, which brings Warren County Public Schools into compliance with a Virginia law passed this year that requires districts to notify parents. (This will be covered in a separate Royal Examiner story.)
- Voted to accept the 2023 General Assembly legislative priorities.
- Voted to award a contract in the amount of $47,880 to Document Solution, Inc. For the lease of copiers at Hilda J. Barbour Elementary School.
- Set the 2023 organizational meeting of the Warren County School Board for Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, at 6:30 p.m. in the Board Room of the Warren County Government Center.
National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day – Flags to be flown half-staff
This December 7, we remember the world-changing event known as Pearl Harbor Day, or as President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his December 8, 1941 speech declaring war on Japan, “a date which will live in infamy.”
Early on Wednesday morning, December 7, 2022, many will gather at Pearl Harbor National Memorial for the 81st Commemoration. The early start marks the moment to the minute 81 years ago when Japanese warplanes descended on Oahu, killing 2,403 service members and civilians, injuring thousands more, and dealing a near-fatal blow to the Navy’s fleet at Pearl Harbor.
Most young Americans who died that day, along with those who served in uniform during World War II or on the home front war effort, are collectively known as the Greatest Generation. Their sacrifices reflect the theme of this year’s Commemoration: Everlasting Legacy.
The focus is the importance of remembering Pearl Harbor and how the Greatest Generation saved us from tyranny and brought us peace through reconciliation.
Governor’s Order for the Commonwealth of Virginia
In accordance with the authority vested in me as Governor, I hereby order that the flags of the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Virginia to be flown at half-staff at all local, state, and federal buildings and grounds in the Commonwealth in solemn respect and memory for the nearly 4,000 American service men and women killed or wounded in the early morning of December 7, 1941, at the United States Navy Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
I hereby order that the flag shall be lowered at sunrise on Wednesday, December 7, 2022, and remain at half-staff until sunset.
Ordered on this, the 6th day of December 2022.
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: American Goldfinch
These two American Goldfinches hit the same window at the same time and ended up here at the Center for care.
Though both are currently having breathing difficulty, and the male has significant head trauma with bleeding from the left ear, neither sustained any fractures. They are recovering together while they receive supplemental oxygen and pain medications.
Do you know what to do if a bird hits your window?
Though it was once standard to contain a window strike bird and let it rest for a few hours before attempting release, research has now shown that this is inadequate. Many of the issues we see with window strikes manifest 24+ hours after the strike, long after the bird can fly off.
If you see a bird hit a window, contain it right away and call the closest permitted rehabilitator. Do not release it! In the meantime, take steps to break up the reflections on your windows with tape, paint, or decals spaced no more than 2” apart. Prevention is better than treatment!
A new record!
Yesterday we surpassed last year’s intake number with this window strike pair. We are hopeful that they will soon be released together to enjoy the rest of their wild lives!
If you are looking for an easy way to help native wildlife become a monthly BRWC donor! For as little as $5/month, you can provide year-round, sustainable support that helps us fulfill our mission.