The Warren County School Board during its Wednesday, August 3 regular meeting voted unanimously to table action until the board’s next work session on whether to renew its membership and policy services agreement with the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA).
The VSBA is a voluntary, nonpartisan organization of Virginia school boards that provides members with a variety of services, including governance training; strategic planning services for developing and implementing focused plans of action; assistance with searching and selecting a superintendent; networking; subscriber policy services based on state and federal laws, regulations, and case law; legal information and limited attorney consultation; and collective bargaining services.
“For years the Warren County Board has been a member of the Virginia School Boards Association at an annual cost of $9,521.19,” Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) Superintendent Christopher Ballenger told the School Board members, adding that the VSBA also offers high-quality webinars, conferences, conventions, meetings, podcasts, and other trainings for school board members and for school board development.
At the same time, said Ballenger, the VSBA also provides “a strong lobbying and advocacy voice locally, statewide, and nationally.”
Several School Board members voiced concerns about using taxpayer dollars to fund an organization’s lobbying efforts.
“Obviously I’ve had issues with the VSBA for quite some time now,” said board member Melanie Salins, who pointed out that while the group calls itself nonpartisan, she said she has attended VSBA trainings and events where specific political agendas were being promoted.
For instance, Salins said the VSBA Capital Conference she attended in January was a lobbying conference that she called “extremely uncomfortable” because it “alienated a lot of the new school board members that were there because most of the school board members were conservatives.”
And “the things that were said were outright outlandish,” Salins said. “They were making fun of parents. They were making fun of our Republican delegates and senators.”
Salins then played a video through her microphone of some of the comments that she said were made during that conference. It was unclear who was making the variety of comments or in what context. “I don’t think lobbying belongs on this board,” said Salins, who later clarified that no taxpayer dollars should fund any lobbying group, whether it leans left or right.
During the community participation segment of the board’s Wednesday meeting, two residents also slammed the School Board’s participation in the VSBA and urged members against renewing its membership with the association for 2022-2023.
Then Morris said, “Why use our taxpayer dollars to fund a leftist lobbying group?”
Also during the community participation segment of the School Board’s meeting, Chair Kristen Pence read letters sent in from seven residents objecting to the board’s membership in the VSBA, which they claimed is a partisan and heavily biased organization that is also anti-parent.
School Board member Andrea Lo said her experience with VSBA differed compared to Salins’ and she described a VSBA conference she attended in November 2021 that was not a lobbying conference nor did anyone specifically address politics. Instead, said Lo, the conference attendees “specifically addressed schools.”
During one of the conference’s general sessions, Lo also said an announcement was made that the VSBA was withdrawing from the National School Boards Association (NSBA) because the NSBA had supported comments reportedly made by President Joe Biden about investigating parents who were speaking at school board meetings.
“I feel if there are some points where liberals are upset and some points where conservatives are upset, maybe [VSBA] is more middle of the road,” said Lo, adding that the VSBA is a member-driven organization that responded to what the local members wanted in this instance, which was against VSBA supporting NSBA and comments made by a Democratic president. “I don’t think that’s a liberal move,” she said.
Lo also questioned what other policy advice would be available to the Warren County School Board if it decided against renewing its policy services agreement with VSBA. And she asked Ballenger if he had parsed out such information from the board’s attorney.
The superintendent said he did, noting that in the first year the initial cost to the School Board would be $40,000 to $50,000 to have an attorney come in and review policies, their implementation and use, and to ensure they adhere to state or federal laws. After that, the price would vary year to year based on newly issued or updated laws and guidance.
“I want to make sure that at a time when we’re still trying to get our budget for the 2022-23 school year approved, we’re not now going to add $50,000 or $40,000 in attorney’s fees to make sure we don’t come into a liability issue,” School Board Chair Kristen Pence said. “What is our other plan?”
Ballenger said another plan could be for a WCPS Central Office staff member “to follow what is going on legislatively.” Then, if Warren County decided to handle this work on its own, the school division and board would have to go through such legislation and try to write their own policies according to what came out in a new law or updated guidance, for instance. But that work also would have to be reviewed by an attorney who would charge on a case-by-case basis, he said.
Ballenger said he’s unaware of another entity that could provide such services besides what is provided by the VSBA or an attorney, and he said it’s important that the School Board makes sure its policies are regularly updated. “Because that’s where you can get into trouble,” he said.
“We have to make sure we’re supported in our policies,” Funk said. “I’m not comfortable deciding on this right now because I need to know what our plan is moving forward.”
School Board Vice Chair Ralph Rinaldi seconded the motion, which was approved by all board members, including Vice Chair Ralph Rinaldi, Pence, Funk, Lo, and Salins. They also tabled a related item on selecting a delegate and alternate delegate from the School Board to attend the 2022 VSBA Annual Convention.
Most of the School Board members agreed that the board should not use taxpayer money to fund VSBA’s lobbying efforts.
A view from a bench on Main Street: Sue Laurence, White Picket Fence
On Saturday morning, our publisher Mike McCool joined White Picket Fence proprietor Sue Laurence on a bench in front of White Picket Fence, on the 400 block of Main Street in Front Royal, and discussed all the events going on in Front Royal this fall, from Octoberfest, Festival of Leaves and Zombie Walk to name a few – all happening in Front Royal.
The big news is the 50th Annual Festival of Leaves happening on October 14-15, 2022 in downtown Front Royal. The Festival of Leaves has been reorganized and is now under the direction of the Front Royal Independent Business Alliance (FRIBA).
On October 14, 2022, the Town of Front Royal will kick off the festival with a “block party” at the Town Commons, providing music and fun for all ages. More information is available at FestivalofLeaves.org. There is still room for vendors, and applications are available on the Festival website.
VDOT: Warren County Traffic alert for August 15 – 19, 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 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Saturday (August 13).
Mile marker 8 to 7, westbound – Right lane closures for utility work, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Saturday (August 13).
Mile marker 299 to 300, northbound and southbound – Right shoulder closures for utility work, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Saturday (August 13).
Route 55 (Strasburg Road) – Shoulder closures for utility work in the area of Route 664 (Whipporwill Road), 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. through Friday.
No lane closures were reported.
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.
West Virginia roadwork may produce Interstate 81 Northbound delays in Virginia
Roadwork on northbound Interstate 81 in West Virginia at the Virginia state line will potentially cause traffic delays in Virginia.
Motorists should be alert for delays on I-81 northbound in Frederick County, VA., during two periods of pavement repair work in West Virginia. The first period is for preparation work, and the second is for pavement work.
The first work period is 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. on Wednesday, August 17. Significant traffic delays are not anticipated during this time.
The second work period begins on August 17 around 6 p.m., extending into Thursday, August 18, possibly into the midday hours. Significant traffic delays may occur throughout this period.
In Virginia, traffic accessing I-81 northbound at Exit 323 off of Route 669 (Rest Church Road) will be stopped at the end of the on-ramp before entering I-81. This will accommodate anticipated slow or stopped traffic on I-81 at this location.
The Virginia Department of Transportation will monitor traffic back-ups. If back-ups become significant and sustained, the following alternate routes will be recommended.
- Interstate 66 or Route 7 to Route 340 northbound through Warren and Clarke counties
- I-81 exit 310 to Route 37 (Winchester bypass) to Route 522 northbound in Frederick County.
Variable message boards along the northbound I-81 and westbound I-66 corridors will alert drivers of traffic delays and alternate routes as needed.
Additional roadwork on northbound I-81 in West Virginia is anticipated to occur in the coming weeks, with potential traffic delays into Virginia.
Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at http://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 https://my.vdot.virginia.gov/. Agents are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The Staunton District Twitter feed is at @VaDOTStaunton. VDOT can be followed on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and YouTube. RSS feeds are also available for statewide information. The VDOT Web page is located at http://www.VirginiaDOT.org.
The VDOT Staunton District serves Frederick, Shenandoah, Clarke, Warren, Page, Rockingham, Augusta, Highland, Rockbridge, Alleghany, and Bath counties.
17th Annual Route 11 Yard Crawl will bring thousands to the area
Bargain hunters can break out the fanny packs Saturday morning as the 17th Annual Route 11 Yard Crawl begins at 7 AM. The event is always held on the second Saturday in August and covers over 43 miles of yard sales and business sales along the Old Valley Pike, U.S. Route 11. According to the event’s website, the official crawl is from New Market (I-81 Exit 264) to Stephens City (I-81 Exit 307).
The Route 11 Yard Crawl has become a huge draw for bargain hunters and a source of revenue for residents, businesses and nonprofit organizations participating in the well-attended event. Localities see revenue added to their coffers through lodging, meals, and sales taxes.
Following a break during the Covid pandemic, the Yard Crawl Scavenger Hunt returns this year, with an app, the Free Traipse App. By visiting 15 of the 43 businesses, participants can get an official Yard Crawl t-shirt and be entered into a drawing for a $100 gas card. Download the free app here.
Sarah Paul, a Middletown resident whose home is along the Rt. 11, has had yard sales in the past, but won’t this year. She said, “We’ve sold things every couple of years, but for me, the best part is rocking on the porch and people-watching!”
Mrs. Paul’s daughter, Elise, could not contain her enthusiasm, saying, “Yard Crawl? Fun! Money!” Elise’s sister, Abigail chimed in, “It’s great because you can get rid of the stuff in your house you need and make a profit!”
Tina Maddox, of Strasburg, says, “My husband and I have been going to the yard crawl every year since it started. We’ve weathered the blazing hot weather to gully washers and everything in between. We’ve come home with truckloads and there was a time we had to come home, unload and go out again.
My favorite story is from several years ago when we stopped at a house where two gentlemen were swinging on their front porch swing. My husband went up and sat down right in between them and asked them how they were doing. After they got over being dumbfounded, they chatted briefly before we left. Every year after that, we would go there and do the same thing. We all looked forward to it each year. Recently my husband met up with one of those men in a job in a surrounding area. Small world!”
Alex Shaw, a Stephens City native who now lives in Durham County, NC relayed, “Last year’s Yard Crawl was my first one back in almost 10 years. It was so much busier and so much more overpriced junk than I remembered from my earlier years going.
I used to love going so much, and found many wonderful treasures in the past, but I most likely won’t make the trip this year.”
A number of local businesses will have special discounts and sales during the event. Those offering “Crawl Specials” will display gold mylar balloons outside their business. Shoppers can expect specials such as half-price or ‘buy one get one” (BOGO) items, sidewalk sales, freebies, event-related items, drawing for prizes, and more.
Teresa Lamb, with Front Royal business Strites Doughnuts, says she will be selling her tasty wares on Rt. 11 at Dixie Glass and Mirror beginning at 7 AM.
The official Yard Crawl t-shirts are collectible, with each year featuring a different color. This year’s 17th Crawl t-shirt is a royal blue heather and costs $15 and $20, depending on size. They can be purchased at these locations:
- Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation in Middletown
- Edinburg Mill Museum in Edinburg
- Main Street Classics in Stephens City
- Route 11 Potato Chips in Mt Jackson
- The Flea Market in Edinburg
- The Strasburg Emporium in Strasburg
- Shenandoah County Chamber of in Woodstock
- Shenandoah Valley Flea Market in New Market
- Travelers Treasures in Woodstock
The Route 11 Yard Crawl is a collaborative effort between Shenandoah County Tourism, the County Chamber, and the Towns of Strasburg, Woodstock, Edinburg, Mount Jackson, New Market, Middletown, and Stephens City.
For more information on the Crawl, inquire about vendor spaces available, or participating businesses, visit www.Route11YardCrawl.org or call 540-459-2542.
Senator Tim Kaine visits George Banks Blvd
On August 11, 2022, Senator Tim Kaine visited George Banks Blvd and met in the front yard of Cornelia Banks, along with her family, and friends.
On Saturday, June 25th, friends, neighbors, and town officials gathered to officially open George Banks Boulevard on the Town of Front Royal’s north side from East 13th to 16th Street near Edgemont and Scranton Avenues.
Belle Grove to host Jerome Bias as an artist-in-residence
Belle Grove Plantation will host North Carolina furniture maker, Jerome Bias, as an artist-in-residence August 27-October 2.
Mr. Bias has been making period furnishings and studying southern decorative arts for more than 20 years. He was a joiner for Old Salem Museums and Gardens in Winston-Salem and has been a presenter at Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library, and with the Slave Dwelling Project.
His interest in working at Belle Grove, and at other sites of enslavement like it, is to bring attention to the skilled and talented craftspersons who had significant roles in shaping Southern decorative traditions. These furniture pieces represent the local areas in which they were made, and became a way for the makers, though enslaved, to survive and thrive. Learning and demonstrating these furniture making techniques and skills has been a way for Mr. Bias to connect with his enslaved ancestors, get a glimpse at the pain, trauma, and joys that they experienced, and begin a process of healing. His current project is reproducing pieces of furniture from six areas of the United States in which his family was enslaved, including a buffet from South Carolina, and a china press from Louisville, Kentucky.
While at Belle Grove, Mr. Bias will have both indoor and outdoor workshop spaces where visitors can learn about the pieces he is making, their history, and the history of the craftspersons who inspire him. He will be demonstrating during Belle Grove’s Wine Festival on Saturday, August 27, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Thereafter, he will be doing demonstrations Wednesday-Sundays when Belle Grove is open (10 a.m.-4 p.m. and 1-5 p.m. Sundays). For a specific schedule, please visit bellegrove.org/calendar/artist. Access to these demonstrations will be free of charge.
Another way Mr. Bias has connected with experiences of his ancestors is learning about the foodways of enslaved communities. He will share his experience and talents with hearth cooking during a free program by the Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Park Ranger Shannon Moeck, “Kneading in Silence: A Glimpse into the Life of the Enslaved Cook Judah.” It is Sunday, September 4, at 2:30 p.m. in the historic kitchen of the Belle Grove Manor House. Attendees of the program will see first-hand the wide variety of skills, intense labor, and personality characteristics that Judah had to have in order to be the head cook.
Support for Mr. Bias’s residency has been provided through the Interpretation and Education Grants of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
“Belle Grove is delighted to host Mr. Bias for this residency, and we are excited to share his craft and insights on African-American history with our guests, ” said Executive Director Kristen Laise.
Belle Grove is actively researching and interpreting the African American history of the site and honoring the lives of those enslaved and free. More information may be found at
bellegrove.org/about/enslaved. Some of the stories of the people enslaved at Belle Grove are featured in a monthly newsletter found at virtual.bellegrove.org.
About Belle Grove—Belle Grove Plantation is located off Route 11 at 336 Belle Grove Road just south of Middletown, Virginia, and is conveniently situated to I-81 (exit 302) and I-66. Belle Grove Plantation is a non-profit historic house museum that is a National Trust for Historic Preservation historic site (www.savingplaces.org). It is also one of the legislated partners in Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park (www.nps.gov/cebe).