The Warren County School Board on Wednesday, June 21, voted 4-0 to approve each of three action agenda items: the fiscal year (FY) 2024 budget for Warren County Public Schools (WCPS), a request for an additional appropriation to the cafeteria fund, and a renewed custodial contract with Sodexo Operations, LLC.
School Board members present to vote were Board Chair Kristen Pence and board members Antoinette Funk, Andrea Lo, and Melanie Salins. Board Vice Chair Ralph Rinaldi was absent.
WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger presented the final FY2024 School Board budget totaling $89,583,540, as well as the FY2024 salary scales, for approval.
The Warren County Board of Supervisors (BOS), at its July 13 special meeting, approved the School Board’s $89,583,540 budget. The Operating Budget of $72,524,408 will be funded with $28,650,000 from the County’s general revenues and the remaining $43,874,408 from state, federal, and miscellaneous revenues. Another $3,919,125 was appropriated to the School Food Services Fund to be paid by state, federal, and miscellaneous revenues, while $13,140,007 was appropriated to facilities, which is also funded by state, federal, and miscellaneous revenues.
In highlighting key aspects of the new budget, Ballenger pointed to the restructuring of the WCPS Special Services department and related changes in specific positions. The department will be split into two programs for special education and pupil services.
The approved budget of $89,583,540 projects the revenue to be $72,524,408, with salaries and benefits amounting to $61,536,183. The non-labor costs are anticipated to be just under $11 million, ensuring a balanced budget, according to Ballenger.
In comparison, the FY 2024 budget is almost a $4 million increase over the FY2023 approved budget, which totaled $85,656,775.
What’s driving the FY2024 budget, Ballenger explained, is a 5 percent, plus a step for all teachers and instructional assistants; a 5 percent inclusive for all other employees except grades 12, 13, and 18; and a step raise for grades 12, 13, and 18. Transportation fuel costs also are a contributing factor, as are new positions and extra costs associated with operations and maintenance.
Regarding capital improvements, the superintendent said that significant actions included initiating the A&E cost associated with the E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School project to convert the auditorium to a multipurpose room, as well as revisions in the classification of certain positions and the introduction of monthly attendance incentives.
The proposed FY2024 budget is available here: https://go.boarddocs.com/vsba/warren/Board.nsf/files/CSZTGC6EF659/$file/FY2024%20Proposed%20Budget%206-21-23%20Final.pdf
WCPS Assistant Superintendent of Administration George “Buck” Smith (above) detailed two other action agenda items during the School Board’s work session on June 21.
One item called for the School Board’s approval of a request for an additional appropriation to Budget Category 65000 — School Food Services.
“Due to an increase in the number of meals served and a corresponding increase in meal reimbursements, the Food Service program is on track to exceed its originally approved appropriation of $3,392,190 by a projected $732,250,” Smith told the board members. “In order to receive and spend this additional amount, an increase in the Category 65000 — School Food Services budget must be approved by the Board of Supervisors.
“This item is actually a good thing,” Smith explained, “in the sense that… it deals with our ability to serve more meals than we previously had anticipated.”
Smith added that there’s no loss of money here and that the item’s approval is “more of a formality.”
“We’re going to be reimbursed for all those meals that we have that actually exceed the 732,000,” he said. “You don’t really know at the beginning of the year how many meals you’re going to serve, and when we go into where all students are eating free, then all students eat free. So with this, it’s really a formality for the board to release the money that we already have.”
The item received unanimous board approval.
The other item Smith presented for action called for approval to renew the school division’s custodial service management contract with Sodexo.
The Warren County School Board, on June 3, 2020, entered into an agreement with Sodexo to manage its custodial operations. The agreement contains a clause that allows the contract to be renewed annually for four additional one-year periods upon the mutual consent of both parties said Smith, who recommended its renewal.
The board voted to approve the renewed custodial service management contract with Sodexo for an additional one-year period beginning July 1 through June 30, 2024, in an amount not to exceed $2,263,583.
Watch the exclusive Royal Examiner video in its entirety at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2EUk6MV3dg.
Randolph-Macon Academy Hosts Inaugural ‘Hoopin on the Hill’ Basketball Tournament
A Weekend of Athletic Prowess and Community Engagement.
In a thrilling display of sportsmanship and talent, Randolph-Macon Academy recently hosted its first-ever ‘Hoopin on the Hill’ Basketball Tournament. The event saw teams from Massanutten Military Academy, The Covenant School, King Abdullah Academy, and host Randolph-Macon Academy competing for the top spot.
The tournament kicked off on December 1st, with an electrifying game where Randolph-Macon Academy showcased their skill against Massanutten Military Academy. The game ended in a decisive victory for R-MA, with a score of 64-14. Standout player Bilal Kebbay led the charge with an impressive 16 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Teammate Tega Esievo also made a significant impact with 10 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists.
The following day, the competition intensified as R-MA faced off against The Covenant School. In a closer game, R-MA emerged victorious with a score of 41-33. Once again, Bilal Kebbay shone brightly, scoring 17 points, securing 4 rebounds, and achieving 3 steals. Chidera George also contributed significantly with 10 points, 13 rebounds, and 3 blocks.
These games highlighted not only the athletic talent of the students but also the spirit of camaraderie and competition among the participating schools. The tournament was made possible thanks to the support of several local sponsors, including Junkluggers, Mint Mortgage LLC represented by Stephen Marut, The Apple House, Realtor Jennifer Avery with Crum Realty Inc., Moneymar Training, Limitless, and Papa Johns Front Royal. Their involvement underscores the community’s commitment to nurturing young talent and supporting local sports.
The ‘Hoopin on the Hill’ Basketball Tournament at Randolph-Macon Academy is more than just a series of games; it is a celebration of youth sports, community involvement, and the spirit of competition. As the teams prepare for their next game, the excitement and enthusiasm generated by this successful event continue to resonate. This tournament has set the stage for future athletic endeavors and community engagement at R-MA.
Learn more about R-MA: https://rma.edu/
Warren Coalition’s “We See You, Warren County” December 2023 Theme: You Belong Here
Whether you are a lifelong resident of Warren County, or have been here only a few days, Warren Coalitions’ We See You, Warren County theme for December reminds you that “You belong here.”
The purpose of the We See You, Warren County campaign is to make every person feel welcome and provide a sense of belonging for everyone in Warren County. Cultivating this type of atmosphere helps our youth develop a sense of community and safety, which is a protective factor against drug use and alcohol misuse. Greeting others is the foundation of this program, but the monthly themes provide messages that our youth—and indeed, every person—need to hear as well.
“We are all imperfectly perfect,” is a favorite saying of Warren Coalition Executive Director Christa Shifflett. Each and every person in our community has value. Each and every person matters. Though no one is perfect, our imperfections and differences help make us strong, and together, we are the community of Warren County. Embracing our differences and building a community where every person feels a sense of connection, safety, and belonging makes a difference to everyone. It improves mental health overall.
Challenges for this month’s theme include: Learn something about another point of view. Stand with someone who is being treated unfairly. Write “You belong here” on your vehicle. Notice people who are alone at holiday functions and make an effort to speak to them.
There are a total of seven challenges for this month, which can be accessed via the website.
More about the We See You, Warren County Campaign
We See You, Warren County partners have agreed to help create a more connected community by greeting others and taking on at least one challenge each month. A connected community creates a sense of safety and belonging, which is a critical part of preventing drug and alcohol misuse. Members are encouraged to share their experiences on social media using the hashtag #WeCUWC. Organizations and individuals that register receive a window cling to show they are participating. The program now has more than 250 registered partners, and over 1100 Facebook members. Sign-ups are ongoing. Go to weseeyou.warrencoalition.org to learn more, or to officially sign up yourself, your family, or your business or organization. You can also join the Facebook group.
In addition, the Warren Coalition features individuals of the Warren County community on the “We See You” website, and on the Warren Coalition social media accounts. People do not have to be registered members to be featured. Anyone who lives, works, or plays in Warren County can submit a profile on the We See You website (weseeyou.warrencoalition.org)
“Christmas on Main” Festivities Usher in the Holiday Spirit for the Town of Front Royal
“Rhythm trumps all!” declared Annie Guttierrez, owner of the Jig N Jive Dance Studio. “How can you argue with the sound of bells?” she asked the audience gathering for the Town of Front Royal’s official launching of the Christmas season with “Christmas on Main Street” and the Christmas Parade on Saturday afternoon, December 2.
Students from Jig N Jive at 529 East Main Street shared their talent with a crowd of revelers enjoying “Christmas on Main,” a longtime, yearly tradition for Front Royal, featuring many venues, including food, other merchandise, and face painting. It culminates in a parade and caps off with the Christmas tree lighting at the Gazebo in the Village Commons Park area. So, it was a still unlighted tree standing sentinel over the scene, as the young people infected their onlookers with their Christmas cheer as they performed numbers in the style of Irish, swing, and ballroom dance.
Bringing the Christmas spirit to people who may be at a disadvantage this holiday, two charities were represented among the many booths that were situated in the parking lot adjacent to the Gazebo. Close to the Visitor Center, the bell of the Salvation Army could be heard tinkling in the crisp but not uncomfortably cold air. Being present at “Christmas on Main” is a tradition for the Salvation Army; they use it to make the season pleasant for those facing unique challenges that might make it hard for them to observe the holiday. Similarly, Catholic Charities, located at 613 North Royal Avenue, provides food to anyone in the community who needs it and anyone in the state of Virginia who needs it. They are open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, and any Virginia resident who needs food can come to the office with an ID and a piece of mail confirming his or her address and get food at no cost. They are always looking for volunteers.
“Kids are going to be kids,” Officer Clingerman explained in relationship to his duties that day. While it is the job of his fellow officer Fogle and himself, as well as the other officers stationed at key points on Main and Chester, to make sure that everyone is safe and having a fun time, he is always concerned at events like these that children do not stray too far into the street, especially as candy is being thrown in the parade. Of course, there is always the possibility that a car will sneak in off a side street, so that eventuality must also be guarded against.
As the parade began around 4 p.m. and the floats moved past onlookers who stood or sat in folding chairs they had brought for the event, this relatively new reporter was moved to take a side: this town rocks! As our next Sheriff Crystal Cline, and then the Town Council went by, there was a sense that whatever its imperfections may be, the community is still celebrating Christmas, as the nation does, and perhaps for a moment, the past can be forgotten, and the possibility of a bright future can be entertained. After the parade, as the mayor and Santa shared a hug at the Gazebo, followed by the lighting of the tree, hope for a fresh beginning did not seem entirely unrealistic.
VDOT: Warren County Traffic Alert for December 4 – 8, 2023
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.
*NEW* Mile Marker 0 to 8, eastbound – Right shoulder closures for litter removal, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday.
*NEW* Mile Marker 3 to 1, westbound – Right shoulder closures for shoulder repairs, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday.
*NEW* Mile marker 299 to 300, northbound and southbound – Shoulder closures for mowing operations, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. through December 18.
Mile marker 299 to 300, northbound and southbound – Overnight lane closures and traffic-lane shifts as needed, 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. through March 2024. Shoulder closures 24/7. Work zone speed limit: 55 miles an hour. Work is related to southbound acceleration ramp extension and bridge widening, with estimated completion in fall 2024.
No lane closures were reported.
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.
Preserving Heroic Legacies: National Court Reporters Foundation Collaborates with Library of Congress
Capturing the Voices of Valor: A Tribute to Veterans’ Sacrifices.
In a heartwarming initiative, an extraordinary effort is underway to honor the sacrifices and experiences of American veterans. Spearheaded by the National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF) in partnership with the Library of Congress Veterans History Project (VHP), this project seeks to immortalize the oral histories of combat veterans, ensuring their stories of valor and sacrifice are preserved for future generations.
Jill Parker Landsman from the NCRF and Tom LaCombe, a combat veteran and author, are at the forefront of this noble endeavor. Landsman’s involvement began serendipitously when a friend introduced her to LaCombe, a Vietnam War veteran from Browntown, VA. Landsman recognized the profound value of his experiences and knew his story deserved to be heard and preserved.
The process involves the invaluable assistance of court reporter Margary Rogers. Rogers will transcribe the conversation using her Stenograph, ensuring every detail of LaCombe’s service to the country is captured accurately. This initiative is not just about recording history; it’s about enhancing the legacy of those who served acknowledging their contributions to our nation’s fabric.
The Veterans History Project, a lesser-known but significant program of the Library of Congress, has been diligently working to collect these life stories, especially focusing on World War II veterans. The urgency of this task is underscored by the sobering reality that we lose these veterans daily, making the preservation of their histories all the more critical.
Tom LaCombe’s perspective adds a poignant layer to this project. Reflecting on his return from Vietnam, LaCombe shares the indifference he encountered, driving his desire to ensure the sacrifices and losses of his fellow servicemen are not forgotten. This project offers a platform for voices like LaCombe’s to be heard and appreciated.
The initiative extends beyond recording; it’s about acknowledging and respecting the service of our veterans. It’s a call to understand the profound impacts of military life and the unique experiences each serviceman and woman endures.
The Veterans History Project is a testament to American veterans’ enduring spirit. It’s a powerful reminder of the sacrifices made for our freedoms and a noble effort to ensure these stories of heroism and resilience are never forgotten. As we look forward to more interviews and the continuous growth of this project, it is evident that the legacy of our veterans will be preserved, thanks to the dedication of individuals like Landsman and LaCombe and the team behind this invaluable initiative.
Tom LaCombe is scheduled to visit the Royal Examiner studio next week to share his story and book, Light Ruck: Vietnam 1969.
Front Royal Welcomes the New Chapter of ‘Play Favorites’ Toy Store
A Fresh Start for a Beloved Local Business.
Play Favorites, a cherished local toy store in Front Royal celebrated its grand re-opening under new ownership. The event was marked by a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by community leaders and enthusiastic locals.
Nike Foster Cales, Executive Director of the Front Royal/Warren County Chamber of Commerce, opened the ceremony, expressing excitement about the store’s future under the stewardship of Brett and Hannah Bement. Josh Ingram, a Town Council member, emphasized the store’s unique role in the community, highlighting its appeal to kids and adults.
Warren County Supervisor Walt Mabe praised Play Favorites for its blend of educational and fun offerings. The new owners, Brett and Hannah, shared their journey to acquiring the store, driven by a passion for preserving a local toy store in their community.
In an interview with publisher Mike McCool, Brett Bement discussed their unexpected journey into the board game business. Hannah Beeman, a teacher and local craftsman, continues her educational role while contributing to the store’s new look and product offerings.
Play Favorites stands out for its welcoming atmosphere and community engagement. The store offers game nights, collaborates with local game designers, and maintains a focus on educational toys. Under the new management, Play Favorites promises to be more than just a store; it’s a community hub that celebrates the joy of play across all ages.