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School Board updated on required student vaccinations; OKs specific salary increases, van purchases, CTE funding uses

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Requests by Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) to increase hourly pay rates for extended school year positions, purchase two vehicles, and approve the 2021-2022 local Perkins Career and Technical Education Plan received approval from the Warren County School Board during its Wednesday, April 21 meeting, and received a state update on required immunizations during the work session portion of its meeting.

The first action agenda item for the School Board was a request by WCPS to increase the hourly pay rates for extended school year (ESY) positions, which provide services to qualified WCPS students throughout the county, most often held during summer school, but also during evening classes or courses held during school breaks, said WCPS Director of Special Services Michael Hirsch.

This year’s short summer break has accented the need to recruit qualified staff, Hirsch said, and it has been increasingly difficult to secure staff. He recommended that the board increase the hourly pay rates for the ESY administrator from $35 per hour to $45 per hour; the speech pathologist and physical and occupational specialists from $35 to $45 per hour; the ESY teachers from $25 an hour to $35 per hour; the Summer School and the ESY school nurse from $25 to $35 per hour; and the ESY instructional assistants from $10 to $15 per hour.

Such increases, he said, would keep WCPS competitive with surrounding school districts, other service providers in the area, and with the school division’s own summer school program.


Following a motion by School Board member James Wells and a second by board Vice Chairwoman Catherine Bower, members voted to approve the request with School Board Chairman Arnold Williams Jr. and board members Bower, Wells, Ralph Rinaldi, and Kristen Pence voting yea.

The second action agenda item considered by the School Board was the 2021-2022 Local Plan for Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Funds, which allow WCPS to support CTE programs. WCPS Career and Technical Education Principal Jane Baker presented the board with a draft of what WCPS would use the federal funds for because the exact funding amount to be allotted hasn’t yet been released. “What you see is written with the $96,000 plus amount that came to Warren County for the 2021 school year,” Baker explained.

Some of the CTE funding uses for WCPS include professional development for CTE teachers; activities for special populations, such as program visits; and regional program participation, including 50 percent of the salary for a Career Coach to provide information on post-secondary education and career options, as well as lease fees for welding tanks, and increasing student awareness of post-secondary opportunities through participation in a regional consortium partnership, among others, according to the draft plan.

Baker also drew the board’s attention to the plan’s performance assessment, which she said are the standards by which all school districts are judged and include required CTE programming benchmarks. WCPS has met these standards, she said.

Following a motion by Wells that the School Board accept the plan as presented, with the knowledge that amendments will occur as information becomes available, and a second by Pence, the request was unanimously approved.

The last action agenda item receiving unanimous School Board approval was a WCPS request to purchase two used Dodge Caravans from G&M Auto Sales in Front Royal, Va., that will be used primarily for student transport in and out of Warren County.

WCPS Transportation Director Aaron Mitchell said that WCPS seeks to maintain a quality vehicle fleet that is safe. WCPS plans to trade in four vehicles for the two Caravans, he said.

Work session highlights
During the work session portion of the School Board’s Wednesday night meeting, Hirsch provided an update on the state’s required immunizations for students based on changes approved earlier this month by the Virginia General Assembly, which amended the minimum vaccination requirements for all public and private elementary, middle, and secondary school students in the state. This also includes childcare centers, nursery schools, family-home daycare sites, and developmental centers, said Hirsch.

 

“We wanted to get information out as fast as possible to the families and citizens of Warren County, so that’s [the reason for] the quick informational session here,” Hirsch told board members. “We also posted the information on our websites.” Photos/video by Mike McCool, Royal Examiner.

During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Hirsch said that it’s more important than ever to be immunizing children for different illnesses. “Immunizations are required for enrollment in school, regardless of whether classes are in-person or virtual,” he said.

For example, in highlighting the immunization changes for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year that go into effect on July 1, Hirsch said all incoming kindergarteners must receive two doses of the hepatitis A vaccine. A meningococcal vaccine is now also required for rising 7th-grade and 12th-grade students.

Additionally, there is a new optional Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine listed for rising 7th graders that parents may decline.

Hirsch said WCPS is working with the health department and local clinics to set up vaccination sites in the schools sometime this spring and summer.

Board vice-chair Bower said she thinks students are required to get too many vaccines already, “but that’s just my personal opinion,” she said.

Hirsch noted that if a vaccine goes against the religious convictions of a person or family, then they may receive a vaccine exemption.

In other work session business, WCPS Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Melody Sheppard provided a second reading and further discussion on the Virginia School Board Association’s School Board Policy updates. The first reading of the proposed changes was during the board’s April 7 meeting. Final approval of the changes is scheduled for the School Board’s May 5 meeting.

WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger provided board members with an update on the secondary class schedules for the 2021-2022 school year, as well as testing schedules for elementary and middle schools.

 

For example, regarding secondary class schedules, Ballenger and Sheppard reported that a recently conducted survey of 90 teachers concluded that 36.7 percent think a 4×4 block schedule would be most beneficial for WCPS students; 33.3 percent opted for an A/B alternating block schedule; 16.7 percent chose a modified 4×4 block schedule with designated blocks split into year-long classes, and 13.3 percent think a 7-period day would be most beneficial for students.

Conversely, a survey of 290 students, representing about 20 percent of all WCPS high schoolers, found that 44.8 percent of them opted for a 4×4 block; 23 percent of students chose a modified 4×4 block; about 18 percent are interested in a 7-period day, and nearly 14 percent chose an A/B alternating block schedule.

Sheppard said WCPS central office staff plans to meet soon with administrative staff at the schools to work out the high school scheduling plan as soon as possible.

Watch the Royal Examiner video of the entire School Board meeting below.

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EDA in Focus

Warren County EDA reaches bank agreement on McDonald parcel, moves C-CAP rental forward among other actions in final meeting of 2021

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The Board of Directors of the Front Royal and Warren County Economic Development Authority (EDA) held the combined November and December meeting via Zoom. All Board members attended the meeting.

The Board adopted two resolutions. One resolution to approve C-CAP using Suite C located at the EDA office building to store food for distribution. The use of Suite C is at no cost to the organization while it transitions to a lease in Suite B and C-CAP will provide evidence of an insurance policy to cover the use of Suite C. The EDA and C-CAP will negotiate the terms of a lease on Suite B and possibly Suite C at the Kendrick office location at an agreed rental rate.

The second resolution authorizes the EDA Chair and Treasurer to finalize details of an agreement with Atlantic Union Bank where it gives up its claim in the Jennifer McDonald bankruptcy and the EDA will release its claim on the property formerly owned by “Little Rugratz” on Virginia Avenue. The existing bank loan is more than the value of the property and the release of the EDA claim allows the bank to sell the property. In return, by the bank releasing its claim in the bankruptcy, the EDA can recover a higher percentage of the recovery from the McDonald bankruptcy and save money in attorneys’ fees.

The Board is working with Public Works to address the maintenance issues at the Kendrick Lane building including HVAC repairs and installation of water shut-off valves.


The EDA and County are working on soliciting bids for appraising all the EDA properties. The first priority is the Baugh Drive building.

Chair Jeff Browne updated the board on Nature’s Touch and the VDOT grant. Scott Jenkins stated all the marketing material for the Commonwealth is updated and was approved by VEDP (Virginia Economic Development Partnership).

Greg Harold presented the final draft of three Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) that will be used as guides for EDA and prospective purchasers of EDA property. He stated the documents were not “static”, but are “living” documents that will be modified as needed. The three SOPs approved are Letters of Intent, Contract Management, and Property Disposition Due Diligence. The documents will be posted on the website by December 15.

The EDA and Warren County are working on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to govern the transition of EDA’s staff moving to the County payroll and EDA’s role in future economic development in the county. One change beginning immediately is the County will permanently take over receiving and coding EDA bills prior to the EDA Chair and Treasurer approving the expenses.

The EDA Board approved the meeting schedule for 2022 and future meetings will be in person. The next EDA meeting will be on Friday, January 14th at 9 a.m. The location will be posted on the website as well as the remaining dates for 2022.

(From an EDA Press Release of December 5th)

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Local News

’Tis the Season

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The town Christmas Tree and decorated light poles in Front Royal’s Gazebo-anchored Village Commons area before and after additional holiday season lights were placed on surrounding trees by the Public Works crew on Friday, Dec. 3, just prior to the Christmas Parade the following day. Photos by Roger Bianchini

One seasonal float appears to be taking an early dry run as the crowd gathered throughout the late morning and afternoon awaiting the parade’s scheduled 4 p.m. start.

Santa greets and is hugged by happy children in front of Front Royal’s Virginia Beer Museum.

Town Manager Steven Hicks and his dog Charlie are greeted by a Beer Museum elf in the person of Museum proprietor David Downes


The holiday spirit was building throughout the day at the center of Front Royal’s Historic Downtown Business District.



 

WATCH: Christmas Parade 2021

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Local News

WATCH: Christmas Parade 2021

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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. Thanks to Connor Clark for operating the video camera and the parade sponsor Lindsay Chevrolet.

Winners in this year’s parade are:

Best in Show – Edward Jones


Walking Group – Warren County High School Band

Best Large Float – White Horse Car Wash

Best Small Float – Samuels Public Library

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Explore Art & Clay opens on Main Street Front Royal

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Explore Art & Clay has opened a gallery at 501 East Main Street in Front Royal. The Gallery features locally handmade pottery, ornaments, mugs, glasswork, plates, paintings, cards, ink work and so much more. Local potters, artists, photographers, and makers work added every day.  Love Front Royal? Love Virginia? This is the shop for you!

Visit their website for more information or Facebook page.

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Student at E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School EarlyAct Club collecting canned goods for Salvation Army

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For the month of December, the EarlyAct students at E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School (EWM) are collecting canned foods (soups, canned meats, etc) for the Salvation Army.


If you have canned foods you would like to donate, please stop by our main office at EWM, and drop off your donations. For any questions, ask for Student Support Coach, and Early Act Faculty Advisor, Michael Williams.

The Early Act Club at E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School is sponsored by The Rotary Club of Warren County. For more information on Rotary and/or InterAct/EarlyAct programs, please e-mail Michael at mdub0308@gmail.com or visit www.rotary.org

Town Talk: A conversation with Michael Williams – RYLA, EarlyAct/InterAct Club

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Update: ‘Tis the Season for Kindness

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(Editor’s note: This story has been updated with photos taken during Shae’s trip to Ecko Studio in Memphis, TN.)


A local singer/songwriter has a message for the world in his debut release starting with the opening lyrics, “Put the kind back in humankind”. “SAVE THE HUMANS TOO” was written by local musician and businessman Shae Parker and recorded in Memphis, TN earlier this year. Parker, who has been playing music semi-professionally for the past three decades is no stranger to helping convey messages. The sign maker and owner of Hanna Sign Company also spent years as a radio broadcaster and as a Front Royal Town Councilman and Vice Mayor.

“I’ve always written songs”, says Parker. “In retrospect, I’ve always helped to convey messages. Whether it was a commercial on the radio, a sign for someone’s business, or as a public servant I’ve always tried to help others convey their message.”

Like many during the pandemic, Parker says he did some soul searching and decided he needed to put his own message out in song. After combing through years of writings and narrowing down a list of about two dozen, he formulated a plan to record as many songs as possible. Shae says he reached out to a childhood friend and fellow former disc jockey, Till Palmer who is the Chief Engineer at Ecko Records in Memphis for help.


Inside Ecko Studio; below, Recording Engineer Till Palmer behind the glass with drum reflection

“Initially the plan was to take the band with me (River Driven Band), but schedules didn’t align and I realized I either needed to reschedule or refocus on a solo project”, said Parker. “A big part of my pandemic soul searching revolved around doing this before I turned 50, so I headed to Memphis for a solo project”.

Fourteen songs were recorded in Memphis over three days according to Parker, with twelve of those planned for release. Most of the overdubs were handled by Shae before leaving, but he says over the coming months the remaining overdubs will be completed by him and his bandmates from the River Driven Band before being sent back to Palmer for mastering. The other two tracks, “SAVE THE HUMANS TOO” and “SHE LOVES ME, BUT” were independently released in November by Parker on most digital streaming platforms.

“SAVE THE HUMANS TOO” has a message that I felt all humans needed to hear”, explains Parker. “It’s about kindness and how easy it is to just be kind, that’s why I had to put it out first”.

Shae says that independently releasing his music has its own challenges. He says it has been a learning curve from researching and finding a digital distributor to upload the songs to Spotify, iTunes, and YouTube Music among others, to registering songwriting credits with BMI and SESAC.

“There is a reason it’s called the Music Business”, quips Parker. “What is an ISRC number or a DDP? Things like that I didn’t have a clue about as a performer, but Till being in the industry gave me a lot of insight of what needed to be done to make this a reality.”

Shae recording with Till’s grandfather’s 1956 Gibson.

While Parker maintains the music is the best thing to come out of the experience, he is quick to point out the joy of working with a lifelong friend and using a vintage Gibson Les Paul Junior on some tracks that were bought new by Palmer’s grandfather, Ralph Palmer in 1956. He also finds irony in his and Palmer’s past on radio given that a fellow DJ, Rick Dee’s recorded his number one hit “DISCO DUCK” in the same studio in the 1970s. Parker also recounts that his nickname at 4H camp growing up (where he and Palmer first met) was Duckie. Irony indeed, however despite a good beat you can dance to any other similarities in the compositions end there as Parker’s message of kindness prevails.

The Daily Planet/Shoe Productions studio was built by STAX Records founder Jim Stewart and Bobby Manuel (Booker T & the MG’s) shortly after the shuttering of STAX in 1975. In 1995 John Ward bought the studio and changed the name to Ecko Studios/Records, an American Blues and Soul Blues label that has released albums by Rufus Thomas, Ollie Nightingale, Bill Coday, Barbara Carr, and others.

Mural on outside of Ecko Studios

Shae Parker’s first two releases “SAVE THE HUMANS TOO” and “SHE LOVES ME, BUT” are available on all streaming platforms or wherever you listen to music. Links to the songs and information on booking can be found on his website at www.SongsByShae.com.

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GLORY BEA: A Shenandoah Christmas Story, by Rich Follett and Larry Dahlke, set in the 1930’s in the Shenandoah Valley and the Depression has hit the valley residents. This story is being presented by Selah[...]
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Sweeter, Still… Holiday Concert @ Front Royal United Methodist Church
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Sweeter, Still… Holiday Concert @ Front Royal United Methodist Church
Friday, December 10, 2021 7:30pm Front Royal United Methodist Church 1 West Main Street | Front Royal, VA 22630 COVID-19 Guidelines: Masks are required for attendees Sunday, December 12, 2021 4:00pm Trinity Episcopal Church 9108[...]
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2:00 pm Clara, Little Mouse, and the Gol... @ Skyline Middle School
Clara, Little Mouse, and the Gol... @ Skyline Middle School
Dec 11 @ 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Clara, Little Mouse, and the Golden Key @ Skyline Middle School
Dancing By His Grace Classical Ballet Ensemble presents Clara, Little Mouse, and the Golden Key, featuring selections from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet, at the Skyline Middle School in Front Royal, Virginia. Join us for our original[...]
7:00 pm Glory Bea: A Shenandoah Christma... @ LFCC's William H. McCoy Theatre
Glory Bea: A Shenandoah Christma... @ LFCC's William H. McCoy Theatre
Dec 11 @ 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Glory Bea: A Shenandoah Christmas Story @ LFCC's William H. McCoy Theatre
GLORY BEA: A Shenandoah Christmas Story, by Rich Follett and Larry Dahlke, set in the 1930’s in the Shenandoah Valley and the Depression has hit the valley residents. This story is being presented by Selah[...]
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Clara, Little Mouse, and the Gol... @ Skyline Middle School
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Clara, Little Mouse, and the Golden Key @ Skyline Middle School
Dancing By His Grace Classical Ballet Ensemble presents Clara, Little Mouse, and the Golden Key, featuring selections from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet, at the Skyline Middle School in Front Royal, Virginia. Join us for our original[...]
3:00 pm Glory Bea: A Shenandoah Christma... @ LFCC's William H. McCoy Theatre
Glory Bea: A Shenandoah Christma... @ LFCC's William H. McCoy Theatre
Dec 12 @ 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm
Glory Bea: A Shenandoah Christmas Story @ LFCC's William H. McCoy Theatre
GLORY BEA: A Shenandoah Christmas Story, by Rich Follett and Larry Dahlke, set in the 1930’s in the Shenandoah Valley and the Depression has hit the valley residents. This story is being presented by Selah[...]
3:00 pm Valley Chorale’s Christmas Concert @ Calvary Episcopal Church
Valley Chorale’s Christmas Concert @ Calvary Episcopal Church
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